tv History of Newspaper Boys CSPAN May 20, 2017 9:49pm-10:01pm EDT
through the village of roebling. our cities tour staff recently traveled to trenton, new jersey to learn about it rich history. learn more about trenton and other stops on our tour at c-span.org/citiestour. you're watching american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. american history tv was that the organization of american historians annual meeting in new orleans, where we spoke with a historian about what life was like for newspaper boys both in the cities and on the railroads at the turn of the 20th century. this interview is about 10 minutes. you have a forthcoming book called "crying the news."
who were the newsboys? mr. digirolamo: they were the children of the poor, to put it simply app. were immigrants and native born, they were . rls my definition is abroad. put at the time, they were negroes, crippled, and they were my people, selling papers on the streets of american cities until the 1940's. >> what was life like for them? mr. digirolamo: precarious, in a word. their earnings fluctuated with the headlines, with the weather. they were vulnerable to all kinds of violence and competition.
at the same time, they had spending money. they have more leisure time, ofause you work in bursts periods when the papers come out. you can gamble and go out and i. working hard, vulnerable but also enjoying themselves. >> what were their living arrangements like? mr. digirolamo: most newsboys lived at home with their parents. they lived in poor, working-class quarters, tenement apartments. a certain minority were homeless and lived on the street. they would sleep out near newspaper offices, sometimes on the premises. newspapers like to have them close at hand for extras, for and some also lived in newsboys lodging houses.
the first one was founded in 1854 in new york. these were sort of occupational flop houses. you paid six cents, you got a bath, shower and a meal and lodging. in philadelphia and baltimore and cincinnati, all of the country. >> did they go to school? mr. digirolamo: newsboys did go to school. very unevenly. 14 was the usual school leaving --, and some newsboys enforcement of truancy laws was very uneven. somedid go to school for length of time. most were literate. they would learn to read or write in other ways. it was not the kind of nine months out of the year, 9:00
until 3:00 routine. it was sporadic. >> what is a common misconception about newsies? mr. digirolamo: that they were little merchants, little wall street traders to be in training, that they acquired business ethics and it does. finding, but from my they were really part of the working class. and kind of a hand to mouth existence in many cases. that is what i think is surprising. that they were political actors, that they were involved in the politics of the time during campaigns, selling campaign papers and tearing down posters of others, and that they developed their own attitudes and opinions about the events of the day, because they were selling news and invested in these parties.
they were hired to be stumped speakers during campaigns, as well. that is part of what i have been trying to argue, that they are political creatures. you presented a paper about railroad newsboys in 19th century america. how are these newsboys different? mr. digirolamo: railroad newsboys, there were three kinds. ship and theped papers for wholesale distribution, they were salaried personnel. newsboys who print used the railroads to go to political convictions or fares or have adventures. and there were the news butchers the -- news who were on the train. aristocracynted the
of the trade. they were different from the street newsboys. >> how was one able to be a newsy selling on the train car versus on the street? on digirolamo: if you worked the train, you usually worked for a distribution company like the union's company or the american's company, and you have $10 deposit onbe your uniform hat or coat in case you disappeared with the merchandise. in that way, you were more of a -- but they also worked for profit. had to go up and down the cars selling, being obnoxious. they would throw papers and magazines on people's laps hoping they would pick them up and read them, and when they came back they would pay for them. because of their noise enough ess, they were
quite reviled. hired to work a railroad newsboys. on the street, you could just go into business with a little credit. >> in what ways do you see newsies as being part of the working class? mr. digirolamo: newsboys are part of the working-class in their families, they are usually the sons and daughters of manual laborers, factory workers, merchants, street merchants, they are part of that culture. vices aices -- working-class vices. the political viewpoints, they identify with workers. they unionize. they joined the american federation of labor. in the early 1900s, they joined
the industrial workers of the world. they are organizing in these ways with workingmen, using the language, they strike. a telltale sign of working-class consciousness. there are lots of ways in which they are part of the working class. >> how did life change for newsboys during the present era -- the progressive era? it represented a real change. he became the subject of reform in a way they had not been before. there were evangelical reformers and philanthropist. the problems with the 20th century with immigrants and radicalism and urban blight and juvenile delinquency, they became a problem. how did it feel to be a problem is a famous quote. some ways, which in
was val arrived, how you learn positive values, in the progressive era, it becomes a social evil. the have your child on the street will be on the street is to be exposed to crime and vice. they attract the attention of reformers of various stripes. at the same time, they are striking in big ways. they are part of the labor of search. other newspapers don't want them to be outlawed out of the industry, so they are stepping up their philanthropic activities, they are forming newsboy clubs and newsboy republics. laws are passed to make them licensed and limit how late they can be on the street and how young they can be on the street. they develop a newsboy court where they are self-regulating
themselves and passing judgment on their own violations. so in this way, in terms of the reform movement, they become dues, so italian and who they are changes, as well. >> when did the papers stop using newsboys? mr. digirolamo: it is gradual. i think the 1930's is a key turning point because jobs are so scarce that it becomes work for adults. there are fewer children in their in the trade. also, technology is involved. you have cars and subways, and that is changing the industry, as well. the 1930's, they are still on the streets in big ways, but they have competition from adult. in the 1940's, it is more reliance on stands and adults. but there are still some
children in the 1950's and 1960's, but they become more of a minority as you get to urbanization and vehicles. they are efficient in the sense that they have that turtle appeal that you can buy a paper as a lack of charity. adults cannot replace that. new a note inrted the 1940's, 1960's. >> thank you for talking with us. in americand history tv? visit our website, c-span.org/history. you can view our tv schedule, preview upcoming programs and watch archival films and more. american history tv, at c-span.org/history. real america on c-span3's american history tv. in eight minutes a discussion 5