July 21, 1899: “The Only Tie-Up In Town”



They Don’t Want Any Arbitration – Prefer to Settle the Case Themselves and Don’t Profess to Keep the Peace While Raising Cain – Wall Street Chips In – Strike Extends

Up and down Park row, along Broadway and in Wall street, the strike of the newsboys against the evening editions of the World and Journal, which won’t come down from ten for six cents to two for one cent, raged fiercely all yesterday, and the red blood from many a juvenile nose dyed the field of battle. It was a truly joyous occasion for the “newsies.” So many policemen were on strike duty or resting in reserve that the boys had things their own way, a condition of affairs of which they were swiftly appreciative. By means of a Committee on Discipline, which was practically a committee of the whole, the strikers so thoroughly controlled the situation that it was all but impossible to buy a red-headed extra on any of the downtown streets. In Park row the man who asked for one was likely to be hooted as a “scab” if not made the target for missiles. It was a tie-up so tight as to make the street car strikes ridiculous in comparison.

The first encounter came when the delivery wagons came to the office to get the early editions. No sooner did the wagons drive up than the air was filled with missiles and the drivers and helpers sent a hurry call to the Oak-street station for relief. Two very much used-up policemen responded and were advised by the boys to go to bed and sleep it off. They were kept busy trying to protect the wagons, until word came that the World and Journal had reduced their prices. That earned a rush to the distributing points. It was found that the Evening World people were offering papers three for a cent. At this the boys concluded that the victory was won and made a rush for the edition, but Moses Burris, 11 years old, who was the leader, at this point held them back.

“Say, is dis a charity game or does it go all de time?” he asked the World employee who was giving out the papers.

“Don’t know,” said the employee. “The price is three for a cent now.”

“Do we git any wroten agreement from youse guys dat it keeps down to union rates?” demanded Moses.

The employee hadn’t heard of any such agreement, and intimated that the boys had better hurry up and take the chance that was offered.

“Don’t touch de scab papes,” shouted Moses at the top of his voice. “Dey’re tryin’ to work us.”

While the boys were disputing among themselves about this, word reached them that the Journal had cut the price to five for a cent, and the crowd surged across Frankfort street, but Burris, aided by 15-year-old John Gallupo and 13-year-old Louis Kirlow, restrained them from buying. Finally the World began to give papers away, and this caused the first break in the ranks of the strikers. Half a dozen boys accepted the papers and were about to take them out, when the three leaders, with a dozen backers, fell upon them, pounded and kicked them and trampled the papers under foot. The affair assumed the proportions of a small riot, and a policeman came and captured Burris Gallupo and Kirlow and took them to the Centre Street Court, where the latter was committed to the Juvenile Asylum as an old offender. The other two were committed to the care of the Gerry society. Their martyrdom was not in vain, for after the policeman had taken the two away no boy dared touch the forbidden papers.

Almost half-past 1 100 newsboys formed a phalanx, having armed themselves with sticks, and marched down Nassau street, shouting and banging their sticks on the pavement. Some of them bore hastily improvised banners, one of which read:


Some few small boys who were doing a scab paper business fled before them pursued by the advance guard. Two big ex-bootblacks on the corner of Ann Street insolently flourished their read-headed extras in the face of the army. There was a short rush, the sound of flat sticks falling swiftly upon hard heads and the two fled, howling with grief and pain, while the newsboys danced upon their abandoned stock of papers. Wherever they caught a boy who was not with them they punched him until his nose bled and he was then quite ready to join the ranks.

The boys swept the financial district clear of other newsboys, who had been selling the red-headed papers, attacking them and tearing up their wares. The brokers were greatly amused by the “strike” and crowds gathered to watch the parade up and down Wall, Bond, and New streets. Two or three banana pushcart men who were unfortunate enough to get entangled in the crowd lost most of their wares. The brokers contributed to the strike fund by tossing cents and nickels down from their office windows to the boys who scrambled and fought among themselves for the money.

