“Newsies” – The Children Who Sold Newspapers In The Largest Cities In America – Early 20th Century

Can you imagine seeing a young child of the age of 4, 5 or 6 in the middle of New York City, all by themselves, selling on the corner of streets to make a living?  It is a part of American history that many of us have never learned about.

Congress passed the Keating-Owen Act in 1916, outlawing this practice with children under the age of 14, 15 or 16. Childhood labor practices disappeared around the 1920s.  The pictures of these children in history are chilling.

“Newsies” is what they were called.  They were a group of street children who bought newspapers from different publishing companies.

These children worked very long hours, often getting up very early in the morning before the traffic of the rush hours would begin.

Naturally children didn’t have transportation, so any papers they bought would be carried by these children.

These children knew that in order to make money, the newspaper would have to be sold before the end of the day. These children did not get reimbursed for unsold papers, so any papers that remained would be lost money.

Can you imagine understanding these concepts at the young age of 8 years old?  But not only that, can you imagine an 8 year old standing by themselves in the middle of a big city?  

But my initial thought was….  the safety of these children. 

These children were taught that adults would take pity on children who were poorly dressed.  So many of them wore thin clothing in the wintertime, and sometimes faked injuries so people would take sympathy.

They also learned the art of selling at a young age, by exaggerating the truth of the headlines. In addition to not going to school, these children spent the whole day selling papers on the streets. The location of their sales, would also lead them down the wrong path in life.

You have to wonder about the lives of these children and how their lives ended up.  Where did they end up in life? 

See more of these pictures at bygonely.com/

Four years old – Tampa, Florida, 1913.

1st Picture – Tony Casale, who was 11 years old.  He had been selling for 4 years at the time of the picture.  His paper boss told the photographer that the boy had shown him the marks on his arm where his father had bitten him for not selling more papers. The 2nd photo shows newsboys returning Sunday papers. Many of them had been out since 5 and 6 a.m. Hartford, Connecticut. 1909.

These boys were playing pool and smoking in the pool room while waiting for papers. The smallest boy is 9 years old and sells until 9 p.m. St. Louis, Missouri, 1910.

Hyman, ONLY six years old.  Another six year old newsie told the photographer he sold until 6 p.m. Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1911.  No shoes.