Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ah, Those were the Days!

Instill the little rascals with a bit of moral fibre!:
"[M]ost of the city's newsboys took their earnings home to help support their families.  But many newsboys were orphans or runaways who lived on the streets.  Owen  Kildare was seven years old when, in 1871, his stepfather kicked him out of their Catherine Street home.  Kildare went to Park Row (where most of the city's newspapers had their offices), took up with a gang of newsboys who slept on the streets, and soon began selling newspapers himself.  During the summer, these waifs slept in City Hall Park, on courthouse steps, or in col boxes under building stairwells.  In the winter, they huddled over steam grate outside the newspaper pressrooms or in the doorways of unlocked buildings.

Despite these hardships, the newsboys relished their freedom and independence.  On a typical day, they bought their morning papers at the  crack of dawn and worked until they had exhausted their supply, usually around nine o'clock.   They would then eat breakfast at an inexpensive restaurant, and afterward go to a ferry terminal hoping to earn tips carrying passengers' packages to the hacks and omnibuses.  After their midday dinner, newsboys purchased their supply of afternoon papers and sold them into the evening.  Many then went to the working-class theaters on the Bowery or Chatham Street, after which they could often be found at midnight in a "'coffee and cake' cellar" taking their supper, smoking a cigar, or sipping a cup of coffee.
--Tyler Anbinder, Five Points 131-2 (2001) 


Ken Houghton said...

Ah, yes, the glories of Newsies, the film that made Kenny Ortega's reputation as a Disney musicals director.

But I'm certain it has some redeeming value, too.

Austin Morton said...

Ah the Gilded Age, when the poor weren't nancies. If the newsboys can afford cigars, coffee cake, and go to the cinema (all in one day!) they were clearly too rich for government support. Good call robber barons.

Medicaid or foster care could never have taught them that demonstrated work ethic, which I'm sure, they used in their later years as successful entrepreneurs.