Since the start of the TNDP in 2010, I’ve read just about anything I can get my hands on that’s newspaper history-related. I’ve enjoyed books about printing presses, typesetting machines and typography, newspaper design and layout, Civil War reporters, the Southern press, and I’ve learned about the towns’ histories whose newspapers are featured in the project. I plan on writing more on some of these topics in the future. However, one topic that has been a source of constant fascination for me is “newsies” – the boys and girls who were the final link in the chain delivering the news to the people. Thousands of children across the country–from the late 19th century through the 20th century–were responsible for delivering newspapers to customers on the street and to their houses. In the early 20th century, newsboy associations were formed, often by local philanthropists and/or social reformers. In addition to social welfare (many offered libraries, religious and moral education), the associations organized social events such as an annual picnic with food, fun and games for the boys. Although there was camaraderie between the newsies, rivalries developed too. The newsies usually formed and stuck to their own moral code. I’ve found so many intriguing stories about these children and their work, I thought it would make a great topic for an on-going series. Many newsies became local characters, others went on to greater fame; this series will include both. Check back later this week for the first in this series. I’ll add more information about newsies in general, as well as individual newsy’s stories, over time.
In the meantime, take a look at the Library of Congress’ extensive collection of photographs of newsies, many taken by the photographer Lewis Hines for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC). They can be accessed online here. Several books and many newspaper articles have been written about these young workers, who were also the subject of a WPA project, and Disney even made a musical about them, [No comment – Ed.] and subsequently a Broadway musical.