Extra! Extra! Read All About the Newsboys Strike of 1899
This year the musical Newsies got nominated for eight Tony Awards. The popularity of the Disney Broadway show based on the Disney film has led many of our younger patrons to ask about the newsboys and the strike they led in 1899 on which the film and play are based.
If you are interested in learning more about the strike of 1899 (there were other strikes before and after) simply do a search for "Newsboys strike 1899" in the following database which can be accessed from any library location: Proquest Historical Newspapers: New York Times or Proquest Historical Newspapers: New York Tribune.
The strike occurrred during the summer of 1899 when the Evening World and Evening Journal decided to raise the wholesale price of its newspapers ("Newsboys Go On Strike," 1899). Newsboys not only had to pay more for the newspapers they sold but they were not refunded for unsold papers. At the time newsboys were earning on average 26 cents a day.
The articles paint a vivid picture of the challenges the newsboys faced and bring to life many of their colorful leaders. The 1899 New York Times article "Newsboys Act and Talk: Fight and Champion Their Cause in Mass Meeting" details how a floral horseshoe was presented to Kid Blink, one of the leaders of the strike for presenting the best speech.
"Ten cents in the dollar is as much to us as it is to Mr. Hearst the millionaire. Am I right? We can do more with ten cents than he can do with twenty five. Is it boys? I don't believe in hitting the drivers of the news wagons. I don't believe in dumping the carts same as was done last night. I'll you tell you the truth I was one of the boys that did it, but it ain't right. Just stick together and we'll win."
Long before the strike the newsboys were the subject of many articles. A search for newsboys and lodging houses bring up many articles that detail their daily lives. In 1853 a reporter describes the young urchins as "A distinct class amongst themselves... They eat and sleep and make their living and amuse themselves in their own way perfectly independent of the world so long as their world will buy their papers." The article goes on to detail how a favorite pastime is to go to the theater ("Walks Among the New-York Poor"). The newsboys surely would have gotten a kick out of the fact they are the inspiration for a major Broadway play.
Kids on Strike! by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Describes what drove workers, including children, to various strikes.
Breaker Boys: How A Photograph Helped End Child Labor by Michael Burgan
Lewis Hine's photographs exposed the hardships of child labor to the masses.
We Were There, Too! Young People in U.S. History by Phillip M. Hoose
This book details the lives of young people at center of many historical events throughout this country's history.
How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York by Jacob A. Riis
The candid photographs in the books are a window into what life was like in the Lower East Side Tenements towards the end of the 19th century.
Striking Back: The Fight to End Child Labor Exploitation by J. Dennis Robinson
Details the many strikes that children participated until the passage of the Fair Labor Act.
- Newsboys act and talk. (1899, Jul 25). New York Times (1857-1922), pp. 3.
- "Walks among the New-York poor." (1853, Mar 12). New York Daily Times (1851-1857), pp. 3-3.
- Newsboys go on strike. (1899, Jul 21). New-York Tribune (1866-1899), pp. 10.