Chicago Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Houses, "Newsboy Conditions in Chicago," 1903

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Newsboy Conditions in Chicago [page 2]

INTRODUCTION

A COMMITTEE appointed by the Federation of Chicago Settlements presents the following results of an investigation of a thousand newsboys. The investigation does not attempt to be exhaustive, but so far as possible is typical in the selection of districts. It was made by twenty investigators in two days time. The results of the investigation, while favorable to the legitimate features of the newspaper industry, confirm the impression that Chicago needs a city ordinance which would obviate many of the abuses now apparent in the news trade. It is with this aim in view that the Committee presents its report on Newsboy Conditions in Chicago. [page 4]

[image] A Typical Newsboy [page 5]

The Chicago Newsboy

Although the method of distribution of the daily papers, engaging the labor of many people, varies in the different cities, the means remain the same. The newsboy has always been regarded as indispensable for securing a satisfactory circulation. The purpose he serves is so evident, his place in the system seem so determined by necessity, that the public has grown to look upon him as one of the factors in every-day life, able to care for himself and to work out his own salvation. That some do this there is no doubt. The newsboys who have gone from the street into business careers, and sometimes into the larger affairs of state and nation, refer with pride to the road over which they have traveled.

The newsboy becomes part of our city environment. A familiar figure, rather under medium size, as we know him best, "flipping" the street cars with his papers, or on a street corner holding his stock in trade under his arm. A veritable merchant of the street scanning every passer-by as a possible customer, quick of wit and intent upon his trade he reads their peculiarities at a glance and makes the most of their weaknesses.  The public sees him at his best and neglects him at his worst. He is not considered in the problem of "child labor," because he works in the open and seemingly apart from the associations which are so hostile to the health and happiness of the factory child.

NEWSPAPER SELLING AS AN INDUSTRY.

Chicago at the present time is particularly fortunate in the character of its street trades. Many forces have combined in the newspaper industry to make possible a system of distribution, which, both in simplicity and completeness, excels that of most of the American cities. A system has been gradually developed in Chicago which excludes many of the deplorable tendencies in other cities. This allows the papers to pass from the publisher to the reader with the least possible waste of time or energy, and insures in the case of many of its workers the establishment of newspaper selling as an industry. The industrial possibilities have been largely due to the practical interest that the Chicago papers have taken in the newsboy, and in the development of a regular and methodical system of paper selling. This interest has not merely been evident in the desire to give some pleasure to the newsboy, by means of a gymnasium, drill halls and other forms of practical helpfulness, but also, to a much greater degree, in the attempt to put the work on a basis that would insure him a business and a regular livelihood. [page 6]

THE ROUTE SYSTEM.

Chicago is mapped out by carefully defined boundaries into "routes," assigned to men known as "route carriers." A wagon representing each paper covers these routes, not once, but several times during the day. At regular points along the route, the driver is met by the men, owners of the routes, mostly young, though not a few older men are engaged in the business. These men are often accompanied by boys, waiting for a supply of papers for house to house delivery, and for sale on street corners in residence districts. They are the news dealer's assistants, and as a rule prove themselves reliable as well as prompt. In fact, the competition for this employment is so keen that the boy must "hustle" or another will be given the coveted position.

In the early phases of newspaper selling the street corner in the down town district became the scene of physical battled for supremacy. For many years the Irish lad held absolute possession. With strong fist and ready tongue, backed by many friends, he seemed almost invincible, but back of it all there was a certain lack of persistence that proved to be his undoing. The Jewish boy came next. He would not fight the Irish lad with the weapons of his choosing, he knew a better way. Every day he was at his post, in winter and summer, in good weather and bad, the customer could depend on his appearance with the paper. So his trade increased, and at last he gained a monopoly of the corner. In turn he fell, and the Italian, the prince of street vendors, because he possessed both of the strong points of his predecessors, secured the monopoly of most of the good corners. He was both a ready fighter and a persistent worker.

