Saved From A Pauper’s Grave.
Newsboys Contribute to Buy Plot for Fellow Newsboy.
From the May 15, 1905 edition of the New York Tribune:
Newsboys Will Bury Comrade.
Raise a Fund Which Will Save “Dutch” from a Pauper’s Grave.
Frederick Johnson, who lived for years in the Newsboys’ Lodging House, at No. 14 New Chambers-st., and who died in Bellevue Hospital last Friday, will be buried to-day in Linden Hill Cemetery, Brooklyn, by his former comrades. Johnson, who was known as “Dutch” by the newsboys, died from pneumonia. He came from Germany seven years ago, but where his parents live is not known.
Superintendent Heig and John Paul, leader of the Newsboys’ Band, will superintend the funeral arrangements and the boys will act as pallbearers.
From the May 1, 1904 edition of The Sun:
“Newsboy” Josephine Beck?
As Joe Becker She Fooled the Lodging House.
She’s 14, and She Acted Like a Girl in Some Ways, but Her Sex Wasn’t Suspected Until She Had Been Sent to the Children’s Aid Society’s Kensico Farm.
Mrs. Charles F. Beck of Newark, N.J., learned yesterday of the appearance at the Newsboys’ Lodging House in this city of Joe Becker, who turned out to be a girl, and she believes that the child is her fourteen-year-old daughter Josephine, who left home on April 14.
The girl disappeared with part of her father’s and part of her brother’s clothing. In her room were found curls of her hair and the scissors with which she had cut them off.
Mrs. beck came to New York last night searching for the child, who had been sent from the lodging house to the Children’s Aid Society’s farm at Kensico and then, when her sex was discovered, returned to this city.
The officials of the society were noncommittal yesterday about the Joe who should have been Josephine, barely admitting that a girl had been at the lodging house and that she is now in one of their institutions. But the newsboys, Matron Hike and Assistant Superintendent Gordon had ideas of their own and freely expressed them.
“Just eleven days ago—to-night,” said Gordon, consulting his register, “he—er,she—came here late at night and asked for a night’s lodging. That’s not unusual. It happens every night. The only thing I noticed was high scared-like voice and eyes as pretty as a girl’s. Joe—that was the name he gave—was bashful, but lots of boys at first are.
“Now this is the pedigree of Josephine, or whatever his—or her—name is.” And Gordon produced a filled out official blank, which stated:
Name? Joseph Becker.
Born? Newark, N.J., Aug 3, 1889.
Parents? No answer.
Profession of trade? Brush maker.
Last employer? J. J. Pett.
Why not working now? Can’t get any.
Ever been in an institution? No.
How much money have you been making? Three dollars a week.
Can you read or write? Yes.
Where have you been during the last week? Roving.
Have you any friends? No.
the boy-girl got a berth in the big five cent dormitory on the third floor, and slept late the next morning. When she appeared at the superintendent’s office about 11 o’clock she asked for some kind of work, and was told to assist the janitor in cleaning up.
“That’s where my first suspicions came in,” said the janitor. “Never a boy could make a bed quick and tidy as that.”
“I just thought he was the prettiest, sweetest little boy I ever come across,” said Matron Hite. “He was so polite and he used to blush when the boys said things.”
“Gee!” said one of the newsboys in the “Waldorf” dormitory, so called because there are a chair and a little locker for each bed and because the cost is 15 cents the night. “Gee! That kid Joe’s a girl.”
“Say, yer slow, Mike,” answered his partner, “yer slow. Half the fellers called him ‘sis.’ Pat Hanley says she gave herself dead away in the gym first time she went there. Somebody pitched a ball her way and she tried to ketch it in her lap.
“She didn’t want to mix up wid us much, ‘cept in sellin’ papers,” said another boy. “Said she wus from de country and asked Pete to show her how ter sell papers. Den she beats Pete at his own game. Say, she had us conned all right, all right. but I wouldn’t ha’ bullied her so much ef I’d ha knowed she wus a girl.”
