July 24, 1899: “Can’t Break Boys’ Tie-Up”

Can’t Break Boys’ Tie-Up

Evening World and Evening Journal Engage Strong Men to Distribute Papers.

Striking Youngsters Elude Vigilant Police

Mob Vendors of the boycotted Sheets, Despite Guards of Bluecoats and Pugilists.

Harlem Scene of Many Riots
Star of the Prize Ring, Hired to Protect, Badly Battered at the Grand Central Station
Big Mass Meeting to be Held
Senator Timothy D. Sullivan to the Aid and Raises a Strike Fund.


Under heavy police protection Evening Worlds and Evening Journals are being sold to-day by stout looking men, whose ages range anywhere from twenty-five to fifty years. but the striking newsboys refuse to touch the yellow editions and are steadily gaining ground in their fight.

All over the city the boys are true to their union, and their universal slogan is “Fifty cents a hundred or nothin’!”

Every youngster carries a bundle of EVENING TELEGRAMS, which they sell like hot cakes. in the demand for the EVENING TELEGRAM the yellow journals are forgotten.

In spite of the cordons of police surrounding the men, who are hired by the boycotted papers at $2 a day, with a commission of forty cents on every hundred papers they sell, fights between the boys and their enemies were frequent to-day.

Whenever there was a chance a body of newsboys would bear down on a lusty “newsman” with shouts of “scab!” and swiftly overthrow him, scattering his saffron wares to the four winds.

So strong has the organization of the news boys become that a big mass meeting will be held to-night in New Irving Hall, Nos. 214 and 216 Broome street, to discuss their grievances.

The hall has been hired for them by State Senator Timothy D. Sullivan, who has written a letter expressing his sympathy with their movement. Besides this he has started a newsboys’ fund, which has now reached $100, to defray all their expenses and help them win their strike. from all sides com expressions of sympathy for the strikers, together with financial contributions.

Senator Sullivan will be present at the meeting to-night, with several other well known men and will make an address to the newsboys. The meeting, which begins at eight o’clock, is eagerly awaited by the boys, who anticipate a rousing good time.

“Kill the scabs!” Was the cry from one hundred and fifty newsboy throats when at eleven o’clock to-day an Evening Journal delivery wagon drew up at the corner of Forty-second street and Third avenue. The battle fever from Park row had spread up town and when the tabooed copies of the newspaper arrived the boys were ready for a fray.

The driver, white with fear, drew up at the corner and attempted to shovel off his load of papers in the hands of several stout young men, who had been hired for the occasion by te [sic] management of te [sic] Evening Journal.

But everyone of the employees was flanked by a striking newsboy of similar proportions and the copies of the Evening Journal were stopped in mid air.

James Leahy, a strapping young fellow of twenty years, who led the strikers, was the master of the accompanying ceremonies. He laid about him right and left with a club, and led a fierce attack upon the delivery wagon. They driver whipped up his horses, but they were brought to their knees by the strikers.

Just at this point Charles Zeeck, a policeman, stationed at the corner, dashed into the mob, laying about him right and left with his night stick. He was almost overpowered by superior numbers, although not a blow was aimed at him.

Leahy fled down the avenue with Zeeck in pursuit. At Fortieth street the big newsboy was captured. Zeeck led him to the East Fifty-first street station where he gave his name and address and said he would be glad to go to jail for “the cause.”

Every striking newsboy within a radius of fifteen blocks followed Zeeck and his prisoner. They made no attempt at rescue but begged the policeman to let the boy go. Their appeals were of no avail and Leahy was locked up.

Then the crowd went back to the scene of the disturbance and continued the tie-up without molestation.

In the excitement an Evening Journal was sold. The seller has been marked by the boys. The buyer escaped. Fifteen minutes after teh disturbance the tie-up in the district was as complete as ever.

Leahy has long been a leader of the newsboys in the district. He is twenty years old, and says he lives at No. 401 East Forty-eighth street.

At noon a crowd of three hundred newsboys at 125th street and Third avenue made a sudden attack upon a dozen men who were selling Evening Worlds at that corner. The boys had understood these men were receiving … * and were furnished the papers at … hundred. In less than a minute … of these men had been … papers and were hustled all …. Some of the men were used … for their lives. In less than … the thousand or more papers … in their possession were torn … about the streets.

… then went through 127th … avenue, their numbers being … crowd had increased to … stopped in front of the … World and Journal and … howls of derision. on … avenue and 125th street they … selling Evening Worlds at that … instant these men were … torn from them and scatted about the street. The men themselves were … and fled, jumping on … refuge in hallways. … years old, of No. … arrested and locked … 114th street and … found eight men … and drove them away.

… half a dozen … Evening … of a score … protectors.

… EVENING TELEGRAM … stood with a …. his … and a … purchased by … into the building ….


… the two ….

… the newsboys sent out scouts to the Wall street and the dry goods districts and the fun began.

In many places the men who tried to sell the boycotted sheets were harassed till they had to throw down their unbroken bundles and flee. The boys promptly seized the bundles as contraband of war and tore them up.

One individual hired himself out to both papers. he received his copies of the extras and then walked over to City Hall Park, where he sat down on a bench and discussed the news with some loungers.

A vigilant inspector, one of many hired by the papers to look after the newsmen, spied him out, and he soon lost his job.

In the Fifty-ninth street district a band of men, who kept close together, sold a few of the boycotted papers, but life was made unpleasant for them.

A man carrying Evening Worlds or Evening Journals could not get near the Grand CentralĀ  Station for most of the sellers of newspapers there are full grown and capable of advancing arguments to dissuade invaders.

The Grand Central news venders joined the strikers, man and boy, on Saturday.

They were called upon to-day to use force for the first time, and in the small sized riot that followed the first overt act the inadequate police force on duty in the neighborhood was swept aside like a collection of straws.

Several of the fullgrown Journal newsboys appeared on the scene at one o’clock.

They were once set upon by the strikers. The big boys were hustled about and punched until they were glad to retire. One or two held out desperately until reinforcements arrived in the person of “Johnny” Reagan, who used to be a star of the prize ring. Reagan backed up the venders of the boycotted papers in good style, thrashing about with his fists, until suddenly he became tangled up with the strikers’ clubs.

These flew about his ears like flails and Reagan was felled to the ground in short order. Things looked black for the former prize fighter and he was nearly unconscious when rescued by the police.

One of Reagan’s cheeks was cut open from the mouth to the ear and his face was so bruised as to be almost unrecognizable.

The strikers yelled in derision as the battered pugilist was taken away.

The police of the local stations were unable to handle the strikers and an appeal for assistance was telephoned to Police Headquarters.

Plans are being made for street parades of the strikers to-night. The police interfered with several in Harlem and downtown Saturday night.

Dispatches from Fall River show that the strike has extended that far and numerous conflicts in which the boys were victorious are recorded.

Circulation men from both the tabooed papers were anxiously patrolling the Bowery districts looking for available men to-day. Many men, though out of work, have refused to sell against the newsboys.

A force of boys employed by the Evening Journal appeared in Madison Square about noon with copies of the paper. Several boys promptly swooped down on them, took the papers from them and tore them up, littering the pavement for the entire block between Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth streets. The cleaner at work there had his hands more than full to remove the litter.

There was not much of a fight because they boys hired by the Journal quickly surrendered.

*These next few paragraphs are illegible in the scan of the original paper. I’ve transcribed what I could make out.

Source: “Can’t Break Boys’ Tie-Up.” Evening Telegram, 24 July 1899, p. 1.