Posts Tagged ‘child labor in the 19th century’

The successful newsboy strike of 1899

October 26, 2009

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—somewhat. After a few weeks of gloating media coverage in other New York City papers, the publishers agreed to buy back unsold newspapers, though they did not scale back the original price.