Age of innocence: Beautiful homespun images capture early 20th century 'wonder years' when children ran barefoot instead of playing Xbox
18:11 GMT, 31 January 2013
08:02 GMT, 1 February 2013
These fascinating pictures of American and Canadian youngsters in the first half of the 20th century capture an almost forgotten age of innocence and the simplest of pleasures.
The photographs, from the archives of the National Geographic magazine, show children from around two or three up until their early teens and give a fascinating glimpse into what life was like for youngsters without the all trappings of the modern world which we now take so much for granted.
The children are pictured huddled together in the family homestead or talking a jolly stroll in the countryside. Two young boys are seen staring in awe at a billboard announcing the circus is in town wondering if they will be lucky enough to go along.
Family ties: Seven siblings sit on a wooden fence Quebec, Canada, in one of the images released by National Geographic. The picture is believed to date from the 1930s
Four boys bob for apples in West Virginia, USA in January 1939
Arm in arm: Young children hold on to one another as they walk down a
dirt road alongside a corn field in Pennsylvania, USA, in 1919
Another shot, dating from 1936, shows four boys enjoying a game of apple bobbing – well this was a time when an Xbox was some sort of mystery package and social networking meant a chat with
your neighbour over a rickety wooden fence.
But the smiling faces and apparent
joy betray the grim reality for many youngsters who lived during this era – a time of catastrophic world war, massive social change and
incredible technological development.
For hundreds of
thousands of children life was incredibly tough – instead of an
education they would be forced to work from an early age fuelling the
nation's Industrial revolution.
Others would spend long hours toiling
in the fields of family farms or working in factories. Children
as young as five would be recruited as messengers, newsboys, peddlers
and in various other menial jobs.
Employers seized on Children who they regarded as cheap labor – their small size meant they were capable of wriggling into through narrow parts of mechanical machines where adults could not go.
Incredibly it took until the Great
Depression to end child labor, for adults had become so
desperate for jobs that they would work for the same wage as children
and in 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor
Standards Act, which finally placed limits on child labor.
Four Amish children perch on a fence on a hot summer's day in Pennsylvania in 1941
The circus is in town: Two small boys gaze at a circus billboard in rural Ohio in an early colour picture from 1932
A boy shows off his freshly picked strawberries in Missouri in 1943, while two children with a puppy sit on an old split rail fence in Missouri in 1946
Morning glory: Mother carries milk pails on her shoulders while the
children lead a horse on a foggy morning walk in Quebec, Canada in 1950