July 25, 1899: “Violent Scenes During Day”

Violent Scenes During Day

Strikers Beat Sellers of Boycotted Papers and Tear the Papers to Pieces—Many Fierce Fights.

The newsboys had a busy day of it all through. At Forty-second Street and One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, commencing shortly before noon and continuing for several hours, the most exciting scenes of the strike during the day were enacted, while at certain points in these thoroughfares the streets were fairly covered with torn copies of the Evening World and Journal.

In all their contests the youthful strikers were victorious. The conquered were men and big, strong boys who had gone in the morning to the circulating departments of The World and The Journal to answer to advertisements for 700 men to sell papers. Several hundred were hired, it was said, at $2 a day, and were directed to go to different stations where the papers were delivered to them in the regular wagons. The striking boys soon learned of these manoeuvres and arranged their forces accordingly. Although policemen were sent to many of the stations to guard to new vendors, they did not make many arrests. The boys were sudden in their attacks and quick in dodging the blue coats, who in some instances, did not seem anxious to catch the culprits.

A dozen big, strapping boys began calling The Evening World and Journal in a little after 11 o’clock yesterday in Forty-Second Street at Vanderbilt Avenue, when they were suddenly surrounded by about fifty young strikers, who soon overcame them and tore up their papers into pieces. A little later two wagons loaded with Worlds and Journals drove up. They were accompanied by about thirty men and big boys, who had come to sell the papers, and also by several big-sized inspectors to distribute the papers.

The numbers of the strikers had also increased to about 100, and the combined force of the strikers soon made an attack upon the wagons. The defenders made a vigorous resistance and struck the boys with sticks and their fists, and repeatedly repulsed them, but the youngsters as often rallied and renewed the attack.

Several of the boys got badly handled by the defenders, but nevertheless they persisted and pressed the anti-strikers sorely, finally routing them; then, with yells of triumph, they pulled out all the papers from the wagons, tore them up, and scattered the pieces.

At Third Avenue and One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street a similar scene was enacted. Three hundred strikers had gathered there. When they saw five men coming along with large bundles of Worlds and Journals, the boys with a yell that could be heard for blocks around made for the men. The latter tried to defend themselves, but in less than half a minute they were tripped up, kicked and buffeted, and the bundles were taken from them. Then arose a shout of triumph as the boys cut the bundles open and began scattering the papers right and left.

Many citizens began picking up the papers and started to read them, but the leaders of the boys would not allow that and snatched the papers from them, tore them up, and threw them into the roadway, shouting, “No true friend of organized labor will read dem papers. We’s got other union papers. Pay a penny and read dem.”

The unfortunate vendors made their escape as best they could, some running up the stairs of the elevated railroad, and the others jumping on passing cars. Several policemen came running up, but they were too slow for the fleet-footed urchins, who scattered.

“On to Ate Avenue,” ordered the leaders, and as the mass moved in that direction those boys who had run in other directions made detours and joined the main body.

On their way to their next destination the juvenile strikers stopped in front of the Harlem offices of The World and Journal and began hooting and howling. Suddenly “Jimmy the Goat,” one of the leaders, beckoning for silence, started to deliver an address. “Fellers,” he began, “dem yallers sez dey symptize wid de car strikers, ain’t it so?”

“Yes, dat’s so,” came from 400 throats.

“Dey sez dem trolley men ain’t gettin’ a square deal an’ can’t make a livin’. Wot’s de matter wid us? Is de Wold an’ Choinal givin’ us boys a square deal? Wot’s sauce fer de gander is sauce fer de goose, and we’ll boycott em ‘ntil dey gives in. Dat’s right, ain’t it?”

“Hooray fer de goat! You bet we’ll boycott ’em,” cried the boys, and then the order to go forward was given and obeyed. At Eighth Avenue the army of strikers found six men selling the boycotted papers at the corner. They were doing a land office business, but an assault in full force was made upon them and they went down like tender stalks before a cyclone. “Take all the papers and let us go,” begged the men. “We were only trying to make a living, because we were hungry.”

“Well, youse get out of here,” shouted the boys. The men obeyed and hurried away in the elevated and cars.

The police arrested one of the most violent of the assailants and locked him up in the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street Police Station, while the angry crowd ran down Eighth Avenue. At One Hundred and Sixteenth Street they found eight men selling the tabooed papers and treated them in the same manner. The police as in the other cases did not make their appearance until all the papers had been taken from the men and torn to pieces.

At Madison Square more violence was reported. A number of big boys employed by The Journal appeared shortly after noon in the square with copies of the evening edition. A small army of boycotters, however, was waiting for them, and as soon as the new boys began to scatter in the square and call out their wares the boycotters swooped down upon them.

“You’ll take de bread an’ butter out of our mouths, you will,” cried the assailants, as they forcibly took away the papers from their would-be sellers and tore them up. The new boys proved to be timid and soon yielded.

Another crowd of about twenty strikers lay in ambush for non-union boys at Fifth Avenue and Twenty-second Street, a little before noon. Soon they spied two of their enemies yelling “Woi-ld,” “Choi-nal,” at the top of their voices. They were big, strong boys, and one of them swung a club, but the strikers had become exasperated. With a cry they rushed on the two boys. These, however, had evidently come from the “tough” districts of the city, and defended their property valiantly. The boy with the club swung his club with telling effect, and drove back several strikers with angry howls of pain. The other boy laid his bundle at his feet and struck and kicked his assailants. But superior numbers told. The two valiant boys were attacked on all sides, and their papers were torn into strips.

Down in Wall Street and the dry goods district the strikers harassed the new men, snatched the papers from their hands, and tore them up; tripped up the men and swore at them. At the bridge the boys were more wary.

Several of the more riotous boys were arrested. Edward Rowland, aged sixteen, of 346 Lenox Avenue, was locked up in the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street station house. James Lahey of 401 East Forty-eighth Street was arrested at Forty-second Street and Second Avenue for interfering with a driver of a newspaper wagon. William Reese of 22 Orchard Street was arrested at Third Avenue and Forty-fourth Street for calling on the boys not to sell boycotted papers.

About 500 newsboys marched up Third Avenue, in Harlem, in the evening, and destroyed every copy of The World and The Journal that they could find. At One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street they became very boisterous, and eight policemen were sent from the nearest police station to maintain order. The boys then marched west to Eighth Avenue, continuing their depredations. They found ten men who were selling the papers, and the police had to interfere before the men could get away.

Source: “Violent Scenes During Day.” The New York Times, 25 July 1899, p. 3.