Meanwhile the circulating managers of the newspapers came into the field with assurances of assistance to whosoever possessed the corner. The corner, which had been merely a prize for a physical contest, now came to have a quasi-legal position that implied a pecuniary value. A value so great that it could not pass unnoticed by the circulation managers, and protection of some sort seemed necessary. The social privilege must have a more stable backing than merely the "good will" of the street. Protection finally came from the newspaper in the form of a card bearing the name of the dealer and the position of his corner, with the condition that no one could buy early papers without presenting this card. In this way they are able to regulate the transfer of the corner. "For, while they do not often interfere with the transfer of the corner from one boy to another, if they know him to be in the pay of another paper, or if they suspect he is getting possession of a number of corners in order to speculate on them, or to hold a monopoly, they do not give him a card." This protection gives the dealers confidence in their positions, [page 7] and inspires them to be both regular in their trade and courteous to customers if they would establish a business.

The plan which was so well adapted to the down town district was established on a more liberal scale throughout the city. The principal corners in the outlying districts were occupied by so-called "Canadian" boys, a title given to the dealer who delivers papers to the smaller boy, and who control the circulation in their district, and are empowered by the papers to arrange the territory each boy is to cover. Some of these boys receive a small salary from the newspaper, others are dependent upon the small sum which they derive from the sub-letting of their districts, and they manage to earn a very fair salary when they combine the actual selling of papers with their other duties. Among the men and boys who own corners outside the down town district there is a great divergence, in both in age and nationality. The boy finally chosen as overseer is usually the best representative of the district in which he lives.

In addition to this selling on the street corner many of the older boys have established regular routes, which sometimes requires the delivery of five or six hundred papers each day. A young man who has a route of this kind has been able to secure an education by means of selling papers. Although he was graduated from high school and medical college, received a degree, and has been practicing medicine for two years, yet he still continues with the old route and depends upon it chiefly for support. Many instances came to the notice of the investigators of persons who have in this way earned a living while pursuing a scientific or professional course.

In return for social and business privilege the agent assumes the responsibility for the circulation of the paper on his corner, or in his district. He promises that each paper shall have an equal amount of attention at his hands, and neither shall be favored either in position or method of sale. As long as the bargain is kept he is given perfect liberty and remains secure in his position. If the bargain is broken there are forces in reserve that operate to his undoing.

The business in its present development requires that some one be constantly at the stand. In the morning only one newsboy, or at the most two, are necessary, for the trade in the morning is comparatively dull. This is due to the fact that most of those who come to the city on suburban trains have already purchased their papers before arriving in the city, and those who live in the city have either obtained a copy at their homes or are too busy to read them at their place of business. On the west side few boys are on the street before 6 a.m., except those who have regular routes. A father was found delivering papers at 5 a.m. with his three little daughters assisting, but as a general rule throughout the city comparatively few people are engaged in the sale of morning papers. In the afternoon from 3 to 7 o'clock, many of the corner men have from one to a dozen or more assistants, [page 8] who receive either a percentage of their sales or a small salary. This is the so-called "hustler" system, which the newspapers claim is "simply an excrescence, and apparently a temporary one." The new child labor law forbids the employing of boys under fourteen years of age, but the dealer can easily avoid this technicality by changing wages into commission, the boy will then be working for himself.

The privilege of position, and the regularity of sales necessarily develops a fixed value for the corner, which ranges from $100 or $500. The four corners of Clark and Madison streets are estimated by their owners to be worth $2,000. None of the corner men earn less than $1 a day, and many earn from $5 to $10. All this proves that it is possible for the city to make a helpful industry out of a trade which has been long considered irregular and desultory. If legislation is needed for this class it is only that there may be greater security in the business which they now hold as a privilege and not as a legal right. Many of the dealers desire this, as there is always some uncertainty in their continued possession of a corner. Our conclusion is that the older boys and men are taking excellent care of their business, and of those among their number who need help.

COOPERATION AMONG THE NEWSBOYS.

