by Sarah Blow
The 145th birthday celebration of Lewis Hine went off without a hitch last Thursday, Sept. 26th, at the Heritage Winooski Mill Museum. Guests from the Winooski community were invited to discuss the work of author and historian Joe Manning and learn more about Winooski’s history as a mill town. Attendees were amazed at the passion Manning exemplified for his work, asking lively, thoughtful questions about his identification process and his interest in the topic.
The journey started with one little girl. In 2005, when asked if he would help track down former child mill worker Addie Card, Joe Manning a retired social worker of 30 years said he “would give it a try.” Since that first success, Manning has been hooked on identifying child mill workers featured in famous Lewis Hine photographs. “It’s been fascinating,” states his wife Carole Manning, who often accompanies him to various events and lectures regarding his work. Manning has always been interested in studying people, and sociology, so that initial search left him wanting more, wondering “what can I do next?” He feels somewhat of a responsibility to identify and bring life to the children behind the photographs. When he looked at that famous photo of Addie Card fourteen years ago, the very one that prompted his interest in the process, he recalls thinking of this young child asking “what are you going to do about me?” This call to action has allowed Manning to identify over 300 children featured in Hine’s work. Manning describes his work as “a rewarding emotional process” that has become somewhat of an addiction. Although this process has not come without its challenges. Carole Manning recalls the struggle Joe faced when having to switch from his trusty typewriter, to a modern computer in order to complete his research. “He had to take a leap,” she says. Despite his success in hundreds of cases, he still feels there is work to be done. He states he still has “about 4,000 pictures to go” resulting in a laugh from the group.
Following the hour-long question and answer session, guests enjoyed refreshments, including a birthday cake for Lewis Hine himself! Although Hine was unable to blow out the candles, he was certainly celebrated. The legacy of Lewis Hine lives on in people like Joe Manning who are dedicated to keeping his photographs relevant and remembered in modern society. Hine’s photographs serve as a reminder of how far Winooski and society have come in such a short amount of time and give us hope for the future.
Sarah is currently a sophomore at the University of Vermont, pursuing a degree in public communications. She has been working as a communications intern for the Heritage Winooski Mill Museum since September 2019.