So well were the strikers in control of the situation that even the uptown distributing stands couldn’t handle the sheets, and orders for 400, 500 and ___ papers were cancelled right and left by the alarmed dealers. The boys were jubilant over this and declared that the willingness of the papers to sell at a very low price or even give away the editions showed that they were weakening and that they would soon agree to anything. The newswomen loyally took up the cause, too, and Mrs. Corcoran joined hands with her old enemy, Mrs. Shea, in refusing to sell Worlds or Journals. But the ancient lady who divides her time between selling evening extras at the bridge entrance and fighting with the small boys who infringe on what she considers her rights of location, got into trouble yesterday morning for disregarding the provinces of the strike. The Squealer—she goes by that name because when exasperated she charges with a war cry like that of an enraged elephant—went down Frankfort street with the intention to buy some Journals. The strikers found it out and thirty of them went after her. The spokesman advanced upon her and said:

“Dem papers is boycotted an’ we don’t allow none t’ be sold. See? If you wasn’t a loidy ye’d had yer face poked in. Now git!”

For a moment the Squealer stood aghast at such insolence, for she is a fearsome fighter and when she charges the boys scatter. Then with a rasping shriek like the sound of a mighty slate pencil drawn crosswise over a gigantic slate she bore down upon the envoy and knocked him spinning. All the thirty boys fell upon her simultaneously, and though her arms beat like flails they swiftly divested her of her waist and skirt. She fled weeping to the shelter of the hallway, and the boys, hoisting the captured garments upon sticks, paraded them as banners of victory. Later they returned them to her upon promise that she would sell no more red-heads, and by the aid of many pins she was enabled to return to her old stand, where for the rest of the day she sold other papers with a chastened spirit.

A gang of Tenderloin newsboys succeeded in tipping over a Journal wagon at Broadway and Thirty-third street yesterday afternoon at 5 o’clock.

Milo Green, a 15-year-old newsboy, tried to sell Journals and Worlds in the doorway of the uptown office of the World last evening. The strikers gathered across the street and threatened him vocally until a woman came along and tried to buy a paper of him. The strikers swept across the street, then snatched the paper from the woman’s hands and tore it to pieces. Then one of them, Emil Kahune, jumped on Green.

Hugh Coleman, a lawyer, dropped off a Broadway car at this stage of the fight, took Kahune over his knee and spanked him soundly. The rest of the mob assaulted Coleman until a policeman came to his aid and arrested Kahune.

There was comparative quiet along Park row at night, with sporadic outbursts where some newswoman or one of the bigger boys undertook to break the union rules. About 8 o’clock the newsboys observed the imposing figure of a 14-year-old youth, wearing pink suspenders, approaching from the Brooklyn side. He asked for General Master Workboy “Blind” Diamond, to whom he introduced himself as Spot Conlon, District Master Workboy of the Brooklyn Union.

“We bring youse greetings an’ promises of support,” he said to the boys who quickly gathered around him. “We have tied up da scab sheets so tight dat y’ can’t buy one fer a dollar in de street. Hold out, me gallant, kids, an’ tom-morrer I meself, at de head of t’ree t’ousand noble hearts from Brooklyn, will be over here t’ help youse win yer noble scrap for freedom an’ fair play.”

This speech was greeted with tremendous cheers, and the envoy with the pink suspenders, after a constitution with the General Master Workboy, was escorted half way back to Brooklyn by a guard of honor. he said that his cohorts would probably come over in the morning.

“No vi’lence. Jes’ give him a poke in de jor an’ let it go at dat,” is the motto of the union toward scab labor.

At 11 o’clock there was comparative quiet along Park row, but the police was holding himself in readiness at the corner of Frankfort street.

In Jersey City the wagons sent over from this city were surrounded by strikers as soon as they arrived on the other side of the river, and the boys would neither take any papers themselves nor allow any one else to buy them. Two or three boys who succeeded in getting a supply were attacked and their papers were taken away from them and torn up. About 2:30 P. M. a wagon was raided. A telephone message to Capt. Cody at the Gregory street station brought the reserves down to the ferry, and they drove the boys away, but none of the objectionable papers was sold.

Source: “The Only Tie-Up in Town.” The Sun [New York], 21 July 1899, p. 2.