Brace Memorial Lodging House, Children's Aid Society, Henry L. Gassert, Johnny Brady, Johnny Burke, Josephine Beck, life, Little Minnie, Little Timmy, Mother Heig, Narrow Mike, newsboy code, newsboys, newsboys' house, newsies, oral history, Pop Rudolph, Rudolph Heig, Skinny, superintendent, Swipes, Yaller the Butcher
June 30, 1910 marked the last day that Rudolph Heig served as superintendent of the Newsboys’ Lodging House located at No. 9 Duane Street. His wife, who served as the lodging house’s matron, retired alongside him. The Evening Telegram ran the following article about his career on June 27, 1910:
Newsboys’ “Foster Father” Tells How They Won Fame
Pop Heig, Thirty-Five Years in Charge of Home, Relates Story of 100,000 Charges.
“Pop” Rudolph is going to quit. That is not all. “Mother” Heig has decided that she will have to leave with him, and as she is his wife it isn’t strange that she reached this conclusion. Of course the announcement doesn’t mean much to the ordinary New Yorker when there are other things to read about and he is not sure yet whether the Jeffries-Johnson fight is really going to take place or the Giants are beginning to get in better form. It is merely a little item sandwiched in among a lot of advertisements announcing that the Children’s Aid Society has accepted the resignations of Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Heig as superintendent and matron, respectively, of the Newsboys’ Home, at No. 14 New Chambers street, and that some one else will be appointed to take their places. It doesn’t mean much to some, but it certainly does mean a whole lot to more than a hundred thousand boys and one girl who knew them as their friends, aids and advisers when every one else in the whole world was against them and the outlook for life was about as black as it can appear to the juvenile mind, which ought to be naturally optimistic. It doesn’t mean newsboys who regret their leaving, but it means newsboys, Governors of States and Territories, financiers and lawyers, who still regard the couple as the only persons in the country who took them in and befriended them when no one else thought them worth caring for.
Started as Newsboy.
“Pop” Rudolph Heig didn’t make any fortune for himself and neither did his wife, known from coast to coast by thousands of boys as “Mother Heig.” but if the youngsters whom they have befriended and put on the right road since they first took charge of the Newsboy’s Home had their way they would have the first place in the hall of fame.
Having started life as a newsboy himself there was no one whom the Children’s Aid Society could pick who was more eminently fitted for the place of superintendent of the home for the “newsies” when the home was opened in New Chambers street thirty-five years ago than Mr. Heig. At that time he was a youngster himself, having given up his selling papers in Park row to become office boy in the uptown office of the society and then clerk. He knew boys, and especially newsboys, as only a man who was one himself could know them. He was as well acquainted with their code of honor, division of districts and unwritten fraternal laws as they were themselves and he knew that a newsboy wasn’t to be treated with the same regulations that a youngster of the upper ten would expect. To be pampered and coaxed was disgusting to them, and to have any one start in “preaching” in a vernacular they didn’t know was something that any youngster who had to hustle for himself hated worst of all. Mr. Heig knew this.
A reception is to be tendered Mr. and Mrs. Heig on Thursday night, which will be the last night they will spend in the old lodging house, and it is expected that their boys from all parts of the country will be present.
Brace Memorial Lodging House, Collars, Dutch Pete, Five Cent Blokes, life, newsboy code, newsboys, newsboys' house, newsgirls, Paddy the Pug, photographs, Reggie from Paris, savings bank, superintendent Heig, The Man Behind, Waldorf Gang, Waldorf Room
From the New York Tribune’s Illustrated Supplement on April 17, 1904:
Waldorf Room at the Newsboys’ Lodging House
Some Picturesque Characteristics of the Little Fellows Who Sell “Uxtrys” in the Streets of New-York.
Whatever the newsboy may lack in appearance, he has a bottom all the instincts of an aristocrat. Let the sunshine of prosperity beam on him even for a moment, and he buds with the true flowers of a patrician. If he makes a couple of dollars by the help of the Japanese fleet, whose latest manoeuvres has furnished him with a startling bit of news, he spends his money with a lavish hand. instead of a box at the opera, he buys tickets for the “gang” just beneath the grimy roof of some Bowery theatre.
A striking illustration of the “newsies” latent gentility is furnished by a new feature of the Newsboys’ Lodging House, near Chatham Square, which has been called the “Waldorf room.” Although plenty of white, clean beds were to be had in the two big halls for 5 and 10 cents a night, yet an exclusive circle of newsboy society demanded apartments of great privacy. Some of them had obtained work in nearby business houses, where they were enjoying incomes of $10 and $15 a week; and as “Dutch Pete,” who is now loading delivery wagons across the alley from the lodging house expressed it:
“W’en you’se got de wad, you’se might as well lif’ like a gent. An’ yer can’t be a gent widdout piracy. yer can’t mix up wid de bunch and perserve yer rights as a gent.”
There are a lot of snippets of old film clips taken in New York City around the turn of the twentieth century. Many pop up on YouTube. Yestervid assembled a selection ranging from 1905 back to 1896, and included notes about locations shown and a map of where the clip was filmed.
Of note to “Newsies” fans is the clip shown at 5:59 to 6:08, of a fight between two newsboys. It’s actually a short snippet from the end of a film showing newspapers being delivered to a distribution point by a World van, possibly in Union Square. The Library of Congress notes that it was recorded on May 1, 1899.
Also of note in the Yestervid video is the clip of Sheepshead Bay Racetrack, shown at 6:49 to 7:05.
The clip following that, from 7:05 to 7:17, shows a newsboy wandering in front of the camera.
The oldest footage in the video—taken in 1896—begins at 7:41.
After stumbling onto a set of photographs from the Tenement Housing Department taken between 1902 and 1914, over at the NY Public Library’s Digital Collections, I had to wonder: What did the photographer think of some of his (or her) assignments? “Today we’re touring outhouses!”
To be fair, outhouses weren’t the only subject of the photographs. Other images in the set show various kitchens and living spaces, with various levels of what I’m sure reformers back then would have termed squalor. I think it shows a lot about the family (or families) that lived in each space. My favorites are the ones showing the effort someone made to turn their set of rooms into a home.
To see tenement life as documented by the Tenement Housing Department, browse through the NYPL’s Digital Collection or visit my board Tenement Life over on Pinterest.