Synopsis – Little Merchants, The Golden Era of Youth Delivering Newspaper

Imagine a multimillion dollar business entrusted to children. Incredible? Every day legions of youngsters tackled the responsibility of delivering the daily paper to a news hungry public. Neither pampered nor perfect, droves of rambunctious kids with remarkable fortitude hustled to earn money by hefting a canvas newspaper bag along a neighborhood route.

Acting as independent agents for the newspaper firms, these youthful entrepreneurs were responsible for purchasing papers, delivering them on time, collecting from customers, and managing the money to earn a profit. Their daily routine also detoured into adventures and sometimes danger. Based on extensive research and interviews with hundreds of former news carriers, Little Merchants shares their evocative stories, which arc from hilarious to horrific, and poignant to repugnant. The book illustrates how lessons learned and confidence gained from the early encounter with responsibility shaped their character and served them well across a lifetime. Little Merchants invites you to explore the rich and colorful history of this important American icon.

Questions for Book Clubs

Why the title, Little Merchants? Who were they and does the term apply?

What differences exist between a 19th century newsey, and a 20th century paperboy?

The 1924 Federal Child Labor Amendment: Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age. Would it  be a sensible federal regulation?

How prevalent were part-time jobs as a paperboy?

Were the paper shacks, substations, beneficial for preteens or harmful, or both ?

With droves of paperboys speeding on bicycles, no hands, swerving around cars, was the era of newspaper carriers a safer, simpler, slower time? Did childhood diseases play a role?

With pocket change, carriers drank colas, chewed chocolates, read comic books, and emulated adults smoking cigarettes. Outside, everyday, on a long paper route, amidst unleashed dogs, was the part-time job healthy for children?

How did costs and some customers decrease the profit line for newspaper carriers?

What made the paper route responsibility more challenging for papergirls?

In what ways did the preteen job impact children: financially, physically and socially? They delivered alone. Were they loners?

Does the sense of belonging and the need for balance resonate through the book?

Paperboys served the community. How did they serve the country?

Which famous people were inducted into the Newspaper Carrier Hall of Fame?

How relevant in today’s community are the experiences of millions of former carriers? Is there a connection with current over-parented and obese children?

Today, are there entrepreneurial opportunities for youth?

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