August 1, 1899: “Newboys Up For Blackmail”

Newsboys Up For Blackmail

Held for Trial on Charges Growing Out of a Meeting with World and Journal Representatives.

Before Magistrate Mott, in the Centre Street Court, yesterday, Edward Fitzgerald of 483 East One Hundred and Twenty-second Street; Henry Butler of 435 One Hundred and Fifteenth Street; and “Jack” Harney of 82 West One Hundred and Fifth Street, all newsboys, were charged with extortion and blackmail. The complainants against the boys were Edward H. Harris of The Evening Journal and Patrick F. Duff of The Evening World.

They alleged that the three lads, in company with another named Seeley, who escaped, called at Mr. Duff’s office, at 11 Frankfort Street, yesterday afternoon and offered for the sum of $600 to call off the strike from Yorkville to the Borough of the Bronx. They said, it is alleged, that if they did not get the money they would make the strike stronger than ever, as they could get money to carry it on from some of the opposition dailies which were being benefited by the strike.

It was stated that the boys’ proposition was overheard by Detective Distle of the Oak Street Station, and that he started to place them under arrest, when Butler and Seeley jumped out of a rear window to a roof ten feet below and made their way to the ground by the aid of the leader pipe. The detective followed the boys and succeeded in arresting Butler, but did not get Seeley. He then arrested the other two and took them before the Magistrate.

When the lads were arraigned they denied emphatically the charge against them. Fitzgerald stated that they had come downtown on business, and had been approached by “Kid Blink,” who asked them to go up to Mr. Duff’s office and talk over the strike. When they went in the office Mr. Harris was also there, and before talking Mr. Duff said he would send out for a World reporter, who it afterward developed was Detective Distle. “Kid Blink” was also present.

The proposition was then made to them, alleged Fitzgerald, that for $600 they should endeavor to abate the strike. He said further that $10 was placed in his hand, but that it remained there only for a second, disappearing mysteriously, and at the same instant he was placed under arrest.

After hearing the boys’ side of the case, Magistrate Mott held them for trial, fixing the bail at $1,000 each. Fitzgerald said afterward that the proposition of the newspaper men was that they should work among the boys in the down-town districts in an endeavor to get them to give up.

Source: “Newsboys Up for Blackmail.” The New York Times, 1 Aug. 1899, p. 3.