After the rise of the daily newspaper in the 1880s, newsboys (and a few newsgirls) sold more than half of all newspapers in the United States. It became possible to purchase papers in afternoon editions as well as morning editions. As the market expanded, newsboys were able to maintain their livelihoods.
The rise of Newsies
The Newsies were a group of street children who bought many newspapers every morning from the different publishing companies. To make a profit, each newspaper boy would have to sell them before the day. Due to the rapidly changing news, the papers could only be sold on the same day each day. The newsies did not get reimbursed for unsold papers, so any paper that remained unsold was a waste of money.
Newsies claimed street corners, theater lobbies, saloons, train stations, and other places where there was heavy foot traffic, blaring headlines, and hustling for tips. Children took on part-time jobs as they were able to work at their own pace. The better-off newsies wore thin fabric, light jackets, and hats with pennies to spare because they could only afford them. At the same time, the others walked New York City’s streets in wintertime dressed in dirty rags without shoes or coats. Newsies rely on other tactics to get people to sympathize with them when their headlines aren’t good, such as faking a limp to get people to pity them. Often, newsies would exaggerate the truth or “out false headlines and shortchange customers.” These headlines might be about fires, strikes, or political corruption, anything that would make buyers feel sympathy.
Poor working conditions
It was a miserable working environment. As seen in many of the photos below, newsies were constantly exhausted. Walking around the city all day kept them on their feet. Children still in the developmental phase found the long hours difficult, mostly during daylight hours. In addition to not going to school, these children spent the whole day selling papers on the streets, in trams, or saloons. The idea was to attempt to make money rather than receive an education. The newsies sold papers to most New Yorkers, showing how many young urban poor were present and raising awareness of child labor.
Newspaper newsies were a recognized group of workers who played an essential role in the newspaper industry. An example of this is the 1899 strike in New York. Two of New York’s most distinguished publishers, Joseph Pulitzer and Randolph Hearst, hiked the newspaper prices. The newsies organized into a union and went on strike against these increases. As a result of the strike, the publishers made a settlement offer to the newsies.
Lewis Hine took these powerful images, which became the face of the movement against child labor, raising public awareness of the issue.
Congress passed the Keating-Owen Act in 1916, outlawing interstate commerce with goods produced by children under the age of 14, 15 or 16. Childhood labor practices disappeared around the 1920s.
He did not know his age, nor much of anything else. He was said to be 5 or 6 years old. Nearby, I found Jack who said he was 8 years old, and who was carrying a bag full of Saturday Evening Posts, which weighed nearly ½ of his own weight. The bag weighed 24 pounds, and he weighed only 55 pounds. He carried this bag for several blocks to the car. Said he was taking them home. Sacramento, California, 1915.
Newsboys Lodging House, 14 Chambers Street. Has not been home for 6 months because step-mother has been trying to put him into a House of Refuge. Could not get name of smaller boy, but he was younger, probably 11-years-old. These boys are hanging about and snatching an occasional sleep in sheltered spots. New York, New York, 1908.