Even a good newspaper editor writes the occasional brain-dead op/ed, and Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley penned a couple of pips in July, 1905. First he declaimed that "the so-called flying machine [will never be] useful for any practical purpose," then he wrote the editorial below, assuring local fruit and hops growers that field picking or working in a cannery was a "benefit" for children because they were toiling away in such a swell place as Sonoma County. "While the Child Labor law may be all right in some places, it certainly has no proper place in the country," opined Finley.

When Finley wrote "...nobody ever heard of such an arrangement working any injury to those so employed," he overlooked the reporting found nearly every week in his own newspaper, where children were described as being maimed or seriously injured by agricultural machinery. Nor could he apparently muster sympathy for kids forced into such labor. About a month later, the Press Democrat ran a lightweight item about local authorities making pin money as bounty hunters apprehending runaways from a Sebastopol "summer camp" for orphan boys brought from San Francisco for field work.

Wrapping up this series on 1905 child labor is a story that appeared on the front page of the Press Democrat earlier that year. Judging by the large and heavy font used in the headline, Finley wanted to draw the reader's attention to events that he deemed reprehensible, and justly so.


The folly and injstice [sic] of attempting to enforce a law where its provisions do not properly apply is now being forcibly illustrated here, where with considerable fuss and bluster a commissioner charged with that duty is at present engaged in trying to enforce the provisions of the new Child Labor law. This law was enacted by the last legislature with the idea of relieving conditions said to exist in San Francisco, where it is alleged that lazy parents have in some instances compelled young children to work regularly in factories and thus contribute to their support. The attempt to make this law apply to the canneries here and in other towns of the county where for a few weeks each year the children and pretty much everybody else not otherwise employed assists in handling the fruit crop, is little less than ridiculous. The astute gentlemen responsible for the existence and enforcement of the law in question may not know that some such arrangement is necessary in a great many rural communities in order to prevent the staple products from going to waste, and that working for two or three weeks during the summer vacation in the open air or in a well-lighted and perfectly-ventilated country fruit cannery is a vastly different proposition from toiling year in and year out in a dirty, overcrowded and ill-smelling city factory. In many of the smaller communities where the interests are pretty much along one line it is the custom to close the public schools for a week or two during the busy season so as to utilize all the available help in handling the crop. In some places this is done during the height of the berry season, in others when the grapes are ripe, in some when the hops are full. Nobody ever heard of such an arrangement working any injury to those so employed. On the other hand it is usually a benefit. While the Child Labor law may be all right in some places, it certainly has no proper place in the country, and good judgment would suggest that those charged with its enforcement ought to confine their energies to those places where it is apt to be of benefit.

- Press Democrat editorial, July 27, 1905

Eighteen Months Old Child Earn Fifty Cents per Week in New York Assisting Its Mother
When Sent to Infirmary For Treatment the Mother Found Her Usual Amount of Work Fell Short For Lack of Material

Special Dispatch to the Press Democrat.
New York, Jan. 13 - The astounding fact has been deveopled that an eighteen month-old-babe has been earning 50 cents per week in sweat shop work here. Dr. E. Daniel of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children reported the case. Some time ago a woman left a child with him for treatment. Later she called for the child saying she could not spare its services any longer.

They physician made inquiries and found that the mother was engaged in making passenementerie [sic]. The child rolled the material into balls for her use. The mother said that without the baby's assistance she fell below her usual amount 50 cents per week.

There is a law in this state forbidding the employment of children under 13 years of age at any work.

- Press Democrat, January 13, 1905


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