The successful newsboy strike of 1899

Hawking newspapers in the 19th century was hard work. Rather than working for the newspaper itself, a newsboy—usually a kid or young teen from a poor family, often homeless himself—had to buy copies of the paper from the publisher, then sell them independently.

An estimated 10,000 newsboys worked the streets of New York City. Publishers wouldn’t buy back unsold copies of their papers, which made it tough for a kid to eke out a profit.

Newsboystrike1899

Newsboys plying their trade on the Brooklyn Bridge. Those bundles look heavy.

In 1899, the Evening World and Evening Journal started charging newsboys 60 cents for a hundred copies of their papers, a hike from 50 cents. Pissed off, thousands of newsboys went on strike. They held protests all over Manhattan and got into fights with men and boys hired by the papers as replacement workers.

But the strike worked. After a few weeks of gloating media coverage in other New York City papers, the publishers scaled back the price hike.

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9 Responses to “The successful newsboy strike of 1899”

  1. john Says:

    ‘eke’ out a profit, not ‘eek’. no mice seen here.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks–I fixed it.

  3. petey Says:

    concerted action by the workers. why, even kids used to know that!

  4. Nabe News: October 26 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    [...] fascinating look at the newsboy strike of 1899.  When publishers hiked the rate from $.50 to $.60, newsboys throughout the city went on strike.  [...]

  5. Toni Granke Says:

    I think new york and the history surrounding it is fascinating, thanks for your all your work!

  6. leandr Says:

    Thanx for this post. We’ve translated into russian http://revsoc.org/archives/2956

  7. roxy Says:

    um……… they never put the price back to $0.50. they did refund the newsies, or newsboys, for the papers “papes” they didn’t sell.

  8. Disney World News Today » » Pioneering female reporter provides the inspiration for Kara Lindsay’s character in Disney "Newsies the Musical" Says:

    [...] the price which the 'newsies' have to pay for the papers that they were selling – organized a protest that eventually went citywide) [...]

  9. john Says:

    to beleieve kids actually had to work(12years old

    )

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