I learned about child exploitation and trafficking in the 19th century by reading Horatio Alger’s Phil the Fiddler.
As I’m behind in my 2020 reading challenge, I needed to read something quickly, so I went to Horatio Alger and chose Phil the Fiddler. I knew the novel for kids would be formulaic but I also knew I’d learn some history, which I did.
Phil the Fiddler’s hero is 12 year old Filippo, whose father sold him to a padrone, a Fagan type character who exploits his boys. The padrones, like the one in this novel, paid poor Italian families $75 for their children, whom he’d send out into the streets of cities like New York to play for money. These children would work from morning to about 11pm. They were expected to bring $2/day back to the padrone. If they failed, they’d be beaten. The padrone supplied a hovel to sleep in and breakfast and dinner, which consisted of bread and cheese.
Filippo (Phil) has a young friend…
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