You've Probably Seen this Photo of Young Oyster Shuckers Girls, but Do You Know the Story Behind It?

This photo of young girls shucking oysters in Port Royal, SC has made it’s rounds on the internet, but did you know that it’s actually part of a larger story?

Oyster Shucker Girls, Port Royal, SC
Josie, six years old, Bertha, six years old, Sophie, 10 years old. • Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

According to the Library of Congress’s records, these photos were taken in February of 1912 by Lewis Wickes Hine, famed sociologist and photographer. Through his imagery, Hine was instrumental in child labor law reform in the United States. Due to the dangers of lifting the veil on child labor, Hine assumed many disguises to document his work, including a Bible salesman, post card salesman or photographer to record machinery, according to the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum. Another famous portion of his work includes the photographic record of the building of the Empire State Building. 

These particular photos were taken in Port Royal, SC, a part of Hine’s larger project of capturing child labor from the Northeast to the Deep South. The children worked for Maggioni Canning Co., a company still in operation today.

Oyster Shucker Girl, Port Royal, SC
Bertha, 6 years old – her job as a shucker begins at 4AM. • Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress


Oyster Shucker Children, Port Royal, SC
These children shuck for four hours before school and three after. On Saturdays, they work from 4AM to early afternoon. • Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress


Oyster Cannery Port Royal, SC
The housing for those working for the cannery, which sheltered about 50 at a time. • Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress


Sophie, ten years old, “tending the baby,” in between her shucking position with Maggioni Canning Co. in Port Royal, SC. • Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress