KanColl: The Kansas Historical Quarterlies

A History of
Kansas Child-Labor Legislation

by Domenico Gagliardo

August, 1932 (Vol. 1, No. 4), pages 379 to 401
Transcribed by lhn; HTML editing by Name withheld upon request
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.

     TWO studies of Kansas legislation affecting children have already been published by the Kansas State Historical Society. The first of these, by Nina Swanson, is almost entirely devoted to a study of legislation regarding agencies caring for children, education, protection of health of mothers and children, and children in need of special care. [1] Only three pages are devoted to child labor, and in these the major developments in legislation are barely outlined. There is no discussion of either the movement leading to legislation or of the administration of the laws.

     The second study, by Edith Hess, considers labor legislation affecting both women and children. [2] Relatively little concerns child labor, and most of this consists of an analysis of the provisions of laws enacted. Very little data are given regarding the administration of child labor laws. Furthermore, in making her study Miss Hess did not use the session laws, but relied completely on compilations. Numerous inaccuracies as to dates appear in the work. [3] These two studies do not therefore satisfactorily discuss the history of child-labor legislation in Kansas. In this article the writer describes the nature and extent of child labor in Kansas, records the development of this legislation, and discusses its administration.


     The problem of child labor has never assumed really formidable proportions in Kansas. No doubt the principal reason for this is that agricultural and industrial operations in Kansas have not been generally adapted to the use of child labor. Tables I and II will give some notion of the nature and extent of the problem, although the data given are not strictly comparable and are not at all useful

1. Nina Swanson, "The Development of Public Protection of Children in Kansas," Kansas Historical Collections, v. XV, pp. 231-277.

2. Edith Hess, "State Regulation of Woman and Child Labor in Kansas," Kansas Historical Collections, v. XV, pp. 279-333.

3. For example, the date given for the first mining law regulating the employment of children is 1901, wile the accurate date is 1883. See Laws of Kansas, 1883, ch. 117. The commissioner of labor is said to have been given authority to bring about the enforcement of labor laws in 1901. This law was really enacted in 1898. See Laws 1898, ch. 34, sec. 3. There are other errors of this kind. The writer apparently assumed that the laws were enacted as of the date when they first appeared in a volume of Compiled Laws or General Statutes.



in showing trends. Yet they do reveal certain striking features of the child-labor situation in this state.

TABLE I. Total children of each sex 10 to 15 years of age gainfully occupied in Kansas, 1880 to 1920*


Total members in age group

Total gainfully employed




























*From United States census reports

     Perhaps the most important conclusion to be drawn from these tables is that the number of children gainfully employed in Kansas has never been great. Less than 14,500 children from ten to fifteen years of age were returned as gainfully employed in 1880; the largest number reported was somewhat less than 22,500 in 1900; and for 1920 the figure was 7,270. This does not, of course, accu-

Table II. Number of children of each sex 10 to 14 years of age engaged in each class of occupation in Kansas, 1900 to 1920. (a)






















Manufacture and mechanical





















Professional and public service







Domestic and personal service







Clerical occupations







a. From United States census reports
b. Included under "Manufacturing and mechanical"
c. Included under "Transportation"

rately represent the decrease in child labor from 1900 to 1920. Nor is the proportion of employed children 10 to 15 years of age large, compared with the total number of children in that age group, the percentage having never exceeded 12. Furthermore, most children gainfully employed are males. Of the total number the percentage


represented by males exceeded 90 for each decade of the period, and for 1920 exceeded 86.

     It appears clearly from the data given in Table II that the majority of children gainfully occupied in Kansas are in agricultural employment. In 1900 more than 78 per cent, or 17,553 out of 22,489, were returned as agricultural laborers. The percentage thus returned in 1920 fell to slightly more than 53, or 3,755 out of a total of 7,270. But the census of 1920 was taken during a very dull agricultural season, when large numbers of children who would normally have been at work were attending school. Even so, the proportion returned as agricultural workers in 1920 is large. The

TABLE III: Distribution of children 10 to 17 years of age engaged in agriculture in Kansas in 1920, by type of work and sex.*

Type of Work




Dairy farm laborers




Farm laborers (home farm)




Farm laborers (working out)




Garden, greenhouse and orchard laborers




Stock herders, drivers and feeders




All other occupations








*From United States census reports.

type of agricultural work performed by children is shown in Table III. Farm labor is the occupation reported for practically all of them. Most of the children working in agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry are employed on the home farm. In the census of 1920, of a total of 10,618 children between ten and seventeen years of age, 7,419, or almost 70 per cent, were returned as thus employed. And while it does not appear from the data given above, yet it is true that most of those returned as working out were undoubtedly employed on the farms of neighbors and relatives. The situation regarding child labor in agriculture has not changed materially in recent years.

     The number of children employed in other occupations listed in the census reports is small. This is especially true of public service, professional service, and mining. No figures are given for the building trades, but here also the numbers are small. At no time in the history of Kansas have many children been employed in these occupations. Moderate numbers are employed in manufacturing, trans-


portation, trade, domestic and personal service, and in clerical occupations. But the numbers are not, and have not been, formidable.

     The remainder of this study is concerned with the employment of children in occupations other than agriculture. For there has been but little direct regulation of the labor of children in agriculture. Some indirect regulation has been achieved by means of school attendance laws, and this is touched upon in the study. It does not appear, however, that the conditions under which children are employed in Kansas agriculture are such as to necessitate immediate and direct regulation except in the sugar-beet and berry industries. It is well to face the fact, nevertheless, that direct regulation would be practically impossible.


     In 1890 the commissioner of labor statistics, at the suggestion of the federal labor commissioner, made an investigation of the extent and conditions of child labor in Kansas. [4] Satisfactory data bearing directly on the extent of the employment of children were not secured. Conditions of labor in mines, workshops, and factories, although not intolerable, considering the date, were found to be not satisfactory. The typical working day was ten hours, beginning at 7 a. m. and ending at 6 p. m., with an hour off for lunch. Weekly wages were in many cases quite low, and averaged about $3.50. The situation, while not alarming, was becoming worse. Foreigners coming from countries where their lot as children had been hard and marked by unremitting toil were accepting this same destiny for their children in America. And the commissioner was perhaps justified in his statement that, "A visit to our coal mines, and to our large manufacturing establishments, reveals the fact that as a whole the volume of child labor is increasing, and that the time is rapidly approaching when legislative interference will become necessary to regulate and protect it." [5] No data were given regarding conditions of labor in agriculture.


     The earliest Kansas law relating to the employment of children was an apprenticeship act passed by the first territorial legislature in 1855. This was modified in 1859 and again in 1868.6 No further

4. Kansas Bureau of Labor, Sixth Annual Report, pp. 8-66.

5. Ibid., p. 8. A law prohibiting the employment of children under 15 in mines, factories and workshops was favored by 66 out of 58 county school superintendents in 1890. Ibid., p. 34.

6. General Statutes of 1868, ch. 5.


changes have been made since 1868. All three of the acts are almost identical, even to the language used. [7] Children may be bound in apprenticeship with the consent of the father; or if he is dead, a family deserter or habitual drunkard, with the consent of the mother; or of a guardian. Orphans without guardians may bind themselves, with the consent of the probate court. Any poor child who is a beggar, or who may become a county charge, whose parents are poor, whose father is an habitual drunkard, or, if he has no father, whose mother is of bad character, may be bound an apprentice by the probate court. Orphans or minors with estates insufficient for their maintenance may be bound by their guardians. The master's duties, as defined by law, are few. He

"Shall cause such child to be taught to read and write, and the ground rules of arithmetic, the compound rules and the rule of three, and at the expiration of his time of service shall give him or her a new Bible and two new suits of clothes, of the value of forty dollars, and ten dollars in current money of the United States." [8]

     To guard against abuse, the probate court is given power to see that the terms of the indenture are fulfilled and that the apprentice is not ill used. Complaints by apprentices against their masters of immoderate correction, insufficient food, clothing or lodging, want of trade instruction, or violation of the indenture, are received and heard by the probate court. No master may remove an apprentice from the state. If necessary, an apprentice may be discharged by the court.

     Certain conduct on the part of the apprentice is made punishable: desertion without good cause; misconduct or ill behavior. Willful desertion without. cause is especially frowned upon. In such cases the probate court may assess the apprentice ten dollars a month for each month absent, to be collected after the apprentice becomes of age. Furthermore, the master is given a right of action against the apprentice for any damages he may suffer from willful desertion without cause, judgment to be effective after the apprentice becomes of age. Anyone who counsels, persuades, entices or assists an apprentice to desert is liable to damages of $20 to $500, to be sued for and recovered by the master. And any person knowingly enter-

7. Statutes Kansas Territory, 1855, ch. 6 ; General Laws, 1859, ch. 13. The law of 1855 contains the following, which was omitted in 1859: "when an apprentice is a Negro or mulatto, it shall not be the duty of the master to cause such colored apprentice to be taught to read or write, or a knowledge of arithmetic; but he shall be allowed, at the expiration of his term of service, a sum of money in lieu of education, to be assessed by the probate court." Sec. 10. Under the act of 1855, the period of indenture was till the age of twenty-one, or for a shorter time. In 1859 the indenture for girls was made to expire at age sixteen. In 888 the boys' indentures were made to expire at age eighteen.

8. General Statutes, 1868, ch. 5, sec. 8.


taining, harboring or concealing a runaway apprentice forfeits to the master one dollar for each day he does so, this also to be sued for and recovered. [9]


     The first legal enactment directed specifically against the employment of children came in 1883, as an amendment to the coalmining law. [10] The employment of children under twelve years of age in coal mines was absolutely prohibited. Minors between twelve and sixteen could be employed only if they were able to read and write and furnished a certificate from a school teacher to the effect that they had attended school at least three months during the year. It was made the duty of agents employing minors to see that these provisions were not violated, and "willful" violation on the part of any agent was made punishable by a fine not to exceed $50 for each and every offense. This law was undoubtedly a step forward, but it was a faltering step. Its chief virtue was that it recognized the problem of child labor in coal mines, while its chief weakness was its lack of machinery for enforcement. Experience of other states has shown conclusively that an act bearing a penalty only for "willful" violations cannot be enforced. Yet the commissioner of labor, in 1888, expressed the hope that the provisions of the mining act would be extended to factories and workshops. [11] In 1894, however, the impossibility of enforcing the law was recognized. In that year the commissioner said: "It is extremely problematical whether this law is very rigidly enforced." [12]


     A second direct restriction of child labor came in 1889, as part of an act for protecting the morals of children.13 It was made unlawful to employ any child under fourteen years of age as an acro-

9. Another early law provided that a payment made to a minor on a contract for labor made with him alone could not be collected again by the minor's parent or guardian. -- Compiled Laws of Kansas, 1862, ch. 146.

10. Laws, 1883, ch. 117, sec. 17.

11. Kansas Bureau of Labor, Fourth Annual Report, p. 38. The following child-labor law was proposed in 1887: "In all manufactories, workshops and other places used for mechanical or manufacturing purposes, the time of labor of children under the age of eighteen years, and women employed therein, shall not exceed eight hours in one day; and any employer, stockholder, director, officer, overseer, clerk, or foreman who shall compel any woman or any such child to labor exceeding eight ours in any one day, or who shall permit any child under fourteen years of age to labor more than ten hours in any one day in any such place, if he shall have control over such child sufficient to prevent it; or who shall employ at manual labor any child under twelve years of age in any factory or workshop, where more than three persons are employed, or who shall employ any child of twelve and under fourteen years of age in any such factory or workshop for more than seven months in any one year, shall be punished by fine not less than five nor more than fifty dollars for each such offense." It failed of passage. -- Kansas Bureau of Labor, Third Annual Report, p. 325.

12. Ibid., p. 27.

13. Laws, 1889, ch. 104, Sims. 1, 48c, d and f.


bat, gymnast, contortionist, circus rider, rope walker, "or in any exhibition of like dangerous character," or as a beggar, mendicant, pauper, street singer or street musician. The penalty for violation was a fine not to exceed $250, or imprisonment not to exceed a year, or both. Any duly incorporated society whose object was the protection of children and who maintained a trustworthy and discreet agent to carry out its object, could have this agent appointed as a special police officer, to enforce this law. Furthermore, it was made the duty of sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, and police officers in counties and cities to aid such societies in enforcing all laws for the protection of children, and they were given the power to arrest without warrant for any violation. And it was made the duty of county attorneys to prosecute cases arising under this act. But in cases where complaints were filed by a society for the protection of children, that society's attorney could, with the consent of the court or magistrate, carry on the prosecution, and for this purpose he was granted all powers conferred by law upon county attorneys. The machinery for enforcing the act was certainly far superior to that set up in the mining act. And this machinery was in all probability effective, due largely to the nature of the labor concerned, which has always been frowned upon as being cruel and tending to immorality. [14] An extension of the provisions of this act was made in 1903 when the employment of children under eighteen as practitioners or subjects in public, open exhibitions, seances or shows of hypnotism, mesmerism, animal magnetism or so-called psychical forces was prohibited. [15]


     Compulsory school attendance dates in Kansas from 1874, when it was required that children between eight and fourteen be sent to school for at least twelve weeks in the year, six of these to be con-

14. An attempt was made in 1898 to secure the passage of a fairly good child-labor law. The following was introduced and its passage recommended by the committee on manufactures and industrial pursuits, but it failed to pass: "No child under fourteen years of age shall be employed at any time in any factory or workshop or about any mine. No such child shall be employed in arty mercantile establishment nor in the service of any telegraph, telephone, or public messenger company except during the vacation of the public schools in the school district where such child is employed. No person under sixteen years of age shall be employed at any occupation nor at any place dangerous or injurious to life, limb, health, or morals, nor at any labor of any kind outside of the family of such person's residence before six o'clock in the morning nor after seven o'clock in the evening, nor more than ten hours in any one day, nor more than sixty hours in any one week except in accordance with the following express permission or condition, to wit: Children not less than fourteen years of age may be employed in mercantile establishments on Saturdays and for ten days each year before Christmas until ten o'clock in the evening: Provided, however, That this permission shall not be so construed as to permit such children to toil more than ten hours in any one day nor over sixty hours in any one week. '-Kansas Bureau of Labor, Fourteenth Annual Report, p. 258.

15. Laws, 1903, ch. 219.


secutive. [16] Exemption was allowed if the parent or guardian was too poor to clothe the child properly. [17] In 1903 this law was modified, and children between eight and fifteen were required to attend school during the period it was in session. [18] But children of fourteen or more, if employed for their own or for their dependents' support, and if they could read and write English, were required to attend only eight consecutive weeks; and for those graduated from the common schools and those mentally or physically incapacitated, no attendance was required. This was an improvement over the previous law in that the period of attendance was increased, but the poverty clause weakened the act. A further amendment, made in 1907, authorized boards of education to permit temporary absences from school of children between eight and fifteen "in extreme cases of emergency or domestic necessity." [19] This provided another large loophole, and one which is said to have been regularly used in the sugar-beet regions of western Kansas. [20]

THE LAW OF 1905.

     A distinct step forward was taken in 1905, when the first comprehensive Kansas child-labor law was enacted. [21] The employment of children under fourteen in factories, packinghouses or in or about mines was absolutely forbidden, and no child under sixteen could be employed at any occupation or in any place dangerous or injurious to life, limb, health or morals. Before employing children, employers, whenever possible, were required to secure age certificates from school authorities. [22] When a certificate could not be obtained, a statement from the parent or guardian, verified under oath administered by an authorized officer, would suffice, except where the employer had actual knowledge that the child's age was below the legal minimum. Certificates and statements were to be kept on file, and factory and mine inspectors were charged with the

16. Laws, 1874, ch. 123. A short summary of the development of Kansas school laws concerning children was made by Nina Swanson: "The Development of Public Protection of Children in Kansas," Kansas Historical Collections, v. XV, pp. 241-240.

17. The labor commissioner was of the opinion that this law was never adequately enforced and was of no help in regulating child labor. "So far as the law is concerned, a child over eight years of age may be required to work every day in the year, so that he attends a night school for twelve weeks of the time; if the parents or guardians show that they are not able to clothe him properly, no education whatever is required, and the child is permitted to grow up in utter ignorance." -- Sixth Annual Report, pp. 11, 34.

18. Laws, 1903, ch. 423.

19. Laws, 1907, ch. 317.

20. Court of Industrial Relations, Third Annual Report, p. 123.

21. Laws, 1905, ch. 278.

22. The form of certificate prescribed was as follows:
State of Kansas, county of ----;
---- city or district.
This certifies that -----, according to the records of this school and from all
knowledge that I can obtain, was born at -----,
in county, and city, of the state of -----,
and is now under ----- years of age.
----- (Signed)


duty of inspecting the certificates, examining the children for violations of law, and of filing complaints. Complaints filed were to be prosecuted by county attorneys. The penalty for violation, or for permitting or conniving at violation, was a fine of $25 to $100 or imprisonment for 30 to 90 days.

     This act marks a distinct advance in the regulation of child labor in Kansas. First of all its scope was fairly broad, including many of the occupations-except agriculture-where children were likely to be employed for long periods under bad conditions. It should be noted that all mines, not merely coal mines, were included. In the second place, the age limit was set fairly high. Here again it should be noted that the age limit for coal mines was raised from twelve to fourteen years, although 'the corresponding section of the mining law was not specifically repealed. Lastly, the administrative fea- tures were an improvement over those set up under all previous laws. The chief weakness in the act was that its regulatory features were inadequate. No child under sixteen could be employed in any occupation or place dangerous or injurious to life, limb, health or morals, but little more specific than this was provided. Such general provisions usually were well enforced only where there was well organized machinery manned by aggressive officials. Unfortunately, such was not generally the case in Kansas at the time, nor for the next ten years. [23]

     Apparently the law of 1905 was needed. A special investigation made by the department of labor in 1906, covering 15 of the more important manufacturing counties, showed that 1,951 children were taken out of factories in those counties when the law first went into effect. [24] The operation of the child-labor and compulsory education laws together is said to have put in school, for the state as a whole, about 5,000 children. [25]

     Despite this good showing, the child-labor problem was not solved. The commissioner of labor complained in 1907 that the law did not "place any restriction upon the length of day's work of the children coming under its regulation." 26 Furthermore, he found that the law's scope was not inclusive enough, covering "not more than one half of the child-labor employment that should be regulated." [27] He

23. The Kansas commissioner of labor thought this provision quite important. "Kansas has a child-labor law second to none in the United States, especially on account of the provision which prohibits all children under sixteen years of age from being employed at any Place or at any occupation that is dangerous or injurious to life, limb, health, or morals." Kansas Bureau of Labor, Twenty-eighth Annual Report, p. 137.

24. Ibid., Twenty-second Annual Report, p. 144.

25. Ibid. School authorities have always cooperated reasonably well in enforcing the child labor law.

26. Ibid., Twenty-third Annual Report, p. 127.

27. Ibid., p. 142.


therefore recommended that the scope be enlarged to include workshops, and that mercantile establishments, telephone and telegraph offices, and the work of public messengers also be included, except during school vacation. As another improvement, he recommended a maximum day of ten hours, and a maximum week of sixty hours. [28] The following year it was recommended that the scope of the act should be widened by including workshops, theaters, and the operation of elevators, and that data on age certificates should be based only on school records. [29]

     A general movement to improve the child-labor law developed in 1908, led by the State Society of Labor, the State Federation of Labor, a child-labor committee consisting of representative leading educators and professional workers, and the Federation of Women's Clubs. A bill was drafted embodying the recommendations of the commissioner of labor, and going somewhat beyond them. This bill would have prohibited the employment of children under fourteen in any factory, workshop, theater or packing house, in the operation of elevators, in or about any mine, and in any business or service whatsoever during school hours. Children under sixteen in these employment, and in the distribution or transmission of merchandise or messages, would not have been employed between 6 p. m. and 7 a. m., and not for more than eight hours daily and forty-eight hours weekly. The age at which children could be employed at any place dangerous or injurious to life, limb, health or morals was raised to seventeen. Work permits based on school census records, with a prescribed form, were provided for. Provisions for enforcement and penalties remained unchanged. [30]


     The 1909 legislature adopted some of the changes suggested. [31] Two important amendments were made. Children under fourteen could no longer be employed in any factory or workshop "not owned or operated" by the child's parent, and not at all in a theater, packing house, or as an elevator operator, or in or about a mine, and no child under fourteen could be employed in any business or service whatever during school hours. The provision prohibiting employment of children under sixteen where body, health or morals were endangered, was retained. Thus the scope of the act was broadened.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid., Twenty-fourth Annual Report, 1908, p. 91. 30. Ibid., pp. 93-94.

31. General Statutes of Kansas, 1909, secs.5,094-5,098.


     A new step forward was taken in that hours of labor were regulated. No child under sixteen could be employed in the occupations mentioned above, or in distributing or transmitting merchandise or messages, between 6 p. m. and 7 a. m. or more than eight hours per day, or forty-eight hours per week. The more elaborate form of age certificate recommended in the proposed bill was adopted without change for all children under sixteen. [32] No changes were made regarding affidavits. Provisions for inspection, enforcement and prosecution remained unchanged, as did the penalty for violation.

     The provision that no child under sixteen could be employed where his life, limb, health or morals were endangered was given a liberal interpretation by the state supreme court. [33] A dangerous occupation was defined as being one in which there was reason to anticipate injury, whether because of its nature or the manner of its conduct, and this even though the danger could be eliminated by the exercise of due care and skill on the child's part. Violation of the law was held to be the proximate cause of injury. This provision, the court held, gave the minor a right of action for damages, despite the fact that the statute did not in terms give him this right. Moreover, it was not necessary that the employer should know that the employment was dangerous.


     Another significant step forward was taken in 1915 when the industrial welfare act was passed. [34] The act made it unlawful to employ "minors in any industry or occupation within the state of Kansas under conditions of labor detrimental to their health or welfare," and made it unlawful to employ them "at wages which are not adequate for their maintenance and for more hours than is consonant with their health and welfare..." [35] The word minor was defined in the law to mean any person, male or female, under eighteen years, and the word occupation was defined to mean any and every vocation and pursuit and trade and industry. Thus for the first time Kansas adopted a comprehensive policy for the regulation of child labor. A commission was created with broad powers

32. General Statutes, 1909, sec. 5,096. The form had to be "substantially" as follows:
This certifies that (full name), according to the records of the school census and from all knowledge that I can obtain, was born (day), (month), (year), at -----, in ----- county, state of -----, and is now ----- years and months of age. His (or her) height is (tall, short, medium), complexion (fair or dark), hair (color), and he resides at No. -----, ----- street.
(Official position) of (name of school) school or district No. -----
----- (Signature)

33. Casteel v. Brick Co., 83 Kan. 533.

34. Laws, 1915, ch. 275. This act was supplemental to existing laws on child labor.

35. Ibid., sec. 2.


to carry out this policy and the administration of the act was put in its hands. Under the authority of this law the welfare commission did regulate the wages, hours and conditions of many minors in Kansas. [36]


     The federal child-labor act of 1916 prohibited the shipment in interstate or foreign commerce of the products of mines or quarries situated in the United States if children under sixteen were employed in them at any time within thirty days prior to the removal of that product from the mine or quarry, as well as the product of any mill, cannery, workshop, factory or manufacturing establishment similarly situated if thirty days prior to its removal from the place of its production children under fourteen were employed, or children between fourteen and sixteen were employed for more than eight hours a day, or for more than six days a week, or between 7 p. m. and 6 a. m.

     At that time the Kansas act fell somewhat short of the federal standards thus set. This stimulated local interest in the state law, and recommendations looking to its improvement were made by the commissioner of labor almost at once. [37] These recommendations, however, went beyond the federal standards. in some respects. They were as follows: A sixteen-year limit for mines and quarries, factories, canneries, packing houses and all dangerous or extra-hazardous work places; the commissioner of labor to be authorized to add to this list; age certificates for children between fourteen and eighteen; work permits for those between sixteen and eighteen, upon proof of age, physical fitness, completion of sixth grade, and employment; an eight-hour day, forty-eight hour week, with no work between 6 p. m. and 7 a. m. for those under eighteen years of age.


     Amendments were made in 1917 to bring Kansas into line with the federal standards. [38] The field in which the employment of children was specifically prohibited was slightly extended. The provision of the 1909 law which allowed children under fourteen to be employed in factories and workshops owned or operated by their par-

36. A detailed analysis of this work has been made in a separate study dealing with minimum wage legislation for women and minors, which the author expects to publish later.

37. Kansas Department of Labor and Industry, Combined Thirty-first and Thirty-second Annual Reports, pp. 228, 229.

38. Laws, 1917, ch. 227.


ents was repealed. The age for the employment of children in mines was raised to sixteen, and this was made to extend to quarries. Prohibition of night work and work for more than eight hours daily and forty-eight hours weekly, provisions found in the 1909 act, was extended to include hotels, restaurants and mercantile establishments.

     Important changes were made in the matter of certificates for children under sixteen. Work permits were to be issued by the superintendent of schools or his representative, or by the judge of a juvenile court, but only after certain papers had been duly executed. The first of these was a written statement from the employer or his representative stating the occupation at which the child was to be employed. Second, a school record showing the completion of the elementary course was required; or when this information was not available a statement showing a successful examination over an equivalent course of study. Permits could be issued to children under sixteen who had not completed the elementary course or its equivalent, but only for the time during which school was not in session. Third, evidence showing that the child was fourteen years of age was necessary, the form of this evidence to be prescribed by the commissioner of labor and to comply substantially with the requirements laid down in this respect by the federal child labor law of 1916. Information as to name, sex, date and place of birth, etc., was also required. An important innovation in the matter of permits was designed to make it possible to keep an accurate record of the number of children employed in the permissible vocations. Permits were to be made out in duplicate, one retained by the employer, the other going to the commissioner of labor. When employment terminated, the employer was required to return his copy to the officer issuing it, and he in turn to the commissioner of labor. The commissioner of labor was authorized to revoke a permit improperly or illegally issued, or when by so doing the physical or moral welfare of the child would best be served. Provisions for inspection and enforcement and penalties for violation were not changed. [39]

After the 1917 amendments to the labor law there appears to

39. When the new federal child labor law was enacted, the Internal Revenue Department immediately accepted the Kansas work-certificate standards and system and put Kansas on the list of states whose certificates were accredited. But shortly after this Kansas was removed from the list because of the carelessness of the probate judge of Wyandotte county, in which many packing houses are located in issuing permits contrary to the provisions of the federal law. -- Kansas Department of Labor, Thirty-fifth Annual Report, p. 49. The duplicate permit system was not well observed, partly due to the carelessness and misunderstanding on the Part of the employers, who insist upon retaining the original permit, thinking that it may serve as a protection at some future time." -- Ibid., p. 48.


have been a conflict between the school and labor laws. The school law made attendance compulsory until the fifteenth year, while under the provisions of the labor law a child under sixteen could not. be granted a work permit while school was in session, unless he had completed the elementary school course. This conflict caused some confusion, and it is said that because of it the enforcement of the child labor law was hindered. [40] To eliminate this difficulty it was recommended that the attendance age be raised to sixteen. [41] An attempt was made by those administering the labor act to reconcile this conflict pending proposed legislation by accepting fifteen years as the age, after which no work certificate was required. But this practice was soon discontinued. [42] The 1919 legislature raised the compulsory school attendance age from fifteen to sixteen. [43] But the "poverty" clause, excusing children at fourteen if regularly employed for their own or their dependents' support, was retained. This provision also caused much confusion, and became a "loophole which almost annulled the enforcement of the higher standards of the two laws." [44]


     A movement to revise, organize and bring up to modern standards the laws concerning children, which ultimately led to the elimination of the conflicts between the labor and compulsory education laws, began in 1918 with the establishment of the Kansas Children's Code Commission. [45] No attempt was made by this commission to develop comprehensive revisions and recommendations. It contented itself with drafting and presenting six bills to the 1919 legislature. Three of these, none dealing with child labor, were passed. Nothing more was done by this commission.

     A second children's code commission was established in 1919. [46] It grew out of a central group known as the Kansas Woman's Com-

40. Kansas Department of Labor, Combined Thirty-third and Thirty-fourth Annual Reports, 1917-1918, p. 13. See, also, Thirty-fifth Annual Report, p. 55.

41. Ibid., p. 13.

42. Court of Industrial Relations, Second Annual Report, p. 96.

43. Laws, 1919, ch. 272.

44. Kansas Department of Labor, Thirty-fifth Annual Report, p. 56. The bars were let down some in 1919 by the commissioner of labor, on his own authority. During school vacation children between twelve and fourteen were allowed to work, without permits but not in certain industries-factory, workshop, theater, mill, cannery, packing house, creamery, elevator, mine, quarry, and in a telephone exchange, laundry, restaurant, hotel, or place where soft drinks are sold.

45. This body was established by Lieutenant Governor Huffman, at the request of Dr. Lydia Allen DeVilbiss, chief of the Division of Child Hygiene of the State Board of Health. "Proposed Child Welfare Legislation," Report of the Kansas Children's Code Commission, January, 1921, (Topeka), p. 6.

46. Largely at the request of Dr. Florence Brown Sherbon, successor to Doctor DeVilbiss. Kansas Department of Labor, Thirty-fifth Annual Report, p. 56.


mittee on Child Welfare, representing groups and organizations and certain state departments such as the Division of Child Hygiene and the Industrial Welfare Commission. A Kansas Child Welfare Survey was made. "The survey revealed a very general disregard of the Kansas child labor law." [47] On the basis of the information acquired in this and in other ways, a preliminary report was made, tentatively recommending certain legislation. [48] Twenty-one bills covering various phases of child welfare were drafted and presented to the legislature of 1921. [49] Two of these, one dealing with compulsory education and the other with child labor, are of interest here. The compulsory education bill provided that the ages of compulsory school attendance be from eight to eighteen, unless the high-school course were completed before eighteen; that children of fifteen or more actively and regularly employed according to the provisions of the child-labor law be required to attend continuation schools for two hours daily and four days weekly while school was in session, unless they had completed the tenth grade; and that children of fourteen who had completed the eighth grade be allowed to work provided they attended continuation school as above. The child-labor bill provided that no child under fifteen be employed except at odd jobs around the house or farm, this employment not to interfere with school attendance; that children of fourteen who had completed the eighth grade be allowed to work provided they attended continuation schools; that the list of prohibited industries be extended and that the commissioner of labor be authorized to add to this list; that a weekly maximum of six days be set; and that various changes be made in the matter of age certificates and work permits. Only three of the twenty-one bills presented were passed, and neither of the above two was included.

     The commission was reorganized again in the spring of 1922. An executive secretary [50] was appointed to take charge, and the commission then proceeded to work on a code. In its report to the legislature of 1923 it recommended twenty-one bills pertaining to various aspects of child welfare.51 These recommendations were largely based on those set up by the international conference held at Washington in 1919, but fell short in many particulars.

47. "Proposed Child Welfare Legislation," p. 17.

48. Ibid. The plans of the survey are published as Bulletin No. 2 of the Kansas State Board of Health, February, 1920.

49. These will be found described in the preliminary report of 1921, referred to above.

50. Mrs. H. Mayfield, of Kansas City.

51. Pamphlet published by Crane & Company, Topeka.


     The amendments to the child-labor law suggested were practically identical with those suggested by the previous commission, except that the age limit was reduced from fifteen to fourteen. The same is true of the compulsory education bill. It should be pointed out in this connection that this bill would have abolished the "poverty" clause, together with the "emergency or domestic necessity" clause then in force. Neither of these bills was passed. But both the "poverty" clause of the 1903 act and the clause of the 1907 lave authorizing temporary absences from school of children in cases of emergency or domestic necessity were repealed. [52] Children under sixteen who have not completed the eighth grade are now required to attend school, the minimum term of which is by law eight months, unless they are mentally or physically incapacitated. Thus the conflicts between the compulsory school attendance and labor laws have been eliminated. A street-trades bill was recommended, but was not introduced, although it appeared that child labor was increasing in these trades. [53 ]


     The first step forward in the administration of child-labor laws was taken when their enforcement was placed in the hands of the state commissioner of labor in 1898. [54] The same act provided that the commissioner should succeed to this office by virtue of being secretary of a worker's organization known as the State Society of Labor and Industry. An arrangement of this kind would seem to be especially desirable in so far as the enforcement of labor laws is concerned. But experience proved that in this respect it was not very successful. Nevertheless, for the first time, a central authority with some power was charged with the duty of seeing that the law was enforced. The law of 1913, which provided for a woman factory inspector, while not strictly a child-labor law, was also of some importance in this connection, for among the results of this law was the gathering of data concerning wages, hours and conditions of children, and a somewhat. more rigid enforcement of the child-labor law.

     In 1921 the office of state labor commissioner was abolished and the duties pertaining to that office were consolidated with those of the industrial court. Similarly, the industrial welfare commission was made a part of the court. The administration of the child-labor

52. Laws, 1923, ch. 182, sec. 2.

53. Court of Industrial Relations, Fourth Annual Report, p. 123.

54. Laws, 1898, ch. 34, sec. 3.


law was thus vested in the industrial court. For a short time this work was carried on under the supervision of the woman factory inspector, but in October, 1921, the industrial welfare and the child-labor work were united to form a woman's division under the supervision of the court. [55] Better results were anticipated from the consolidation. "With closer correlation between the child-labor, industrial welfare, and industrial court laws, some developments may be possible in child-labor work which could not be brought about under the former organization." [56] But no great improvement in enforcement resulted. When in 1925 the industrial court was abolished and its duties transferred to the Public Service Commission, the woman's division was retained as an integral unit in the commission. The child-labor law was administered by this body until 1929, when an industrial commission was created and charged with this duty.

     In general, the child-labor law has not been well enforced by any of these different agencies. Lack of funds for inspection and prosecution, and a lack of public interest in enforcement, have combined to bring about this result. When, in 1918, the first federal child labor law was declared unconstitutional, Kansas "felt keenly the loss of the moral support" which this law gave to local enforcement."

     Official figures on the number of work permits issued are not satisfactory. Such figures as are available, however, are given in Table IV. Some of these should be commented upon. The great decrease in regular permits issued in 1921, from 374 to 193, and in school vacation permits from 617 to 116, does reflect some decrease in the employment of children. This decrease is attributable to lessened business activity due to depression, to the more rigid enforcement of the federal child-labor law, and to better enforcement of the state law, for which purpose there was available a larger body of state factory inspectors. It is not at all improbable, however, that the depression in business was the most important factor. The decrease in school vacation permits was due, however, almost wholly to a change in the interpretation of the law, which allowed children to work without permits in occupations not listed in the law. In these occupations there was an increase in the number of children employed. [58] The further

55. Court of Industrial Relations, Second Annual Report, 1921, p. 88.

56. Ibid., p. 96.

57. Kansas Department of Labor, Combined Thirty-third and Thirty-fourth Annual Reports, pp., 12-13.

58. Court of Industrial Relations, Second Annual Report, 1921, pp. 97, 99. "Little girls twelve and thirteen years of age are found employed in restaurants, and boys ten and twelve years of age are found in the messenger service when the protection of the work-certificate system is removed," p. 99.


drop in 1924 was due almost wholly to a change in base to the calendar year. Improvements in the school laws are given some credit by the industrial court for this decrease, but it seems reasonable to suppose that these exerted but little influence. [59] A thorough checkup of the industries in Kansas City, Kan., in which a large number of children were employed, is given as the reason for the increase in the number of regular work permits issued in 1926. [60] This last statement brings out clearly the general unreliability of the figures. They do not give an accurate picture of child labor in Kansas.

TABLE IV. Regular and school vacation permits issued to children between 14 and 16 in Kansas from 1918 to 1980, by years.

Regular permits

School vacation permits






All others



Grand total













































































































* September 1 to September 1 for 1918 to 1923 inclusive, and calendar year from 1924 to 1929, inclusive.

Prosecutions for violations have never been numerous. This in itself is not a criticism, for this method of enforcement is not necessarily, or even generally, the best possible. Enforcement comes best through cooperation and education, and these means were largely used in Kansas. However, there are times when prosecution is necessary, and at those times it should be applied vigorously. But in Kansas prosecutions appear to have been inadequate in number and, what is worse yet, appear to have been misdirected. Rarely ever

59. Ibid., Fifth Annual Report, p. 100.

60. Public Service Commission, Eighth Biennial Report, p. 595.


were prominent individuals or firms prosecuted; and in not a few instances it appears that those in charge hunted out small employers against whom there was perhaps already some local public prejudice and prosecuted them; or some traveling theatrical company would be pounced upon with much show and apparently with great glee. Figures showing the number of prosecutions and convictions obtained are given in Table V. Apparently there have been no prosecutions since 1920, at which time the administration of the law passed first to the industrial court, then to the Public Service Commission and finally to the Commission of Labor and Industry.

TABLE V. Prosecutions and convictions for violation of child-labor laws in Kansas, 1906 to 1920, by years.








































*Prosecutions and convictions for violations of all labor laws.

     If factory inspection figures were comprehensive enough, and comparable, they would afford some indication of the effectiveness of the administration of the child-labor law. Kansas figures are comprehensive enough in so far as the total number of workers covered is concerned, but the data gathered by factory inspectors concerning the employment of children are not satisfactory. The establishments inspected at different periods have varied considerably. Inspections were conducted at different seasons of the year, and what is more important still, inspectors displayed varying degrees of zeal in discovering child labor. All this leads to the conclusion that the data available are unsatisfactory. They are given, nevertheless, in Table VI.



Wage earners covered by inspection

Number of children between 14 and 16

Percentage of children between 14 and 16





1903-'04 [average]












































1915-'16 [average]




1917-'18 [average]




* Official reports of the Kansas Bureau of Labor.

     Despite the fact that the data are not satisfactory, it would seem to be reasonable to infer from the figures given that the number of children between fourteen and sixteen years of age employed in industry has declined appreciably since 1905. It has been estimated that the law of 1905 took approximately 5,000 children under sixteen out of industry and put them back in school. [61] This statement may well be doubted. Nevertheless, child-labor and school-attendance laws have had some effect in reducing the number of children in industry. A general increase in the real wages of Kansas workers has no doubt led to some diminution in the number of children working for wages.


