On the Streets With Real-Life Newsies

The Photo Blog
Oct. 17 2013 2:04 PM

On the Streets With Real-Life Newsies

3 LHine_Midnight at the Brooklyn Bridge
Midnight at the Brooklyn Bridge, 1906

Photo by Lewis W. Hine. Transfer from Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee. Ex-collection of Corydon Hine. Copyright George Eastman House Collection.

In these real-life photos, you won’t see newsies singing and dancing in the streets. Fans of musicals know the plucky newsboys of New York as the inspiration for the Disney movie Newsies (and the corresponding Broadway show Newsies the Musical), which celebrates their 1899 strike against Joseph Pulitzer’s Evening World and William Randolph Hearst’s Evening Journal. In his capacity as a photographer for progressive causes in the early 20th century, Lewis Hine knew their real-life counterparts personally for their charm and bravery as well as their daily hardships.

A new exhibition at the International Center of Photography includes Hine’s work from his time as the official photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, an organization dedicated to securing rights and reform for the millions of children working across the country at the time. “I think that Hine and his clients, which were philanthropic organizations, saw the newsboys as an especially problematic kind of child labor,” said Alison Nordström, the exhibition’s curator. “The problem with the newsboys was not only did they work all night and therefore sleep all day and not go to school, but they went into saloons and brothels to sell newspapers.”

Hine traveled up and down the East Coast, taking photos of child workers in fields, mills, mines, and factories. The images were eventually used for promotional materials and presentations. “I think the newsboys probably appealed to the philanthropists in part because they would have been one of the few examples of child labor that they would have actually come into direct contact with,” Nordström said. “In all likelihood, they never would have met a child working the mill or the child shucking the oysters they ate at dinner. Newsboys they would have interacted with on a daily basis.”

51 LHine NEWSIES SELLING IN SALOONS AT NIGHT
Newsies Selling in Saloons at Night, New England, ca. 1912

Photo by Lewis W. Hine. Transfer from Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee. Ex-collection of Corydon Hine. Copyright George Eastman House Collection.

17 LHines , DANNY MECURIO
Danny Mecurio, 150 Scholes Alley, Washington, D.C., 1912

Photo by Lewis W. Hine. Transfer from Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee. Ex-collection of Corydon Hine. Copyright George Eastman House Collection.

52 LHine NEWSBOYS READING ROOM
Newsboys' Reading Room, Boston, ca. 1912

Photo by Lewis W. Hine. Transfer from Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee. Ex-collection of Corydon Hine. Copyright George Eastman House Collection.

Advertisement

Historian Vincent DiGirolamo told the New York Times that the newsboys captured America’s imagination, representing “both capitalism’s exploitative evils and its by-your-bootstraps charms.” They lived rough and were loyal to their ranks. As DiGirolamo notes, they were known to arrange public funerals for fallen comrades, which he describes as “pitifully elaborate rituals of pomp and poverty.”

Hine’s concern for the newsies extended beyond his photography assignments. Earlier in his career, Nordström said, Hine was a schoolteacher, and there’s reason to believe that he enjoyed spending time among the charismatic youngsters. “I do think it's quite clear from his other work—his work in Europe, some of his family photographs—that he really liked children. He was comfortable with them, and the photographs suggest a level of easiness and trust. It seems that he had real skill connecting to children,” Nordström said.

The exhibition, “Lewis Hine,” is on view at the International Center of Photography through Jan. 19.

8 LHine Newsboy asleep on steps
Newsboy Asleep on Steps, ca. 1912.

Photo by Lewis W. Hine. Transfer from Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee. Ex-collection of Corydon Hine. Copyright George Eastman House Collection.

50 LHine CANDID SHOT OF NEWSIE SELLING PAPERS ON STREET
Candid Shot of Newsie Selling Papers on Street, 1912

Photo by Lewis W. Hine. Transfer from Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee. Ex-collection of Corydon Hine. Copyright George Eastman House Collection.

53 LHine NEWSGIRL, PARK ROW
Newsgirl, Park Row, July 1910

Photo by Lewis W. Hine. Transfer from Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee. Ex-collection of Corydon Hine. Copyright George Eastman House Collection.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.