July 26, 1899: “Condition of the Newsboys.”

Condition of the Newsboys.

Movement to Better It—Uniforms and Licenses.

A preliminary meeting of the Auxiliary Progressive Movement was held last night at the Broadway Central Hotel to consider the necessity and feasibility of organizing the newsboys of the city into a uniformed licensed brigade, and establishing an age limit and restricting hours of work. A paper was read by Thomas C. Copeland, who has been actively engaged in investigating the subject.

Mr. Copeland called attention first to the present condition of children who sell on the streets of New York, and to the fact that there is no legislation directly affecting them, limiting either the age of children engaged in such work or the hours during which they may appear on the streets. They receive occasional dinners and similar attentions from philanthropic persons. The Society for the Prevention of Crime protects any who may be wrongfully arrested; the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children seeks to reform those who are rightly arrested. The Children’s Aid Society and other local charitable organizations deal with newsboys incidentally, but not as a class. On seeking information from various societies dealing with children, one is universally referred to the Gerry Society, and given the impression that it does for newsboys and others all that there is to be done. Yet the Gerry Society, though empowered to take charge of children under sixteen found on the streets late at night, reported that there were no such cases! From the City License Bureau Mr. Copeland learned that bootblacks were the only minors required to have licenses, and that children selling on the streets were supposed to fourteen years old or more, but, the official said, “some might be found under that age.”

After investigating conditions in New York, Mr. Copeland turned his attention to other cities in the United States and in Europe. Statistics were received from all the cities in the United States of between fifty and one hundred thousand inhabitants, and from the principal cities of European countries. In twenty-eight cities he found there were age limits enforced ranging from ten to fourteen years for children selling on the streets. None of the cities heard from allows children on the streets after ten o’clock at night, and from this hour the limits varied as to time and conditions, the earliest limit being in Manchester, England, where all children must stop selling at 7 P. M. In four cities children must produce school certificates before being licensed, and no child can sell without license. In ten cities there are complete or partial organizations, seven of which have uniforms, and seven cities provide badges. In seven cities—Philadelphia, Baltimore, Worchester, Mass., Springfield, Mass., Detroit, Hartford, and Newark—the authorities with whom Mr. Copeland communicated were awaiting the development of the Auxillary Progressive Movement’s plan, in order that they might take similar steps in the course of time.

Mr. Copeland then proceed to outline the plan of the society for bettering the condition of the newsboys. It is not part of the plan, he said, to cut down their profits or to restrict trade, but to give guidance and legal protection to a class at present utterly irresponsible. The first step contemplated is the securing of municipal legislation restricting age and hours, the passage and enforcement of license ordinances, and the providing of badges, which are to be issued only upon the production of school certificates. Next will come the matter of uniforms, designed for utility, durability, and appropriateness. After the first supply the uniform business is to be made self-supporting by the payment by each boy of a cent a day, payable weekly, and twenty-five cents a quarter, payable on the first of the months of January, April, July, and October. This, with the contributions, and perhaps appropriations, which the society hopes to receive as it gains recognition, would support the movement. Mr. Copeland said that he hoped to have 2,000 newsboys uniformed and organized in time to parade in Washington at the next presidential inauguration, and gave in some detail the arrangements for the journey.

The prime object of the whole movement, Mr. Copeland said, in conclusion, is to give the newsboys a chance to do well. He said that the society would take up the bootblacks if they were successful with the newsboys, and in the course of time reach many other classes of city street workers who would benefit by similar organization. He mentioned the names of several men who were interested in the work, among them Dr. Lyman Abbott, Randolph Guggenheimer, the Rev. William H. P. Faunce, Abram S. Hewitt, the Rev. A. K. Sandford of the Five Points Mission, President Webb of the College of New York, and many members of the Municipal Assembly.

Source: “Condition of the Newsboys.” Evening Post, 26 July 1899, p. 10.