Just what the real antecedents of Josephine are, no one seems to know. She told several tales, all of which vary and it is believed that she is a runaway girl. She gave her age at first as 15, later as 14, and it is now stated that she is 13. She is about 5 feet tall, well built, blue eyed and golden haired. Her hair was cut short and parted on one side. She had smooth, fair skin and a pretty mouth and teeth.
The youngster’s real sex, it is said, was not discovered until Wednesday, when the superintendent of the society’s farm at Kensico, where Josephine had been sent, became suspicious and asked the disguised adventuress to reveal her identity. Then she confessed.
Believe me, us kids used to be on the lookout; we was ready for anything. An’ there wasn’t very much got by us either.
I remember once I was in a one-armed restaurant–the place did a thriving business, an’ along about midnight, ‘specially when it was cold, we used to go in to soak up some heat. They used to kick us out, but sometimes we’d buy some coffee–and, an’ then they’d have to let us stay a while anyway.
Well, as I was sayin’ I was in there one night–it was maybe twelve-one o’clock–when a guy comes in with what looks like a laundry package under ‘is arm, an’ I’m on the make as usual, alert. It looked like a laundry package, but it was all wrapped up nice an’ I figured it wasn’t no laundry. He got him something to eat; and ‘ ‘e walked over to a seat; an’ this package, he sat on it.
Me, I go buy myself a cup of coffee, an’ I sit down in the seat right next to him. I keep dawdlin’ an’ dawdlin’ over my coffee, an’ I almost don’t make it last. I figured maybe ‘ed forget that package. I kept busy readin’ one of my papers. It must’ve been along about one o’clock in the morning.
Sure enough, when ‘e gets up, ‘e forgets to take the package, an’ quick as a flash I grab it an’ put it in between my papers, an’ then I walk out. When I open it up a few blocks away, there’s a classy silk shirt. I figure it must-‘ve cost seven-eight dollars, maybe ten. I couldn’t do much with a thing like that.
But I get a bright idea. It won’t do me no harm, I figure, to be on the good side o’ one o’ the circulation men, an’ I offer it to ‘im. He likes it an’ he says, “what do you want for it?”
I wasn’t figurin’ to sell it; I’d meant to give it to ‘im, figurin’ it wouldn’t do no harm to be on the good side of ‘im that’s all. But when he said that, me, I say, “We’ll call it a hundred an’ fifty sheets.” That’d be about ninety cents. No! – in those days the war was on an’ the price was raised to a penny, to us kids. A dollar an’ a half was all I got for it, in papers.
Elections are trying times; this year’s presidential election was no different. Tensions were high during the campaign season, and continue to be so over very divisive issues under the campaign slogan “Make America great again.”
Change doesn’t always start from the top. Newsies is a reminder of that. Children and young adults, at the bottom of the totem pole, went up against powerful newspapermen, and while they may not have gotten exactly what they wanted, both sides came to a compromise.
In order to make positive changes in this country over the next four years, it is up to us to work together to reach common goals. The time to start is now. And we have the music and message of Newsies to remind us in the dark times.
From “The World Will Know”:
Everyday we wait,
is a day we lose,
and this ain’t for fun,
and it ain’t for show,
and we’ll fight ’em toe to toe to toe and Joe
your world will feel the fire and finally, finally know!
From “Watch What Happens”:
But all I know is nothing happens if you just give in.
It can’t be any worse than how it’s been.
And it just so happens that we just might win,
so whatever happens! Let’s begin!
And finally, from “Seize the Day”:
Now is the time to seize the day
Stare down the odds and seize the day
Minute by minute that’s how you win it
We will find a way
But let us seize the day
Courage cannot erase our fear
Courage is when we face our fear
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
—Emma Lazarus, 1883
The prize one is the one about the time the two cops searched me for money an’ couldn’t find it on me. I was eight years old then. I’ run away from home.
