Here’s a small collection of free vintage images featuring Newsies from 1910-1930. These are curated from various public domain resources, lightly edited, and are available for personal or commercial use as they are out of copyright in the United States. If you’re from outside the US, you may have different restrictions.
To download these images, click on the image to open it to full size and then save to your computer or device. They are 300 DPI JPGs and suitable for printing to use in paper collages and junk journals, or for digital collage pages.
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And now: onto the images!
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Newsboys in front of Ad Wall
So I don’t want to be a downer in this post, because really it’s just a way to share vintage images, but I do want to talk a bit about the history of newsies and of child workers in America.
The word “newsies” comes from “newsboys” or “newspaper boys,” the name given to young kids (usually boys) who sold newspapers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Before the internet, newspapers were the key to distributing important information and news to the masses. Newsboys were one of the ways that people actually got the newspapers from publishers.
Newsie group (2)
Newsboys were on every street corner, meaning widespread distribution– more than just what you could find at a newsagents or whatever. They were active sellers, calling out headlines and enticing folks to purchase copies of the paper. In the olden days, newspapers had multiple daily editions (sometimes up to three: morning, afternoon, evening) which meant a LOT of papers needed selling.
Back then, child labor was common and encouraged. There were educational requirements like nowadays– kids didn’t have to go to school after a certain age– and employment laws weren’t as strict. That meant kids could work, and work they did.
Girl newsie reading newspaper
Newsies were typically from working-class families. Many of them were orphans or came from impoverished backgrounds, making their newsie job a vital source of income for their families.
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Newsie girls at newsagent stand
Newsies worked long hours in all weather conditions, often carrying heavy loads of newspapers through city streets. They had grueling hours, with many working from dawn until late into the evening to sell newspapers.
Girl and Boy newsies
Newsies also had financial concerns. Besides the small amount per day they made, which was dependent on how many papers they sold, the newspaper companies required that newsies buy unsold papers from them. In the late 19th century, several newspapers raised the wholesale prices of their papers, cutting into the newsies’ already meager profits.
Newsies on sidewalk corner
Eventually, the unfair working conditions and financial frustrations brought on by the newspaper publishers led to newsies organizing in protest.
Three newsie girls
The most notable instance of this was in July 1899, when thousands of newsboys in New York City went on strike against Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.
Newsie selling to man in hat
It’s during this event that the 1992 Newsies movie musical is set. That movie is actually what got me interested in real-life newsie history, and the history of labor movements in general.
Newsboy selling newspaper
The newsboys’ strike garnered widespread attention and support from the public. After several days of striking, the publishers reluctantly agreed to some of the newsies’ demands, marking a rare victory for working-class children against powerful media moguls.
Newsie kids, boy and girl
Eventually, with the change in publishing and increasing labor rights in regards to children and underage workers, newsies faded from the scene.
Two female newsies
These photographs were mostly taken by Lewis Wickes Hine, an American sociologist and “muckracker photographer,” from about 1908-1911. They come from the collections of the National Child Labor Committee and the Department of Commerce and Labor, Children’s Bureau.
Young newsie girl with hat
The Children’s Bureau was established in 1912 to investigate and report “upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of children and child life among all classes of our people” (LOC). Two social reformers, Lillian Wald of New York’s Henry Street Settlement House, and Florence Kelly of the National Consumer’s League, campaigned starting in 1903 for the creation of just such a bureau.
Three newsie girls with hats
A lot of these newsie kids are under 10 years old, and truly should’ve been in school. Hines’ photographs were used as evidence that reform was needed, and so the Children’s Bureau was established. Eventually, that Bureau helped children’s labor reform.
If you want to know more about Lewis Hines’ photos and how they changed children’s labor in the US, here’s some recommended reading: Breaker Boys: How a Photograph Helped End Child Labor.
Big group of newsie kids
Anyway, I find these photos interesting because of their history, but also because of how they depict real kids in real situations. It’s fun to look at their old fashioned clothes, and to think of labor history.
Barefoot newsies pass each other
It’s easy to just look at old photos and think “how cool,” but I think it’s also important to know some of the context of those photos. That’s why I try to include information about that context in my posts, if I have it.
Newsie girl with pile of newspapers
I hope you enjoyed these images! If you use them in a collage or junk journal spread, leave a comment and let me know!
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