July 23, 1899: “Newsboys’ Strike Swells”

Newsboys’ Strike Swells

Hits the Robber Barons A Most Painful Whack

Bluecoated Servants of Capital Break Up the Parade of Labor and Arrest a Lot of Her Unnoted Martyrs—Arbitration Demanded by Strike Committee from Editor

The newsboys, who are conducting the only strike in town, say it will continue until the price of the red-headed evening journals comes down to 50 cents a hundred, which is the wholesale rate of the other one-cent evening papers. The circulation managers of the evening editions of the World and Journal made another effort to until the tie-up yesterday by selling first three and then five papers for a cent, and finally giving papers away to those who would take them. The only apparent result of this simple strategy was to get one or two small boys, whose cupidity was too much for them, into a heap of trouble, and to induce a half dozen thick young men in black sweaters to take up the sale of the papers. Few bought them—a fact which the newsboys as a whole took to be a sign that the public is with them in their fight.

Kid Blink, who is sometimes called Red Blink on account of the color of his hair, was in command yesterday of the Park row strikers who practically organized the strike. The Kid announced yesterday afternoon that things were going on beautifully and that he could see success ahead if the boys only held together.

“We’ve got the uptown boys, the Long Island City boys and the Brooklyn boys all with us,” said the Kid with a smile of satisfaction, “and if the papers can stand it we can. I was talking with a man this morning who tells me that the World and Journal advertisers is a-kickin’ about putting up for ‘ads’ in a paper that ain’t got no circulation. If we can get the advertisers with us we win in a walk. Anyway, we’re going to hold out.”

Kid Blink and his colleagues are not concealing the fact that they wholly approve of violence in the cause of labor. The Journal dug up three or four young men of muscle and sent them out on Park row with papers. The strikers looked them over carefully and concluded that they couldn’t punch this crowd out of business. Too many of their number have already been arrested for using violence. So they decided to talk it over with the men. Their talk was in vain and they were planning some safe revenge when a small boy came out with Journals under his arm. He took his place on the sidewalk and a policeman lined up alongside of him. The strikers were nonplussed for a moment. Here was a boy who was sadly in need of a licking and one two whom a licking could be administered with safety but for the presence of the policeman. Two boys got near enough to warn the boy to quit, but the boy looked at the policeman and told them to go away.

The strikers drew off to talk it over. Plainly something must be done. The leaders declared that barefaced defiance by a mere “kid” would demoralize the rank and file if left unpunished. Yet there was the policeman with a nightstick and there was the lesson of three of their number already sent to juvenile asylums for assaulting scabs. The leaders were at their wits’ ends.

Up spoke Young Myers, sometimes called Young Mush, on account of his fondness for taking his girl to Corlears Hook Park Sunday evenings.

“That cop’s too fat to run fast an’ I’ll get him after me if you’ll tend to the scab when he gets away,” he said.

The leaders promised to attend to the scab if Young Myers would remove the policeman. Walking innocently up to the Journal boy, Myers grabbed a handful of his papers and ran as fast as his legs would carry him. The Journal boy yelled for help and away went the policeman after Young Mush. The Journal boy watched the pursuit with interest. A second later he had other things to think about. Fifteen strikers surrounded him and the blows came in thick and fast. The Journals that he had were taken away in torn into ribbons. His nose began to bleed and his eyes to swell under the punching he was getting. He bawled for mercy and two clerks came out from the Journal office. One of them was hit in the middle of a white vest by a soft Bartlett pear, and he and his companion retired. Then a policeman came up and the strikers retired, leaving their victim the worse for wear. A few minutes later they caught him again at the corner of Frankfort street. They invited him to join them, which he did in a hurry. A half hour later he was leading an attack on a bout who was trying to smuggle some Worlds and Journals over to Brooklyn.

This was really the most violent affair of the day, although several other non-union newsboys were harshly treated. The leaders, it seems, missed several of their men on Friday, and when they put in an appearance yesterday they were viewed with suspicion, and it was whispered that they had taken baseball extras uptown and sold them in the resident streets. It was decided to watch them, and when two of the suspects came out of the Journal office yesterday afternoon with their hands in their pockets, whistling innocently, suspicion was aroused.

“They’ve got the papers under their coats,” whispered on striker, and when the rest shook up the innocent ones a moment later they found that it was even so.

“Scabs! Scabs!” yelled the strikers, and a hundred news boys rushed up to take a hand in the necessary discipline. Two policemen dispersed the boys, but not before they had administered a good punching to the smugglers.

Around the bridge entrance the strikers had hard work manipulating their supremacy. Several of the black sweater tools of capital held forth there, and, besides that, there are so many policemen at this point that a raid, to be successful, has to be made in a hurry or somebody is going to be caught. Then, again, these World and Journal newsboys are men and can fight, which is the only reason they are selling papers, and, altogether, an attack on them is fraught with so much danger that the boys were inclined to leave them alone.

It isn’t these men, that the boys are so bitter against. They sell very few papers and have really hurt the cause of the strikers but little. The newswomen around the bridge entrance, though, have established trades, and while they all pretend to be assisting in the strike, several have already been caught selling the boycotted papers, hauling them out from under their shawls when they are called for by customers. This base deceit has angered the boys very much, but they are at a loss to find a remedy.

“A feller can’t soak a lady,” said Kid Blink, “and yer can’t get at them women’s scab papes without soakin’ them. We’ll have to let them along, I guess! Anyway, we’ve got Annie with us. Yer can bet there ain’t no Worlds or Journals under her skirts.”

