From The Morning Telegraph’s editorial page, July 27, 1899:
The Latest Thing in Journalism Is the Thug Era
The past decade has seen many changes in journalism. Some fifteen years ago a man came out of the West and began ferreting out crime for the purpose of gaining a circulation for the moribund paper he had purchased. In due course of time there arose “comic” supplements, latest afternoon extras, and other innovations which possessed, in those days, the merit of novelty, if no other merit. Then came the “signed statement” era. The first pages of several papers were largely devoted to statements, two columns wide, set in long primer, on “How to Make a Pretty Lambrequin Out of Last Summer’s Chiffon Underskirt,” and singed by some distinguished person such as Edward W. Bok or Joseph H Choate. No news story was complete without a signed statement. Hordes of reporters held up ambulances and secured signed statements from the dying victim of an accident, which duly appeared in print the following morning, headed:
The late John Thompson writes exclusively for The Daily Lightning, describing how it feels to be killed in a dynamite explosion.
This signed statement era was a hideous dream. That eminent young philosopher, Charles Dryden, immortalized it in the following touching verse:
“We are lost!” the captain shouted,
As he staggered down the stair.
But his little daughter whispered,
As she clasped his icy hand:
“Let us sign a written statement;
They will print it when we land.”
Then there a came a long series of journalistic epochs—the monument, the memorial sword, the free weiner schnitzel kitchen, the woolen blanket and overall fund epochs—but to-day sees the ushering in of an even more remarkable journalistic era. I hesitate to give this a name. It might be called the Thug Era. That will do as well as anything else.
Two evening papers are responsible for this—or, perhaps more properly, the striking newsboys are the direct cause. When the boys refused to sell their papers the circulation managers were compelled, much against their will, to think. If the boys would not sell the papers and were determined to attack all other boys who were willing to do so, then must force be met with force.
“We will secure vendors who are physically able to resist the assaults of the strikers,” said the circulation managers.
The result has been interesting. By the promise of $2 per day and a commission of forty cents for each one hundred papers sold, the circulation managers have secured the most wonderful set of newsboys ever seen in this or any other community. The streets in the lower part of the city present a unique and even terrifying spectacle. Square-jawed, evil-eyed thugs, looking strange in citizen’s clothes instead of striped garments, hawk the evening editions with hoarse cries.
“Hevenin’ Dot! Hevenin’ Dot! Come here, me blokie, h’and buy th’ Evening’ Dot! No, ye don’t get no change, see!”
The citizen, pallid, thinking of the dear ones at home dependent on him for support, meekly hands over a $5 bill for a paper, and slinks away, thankful he still retains possession of the old fashioned watch which once belonged to his sainted mother.
There have been a few attempts on the part of the strikers to interfere with the business of these vendors, but they have been futile. With memories of many athletic struggles at the dear old Alma Mater the purveyors of evening papers have formed a flying wedge and with their stirring college cry of
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Siz! Boom! Ah
have charged the attackers and dispersed them.
And from far across the square is heard the battle cry of other college graduates shouting:
Ring, ring, ring,
Let the welkin ring!
Who are we?
Don’t you see?
Truly, the Thug Era is the latest development in up-to-date journalism.
W. R. Sill
Newsboys At Rosie’s Funeral.
Meanwhile They Are Taking Care of the Corcoran Business at the Bridge.
Saved From A Pauper’s Grave.
Newsboys Contribute to Buy Plot for Fellow Newsboy.
From the May 15, 1905 edition of the New York Tribune:
Newsboys Will Bury Comrade.
Raise a Fund Which Will Save “Dutch” from a Pauper’s Grave.
Frederick Johnson, who lived for years in the Newsboys’ Lodging House, at No. 14 New Chambers-st., and who died in Bellevue Hospital last Friday, will be buried to-day in Linden Hill Cemetery, Brooklyn, by his former comrades. Johnson, who was known as “Dutch” by the newsboys, died from pneumonia. He came from Germany seven years ago, but where his parents live is not known.
Superintendent Heig and John Paul, leader of the Newsboys’ Band, will superintend the funeral arrangements and the boys will act as pallbearers.
From the May 1, 1904 edition of The Sun:
“Newsboy” Josephine Beck?
As Joe Becker She Fooled the Lodging House.
She’s 14, and She Acted Like a Girl in Some Ways, but Her Sex Wasn’t Suspected Until She Had Been Sent to the Children’s Aid Society’s Kensico Farm.
Mrs. Charles F. Beck of Newark, N.J., learned yesterday of the appearance at the Newsboys’ Lodging House in this city of Joe Becker, who turned out to be a girl, and she believes that the child is her fourteen-year-old daughter Josephine, who left home on April 14.
The girl disappeared with part of her father’s and part of her brother’s clothing. In her room were found curls of her hair and the scissors with which she had cut them off.
Mrs. beck came to New York last night searching for the child, who had been sent from the lodging house to the Children’s Aid Society’s farm at Kensico and then, when her sex was discovered, returned to this city.
The officials of the society were noncommittal yesterday about the Joe who should have been Josephine, barely admitting that a girl had been at the lodging house and that she is now in one of their institutions. But the newsboys, Matron Hike and Assistant Superintendent Gordon had ideas of their own and freely expressed them.
