1881 - The first constitution of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, the forerunner of the American Federation of Labor, declares in favor of passing state laws to prohibit the employment of children under the age of 14 in any capacity “under the penalty of fine and imprisonment.” 1883 - Led by Samuel Gompers, the New York labor movement successfully sponsors legislation prohibiting cigar making in tenements, where thousands of young children work in the trade
1900 - The United States Census reports that some 2 million children are employed in wage earning occupations.
1904 - The National Child Labor Committee, the first effective lobbying group for reforming child labor conditions, is established in the United States.
1906 - Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana and Congressman Harry Parsons of New York introduce identical bills in the U. S. Congress to regulate child labor ("A Bill To Prevent the Employment of Children in Factories and Mines," S. 6562 and H.R. 21404). Debate continued for several years, but this first attempt at federal legislation did not succeed.
1912 - The first federal agency devoted expressly to the welfare of children, the U.S. Children's Bureau, is founded.
1916 - The U. S. Congress passes and President Woodrow Wilson signs the Keating-Owen Act, the first federal legislation regulating child labor (U.S. Statutes at Large, 39:675-76). The law, which went into effect on Sept. 1, 1917, barred from interstate and foreign commerce the products of mines or quarries that employed children under sixteen, and articles produced in factories, mills, or other manufacturing establishments that employed children under fourteen or that allowed children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen to work more than eight hours a day or more than six days a week. In 1917 a federal court declared the law to be unconstitutional, a decision the Supreme Court upheld in 1918 (Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251) .
1919 - Congress enacts the Child Labor Tax law which barred the employment of children younger than 14, established an eight-hour-day for workers aged 14 to 16, and levied a tax of 10 per cent on the annual net profits of industries that violated those standards (Title XII of "An Act To Provide Revenue, and for Other Purposes," U.S. Statutes, Vol. XL (1919), Part I, chap. 18, p. 1138). The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in 1922 (Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., 259 U.S. 20 ).
1924 - President Calvin Coolidge signs and the U. S. Congress submits a child labor amendment to the individual states for ratification. The proposed amendment granted Congress the right to “limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under 18 years of age.” By 1937 28 states had ratified the amendment, a total that fell 8 states short of the required two-thirds majority.
1933 - The National Industrial Recovery Act prohibits labor by children under the age of 16. The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional is 1935.
1936 - The Walsh-Healy Act is signed into law, becoming the first legally binding federal legislation to prevent the use of child labor in companies with federal contracts.
1938 - The Fair Labor Standards Act is signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It prohibits the interstate shipment of goods made in firms that employ children under the age of 16, or children under the age of 18 in hazardous occupations. It also prohibits the employment of children under age 14, and those under 16 during the school year.
1941 - The U. S. Supreme Court upholds the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act concerning child labor prohibitions in the case of United States v. Darby.