I was hustlin’ papers; it was on a Sunday, an’ me an’ another kid, we was workin’ a roomin’-house neighborhood. Two guys call me up. One of ’em’s got a Sunday hard-one, an’ he wags it at me. Me, I’m on the make, but not that way, an’ I take a look around. I spy a purse that belongs to one of the lads an’ I take it. When I get downstairs I show it to the kid who’s workin’ with me, an’ he wants a cut. I wouldn’t give it to him. There was about twelve dollars.
I took the money an’ the purse an’ the rest of the stuff that’s in it I throw in an alley. There’s a wind blowin’, an’ all the papers that was in the purse blow away.
Pretty soon, along comes these two lads runnin’ after me, an’ there’s a couple o’ cops with them. “He’s the one, he’s the one,” one of the lads says, pointin’ to me, an’ one o’ the cops, he grabs me, an’ the other cop grabs the kid’s that with me. I play dumb rummy, an’ I don’t know what the hell they’re talkin’ about. But the other kid, he owns up he saw the purse an’ the money on me, an’ they start searchin’ me.
Well, they go through every inch o’ my clothes an’ they don’t find nothin. The two lads, they don’t care so much about the money, they say I can keep that, only they want the papers that was in the purse, papers that was important, and railroad tickets. I just played dumb. But the kid who was with me, he’d seen the money, an’ I called him a liar an’ told the cops, “All right, I took the money, huh? Then I oughtta have it on me? Why don’t you find it then? If I aint got it, then I couldn’ta taken the purse, could I? An’ they couldn’t find the money. So after a while they let us alone, an’ we go about our business selling these papers.
Me, I’m fellin’ pretty smart an’ laughlin’ to myself at this kid. An’ I was plenty sore at him because he’d snitched. So I get back at him. I roll down the sleeves of my shirt an’ pull the money out. I’d flattened the bills out an’ rolled ’em up in my sleeves. Seein’ I was only about eight years old then, I don’t know how the hell I got the idea to do that. “See smarty, “I said, “if you hadn’t been so smart an’ gone an’ snitched, I’d give you a cut outta this. But you know what you can do, don’t ya?” An’ I put the bills back in my sleeves again an’ rolled them up.
While I went in a house to sell a paper, this kid, he runs back an’ gets the cops an’ they pinch me. I was sent to the detention home, the reform school for a while for that.
From the Library of Congress collection “America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894-1915” comes this short gem depicting something dear to “Racetrack” Higgins’ heart, a horse race at the Sheepshead Bay Racetrack. The description from Edison’s film catalog is “The finish and weighing out of a running race with nine starters. Won by famous Clifford, Sloane up.” The race was filmed on June 22, 1897, and copyrighted on July 31, 1897.
From the Library of Congress’s description:
“The film shows members of “New York’s Finest” parading at a crowded Union Square. There are members of the Bicycle Squad [Frame: 0396], mounted horses , and two regimental marching bands [2518, 3456]. At the time of filming, the New York City Police Department was still recovering from the corruption scandals of the early 1890’s that had severely tarnished the reputation of the department. A State Senate appointed group known as the Lexow Committee investigated the department and issued a scathing report that detailed serious criminal activity within the department. In 1895, public opinion was so low that the annual parade wasn’t held. That same year, Theodore Roosevelt was appointed president of the Police Board, and he is credited with initiating strict and effective reform measures that helped restore the public’s confidence in the police.
From a contemporary Edison Company catalog: NEW YORK POLICE PARADE. Unbuilding. An excellent view of “The Finest,” on their annual parade and inspection, June 1, 1899. The head of the column is just turning into 14th Street from Broadway, the Morton House forming part of the background. Crowds line both sides of the cable car tracks, falling back as the band heading the first division swings around Dead Man’s Curve and passes the camera. Chief Devery makes a fine showing, as also do his men, with their white gloves and helmets, shining buttons and spick and span appearance in general.”