Monday, March 8, 2010

Extra, Extra!

Here at Old Hollywood we love us some fashion with history. We've got a trunk full of these super awesome newsboy hats (I'm talking wool, ear flaps and some plaid - on sale for $10!), and Tiff has a newsboy-styled shoot scheduled during her trip in merry olde England. So I got myself reading up on those good ol' newsboys of yore and found this New York Times clip from 1886:

At the time, newsboys across the country were starting to protest. No wonder - the newsboy life wasn't any walk in the park. They weren't actually paid by the newspaper publishers. Instead, they bought papers and sold them for marginally more. The publishers wouldn't buy back unsold papers, which meant cries of "extra, extra!" were heard well into the night, even during rain, snow and freezing cold. These kids, as young as 5, made about ₡30 a day, were often homeless and generally mistreated (this was back in those days before child labor laws).

In 1898, during the Spanish-American War and the height of yellow journalism, newspaper sales skyrocketed and publishers raised their prices from ₡50 to ₡60 a bundle. After the war ended and sales went back down, most publishers lowered their prices - except William Randolph Hearst, owner of the
New York Morning Journal, and Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World. By 1899, these kids were fed up and staged a strike in New York, led by some of the youngest and poorest Irish immigrants.

Characters like one-eyed Kid Blink and Race Track Higgens led demonstrations of up to 5,000 on the Brooklyn Bridge, effectively stopping traffic and news distribution for most of the North East. After a violent few days, in which kids were routinely beaten by police and thugs hired by Hearst and Pulitzer, the kids' union disbanded when the two papers agreed to buy back unsold papers (although they still refused to lower their prices).

The New York strike precipitated larger strikes years later in Montana and Louisville, before the introduction of child labor laws a couple decades later. Photographer Lewis W. Hine documented the life of newsies and kids in other industries, like mining and factories. Really makes you think about all those lil' ones around the world (and here at home) who are still working these same jobs. Here are my favorite shots:

Now don't go thinking there weren't any news
girls out there! But on the whole they didn't participate in the protests, or at least there isn't record of them joining - I've got a feeling there were a few feisty ladies we haven't heard of. And while boys who continued to sell papers during the strike were often attacked by strikers, girl 'scabs' were left alone.

I've suddenly got the urge to put on one of these newsboy hats and go do some rabble rousing.