“Just eleven days ago—to-night,” said Gordon, consulting his register, “he—er,she—came here late at night and asked for a night’s lodging. That’s not unusual. It happens every night. The only thing I noticed was high scared-like voice and eyes as pretty as a girl’s. Joe—that was the name he gave—was bashful, but lots of boys at first are.
“Now this is the pedigree of Josephine, or whatever his—or her—name is.” And Gordon produced a filled out official blank, which stated:
Name? Joseph Becker.
Born? Newark, N.J., Aug 3, 1889.
Parents? No answer.
Profession of trade? Brush maker.
Last employer? J. J. Pett.
Why not working now? Can’t get any.
Ever been in an institution? No.
How much money have you been making? Three dollars a week.
Can you read or write? Yes.
Where have you been during the last week? Roving.
Have you any friends? No.
the boy-girl got a berth in the big five cent dormitory on the third floor, and slept late the next morning. When she appeared at the superintendent’s office about 11 o’clock she asked for some kind of work, and was told to assist the janitor in cleaning up.
“That’s where my first suspicions came in,” said the janitor. “Never a boy could make a bed quick and tidy as that.”
“I just thought he was the prettiest, sweetest little boy I ever come across,” said Matron Hite. “He was so polite and he used to blush when the boys said things.”
“Gee!” said one of the newsboys in the “Waldorf” dormitory, so called because there are a chair and a little locker for each bed and because the cost is 15 cents the night. “Gee! That kid Joe’s a girl.”
“Say, yer slow, Mike,” answered his partner, “yer slow. Half the fellers called him ‘sis.’ Pat Hanley says she gave herself dead away in the gym first time she went there. Somebody pitched a ball her way and she tried to ketch it in her lap.
“She didn’t want to mix up wid us much, ‘cept in sellin’ papers,” said another boy. “Said she wus from de country and asked Pete to show her how ter sell papers. Den she beats Pete at his own game. Say, she had us conned all right, all right. but I wouldn’t ha’ bullied her so much ef I’d ha knowed she wus a girl.”
Just what the real antecedents of Josephine are, no one seems to know. She told several tales, all of which vary and it is believed that she is a runaway girl. She gave her age at first as 15, later as 14, and it is now stated that she is 13. She is about 5 feet tall, well built, blue eyed and golden haired. Her hair was cut short and parted on one side. She had smooth, fair skin and a pretty mouth and teeth.
The youngster’s real sex, it is said, was not discovered until Wednesday, when the superintendent of the society’s farm at Kensico, where Josephine had been sent, became suspicious and asked the disguised adventuress to reveal her identity. Then she confessed.
Mrs. Bliss Dines Newsboys.
Back From Europe, She Entertains Them at the Children’s Aid Society’s Rooms.
Mrs. George F. Bliss, the newsboys’ friend, who has just returned from Europe, gave a dinner and entertainment to the city newsboys at all the different homes of the Children’s Aid Society last evening. She wanted this dinner to be on the 19th, the anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, but as this was Sunday the entertainment was postponed until last evening.
At the Newsboys’ Lodging House, 9 Duane street, about one hundred and fifty boys sat down to the dinner. Then the adjourned to the schoolroom, where there was music.
Believe me, us kids used to be on the lookout; we was ready for anything. An’ there wasn’t very much got by us either.
I remember once I was in a one-armed restaurant–the place did a thriving business, an’ along about midnight, ‘specially when it was cold, we used to go in to soak up some heat. They used to kick us out, but sometimes we’d buy some coffee–and, an’ then they’d have to let us stay a while anyway.
Well, as I was sayin’ I was in there one night–it was maybe twelve-one o’clock–when a guy comes in with what looks like a laundry package under ‘is arm, an’ I’m on the make as usual, alert. It looked like a laundry package, but it was all wrapped up nice an’ I figured it wasn’t no laundry. He got him something to eat; and ‘ ‘e walked over to a seat; an’ this package, he sat on it.
Me, I go buy myself a cup of coffee, an’ I sit down in the seat right next to him. I keep dawdlin’ an’ dawdlin’ over my coffee, an’ I almost don’t make it last. I figured maybe ‘ed forget that package. I kept busy readin’ one of my papers. It must’ve been along about one o’clock in the morning.
Sure enough, when ‘e gets up, ‘e forgets to take the package, an’ quick as a flash I grab it an’ put it in between my papers, an’ then I walk out. When I open it up a few blocks away, there’s a classy silk shirt. I figure it must-‘ve cost seven-eight dollars, maybe ten. I couldn’t do much with a thing like that.
But I get a bright idea. It won’t do me no harm, I figure, to be on the good side o’ one o’ the circulation men, an’ I offer it to ‘im. He likes it an’ he says, “what do you want for it?”
I wasn’t figurin’ to sell it; I’d meant to give it to ‘im, figurin’ it wouldn’t do no harm to be on the good side of ‘im that’s all. But when he said that, me, I say, “We’ll call it a hundred an’ fifty sheets.” That’d be about ninety cents. No! – in those days the war was on an’ the price was raised to a penny, to us kids. A dollar an’ a half was all I got for it, in papers.
