Hellraisers Journal: Gilson Gardner Reports on the “Devil’s Kindergarten,” Midnight Visit to Molten Glass Works

Mother Jones Quote, Child Labor Man of Six Snuff Sniffer


Hellraisers Journal Wednesday October 30, 1907
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Boys Work Molten Glass at Midnight

The following account of young boys laboring late at night in the heat and glow of a Pittsburgh molten glass works comes from the October 29th edition of The Evening Star of Independence, Kansas:

“Devil’s Kindergarten,” Where Boys Toil
With Molten Glass All Night


-President Theo. Roosevelt.

(By Gilson Gardner.)

Child Labor, Glass Works Midnight IN, Hine, LOC, Aug 1908
Glass Works at Midnight

Pittsburg. Pa., Oct. 29.-A visit to the Devil’s Kindergarten would help congress to understand. And to understand is, of course, what congress wants in the case of this child labor problem.

This merry place will be found in Pittsburg, and the way lies down along the river on the south side, where the smoke hangs heaviest and the night sky is lurid and the air is filled with the groans of tortured steel. It is the night effects which are important, for the kindergarten runs at night, and the visit must be made at midnight.

I went alone and as a trespasser. This is the only way in which one can go. The proprietors of glass bottle works, where small boys work at night, do not care for visitors. One desiring to repeat the trip should go down to the huge works of the United States Steel company, on the south bank of the Monongahela river; then up the black side streets, past tenements, to a brick structure, climbing an unguarded outside stair, he will find himself at the Cunningham glass bottling works. And if he does not agree that he has found the Devil’s Kindergarten, I hope he may live to see his own children apprenticed to the trade.

The unusual mingling of light and darkness and the bedlam of strange sights and sounds may confuse the visitor at first, but he will see presently that he has stepped into a large brick-floored room at whose upper ends two crowds of men and boys are performing rites about two dark mounds which give out roaring sounds, and are punctured each with a row of blinding fiery eyes.

Men poke dark rods into these incandescent holes, while other pits upon which they twirl other rods whose ends bear plastic molten masses drawn from the fiery eyes. Men and boys are grouped close about the pulpits, and there are other flaring points and a quick passing of dark rods from hand to hand until from the outer edge there comes the troupe of boys with long iron rods whose ends are scoops and on each scoop two of the molten things now turned from white to a darkening red, and away go the rods and their burden into the dark recesses of low oven doors, and the boys are back again into the group below the pulpits and the glowing eyes.

These figures are all high lights and silhouettes except where they are seen as shadows.

And from this scene there comes a strange sound of human voices-strange because the sounds are without harmony or apparent purpose. Each youthful voice is upraised in a different key in a continuous monotonous chant, which is neither talk or shout nor song, and yet partakes of all, and whose sole purpose seems to be to swell the total of inharmonious noise and to complete the resemblance of the picture to some devils’s play of the lower world.

Songs and little games are what kindergartens teach, and in this Devil’s kindergarten of the glass house the boy learns also cursing and tobacco. In an interval from work, at the lunching hour, the boys were free-free to bandy oaths and friendly blows and to trade tobacco in its various forms, and there was none too small to show himself a man by these accomplishments. And why not? Did not the gaffer chew and curse his helper? And were they not hoping some day to be as great and fine as he?


[Photograph added.]


The Evening Star
(Independence, Kansas)
-Oct 29, 1907

Child Labor, Glass Works Midnight IN, Hine, LOC, Aug 1908


We Will Sing One Song – Six Feet In the Pine
Lyrics by Joe Hill

We will sing one song of the children in the mills,
They’re taken from playgrounds and schools,
In tender years made to go the pace that kills,
In the sweatshops, ‘mong the looms and the spools.