Providing connection to the past

Paul Love of Chester has a photo, center, taken of his father, Archie Love, by Lewis Hine as he went to work at Springsteen Mill in Chester in 1908.
Paul Love of Chester has a photo, center, taken of his father, Archie Love, by Lewis Hine as he went to work at Springsteen Mill in Chester in 1908.

CHESTER -- A worn photograph of a boy sits amid a pile of old pictures in Paul Love's Chester home.

Renowned photojournalist Lewis Hine once snapped the shot of Love's father, Archie, heading to work at Chester's Springsteen Mill in 1908. Archie Love was 14 at the time.

That image also rests in the Library of Congress, along with about 5,000 other Hine prints.

But Paul Love never knew his father's picture was there. He'd never heard of Lewis Hine or of his role in the child-labor movement. Not until a Massachusetts man called one day to tell him about the picture and the photographer.

That man is Joe Manning, a 65-year-old historian, author, and for the past year, the guy who tracks down families of the working children seen in Hine's photos.

The Lewis Hine Project, Manning said, is about telling the history of ordinary people and learning what happened to these children after Hine immortalized them in America's textile mills, coal mines, factories and other work sites.

Hine was hired in 1908 by the National Child Labor Committee, a progressive group that wanted to improve child-labor laws and bring more children into schools. Over the next nine years, Hine photographed children in about 20 states, often sneaking onto job sites because his exposés were not welcome.

He'd typically ask children a few quick questions and leave. Of the 5,000 Hine photos the Library of Congress possesses, Manning said only about 1,000 to 1,500 provide enough information for searching.

Tracking them down

So far, he has successfully followed the history of 45 children featured in Hine prints, talking to numerous descendants.

"I'm on a mission to tell people ... that their ancestor was tied up in history and that I hope that they get tremendous good out of seeing the pictures," Manning said.

Paul Love received his first e-mail from Manning on Jan. 18. The historian had tracked down the 72-year-old Love with the help of the Chester County Library, which found Archie Love's obituary.

Although he didn't know about Hine, Paul Love had the photo at his home. The Hine picture was among others that Paul's mother gave him shortly before his father died in 1973.

"She knew Dad and me were pretty close," Love said. "I treasure them."

Born in 1894, Archie Love was the second of four children. Their father died in 1900 after a sickness that had left him unable to provide for his family and forcing his mother to work in the mills.

Archie's mother was allowed to bring her children to work. Archie was about 4 or 5 and his sister was two years older when they began helping their mother -- without pay -- in the mills. Their mother kept the younger children -- one she was still breast-feeding -- in a rolling cart.

Archie Love went to work on his own when he was around 8. He worked six days a week, sometimes 12 or 14 hours a day. He climbed the pay scale to $3 a week. He later wooed the woman who would become his wife in a mill, walking under her window and whistling, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart."

Love worked some 20 years in the mills, including sites in Pineville, N.C., and Charlotte.

People like Paul Love are Manning's focus. He seeks the descendants of the children in Hine's photos, not simply as a quest to piece together history but also to unite pictures with families and stories.

"History doesn't pay much attention to ordinary people," he said.

In 2005, an author friend asked him to find the family of a girl captured in a Hine photo.

Manning's friend was writing a book based on a Hine print of a girl who toiled in a cotton mill in southern Vermont. Initially, his comrade was trying to write a novel based on the photo, researching what her life might have been like.

"After she finished the book," Manning said, "she came to me and she said, 'You know, I'd really like to know what happened to the real girl.'"

Addie Laird was the recorded name, but there was no information about who she was.

While doing some genealogy research, Manning's friend found a reason to believe that the girl's last name was Card and had been inaccurately transcribed from Hine's notes.

"She said, 'Now, you go find out where her family is,'" Manning said. "It led me in 11 days to her granddaughter. And within a month, I was standing at her grave site."

Manning later interviewed the girl's family members. He learned she was photographed in 1910 and lived to be 94 years old.

"After that happened, it occurred to me that maybe I could do that for other children who were photographed by Mr. Hine," Manning said.

Months of research

His friend told him he could look at some 5,000 Hine photos posted on the Library of Congress Web site.

The first photo he studied depicted two girls standing near a cotton mill in Gastonia, N.C. One was girl identified, but the other was not. After a month of research, Manning found an obituary for the identified woman and learned the lady had a nephew who was living in Gastonia when she died.

The nephew was still listed in the phone book.

"He was completely surprised that such a picture existed and (he) was anxious to see it," Manning said. "So, I mailed it to him. And this guy's 84 years old. Called him up a couple weeks later and I said, 'Well, what did you think of the picture?' He said, 'I'm just so excited. You're not going to believe this, but the other girl in the picture is my mother. ... I've never seen a picture of my mother as a little girl.'"

The man told Manning he'd gone to a copy store, made 50 copies of the picture and passed them out to all his relatives.

"I suddenly realized I had the power to send these pictures to unsuspecting relatives and maybe make a big difference in their lives," Manning said. "That's exactly what's occurred. And it occurred with, of course, the Love family. Archie Love was one of those kids."

Paul Love was more than happy to tell Manning about his father, a man he said shunned the spotlight, but deserved recognition.

A man with a third-grade education who could barely read or write, Archie Love toiled for everything he had. After suffering from kidney poisoning when he was younger, Archie struggled to walk, one foot flopping with each step.

Although kind-hearted, his dad "wasn't a saint," Love said. He once drank. He gave up cigarettes for chewing tobacco, and he'd been seen around a poker table.

Despite his flaws, Archie Love was a man people trusted, his son said. He ran a variety of businesses -- cafe, grocery, furniture and liquor stores -- and in all of them he took losses so other people could be comfortable.

He let folks buy groceries on credit they didn't repay, and he allowed people to keep furniture they hadn't paid off. When people asked why he didn't try to get his money back, Paul Love said his father would often say the family needed it or times were difficult.

"He just didn't want to hurt nobody," Love said.

But Love said his father would take a stand when he had to. One night in the 1940s, he was serving some black men in his liquor store, when a loud-mouthed white man came in wanting booze.

The man was livid that Archie served the black customers before him and started cursing at him. So after the black customers left, Love said, his father took the blowhard out back and pounded him until someone pulled him away.

No one would talk to him or his customers like that.

That was the man Paul Love remembers and the person he gladly told Manning about: An ordinary guy who with ordinary vices, an unusual generosity and a willingness to take a stand for his beliefs.

"I love the memories of him so much," he said.

Because of those memories, he exchanged 14 e-mails with Manning for the project "just to know that I can do something positive to tell what kind of person he really was."

The Archie Loves of America are why Manning spends several hours a day, five or six days a week, researching Hine children at his computer.

Perhaps he'll write a book about his journey, but even if he doesn't, Manning said the effort is worth it.

"It's a wonderful experience to make that call," he said. "And then say, I've got a picture here of your grandmother that you probably don't know about. I'd love to send it to you. What a great feeling that is when you know you can do that for somebody."