Ev’ry kid on the block has a sweetheart,
A pearly he looks to with pride
And when the old moon starts a-dreaming
He flies like a bird to her side
Have you heard of Mamie Maloney
You did? well you know she’s alright.
The real thing you bet not a phoney
She’s my sweet, say she’s not and I’ll fight.
My sweet my sweet, the copper while passing says isn’t she neat,
My sweet my sweet, the newsies admit, she’s the belle of the street,
There’s a little cosy corner in the subway of my heart
That’s locked up you see,
And I’ve handed the key to my sweet, sweetheart.
I don’t mean to always sell papers
Although I makes pretty good pay
It’s honest and there aint no tellin’
I might be a mayor some day
Or head of the great knights of labor
For hist’ry is known to repeat.
Or Willie K. Vanderbilt’s neighbor
In a brown stone with my little sweet.
Words by William Jerome,
Music by Jean Schwartz
Performed by Joseph Cawthorn in the 1905 musical “In Tammany Hall”
From the December 23, 1897 edition of The New York Daily Tribune:
The Newsboys’ Santa Claus.
“Do yer tink he’ll come ter-night?” asked a little Park Row newsboys of his companion.
“Do I tink who’ll come ter-night?” replied the second boy.
“Why, Santa Claus.”
“Say, what’s der matter wid yer, anyhow? Is yer getting dopey? What do you tink Santa Claus ud be doing down in Park Row. He’d get the grand ha ha if he come down here. He only goes among der rich folks up on der avnoos.”
“Well, he come here last year an’ took us ter der beanery an’ filled us all up wid pork and beans, an’ pie and coffee. Oh, I wish he’d come ter-night. I’se awful hungry.”
“Dat’s jest like you, Petey; you’se always hungry, an’ besides day feller wasn’t Santa Claus. He was a chap dat bet on der ‘beef-an’ horse at der races an’ made a big wad. Why, dat blokey had dough ter burn, an’ he wanter ter blow hisself. I don’t tink he’ll come ’round again cause I guess he’s broke—all dose racetrack fellers goes broke. It’s jest as bad as shooting craps ter get away wid a feller’s dough.”
“I’se awful cold. Let’s go an’ sit on der grating over der pressroom.”
“Dere yer go agin, Petey. I never seen a feller like you. Yer can’t stand notting. If yer ain’t hungry yer cold, an’ if yer ain’t cold yer hungry. Come on. You can lay on der graing an’ I’ll hustle’ round, an’ if I sell dese poipers we’ll have some buns.”
A little later the boys met again on the grating.
“I tink Santa Claus’ll come sure ter-night,” said Petey.
“Come notting”, exclaimed the second boy; “he’s got better graft den dis.”
“I wish I was up in dose stars. Santa Claus lives up dere, an’ all der boys are warm an’ have plenty ter eat.”
“See here, Petey, dere yer go agin. Yer gettin’ daffy fer sure. Get a brace on yer an’ we’ll go an’ buy some buns. I sold me poipers and we’ll celebrate.”
“I can’t get up, Chimmy; someting’s der matter wid me. I’se sick and I guess I’se going to croak. Oh, I wish Santa Claus ‘d come.”
The second boy stooped down over his sick comrade, and just as he did so a big policeman appeared on teh scene and said:
“See here, get a move on you or I will have your hides. You know you can’t stop here.”
“Dat’s all right, boss,” said Petey’s chum, “but Petey’s sick an’ I guess yer’ll have ter get der ambulance.”
The big policeman laid his hand gently on Petey’s shoulder and tried to rouse him, but the boy’s eyes were closed, and he did not move.
Just then a rough-looking man clad in a big ulster pushed his way through the little crowd that surrounded the sick newsboy and asked what the trouble was.
“Oh, Petey’s caved in,” exclaimed his cum. “He to’ght dat Santa Claus would be down here ter-night, an’ he didn’t come. Dere ain’t no Santa Claus. Dat feller dat treated us in der beanery las’ year was a racetrack feller, dat’s all.”
“Who says there isn’t a Santa Claus?” shouted the big man. “If you say that again I’ll throw you down a manhole. I am Santa Claus, and don’t you forget it.”
Then stooping over Petey’s prostrate form he tenderly picked him up in his arms, and, telling the rest of the boys to fall in line, he carried him into the warm and cheerful little restaurant a short distance away. The genial warmth of the room and a few spoonfuls of hot coffee soon aroused Petey from his stupor, and, looking trustfully up into the face of the man, he exclaimed:
“I know’d Santa Claus ‘d come.”
The man stayed in the restaurant until the boys had feasted to their hearts’ content and the orders that were filled for pork and beans, “sinkers,” mince pie and coffee kept the waiters busy. Every now and then a new lot of boys gathered in front of the beanery, and they, too, were called inside and feasted by Petey’s Santa Claus. The latter did not leave until there were no more boys to fee, and when he finally went away he left a bright silver dollar in Petey’s hand, and the latter and his chum slept in warm beds in the Newsboys’ Lodging House that night.