Milton Fairchild was concerned that kids weren’t getting the morality instruction they needed:
“Most children are left in ignorance of what is considered right by intelligent people. How many parents or teachers have ever fully explained property rights to the children in their care. We teach geography, but the chart of life, by which our boys and girls can make a true success of life, is not taught, either at home or in school. And I might add that I believe most parents are no more fitted to teach morals than they are geography.”
So Fairchild developed a series of lessons in morals accompanied with photographs Fairchild himself took.
“To throw upon a screen pictures taken from a boy’s life of our own time, photographs of real boys doing the things that every boy does or sees done, and point out to him while he sees the picture the diference between wrong and right, between cheating and fair play, between contemptibleness and manliness.
“For example, take the lesson on ‘The True Sportsman.’ The attention of the boys is caught and held by screen pictures of a bicycle race, in which it can be plainly seen that the boy who is losing is deliberately running into the winner to foul him.”
Especially interesting to me is Fairchild’s description of the covert way he took the photos:
“The pictures have to be taken especially for this purpose, because no one but myself has been taking snapshots of matters of importance to child morality. It is a matter of very close study of child life to choose the pictures and ideas for a morality lesson.
“Shortly after starting on this work I found that it was necessary to devise a special camera for my own use. You see, it is a a very difficult matter to get just the kind of pictures that I wanted, for no faked photographs would answer. I knew that my audience of schoolboys would look upon a posed photograph as a put-up job, and would reject the moral application as quickly as they would reject a goody-goody story.
“In order to successfully stalk these scenes of child life, I had a camera built, the box of which looked like a suit case. It was fitted with a swift lens and a focal-pane shutter.
“After five years spent in what was practically preliminary work, I spent six years more in making my collection of negatives. Armed with my camera, I tramped the streets of nearly al the large cities of the Eastern States. In 1903, I went to England for scenes to add to my collection.”
I would love to see the photos he took. Considering that his goal was to capture all sorts of moral and immoral behavior, he must have created an interesting archive of photographs showing life in the early 20th century.
NEW METHOD OF TEACHING MORALITY TO THE YOUNG: Visual Instruction in Right and Wrong and Niceties of Conduct the Keynote of Novel Educational Movement Begun by Milton Fairchild. (PDF)
From April 2, 1911