Philip Marcus and the Silk Shirt

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VII

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.

Song Lyrics: “My Sweet”

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“My Sweet”

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.

Chorus:
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 Schwart.
Performed by Joseph Cawthorn in the 1905 musical “In Tammany Hall.”

“The Newsboys’ Santa Claus.”

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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.

“Newsboys Home Fixed Up”

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From the December 21, 1903 edition of the New York Sun:

Newsboys’ Home Fixed Up.

Changes and Betterments in the Old Duane Street Building.

After being closed for repairs for nearly six months, the Newsboys’ Lodging House, at Duane and New Chambers streets, is again open.
The old dark stairs leading to Duane street have been replaced by a wide, well lighted flight of stone steps leading to New Chambers street. A new doorway and an artistic illuminated sign, presented by one of the managers of Tiffany’s, make the entrance attractive.
The assembly room has been repainted and has a new hardwood floor. New steam-fitting and plumbing have been put throughout the building. The gymnasium has been put in good shape and the house is ready for more boys than ever before.

“Newsboys’ Home to Reopen”

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From the December 18, 1903 edition of the New York Sun:

Newsboys’ Home to Reopen.

The Lodging House Has Been Refitted and the Entrance Moved.

The Newsboys’ Lodging House, at New Chambers and Duane streets, which has been closed since August, is to open again on Saturday night. The building has been improved, the main entrance being now at 14 New Chambers street, instead of on the Duane street side.
The Christmas dinner will be given by William Flies of West Fifty-seventh street, who has given the newsboys a Christmas spread and eaten with them for many years. On account of ill health he will not be able to attend the dinner this year.

“Christmas Appeal, Children’s Aid Society”

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From the December 10, 1907 edition of the New York Tribune:

christmasappeal

THIRTY DOLLARS will place some homeless child in a carefully selected family home in the country or will enable us at our Farm School to train a homeless street boy for farm life and fit him for an honest living.

ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS will provide nourishing hot meals or furnish shoes and warm clothing for the poor boys in our Newsboys’ Lodging Houses and Temporary Homes. We as for gifts, large or small, to make a merry Christmas for the children of the poor and to maintain the general work of the Society. Checks may be made payable to A. BARTON HEPBURN, Treasurer, 105 East 22nd St., New York.

WM. CHURCH OSBORN, President.                  C. LORING BRACE, Secretary.

“Newsboys Who Wouldn’t Sing”

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From the November 27, 1899 edition of the New York Sun:

Newsboys Who Wouldn’t Sing

Because the Lodging House Would not Let Them in Before Evening.

There was a small insurrection yesterday outside of the Newsboys’ Lodging House in Duane street, caused, as it appears, by fresh paint. Robert Gibson, 15 years old, called at The Sun office last night and gave out this official statement on behalf of the insurgents:
“Every Sunday they open the doors at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and let us in so that we can use the gymnasium and get out of the cold. To-day we were froze out. They didn’t open the door at 1 o’clock but kept us out ll day. The dudes that pay 10 cents a night got in. We only pay five cents. There’s only a few dudes. We got bunk to-night. Every Sunday night they have a meeting and ladies come to hear us sing. To-night we all stayed out and wouldn’t come in when they opened the doors and there was only about six of the dudes at meeting. There were sixty of us who stayed out.”
Supt. Heig said last night that the boys were kept out of the lodging house during the day because the walls of the stairways had been freshly painted and a number of the boys when they left the place yesterday morning had amused themselves by rubbing their hands on the new paint and then making figures with the paint on the windows and doors.
“There were only about twenty of those who revolted,” said Mr. Heig. “The boys will receive all their former privileges as soon as the paint dries.”

“Won Fine New Homes.”

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From the November 25, 1903 edition of the The Sun:

Won Fine New Homes.

How the Penns. R. R. Tunnel Project Helped a Worthy Institution for Boys.

