Here's a series of social documentarian photographs that partially illustrate the true position of the "coal boy" out in Pennsylvania in September, 1895. Somehow it sounds, perhaps, a little romantic, summoning images of small children running around with sacks of coal as though it was a newspaper or marshmallows or something. That such a chore was left to children in the 40-million-ton anthracite coal industry in Pennsylvania is a testament to something--the savings of cents-per-hour for the kids to do the task rather than an adult, or, well, is there an "or" to this? I don;t think so. I think that it all came down to shaving hog hairs from the paychecks of adult workers.
The story appeared in the Scientific American for 28 September 1895--it was not an investigative journalism piece on the working conditions of children, just a simple report on what the children were doing. We're still years away in 1895 for any real legal assistance to protect children as workers or to require them to be in school.