September 4th is Newspaper Carrier Day.
In 1833, New York Sun editor Benjamin Day ran an ad for “steady men” to vend the paper. When 10-year-old Barney Flaherty applied for the job, he impressed Day, and was hired, becoming the first paperboy. His cry of “Paper! Get your paper, here!” became the universal pitch of boys – and some girls – hawking the news.
In 1899, the ‘newsies’ went on strike to change the deal that Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers had with their force of newsboys or newspaper hawkers, who had to buy the newspapers they then sold to the public. When the price to the newsboys went up, many people wouldn’t pay a higher price for the papers, so the newsboys were left with unsold papers, and couldn’t make a living. The strikers demonstrated across New York City for several days, effectively stopping circulation of the two papers, along with the news distribution for many New England cities. The strike lasted two weeks, causing Pulitzer’s New York World to decrease its circulation from 360,000 papers sold per day to 125,000. Although the price of papers was not lowered, the strike was successful in forcing the World and Journal to offer full buybacks to the newsies for unsold papers, allowing them to stay out of the red.
Stephen Crane (1871-1900) was an American poet, novelist, short story writer, and war correspondent. Prolific throughout his short life, he wrote notable works in the Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism. Regarded as one of the most innovative writers of his generation, today he is mostly remembered for The Red Badge of Courage. He was plagued by financial difficulties and ill health, and died of tuberculosis in a Black Forest sanatorium in Germany at the age of 28.
To read Stephen Crane’s poem “A Newspaper is a Collection of Half-Injustices” click:
Barney Flaherty as a teenager selling newspapers
A Newspaper is a Collection of Half-Injustices
by Stephen Crane
A newspaper is a collection of half-injustices
Which, bawled by boys from mile to mile,
Spreads its curious opinion
To a million merciful and sneering men,
While families cuddle the joys of the fireside
When spurred by tale of dire lone agony.
A newspaper is a court
Where every one is kindly and unfairly tried
By a squalor of honest men.
A newspaper is a market
Where wisdom sells its freedom
And melons are crowned by the crowd.
A newspaper is a game
Where his error scores the player victory
While another’s skill wins death.
A newspaper is a symbol;
It is feckless life’s chronicle,
A collection of loud tales
Concentrating eternal stupidities,
That in remote ages lived unhaltered,
Roaming through a fenceless world.
This poem is in the public domain.