July 25, 1899: “Great Meet of Newsboys”

Great Meet of Newsboys

5,000 Strikers Swarm in and Around New Irving Hall

No More Violence, Thier Orators Tell Them, and a Voice Responds, “Oh, Soytenly Not!”—East Side Politicians Catch On and Boom the Strike—It’s Broadening Out

The striking newsboys wound up a day of hard campaigning in their fight against the evening editions of the World and the Journal with a meeting last night in New Irving Hall, at Broome and Norfolk streets, which was a remarkable gathering. A citizen unused to the ways of the New York newsboy might have thought it was a riot. Kid Blink and his Strike Committee had sent the call for the meeting from the Bronx to the Battery, and from Brooklyn to Jersey City, and the arriving delegations choked Broome street from Essex to Norfolk and drove the neighborhood indoors. By 8 o’clock there were 5,000 boys on the block. Two thousand came from Brooklym, led by Racetrack Higgins, and carrying with them a huge floral horseshoe, the gift of the Brooklyn Eagle. Jersey City sent a hundred boys, and the rest came mostly from Manhattan and the Bronx.

Five policemen and a roundsman undertook to keep the boys in check until the hall opened, but in fifteen minutes the roundsman had sent for help. Fifteen policemen responded, but they were as helpless as the five had been. It was utterly impossible to handle the boys. They were a shrieking mob, and when the proprietor of the hall refused to open up at 8 because the meeting wasn’t to begin until 8:30 o’clock, they charged on the door and smashed it open.

Two thousand managed to get in, and there wasn’t an inch of room unoccupied in the hall. The outsiders were good-natured and yelled their approval every time the sounds of applause came to them through the open windows.

Nick Meyers of the Mail and Express was Chairman of the meeting, and he struggled for fifteen minutes before he could make himself heard. When the boys quieted down he stated the object of the meeting, and called upon Mr. Joe Berstein, the pugilist, who used to sell papers himself, and Reiss, the yellow-barrel lemonade man of Printing House Square, to keep order. Messrs. Bernstein and Reiss armed themselves with far-reaching switches and took up positions. They had their hands full for the rest of the evening.

The first speaker of the evening was Leonard A. Suitkin, who was introduced as “a lawyer feller what’s got a message for us.”

Mr. Suitkin stated that he came as the representative of Assemblyman Charley Alder; that Mr. Adler was with the boys heart and soul, and that he sent them his best wishes.

“You’ve made a firm stand, boys,” he said, “and have made a better showing than the motormen either here or in Brooklyn. Hang together and you’ll win.”

There was a yell of applause, and then—after Bernstein and Reiss had done some switching—Frank B. Wood, who used to send chills up people’s backs with his “Well, well, well!” at the Polo Grounds, was introduced.

“Hooray for the strike!” began Mr. Wood in G below. “You boys have been successful so far, and you must stick it out to the end now.”

Ex-Assemblyman Phil Wissig, the next speaker, said that he was a newsboy himself in 1860 and that he was heart and soul with the newsboys in their strike.

“What right have these fellows got to hold out 10 cents on you?” he said. “Not a bit, and don’t you stand for it. Keep the law, boys, and don’t let me hear of you using any dynamite. You can win peacefully. Just try it and see.”

A large floral horseshoe came into the hall at this juncture, and Nick Myers announced that a florist had sent it around to be given to the newsboy that made the best speech. There were roars of applause, and in boosting the chances of their favorites, about a score of the boys fell to fighting. There was some lively punching among the little fellows, but the larger boys banged a few heads together, and then Dave Simons, the President of the Newsboys’ Union, read a set of resolutions. The last paragraph of the resolutions was addressed to the public and read:

“Please don’t buy the World or Journal, because we refuse to sell these papers until some satisfactory terms can be reached. The World and the Journal demand arbitration for the striking railroad me, but why don’t they arbitrate with the newsboys? If you have any sympathy with us help us to boycott these papers by not reading them. Take out your advertisements: as no one sells these papers no one will be able to see them. * * * You will find all the news in the The Evening Sun, Telegram and Daily News. They give us a chance to make a living. Buy them and help us, and we will thank you very kindly. We remain yours humbly, The Newsboys’ Union.”

The resolutions were adopted with shouts that could be heard over on the Bowery. When the ardor of the boys had been suppressed by the keepers of the peace Simons continued:

“We’re goin’ to win this fight, boys, only we must stick together and hold firm. The Journal and World has got the money, but we got the situation in our hands, and they know it. Now, I’m going to ask you not to use no more violence. Let up on the scabs.”

“Oh, soytenly,” came a voice from the rear of the hall.

