Extra! Extra!

A rascal in his rakish newsey cap and worn knickers, clutched his next meal under his arm. Oh, not to eat the newspapers but to eat once he sold his papers. His raucous yells, regardless of a sore throat, his fist fights for a corner turf kept him in money.

Hawkers existed in every city, particularly after Benjamin Day in 1833 in New York City produced The Sun, a penny paper, which survived the stiff competition and expanded. Mr. Day specifically chose little urchins to sell his sheets. Within a decade the number of ragamuffin newsies rapidly increased. Savvy youngsters supported themselves, helped the family by working the most common steady job for children: selling newspapers.

The hawker, the penny paper, the newsey image entered the twentieth century mobilizing child-labor reformers of the Progressive era to actively oppose such work. Social reformers, educators, photographers convinced Congress that labor with children under age 18 should stop. To impose this change, in 1924 a constitutional amendment went to the states for ratification.

Change vibrated everywhere in America in the 1920’s. The population shifted from rural to urban, homes advanced from oil lamps to light bulbs and a two-cent daily appeared on the porch from a boy silently hustling his route. The newsey was transformed into the modern paperboy in a ball cap, with a canvas bag and a bicycle. His motivation unchanged: make money. And he succeeded because newspaper companies won the right to still distribute papers by children. The golden age for young newspaper carriers arrived.


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