July 23, 1899: “Newsboys’ Strike Promises Success”

Newsboys’ Strike Promises Success

Lads Are Making Great Headway in Their Fight Against the Evening World,
and the Boycotted Paper Is Hard to Find in Public Places.

Messengers Say They Strike To-Morrow.

Managers of the Offices Are Prepared for the Emergency,
and Offer Jobs to “Fighting” Lads Who Are Energetic Enough to Take Care of Themselves.

So effective did the newsboys’ strike against the Evening World become yesterday that copies of that newspaper were almost as rare in the hands of the reading public as are Harlem goats at the Battery.

Still maintaining that the Spanish war had ended and that war prices should not prevail in time of peace, the striking newsboys continued to gain important accessions to their rank. They had convinced the public that copies of the Evening World were not worth sixty cents a hundred, even at wholesale, and those citizens who had been buying that newspaper, under a misapprehension and police protection, refused longer to be satisfied with any other afternoon newspaper than the Evening Telegram.

Not Bothering With It Now

The managers of many important news stands all over the city, readily discovered that the Evening World was not missed, omitted to place that publication on sale at their stands yesterday. They declared that they would not bother with it any more unless the publishers backed down and consented to sell the Evening World for half a cent a copy. They maintained that that was considerably more than the paper was worth, adding that they would handle it in the future only as an accommodation to the publishers at the rate that prevailed before the war.

The newsboys’ strike, it became more apparent than ever yesterday, is one of the most successful labor upheavals in recent years. The boys have gained a complete victory with the public, and almost the only persons now buying the Evening World are those who come to town periodically, spend their money recklessly, and then discover upon examining the contents of their satchels that they have bought an assorted variety of gold bricks and sawdust. A limited number of such citizens called for the Evening World yesterday, but they had difficulty in finding non-union newsboys who would afford them an opportunity to emphasize the old adage that certain persons and their money are soon parted.

It was the intention of the newsboys to hold a big parade last night, but they readily postponed the demonstration until to-morrow when they found that they could not carry out their plan without violating the law. If it is necessary to obtain a permit from the Chief of Police before making a demonstration in the streets, and Chief Devery was out of town yesterday. He will be back tom-morrow and will be visited by a delegation of the striking newsboys. They are confident that he will issue a permit for their parade, and are making all arrangements for a conspicuous affair.

Issued Strike Circulars

The young strikers yesterday distributed thousands of circulars, in which they urged the public to “protect the newsboys, who work all day and sometimes all night,” and “to buy the Evening Telegram.” The circular explained that the boys made a good profit on the sale of the Evening Telegram, whereas the Evening World refuses them “an opportunity to make even a fair profit.”

The boys yesterday adopted a novel method of calling the attention of the public in the attitude of the Evening World. In Herald square and at various points in Sixth avenue and Twenty-third street the boys printed statements on the sidewalks explaining the situation. They also issued a four page extra, printed in type quite as large as the Evening World uses when it issues a “Special Extra, No. 3,187,” to announce the startling fact that John Smith has pained his red barn green. In their “special extra” the striking newsboys called on the public to help them in their struggle to get fair play by not buying the Evening World.

“The only way to help the boys out,” this “special extra” announced, “is to buy the Evening Telegram.”

At the Grand Central Station and at other newspaper distributing points the boycott of the Evening World became more pronounced than ever. It was asserted by strike leaders that this newspaper, despairing of finding any one to read its various “extras” of their own free will, had offered dozens of men $2 a day to force the paper o an unwilling public. These men, it was added, had found the task more difficult than telegraphing when wires are down, and had speedily given up their jobs.

Many newsboys in Harlem held a mass meeting last night in Busch’s Hall, at 121st street and First avenue. Their leaders made speeches and the boys denounced the Evening World with a great deal of enthusiasm.

New York messenger boys who believe that they are not receiving the compensation their activity merits have made all preparations to strike to-morrow morning. The tie-up, if one comes, is expected to be particularly pronounced in the downtown districts.

Talk of a strike among the messenger boys has become so pronounced that the managers of the various companies have notified their young employees that if they strike they will forfeit their positions. The companies have made it plain that they will not take back any strikers.

“Fighting” Boys Wanted.

Word was passed along the line yesterday that any loyal messenger boys who have “fighting” acquaintances can help their friends to positions by having them apply for work at the messenger offices in the morning. It is the calculation that “fighting” boys, who would be quick and energetic enough to defend themselves if attacked, would be the right sort to take the places of the strikers.

None of the companies intends to be caught napping by its dissatisfied youngsters. All have engaged new boys to report for duty to-morrow, and expect that there will be no interruption of business, no matter what the regular messengers may do. There is no organization among the messengers, and for that reason it is likely to be difficult for the leaders of the dissatisfied ones to call out enough of the boys to make serious trouble.

In addition to their demand for an increase of half a cent for each message carried, the boys are objecting to the plan followed by the companies in regard to their uniforms. It seems that sixty cents is deducted from the stipend of a messenger boy each week to pay for his suit and collar. The lads, in their eagerness to deliver messages in the shortest possible time, give their uniforms a great deal of hard wear. This wear and tear, particularly tear, is increased by the good natured encounters in which the boys indulge when scurrying about in the performance of their duties.

Declare Assessment Exorbitant.

The boys declare that fifty cents a week is too much to pay for the privilege of wearing a blue suit with brass buttons and a cap like those worn by railroad conductors. As for paying ten cents a wee for the use of a collar, they declare that that is palpably exorbitant. The boys require two suits a year, and they are unable to convince themselves that they should pay $13 apiece for them.

The managers of the companies combat the statements of the boys, and maintain that sixty cents a week is not sufficient to cover the actual cost of the uniforms to the companies. They explain that if this regard for the neatness of the boys were not shown by the managers the messengers, in many instances, would present anything but an attractive appearance.

The dissatisfied boys, despite the notice that they would lose their positions if they struck, insist that they know a grievance when they see one, and they declared yesterday that the strike would certainly take place unless their demands were acceded to.

Source: “Newsboys’ Strike Promises Success.” New York Herald, 23 July 1899, p. 6.