“Now, I mean it,” continued Simons. “We can’t gain nothing by banging these fellers around. Let’s fight on the level, and see if we can’t win out that way.”

“Who’s been a-talkin’ to yer like that, Dave?” inquired a shock-headed boy about 11 years old.

“It goes, Shorty,” replied the speaker, “an’ you kids are to remember it, see?”

Shorty and the kids around him had a great laugh over the “no-violence” attitude of the leaders, and became orderly again only when they were threatened with instant expulsion. Warhorse Brennan, who has been selling papers at West Broadway and Chambers street for twenty years, and Jack Tietjen, who has a stand at Church street and Park place, reported that the strike was going on finely in their localities, and that the scabs were getting it in the neck.

Bob the Indian, whose surname is Stone, then rose to make a few remarks. Bob’s friends greeted him effusively.

“Whatcher goin’ ter say, Bob?” queried on, and other remarks hurled at him were:

“Speak up, Bob,” “Hello, cigar sign,” “Don’t take no bluffs, Bob, but say what yer wanter.”

“I’m here fer union and nothin’ else,” said Bob. “I want this strike kept agoin’ until we get these what’s chokin’ us down. Say, what d’yer think Hearst says to-day? He says he can’t afford to sell two fer a cent. Now did you ever? Say, he says he might cave if the World would give in, but he can’t sink first. Honest, ain’t that sickening? Now, I’m to tell yer that yer not to soak the drivers any more.”

“Oh, no! soytenly not!” from the rear ranks.

“No, you’re not to soak ’em. We’re a-goin’ to try to square this thing without violence: so keep cool. I think we’ll win in a walk—on the level I do.”

“Mr. Kid Blink, our master workman, will now address the meeting,” announced the Chairman. Kid Blink buttoned his shirt, brushed back his hair and walked forward, to be greeted by a storm of applause and a thousand friendly remarks.

“Yer know me, boys?” began the Kid, and there were cries of “yer bet we do,” “Well, I’m here to say if we are goin’ to win this strike we must stick like glue and never give in. Am I right?” Cries of “Yes! yes!”

“Ain’t that 10 cents worth as much to us as it is to Hearst and Pulitzer,m who are millionaires? Well, I guess it is. If they can’t spare it, how can we?”

“Soak ’em, Blink,” yelled an enthusiast.

“Soak nothin’,” remarked the Kid. “I’m tellin’ the truth. I’m tryin’ to figure out how 10 cents on a hundred papers can mean more to a millionaire than it does to a newsboy, an’ I can’t see it. No, boys, I’m goin’ ter say like the rest: No more violence. Let up on the drivers. No more rackets like that one the other night where a Journal and a World wagon was tuned over in Madison street. Say, to tell the truth, I was there myself.”

“You bet yer was, Blink, an’ a-leadin’, too,” came a voice.

“Well, never mind, we’re goin’ to let up on the scabs now and with the strike on the square. Kid Blink’s a talkin’ to yer now. Do yer know him? We won in 1893 and will win in 1899, but stick together like plaster.”

“Boys, the next speaker is one of our old friends,” said the Chairman. “I won’t introduce him, because you all know Crazy Aborn.”

Crazy Aborn related an incident of the day. He said he had run across two tramps hired by the World at $2 a day to sell papers. They were hiding their papers in a dark hallway, he said, and looked so ashamed when he came up that he really felt sorry for them. They both promised not to take papers out again, and showed that they meant it by tearing up the papers they had.

Mr. Fitzgibbons, a delegate from the Tenderloin, was introduced, and was about to begin an eloquent address when there was a tumult in the back of the room. The commotion kept increasing, and those on the platform couldn’t understand it until a shrill young voice yollerd:

“Hey, Annie! Hey, Annie! Hooray for Annie!”

Annie’s arrival was really the event of the evening. Outside the hall and inside the boys cheered her, and it wasn’t until she went up on the platform and bowed three times that the boys consented to allow Mr. Fitzgibbons to resume. The Tenderloin delegate reported all well up his way, and wound up by saying

“But you all know what you’re up against, and there ain’t no use my knocking the realization of it into your nuts.”

Mr. Fitzgibbons sat down and there were yells for a speech from Annie. Annie blushed and shook her head, but the Chairman went ahead, and after a glowing introduction, in the course of which he referred to the next speaker as the brick of all women and the most faithful of the strikers, called on Annie for a speech. Annie was really rattled. She ha d to be poked with the gavel before she’d get up, and then she only said:

“Well, boys, you know I’m with yer through thick and thin. Stick together and we’ll win.”

Annie sat down again and it was several minutes before the applause subsided. Racetrack Higgins of Brooklyn was then called upon.

