August 1, 1899: “Blackmailers Try to Profit by Strike”

Blackmailers Try to Profit by Strike

Demand $600 on Threats of Forcing the Newsboys to Revive the Boycott

Three Held in $1,000 Bail.

Another Escaped by Jumping Out of a Window and Sliding Down Water Drain.

All are Known as “Speculators.”
Men of This Class Organized the Strike Originally and Intimidated the Boys.


Three blackmailers who demanded money under threats of reviving the recent newsboys’ strike against evening newspapers, were arrested yesterday by Policeman Distler, and were held in $1,000 bail each in the Centre Street Police Court by Magistrate Mott.

The prisoners are Edward Fitzgerald, twenty-three years old, of No. 433 East One Hundred and Twenty-second street; Henry Butler, commonly known as “Butts,” of No. 106 West One Hundred and Fifteenth street, and John Harney, known as “Bly,” has a stand at One Hundred and Fourth street and Columbus avenue.

They are speculators in the uptown district, who “grub-stake” the newsboys, and by reason of this are able to influence them. The speculators instigated the strike and intimidated the boys, who really were anxious to sell papers.

Fitzgerald, Butler, and another speculator named Seeley went to No. 11 Frankfort street yesterday. They demanded a cash payment of $600 to be employed as they saw fit, threatening in case it was not given to them to revive the strike and boycott, and to continue it indefinitely. They declared the newsboys would be controlled by them.

Money Paid; Arrests Followed.


After some discussion the three agreed to accept $400, of which $100 was to be paid last night, the balance after it should be shown they were acting in good faith.

Fitzgerald, who acted as spokesman for the three, was handed $10 on account. It was a marked bill. Policeman Distler, who was in plain clothes, immediately arrested Fitzgerald. This frightened Seeley. He jumped out of a window and made his way to the ground from the second story by means of a water drain. He dodged through an alley and escaped. Butler followed him, but was arrested when he reached the ground.

The prisoners were taken to the Oak Street Police Station and from there to the Centre Street Court.

Harney, otherwise “Bly,” did not appear with the others. He said he represented the boys at One Hundred and Fourth street and Columbus avenue. He has a stand there. He also said it would take a cash payment to settle matters, and if it were not give to him he would revive the strike and that the boycott would continue indefinitely.

Harney was modest. All he wanted was $100, which he said he purposed dividing with nine other boys having influence.

Money Paid to Help the Strike.


Proposals of a similar character had been made before. Now that the strike has fizzled out the speculators were anxious to make a stake out of it. They got money from other newspapers while the strike was on.

It is said a committee got $30 from the Evening Telegram, besides placards and banners announcing the boycott.

Another committee is said to have received $10 from the evening news with which to buy banners and hire a brass band. The New York Tribune, too, is said to have contributed $10 to help along the boycott and attending disorder.

Source: “Blackmailers Try to Profit by Strike.” World, 1 Aug 1899, p. 5.