From the August 23, 1899 edition of the Oswego Palladium:
Our New York Letter
The Queer Little Savings Bank of the Newsboys’ Lodging House.
It Is Said to Be the Smallest in the World—Something About It’s Depositors and Superintendent Heig, the Pooh-Bah Who Runs It.
NEW YORK, Aug. 22—[Special.]—The Newsboys’ Lodging House at 9 Duane street is one of the most interesting institutions for the stranger here to visit and at the same time one of the most disappointing at this time of year, for, despite the fact that it was founded nearly 40 years ago and has no doubt wrought no end of benefits to the boys making use of its advantages, its inmates just now number a scant fivescore of all the thousands of newsboys in the town.
Explanation of this apparent discrepancy will tend to make the real nature and aims of the institution clear.
What the Newsboys’ Home Is.
The Newsboys’ Lodging House is not an institution for the housing of all the newsboys in this city nor even for any considerable proportion of them. Its accommodations would be crowded by 200 boys, and that, according to some estimates, would be less than 1 in 50 of the whole number. The real purpose of the institution is to select the homeless and friendless among the boys who sell newspapers, to look after each for awhile and then, in cases it seems warranted by the facts, to lift them quite out of the newspaper selling life and start them afresh, amid new surroundings, where they will have a chance to work out their own salvation unhampered by the crime and squalor and generally depressing conditions into which they were born. That the managers of the house have been unusually successful in this work is well-known by all who have given attention to the matter and may be indicated here by the statement that two at least of its former inmates transplanted through its managers’ efforts have risen to fill gubernatorial chairs, while a very large number have become self supporting, self reliant, highly respected and solid citizens and business men.
One of the things first sought to be impressed upon the boy who becomes a steady lodging at 9 Duane street is the necessity of frugality, the ___ of living within whatever income you happen to possess. To this end a savings bank, sometimes called the smallest in the world, was established at the beginning. This savings bank is run on principles that may be termed antitbetle [sic] to those one which the ordinary pawnshop is conducted. The legal rate of interest on ordinary sums in this state is 6 per cent, but in virtue of the extra risks they are supposed to assume and the small sums they lend the pawnbrokers are allowed to charge much more within the law. Ordinary savings banks pay not more than 3 or 4 per cent per annum, but the little savings bank of the Newsboys’ Lodging House pays 6 per cent a month, or 72 per cent a year. Of course this rate is in reality mostly a gratuity, paid for the sole purpose of encouraging the saving habit, and the maximum deposit allowed is $25. Moreover, as soon as the maximum is reached the rate is decreased to something like a business one.
And, as a matter of fact, few boys are encouraged to reach the maximum, for the management considers it quite as necessary to teach the right use of money as the necessity of saving it. Thus the boy who has got $10 or $12 together and needs clothing is advised to spend part of his savings in shoes or a hat or some other article of apparel. The heaviest deposit in the Newsboys’ Lodging House savings bank at this moment is $14.61, and it stands to the credit of William Gregg, a 17-year-old American lad. The total deposits at this time amount to $101.
Superintendent For 23 Years.
The machinery of this smallest savings bank is simple in the extreme, Randolph Heig, who has been superintendent of the home for 23 years, being president, bookkeeper, paying teller, receiving teller, etc., all rolled into one, a veritable Pooh-Bah in a small way, as a matter of fact.
Mr. Heig, by the way, is devoted to his calling. He is of middle height, wears a full beard and is of pleasant address. He studies his newsboys with the same degree of enthusiasm that a professor of entomology studies his specimens. Within a week after a boy enters the lodging house Mr. Heig has him pretty well analyzed and within a month is pretty certain to have decided upon a special course suited to the boy’s individual needs and capacities. It goes without saying that Mr. Heig possesses the power of making friends with boys to an unusual degree and that his is likely to know the story of each one in the home long before he was been analyzed and his immediate future mapped out.
To him they are encouraged to tell all their boyish troubles, some of which are far more real than fall to the lot of most boys. When they seem restless and apparently in need of amusement, he furnishes it for them. When, as sometimes happens, one of the omnipresent Gerry society agents takes in a lodging house boy in whom he has faith, Mr. Heig appears personally at the society headquarters or before the police justice and gets him out. When a boy is ill he tells his symptoms to “the super,” who hastens to look after him. Occasionally, despite the general “antiscrap” influence of the home, one of its inmates gets into a fight and comes in at night pretty badly banged up. When that happens, it is “the super” who binds up the hurts.
The fact that this is vacation time is one of the most important factors in the low deposits now in the lodging house savings bank and the small population of the home. Most of the lodging house boys take their outings at the Kensico farm, a tract of land 125 in extant owned by the Newsboys’ Lodging House association and fitted up with building and many appliances for the comfort of the boys. Sixty of them are there now enjoying fresh air, living on country fare and generally recuperating themselves. Many of the boys who go to the Kensico farm on vacations got out from its doors as employees of neighboring farmers and never come back to New York, at least until the y have grown to man’s estate and are able to earn their way by other methods than selling newspapers on the streets.
Superintendent Heig has kept track of every one of his boys who has gone out into the world in this way, and many of these are in regular correspondence with him to the present day.