“There’s 2,000 of us here from Brooklyn to-night,” he said, “but I think most of the gang got shut out. Never mind, though: we’re with the New York boys and we’re going to stick with them to the end. We took up a collection last night and got enough money to hire a band to lead us over here. I went up to Chief Devery today to get a permit, and what dy’er think he said? He says: ‘Git out, yer slobs.’ I told him we wasn’t slobs, but honest boys trying to make an honest living, but he wouldn’t give up the permit, so we had to leave the band home. I can only say to you, boys, to stand firm, and I bet we’ll win before Dewey comes home. Say, we struck six of those $2-a-day World and Journal fellers in front of Dennett’s in Brooklyn this afternoon—you know Sinker Dennett’s place—and we shamed them into giving up their jobs. They took their Journals back to Barber Clark and said they wasn’t going to help any paper do up a lot of boys. Now, wasn’t that square? [Applause.] I think we’ll win this fight all right. I ain’t made 20 cents this week, but I can stand a heap of that and so can all the Brooklyn boys. Don’t you touch Worlds or Journals until they give us a decent deal. We’re putting them out of business fast and they know it.”

Hungry Joe Kernan, the newsboy mascot, sang a patheic song about a one-legged newsboy, and then Mickey Myers and one or two others made brief speeches. Then the boys left the hall, yelling like demons, and spent the rest of the evening celebrating the successful strike and their great meeting.

The boys regard yesterday as the most successful day they have had since the strike began, because the boycotted newspapers went to the expense of paying men $2 a day to sell papers, only to have 75 percent of the men quit before they had sold a single paper. The boys had little trouble persuading the Boweryites to join them. The few dozen that remained loyal to their employers sold few papers, and the strikers think they enemy will soon tire of waging this kind of a warfare against them.

The Arbitration Committee, which was to meet Mr. Hearst yesterday to get his answer to the proposition that he reduce the price of Evening Journals from 60 to 50 cents a hundred, went to the Journal office in the afternoon, but say they were “chased out” and that the editor refused to see them. They got no answer, and so decided to keep up the fight and make no more advances to the Journal folks.

The parade that had been planned for yesterday morning had to be given up because Chief Devery refused to issue a permit to the boys. Two World drivers and one Journal driver quit work yesterday, according to the strike leaders, because they didn’t care to combat the boys any longer.

William Reese, a negro, was arrested while distributing circulars for the striking newsboys at Third avenue and Forty-second street yesterday. The negro had a bundle of the circulars under his arm and was handing them to passerby. An agent of the World called upon Policeman Phelan to arrest Reese.

“What for?” asked the policeman.

“Why, don’t you see what he’s doing?”rejoined the World man. “They’re advertisements about the World advising people not to buy the paper. The office sent me out to have any one giving out such things arrested.”

The policeman haled [sic] the negro to the Yorkville Police Court, and there the World man wanted to make a charge of conspiracy against the prisoner. The policeman finally made a charge of violating a corporation ordinance. Reese said he was a newsboy and distributed the circulars to help along the other boys who were on strike. He did not think he was breaking any law. Magistrate Zeller warned him not to do it again and discharged him.

At noon 300 of the striking newsboys swooped down on five men who were selling the forbidden papers at 125th street and Third avenue. The boys seized the papers and tore them up, filling the streets with the fragments. They chased the men into trolley cars and the the platforms of the elevated roads. At 125th street and Eighth avenue they chased away six men and destroyed their stock. They found eight men at 116th street and Eighth avenue, tore their papers and chased them off the corner. One of the boys, Edward Rowland, was arrested.

Mikki Fischler, 12 years old, and a crowd of other boys were casually clubbing some non-union boys who were selling the boycotted papers at Fifth avenue and Twenty-third street. A policeman caught Mikki and Magistrate Crane fined him $1. Mikki paid the dollar and retired weeping. John Falk, a negro newsboy, was caught belaboring with a club two men who were selling the papers on the Rialto. Magistrate Crane fined him $3.

One of a crowd of parading newsboys jumped on a Third avenue car at Fifth street and snatched a paper from the hand of an old man. The old man grabbed the boy. The boy explained. The old man apologized and contributed a dime to the strike fund.

A crowd of several hundred striking newsboys and their sympathizers discovered two piles of Worlds and Journals on a newsstand at the northeast corner of Second avenue and Forty-second street yesterday afternoon. They charged on the stand, tipped it over, grabbed the papers and had reduced them to strips before the newsdealer knew it. Then they went parading through the streets, yelling in triumph and threatening to to do up anybody they found either selling or buying Worlds and Journals. Policeman Zuck of the East Fifty-first street station attempted to disperse the boys. They attacked Zuck, hurling sticks, stones and old cans at him. Zuck stood it as long as he could and then retired to a nearby store. Among the things hurled at him was a bar of iron six inches long.