     As compared with the labor provisions of the minimum standards for child welfare, set up by the federal Children's Bureau, [62] the Kansas law shows some defects. The standards suggest a sixteen-year minimum for any occupation, while the Kansas law has a

61. Kansas Department of Labor, Thirteenth Annual Report, p. 28.

62. Publication number 82, pp. 3-5.


fourteen-year minimum for factories, workshops, packing houses, elevators, mills, canneries, and theaters, and, with certain exceptions, for all occupations during school hours. During school vacations the standards recommend a sixteen-year minimum for all occupations except agriculture and domestic service, where a fourteen-year minimum is suggested until schools are continuous throughout the year, while the Kansas law sets a fourteen-year minimum for specified occupations, but has come to be interpreted as requiring no age minimum whatever for occupations not specified in the act. [63] For hazardous employment the standards set a lower limit of eighteen years for mines and quarries, and twenty-one years for special-delivery service in the post office and for girl telegraph messengers, and would prohibit altogether the employment of minors in "dangerous, unhealthy, or hazardous occupations or at any work which will retard their proper physical or moral development," [64] while the Kansas act sets a sixteen-year minimum only for mines and quarries and for occupations and places dangerous or injurious to life, limb, health, or morals; [65] but there are no restrictions on the employment of girls as telegraph messengers in Kansas except during school hours or after 6 p. m., according to the present interpretation of the law.

     The educational minimum set by the standards is that children should be required to attend school at least nine months annually from their seventh to their sixteenth years. Kansas requires attendance only during the period when school is in session, which is now a minimum of eight months, and only from the eighth to the sixteenth year. [66] No exceptions are allowed for in the standards, but the Kansas law excepts mentally and physically defective children, without providing special training for them, and excepts also children between fourteen and sixteen who have completed the eighth grade. Furthermore, part-time and continuation schools suggested in the standards are not found in the Kansas law. [67] Physical examinations upon entering employment and annually

63. Court of Industrial Relations, Second Annual Report, p. 99.

64. Publication number 62, p. 3.

65. Laundries and telephone exchanges were declared to come under this provision. Court of Industrial Relations, Second Annual Report, 1921, p. 99.

66. Revised Statutes, 1923, 72-5002.

67. It is suggested in the standards that children between sixteen and eighteen who have completed the eighth grade but not the high-school grade and who are legally and regularly employed, shall attend continuation schools at least eight hours a week; and children between sixteen and eighteen who have not completed the eighth grade or those who have and who are not regularly employed must attend full-time schools. Occupational training for the mentally subnormal is suggested. For all children, vacation schools, "placing special emphasis on healthful play and leisure-time activities, are recommended.


thereafter, included in the standards, are not to be found in the Kansas law.

     In the matter of hours of employment the Kansas law is also deficient. For those under twenty-one the standards set a day of eight hours, and forty-four hours per week, without the special provisions that the maximum working day for children between sixteen and eighteen be shorter than the legal working day for adults, and that the time spent by children under eighteen in continuation schools count as part of the working day; night work between 6 p. m. and 7 a. m. to be prohibited. The Kansas law limits the hours of those under sixteen to eight daily and forty-eight weekly. Provision for night work is the same as in the standards, but applies only to those under sixteen.

     Perhaps the Kansas provisions as to minimum wages are, on paper, fairly satisfactory. A wage based on the "necessary" cost of proper living as determined by a minimum wage commission or other similar official board; apprenticeship and learning wages to be based on "educational principles only," are recommended in the standards. Power to regulate the wages of minors is now vested by the Kansas law in the Commission of Labor and Industry. But this law has been a dead letter ever since the regulation of the wages of adult women was declared unconstitutional. A central agency to deal with all juvenile placement and employment problems, recommended in the standards, is not provided for in Kansas.

     The administrative features of the Kansas child labor law are also inferior to those set up as model. Instead of issuing employment certificates to all children between sixteen and eighteen, and to those between fourteen and eighteen for agricultural employment during vacation, the Kansas act requires them for children between fourteen and sixteen only in specified occupations. No certificate of physical fitness is required in Kansas. In other details of the certificate system, such as promise of employment, evidence of age and completion of eighth grade, standardized report forms, etc., the Kansas law is up to standard. Compulsory school attendance provisions are weak in Kansas. Instead of full-time attendance officers and state supervision of enforcement, there is local supervision and there are very few full-time attendance officers. So it is, also, with factory inspection. There is an inadequate number of factory inspectors, and no provision for a staff of inspectors to examine working children annually.

     The bills prepared by the Kansas Children's Code Commission


embodied numerous improvements over the law as it then existed, and as it exists now. Fourteen years was the age limit proposed for all employment, including commercialized agricultural work, and sixteen years for all hazardous work. The list of what constitutes hazardous work was greatly extended, and power to declare any specific occupation hazardous was vested in the industrial court. A work week of six days was the only improvement proposed in the matter of hours; the day of eight and week of forty-eight hours, with no night work between 6 p. m. and 7 a. m., were retained. Work certificates were to be required for all employment, other features of the certificate system being retained and some brought up to standard. For children between fourteen and eighteen there was to be part-time school attendance until the completion of the tenth grade. Physical examinations were to be required of all children upon entering employment. But the proposals of the Children's Code Commission dealing directly with child labor have not been accepted by the legislature. No change has been made in the prohibitive or regulatory provisions of the child-labor law since 1917. Even the proposed child-labor amendment to the federal constitution was rejected, in 1925.68 The attitude of those in power appears to be one of indifference. A deaf ear has been turned to all attempts at improvement.

68. Lama, 1925, ch. 191. 2f-4323

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