Photographs from the Community Service Society Records, 1900-1920

Social Surveys > The Pittsburgh Survey


The Pittsburgh Survey, starting in 1907, was one of the first and most extensive sociological projects in the United States to combine scholarly social research with the political activism characteristic of the Progressive Era. For more than a year and a half, Paul Kellogg, then the editor of COS’s weekly journal Charities and the Commons, and his investigators studied nearly every aspect of life in Pittsburgh, including industrial accidents, industrial employment among women, labor issues in the steel industry, family life, schooling, health, and recreation. The photographer Lewis Hine was among those who provided evidence. The Pittsburgh Survey amassed a huge amount of information, which was incorporated in reports in three special issues of Charities and the Commons in the spring of 1909 as well as in public education presentations and exhibits. Eventually, the Russell Sage Foundation published materials from the survey in six volumes. Social activists used the findings to lobby for much-needed political reforms, such as abolishing child labor, improving public health, and instituting better city planning.

Below are pages from one of the first articles published from the Pittsburgh Survey in Charities and the Commons, COS's weekly journal. The article, "What Bad Housing Means to Pittsburgh," included twelve photographs by Lewis Hine, who served as the staff photographer of the survey in 1907 and 1908. Arranged throughout the sixteen-page text, the photographs take the reader through a spatial journey of the city, showing its infrastructure (sewage, streets, and alleys), buildings (yards, rooms, hallways, toilets), and inhabitants. Today, most of Lewis Hine's photographs from the Pittsburgh Survey are now located at the New York Public Library and Harvard Art Museums.


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