The Staten Island newsboys refused yesterday to buy the boycotted papers, and in Tompkinsville, Stapleton and Clifton, they held up the newspaper delivery wagons, pelted the drivers and discouraged would-be customers.

Mount Vernon, N.Y., July 24—Two hundred newsboys of this city, who decided to join the strike against the evening editions of the World and Journal, went out to-day. This morning the strikers assembled early at the railroad stations. Nearly every one of them carried a club of some description. At the Harlem station a mob surrounded Walter Gulliver, a dealer, who was on hand to sell the Worlds, and by threats of violence compelled him to join their ranks. The boy afterward became one of the most enthusiastic strikers, proving his fealty to the union by getting arrested for assaulting another agent of the World. A large crowd of strikers gathered at the New Haven Railroad station to await the earlier editions of the World and Journal. They had made all arrangements when the first train pulled in to seize the papers and tear them up, but the police drove the boys away. Later they attacked Arthur and Solomon Loevine, the World wholesale agents, and tore up their papers. P. T. Barguet, the wholesale agent for the Journal, armed a boy with a club and put him out on the corner of the leading business street to take the trade of the strikers. They boy had been on the street only a few minutes when a mob of strikers surrounded him and snatched his papers. Mr. Barguet, who had been watching the proceedings from his store, ran after the boys. Just as he was about to close in on them and recapture his property an outside stepped between him and the fugitives and shut off further pursuit. Barguet returned to his store and made no further attempt to sell Journals.

In the afternoon nearly fifty newsboys surrounded the Loevine brothers, and, after giving them a terrible beating, demolished their wagon and sent the horse off at a dead gallop down the street. About twenty boys threw the Loevines into the gutter and hammered and kicked them, while others broke the wagon into splinters and tore up the papers. The horse was beaten until he tore loose from the wagon and ran off down the street. The police arrested Thomas Madden, an outsider, and John Charge, a newsboy, and took them to the police station, followed by a crowd of about 1,000 people.

To-morrow, it is said, strikes will be declared by the newsboys in Yonkers, New Rochelle, and other towns in Westchester county.

Plainsfield, N.J., July 24.—The strike among the local newsboys against handling or selling evening editions of the World and Journal reached an exciting point this afternoon. The boys gathered at the North avenue railroad station and met the various New York trains that carried the papers. In every instance they successfully prevented the sale of the papers, and in most cases they secured the package of papers and destroyed them.Philip Vanarsdale, the local agent for the Journal, was riding from the station on his wheel, carrying about eighty papers. The boys succeeded in knocking the papers from under his arm, and before he could do anything had them completely destroyed. Thomas Timbo, the agent for the World, did not send any papers on the streets. The police seemed inclined to favor the newsboys. During the afternoon and evening it was almost impossible to purchase a copy of either of the boycotted papers. There are about fifty boys on strike, and they declare they will neither sell nor handle the two papers until the publishers return to the former price.

Trenton, N.J., July 24.—The newsboys of Trenton, about a hundred in number, who sell the evening editions of the World and Journal, held a meeting to-day and decided not to handle those papers again until their price is reduced from 60 cents to 50 cents a hundred. Tob Duck is the leader of the movement. he, Johnny Driscoll, Scadsy McGuidre and Joh Lipman called at the local newspaper offices to-night to say the strike would begin to-morrow and that any boy found selling the papers would get a slugging and maybe something worse. They declared further that the agents from whom they get their supply of Worlds and Journals would be rotten-egged on their wagons if they made any attempt to distribute the red-headed extras. The leading newsdealers declare that the boys have their sympathy and that they also will refrain from handling the papers while the strike lasts.

Elizabeth, N.J., July 24.—The strike of the newsboys against the Evening World and Journal has spread to this city, and to-day the papers were handled by only a few newsdealers. The newsboys organized on Saturday night and they refused to take copies of the boycotted journals. Agents of the yellow journals distributed papers free, but the few “scabs” who accepted them were help up by the other boys and forced off the streets.

New Haven, Conn., July 24.—The newsboys of this city have joined in the strike against the evening editions of the World and Journal and to-day they asked Mayor Driscoll for permission to hold a massmeeting on the New Haven Green on Saturday night next to protest against their treatment by these two papers. They have decided that they will no longer pay war prices for these papers. Their leader is named McCarthy, and he went to New York on Saturday night to confer with the leaders of the newsboys’ strike there.

Source: “Great Meet of Newsboys.” The Sun [New York], 25 July 1899, p. 2.