Away from Park row the principal strike centres are Fifty-ninth street an Columbus avenue and Thirty-third street and Broadway. These are distributing depots and Worlds and Journals go up there by wagon. The Park row boys have had the uptown boys with them from the first, and these latter have been on guard daily at the distribution points. They have a full line of strike signs, which they wear on their hats up paste up in conspicuous places, asking for the support of the public.

They have kept the weak ones in line so well the past few days that they are jubilant, and yesterday they became so demonstrative in the Tenderloin that policemen were sent around to Greeley Square to keep them moving. The policemen had a difficult time of it and finally gave up trying to disperse the boys, taking up posts in front of the World office, where they could at least protect the property of that newspaper. Emissaries from the downtown leaders kept arriving at all the uptown points during the afternoon, encouraging the strikers with good news of downtown successes.

The downtown boys concluded yesterday afternoon that there was no using fooling any long with the cellar bosses who deal out the papers to them, and declared to hold up the editor of the Journal on his arrival at the office. Accordingly, when Mr. Hearst got out of a cab in front of the Journal office yesterday afternoon he found a small army of boys waiting for him. One touched him on the arm and said:

“We’re the strikers, Mr. Hearst.”

“Well, boys, what can I do for you?” said Mr. Hearst.

“Well, we want 100 papers for 50 cents. We get it from the other papers except the World.”

“Come in and talk it over,” said the editor, and Kid Blink, Jim Seabook, Jim Gady and Dave Simon formed themselves into a committee of four and went in. When they came out again Kid Blink announced the result of the conference as follows:

“He wanted to know what the World was going to do. I told him that we was dealing with the Journal now, and that if he cut the World would cut quick enough. He says he had to talk it over with some other guys before he’d give an answer, and I then asked him if he wouldn’t arbitrate, like his paper says. He laughed and said he’d give us an answer Monday right here, and that if he decided to arbitrate he’d meet us at the Broadway Central Hotel.”

This announcement was greeting with cheers and was taken by the majority to indicate a willingness to meet the demands of the strikers. In the meantime, though, it was decided to pursue the strike relentlessly. Later in the afternoon the boys got our a lot of circulars. The first one was a call for a meeting, and was as follows:

Don’t forget
to meet at
at 7:30 P. M.

“Grin” Boyle, from 351 Water street, gave the sign for the calling of the meeting at 8 o’clock, and, with a crowd behind him, he marched up Frankfort street into the enemy’s camp, where a few “scabs” were showing red-headed extras from behind protecting policemen. The strikers bore banners variously inscribed. One of them read:

“‘We win,’ says Rubber, and the newsboys don’t buy the Journal.”

Boyle called a halt at the World building and harangued them.
The crowd yelled approval of his remarks, of where there is no Herodotus, and then started out to parade down Park row. Policemen Allen and Distler, however, were there in plain clothes, and they pounced on Boyle and his adjutant, Albert Smith, of 56 Cherry street. The strikers tried to rescue their leaders, but after firing a volley of stones, retired in good order down Frankfort street. They reassembled as if by magic in Theatre alley, and were starting up to the World building again, some 500 strong, when the policemen turned up and pulled in five more boys. The prisoners were: Abraham Greenhause of 35 Allen street; Issac Miller o f163 Ludlow street; “Thinblefinger Joe” Mulligan of 93 Summit street, Brooklyn: “Juicy Frank” Glass of 82 Mulberry street, and Donato Carolucci of 184 Twelth street, Jersey City, otherwise “Musty Pip.” They were all locked up in the Oak street station. The crowd of newsboys then started to maul the driver of a Journal wagon, who escaped with a few severe bruises, by driving like mad through Mall street and out of reach.

The boys concluded that a parade was out of the question, but they did good work for their cause by distributing thousands of their circulars around the bridge entrance and other frequented spots. One circular was as follows:


to get a fair play by not buying the




Help up. Do not ask for the World or



The names of the newspapers in this circular were printed in large yellow letters. Other circulars denounced the boycotted papers and entreated to public to refuse to buy them. The circulars contain the names of all the one cent papers not boycotted and suggest that the regular readers of the World and Journal get their news from these papers, which allow the boys a fair margin of profit, until such time as the World and Journal accede to their demands.

The boys were bitterly disappointed in their inability to parade. They say they didn’t know they had to have a permit or they’d have secured one. They will make application for a permit on Monday, and if all goes well will turn out on Monday night, marching through Broadway, Fifth avenue and the Bowery and going as far uptown as Forty-second street. They expect to turn out 3,000 strong.

Four agents of the World and Journal made a tour of the Bowery lodging houses last night, not looking for arbitrators, but offering $2 a day and 40 cents for each 100 papers sold, to men who would report at the offices of the newspapers to-day. They got about 100 names and left very much elated. At 10 o’clock an extremely candid man, a little the worse for liquor and wear, rolled into The Sun office.

“I’m a Bowery bum,” he said, “and one of about a hundred that’s signed to take out Worlds and Journals to-morrow. But say, we ain’t a-going to do it. It’s all a bluff. We told them scouts that we’d do it when they offered $2 a day, but every one of us has decided to stick by the newsboys and we won’t sell no papers. Put that in the pate and tell the public it’s on the level.”

The labor columns of the boycotted papers have been silent about the strike.

Source: “Newsboys’ Strike Swells.” The Sun [New York], 23 July 1899, p. 2.