Free workshop teaches youth about Industrial Revolution

For The Review, Tidings

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: LEWIS HUNT (PUBLIC DOMAIN) - Lewis Hunt took this picture of a boy at work in a cotton mill in Newton, N.C. in the early 1900s.

Steampunk for Kids, a free History for Kids workshop on the steam-powered machine age of the Industrial Revolution, will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Museum of the Oregon Territory.

Steampunk explores both Victorian realities and science fiction, often employing “creatively misapplied” technology of heavy iron gears, gaslights and welded bronze that symbolized the era. The workshop aims to mesh the history of the Willamette Falls’ hydro-powered mills and once-innovative electrical turbines with a fun understanding of a child’s life in the late 1800s.

The program, for children entering second through eighth grades, will explore how Oregon’s first newspaper was typeset by hand. They’ll also find out how electrical power, paper and textiles were produced on the Willamette River using water power — and how these industries employed preteens, six days a week, in a Dickensian setting, until teachers, state and federal child labor reform legislature intervened.

The program begins with an introduction illustrated by the stark images of photographer Lewis Hine, a teacher and sociologist who began to document child labor in the United States’ factories and mines in 1908 for the National Child Labor Committee. Girls and boys will then put on Victorian pinafores, aprons and suspenders typical of working class of pre-1900 and “clock in” at different historic trades.

Activities include crafts and a practical lesson in 1900 economics, as children spend the pay they earn at the company store. The Steampunk for Kids program begins at noon and ends between 3 and 4 p.m. — whenever the little workers are ready to “clock out” and cash in their wages.

Steampunk for Kids is the newest addition to the Clackamas County Historical Society’s education program, which offers field trips for school groups throughout the year. The program is funded by the Oregon Community Foundation.

Space is limited to 32 children, with accompanying adults. Call 503-655-5574 to register. Parents may participate or enjoy free museum admission. The museum is at 211 Tumwater Drive in Oregon City.

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