On September 4, 1833, 10-year-old Barney Flaherty answers an ad in the New York Sun and becomes one of the first newsies, or newsboys to distribute newspapers.
“The first unemployed person to apply for a job selling Suns in the streets was a ten-year-old boy, Bernard Flaherty, born in Cork. Years afterward two continents knew him as Barney Williams, Irish comedian, hero of ‘The Emerald Ring,’ and ‘The Connie Soogah,’ and one time manger of Wallack’s old Broadway Theatre.”
— “The Story of the Sun (1833-1918).”
By Frank Michael O’Brien, 1918.
Video: “Newsies at the turn of the century”
“In the movies, scrappy, urban newsboys hawk papers with screaming headlines, shouting, ‘Extra! Extra! Read all about it!’ Real newsboys in the late 19th and early 20th century, however, were very different from the Hollywood image of lovable street urchins singing and dancing in the streets.
Newsboys first appeared on city streets in the mid-19th century with the rise of mass circulation newspapers. They were often wretchedly poor, homeless children who often shrieked the headlines well into the night and often slept on the street.
….In 1899, several thousand newsboys — who made about 30 cents a day — called a strike, refusing to handle the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. Competing papers lavished coverage on the strikers, who were depicted as colorful characters who spoke in an oddly rendered Irish-immigrant dialect and had names like Race Track Higgens and Kid Fish.”
The photos of Lewis Hine, Preus Museum
“The old newsies were tough kids, hollering and fighting their way to dominate a street corner. They worked long hours and strayed far from their neighborhoods. But the new paperboys were businessmen, establishing relationships in their own communities and working fixed routes with regular hours. This was all under the guidance of circulation managers, who looked after them — and kept after them. The new management system worked so well in the Depression that it went largely unchanged for half a century.”
— “The Invention of the Paperboy.”
By Richard Armstrong.
Video: “Paperboy Houston Chronicle 1970s”
“The paperboy has been subject to two distinct forces. The first is the newspaper business: Not just circulation — which peaked in 2000 and has been dropping since — but when papers were delivered. 2000 marked the first time there were more morning than evening papers. This helped accelerate a shift begun a decade previously, when from 1980 to 1990, the number of adult carriers had risen by 112 percent, while youth carriers had dropped by 60. Most children either could not or were not willing to get up and deliver papers by 6 a.m.
….Ask a former paperboy about the job and you’re likely to summon a misty-eyed recollection of predawn bundling and knee-high snow. ‘Today it’s basically something that doesn’t exist,’ said Today host Matt Lauer. ‘It’s a bit of innocence lost — and it meant a lot to me as a kid.'”
— “The Rise and Fall of the American Paperboy,” By Tom Vanderbilt, 2011
However, you can still find Newsies on Broadway.