A Voice from the Newsboys
John Morrow
Published in 1860

When night came on, and that ever present question returned to trouble us, ''Where shall we sleep ?" I resolved to carry out a plan of which I had been thinking for some time, and accordingly found my way, withWillie, to the "Newsboys' Lodging-House." Opening the door, I walked up to the desk, and inquired of the gentleman who seemed to preside, "Is this the place for boys to sleep who haven't got any father or motlier?" Mr. Tracy (for that was the name of the gentleman whom I addressed), answered "Yes." Then I told him that we had neither father nor mother, and asked whether we might sleep there. I think that if he had looked hard at my face he could have seen that I was telling a lie, for I felt my guilty cheeks burn with shame! But he only inquired where we had been sleeping lately, and then gave us the permission which we wanted, on condition of our paying six cents apiece for the privilege, according to the rules of the establishment. . . .

After sitting by the fire for a few minutes, answering all the questions that were put to us, we passed quietly into tlie bed-room. Our minds were so much occupied with wonderings and speculations about our new home, that we did not examine things about us very closely. We could not but see, however, that the accommodations assigned to each of us for the night consisted of a nice little bed with warm comforters and clean sheets ; and glad enough were we to end our day's work in such a rest as was now promised us.

At half-past six, the next morning we were roused by the voice of the assistant, crying ''Up, boys, up I" We started up, rather bewildered at finding ourselves in so unusual a place. Looking around more leisurely than we were able to do the previous evening, we saw that we were in a large bedroom about sixty by forty, holding at that time about forty boys ; it was in the upper story of the Sun Building, and looked neat and commodious, while good ventilation was afforded by an ample supply of windows.

After dressing, Willie and I went into the room where we had applied for admittance the evening before; it was not quite as large as the sleeping room, yet it was capable of accommodating one hundred boys comfortably as a school and sitting room, with considerable space for play-room at that.


Extra! Extra! Read All About the Newsboys Strike of 1899
by Rosa Li, AskNYPL
May 25, 2012
Newsboys., Digital ID 79788, New York Public Library

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.