When the Pennsylvania Railroad bought the land for its immense new station it took over among other property the West Side Lodging House and School for Homeless Boys in West Thirty-second street, near Seventh avenue, which the Children’s  Aid Society received in 1885 from John Jacob Astor. The railroad had to have the site of the home, and to get it willingly paid the charitable institution so generous a sum that the society has been able to erect with the proceeds two fine buildings, thus more than doubling the value of Mr. Astor’s original benefaction. The West Side Lodging House, at 225 West Thirty-fifth street, is one of the buildings. The other is the West Side Industrial School, at 419 West Thirty-eighth street.
The story of this notable gain by one of New York’s foremost charities s an incidental result of the carrying out of the Pennsylvania’s great improvement was made public at the annual meeting of the Children’s Aid Society yesterday. Because of the increased facilities afforded by the new buildings and of substantial gifts from trustees, Secretary C. Loring Brace said, the society would ge [sic] able to develop its manual training work greatly.
Nearly 16,000 poor children attended the society’s industrial schools this year. The society is making a special effort to attract truant children. Among other things a newsboys’ industrial school, which Mr. Brace said would be the first in the country, will soon be opened in the downtown Newsboys’ Lodging House.
Mr. Brace said that 4,302 boys and girls had been sheltered in the society’s lodging houses during the year, against 13,717 in 1883. “This enormous falling off in homeless, wandering boys is a striking fact,” said he, “and is due to the effectiveness of the life saving agencies.”
There are still many boys idling about low resorts, he asserted, and to reach these the society is making its homes more attractive.
More children were placed in good homes during the year than ever before, the total being 869. The society also returned 350 runaways to their parents. Since 1853, when the society was founded, it has placed in family homes 23,061 children, obtained places for 25,200 and restored to their parents 5,551 runaways. Treasurer A. B. Hepburn reported the years receipts as $696,057 and expenditures as $695,628. The officers and trustees were reelected.

“Girls Caught Pickpocket”

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From the November 20, 1902 edition of the Richmond Dispatch:

Girls Caught Pickpocket.

Some Lively Sprinting Done After a Purse-Snatcher.

NEW YORK, November 19.—(Special.)—Three girls, Molly Sindel, of No. 149 Forsyth street, Clara Hoffman and Clara Rosenberg, of No. 215 east Tenth street, showed rare sprinting ability in Second avenue to-day when William Coye, aged 19, a lithographer, who, the police say, lives in a newsboy’s lodging house from Molly Sindel’s hand and ran up the avenue.
Coye got  good start, but the girls were soon in close pursuit. In wake of the girls followed a great crowd. Coye was soon overhauled by the girls, and his face was punched, his clothing torn and his body bruised by many well directed kicks from members of the crowd. His mother would scarcely have recognized him when the crowd took him before the sergeant of the east Fifth street station.
Coye had thrown Miss Sindel’s pocketbook into the street, and it and $2 it contained were recovered.

“A Newsboy’s Progress”

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From the November 10, 1901 edition of the New York Tribune:

A Newsboy’s Progress.

Goes From This City to Louisville, Where He Organizes a Newsboys’ Club and Becomes A Stenographer.

“About four years ago,” said Superintendent Heig of the Newsboys’ Lodging House yesterday, “a boy named Herman Felten stopped at the lodging house. He became a regular attendant at our night school and at the Sunday evening meetings. As he had friends in Louisville, Ky., he wished to go there, and we sent him. He has since organized a newsboys’ club there of which he is the head.”

Mr. Heig received a letter from Felten a few days ago, which was as follows:

It is so long since I last wrote you that mayhap you think I have forgotten you and the Brace Memorial Lodging House. But, no; the lessons I learned and the kindnesses that I received are indelible impressions on my mind—effaceable only by the tragedy of death.

I am now no more the humble newsboy, shouting “Extree! All about the terrible murder!” but a plain stenographer. With the money I saved from selling papers I took a course in a business college and graduated, and procured a position as stenographer.

Inclosed [sic] is an extract from one of our papers regarding myself which may interest you and the boys in your charge. The personage of whom I spoke is but a second Charles Loring Brace—a man worthy to be emulated and honored, and, being emulated, makes the doer happier and of service to his fellowmen; and being of service to one’s fellowmen is a type of love that uplifts the soul to the pedestal of a better life.

This letter was written by a boy who only four years ago was selling newspapers in this city, and much less than four years ago was pursuing the same occupation in Louisville. The newspaper clipping mentioned is from one of the Louisville newspapers, and states that at the “Thompson memorial services of the Newsboys’ Home, held at the Elks’ Home last evening, many interesting addresses were made, of which the most novel was by Herman Felten, the crippled newsboy who stands at the corner of Fourth and Jefferson sts.” The paper went on to say that the address was considered remarkable from a boy so young, after which it gave the address in full.

Felten’s speech was a tribute to Judge R . H. Thompson, the one to whom he referred in his letter as a “second Charles Loring Brace.” The judge had been friendly to Felten when he was a poor newsboy and in actual want, and had helped him through his difficulties.