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Newsboys: Country Trends

Figure 1.--Here we see newsboys in Chicago, Illinois in 1904. Note the flat caps. Rather unusually for the 1900s, the boys wear long pants--even the younger boys. We wonder if this was because the boys are from Chicago rather than an eastern city.

We have very limited infiormation on newsboys around the world. We have some information about newsboys in America. Here a rich archive of photographs is helpful in following trends. This is in part because they were the easiest type of worker to photograph. Many employers limited access to their factories. ewsboys could, however, be photographed freely on the street. We also have some information from England. Our information on other countries, however, is very limited. Hopefully our readers will help fill in the gaps in our information.


We do note boys selling newspapers in American during the late 19th century. We know less about other countries. Selling newspapers was an important source of income for boys from low-income urban families. The boys were called Newsies. Here we see New York newsboys at the Brooklyn Bridge early in the morning before delivering their papers in the city. They wear typical newsboy clothes: outer jackets, knee pants, long black stockings, and flat caps. Note the adult on the left with a cigarette, probably one of the men supervising the boys. They seem to be between 12 and 14 years old. Many newsboys quit school and sold newspapers during the day. A reader writes us, "Don't know much about newsboys, but - talk of coincidences - a novel by Jon Boorstin, The Newsboys Lodging House" over the Christmas break. Set in the late 19th century in New York City, this story concerns the grown son of a wealthy Bostonian who investigates life at a newsies' lodging house founded by Horatio Alger. Alger, as you know, wrote prolifically, and some of his works include newsboys as characters. No particular titles come to mind. I'll finish reading it, though probably it will be a couple of weeks before I can send you a review, and hopefully some ideas about newsies. From what I've read so far, it appears that quite a few of the newsies were orphans who'd lead very tough lives." Boys continued selling newspapers, although child labor laws and school attendance laws were enacted during the 1910s and 320s. The Depression befinning in 1929 also had an impact. Jobs were so difficult to find during the Depression that men replaced newsboys. Child labor laws also became more strictly enforced. A shift occurred during the Depression era. Rather than selling newspapers on street corners, boys began increasingly deliveering newspapers door to door. I am not sure about the chronology involved here. I think the Saturday Evening Post was in the early 20th centuiry delivered by boys who had routes rather than mail. We note another shift which began in the 1980s with adults replacing boys with delivering newspapers. We note that immigrants are often involved.


I believe that there were aklso newsboys in England. We have seen images of boys selling newspapers in England. It seems to us that many English images show men selling newspapoers, more so than in America. We do note boys with paper routes in England, but again do not believe that this was as common as in America. Those of us who enjoy "Keeping Up appearances" will recall Huicinth Bucket's newsboys who had to clean out his ears. An English reader tells us, We still have newsboys & girls here in the UK, although not as many as there used to be. These days they all carry their wares in bags made of high visibility materials for reasons of safety. The newsagents who still deliver by this method regard the newsboys and girls as the lifeblood of their businesses. In American films, newsboys are always depicted as throwing the papers onto the porches as near to the door as they can aim. Whether or not this is just a bit of male bravado for the film I know not, but in the UK the papers are always put through the letter boxes in the front doors. A British newsboy or girl throwing the papers at the front door would be regarded as rude, and he or she would probably be dismissed." A HBC reader tells us about his paper route. He was primarily interested in earming pocket money to buy trendu clothes.


A French reader tells us, "There is no term for newsboys in French. Here newspapers are sold in kiosks or shops. From earrly times it was forbiden for children to sell on the public streets."



The Italian word for newsboy is "strillone" from "strillare" i.e. "to scream". We do not know much about Italian newsboys yet. We have one photograph of an Italian newsboy The picture was taken in Bollate near Milan. It can be dated after World War II. The newspaper that the boy sells is "L'Unit´┐Ż", the official newspaper of Communist Party, that was forbidden during Fascist era. The boy wears knickers. Looking at the clothing, I think that it was most probably in 1940s than in 1950s.


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Created: 4:08 PM 12/28/2004
Last updated: 10:54 PM 12/31/2004