The news dealers have already felt the need of association and cooperation. The Chicago Newsboys' Protective Association was organized in March, 1902. It does not seek to monopolize the newspaper trade, and is quite satisfied with its present membership of 200, which is not more than 5 per cent of the newsboys in Chicago. It is not a union and has no power as such, since, as the members do not work for wages, it cannot be eligible for membership in the American Federation of Labor. It was formed originally when the city was making a campaign against the street vendors, driving both fruit stands and news stands off the street, and compelling the news dealers to carry their papers under their arms, thus cutting off their sales to a considerable extent. The association which was then formed to present the cause of the newsboys to the city council secured the successful passage of an act that allowed them to keep stands. After this success they did not disband, but continued to meet the first Wednesday of each month to improve the general conditions under which they work, and also to provide for those among their number who may be prevented by sickness or any other cause from plying their trade.

Three incidents may illustrate the nature of their activities. It was reported in one of their meetings not long ago that some dissatisfaction had been expressed with the condition in which the men left their boxes on the street when their day's work was finished. As a result a committee was appointed to wait on the different members of the association. [page 9] [image] The Small Boy [page 10] and see that proper care was taken of the boxes during the day, and insist that they be removed from the street at night.

A blind member of the association was much troubled by small boys, who stole his papers, and in every way tried to ruin his business.  The matter was reported to the association, who appointed a committee, serving with pay, to investigate the matter and report. As a result of the efforts of the committee there has been little or no trouble since.

The association also helps those among its number who are sick, although on account of the very small amount of monthly dues they are not able to guarantee this assistance. A cripple received $24 from the association during a four months' illness, and could have secured more had he not been determined to refuse further aid.

THE PROBLEM OF THE STREET.

There is, however, a large and growing class, who deserve the attention of both city and citizen. The business of selling papers in Chicago is so systematized that the vagrant cannot prosper, and yet the "vagrant" is in our midst. He can be found on State street at 11 o'clock on a Saturday night, with one paper under his arm, not attempting to sell the paper, but using it as a bait to beg from the passers-by. He can be found in the American news alley, sometimes fifty, sometimes a hundred strong, sleeping on bags, under boxes, or on the floor of the Newspaper restaurant. With this boy, and with all those who obviously too young to be permitted to engage in street trading, it is our duty to deal, if we are to preserve the attitude the American city takes toward the dependent child.

Three classes of persons who add little to the general circulation, while detracting much from the tone of the business, and working a real injury to themselves, are engaged in selling newpapers: these are the small boy, the semi-vagrant boy, and the young girl.

THE SMALL BOY.

An investigation of 1,000 newsboys, ranging in age from 5 to 22, showed that out of this number 127, or 12 per cent, were under 10 years of age. Among this number were 42 Italians, 25 Americans, 24 Germans, 16 Irish and 8 Jews. One hundred and six had both parents living and only 21 had lost either father or mother. Their aggregate earnings were $41.30 per day, or an average earning of 32 cents per day, for which they worked three and one-half hours daily.

The small boy, under ten years of age, is on the ragged edge of the newspaper business. He may aid the corner dealer somewhat, and serves his purposes well, but he is not a necessary part of the circulation [page 11] [image] The Small Boy Selling at Night [page 12] system. His absence would not materially affect the general sale of the papers, since there are news stands on practically every corner, but would preserve the small boy from the temptations which easily lead to a system of begging.  The younger boy seems to learn early the strategic way of disposing of his wares. Three boys were found begging on State street between 11 and 12 o'clock one night. Each boy  carried a paper under his arm, but made no attempt to sell it. They would watch each passer-by and without exception select a man accompanied by a lady. As soon as the man's attention was attracted by the paper the boy asked for money, and continued to do so until he either received the money or had been refused many times. One boy (T. P.) received 15 cents in less than a half hour. When questioned he stated that all the younger boys remaining on the street after 10 o'clock did the same thing.

If the small boy is to earn very much, particularly in the down town district where he is most in evidence, he must work in connection with some corner man, who controls a considerable distance on each side of the stand, or he must wander about the streets picking up a customer where opportunity offers. These boys are selected at random, without reference to school attendance, in fact, selling newspapers is at the base of much truancy. The corner man exploits the small boy because he needs someone to help him in the busy hours, and often to take the stand when he goes home at night. The corner man disposes of his unsold papers at a reduced rate to one of these small boys when the best selling hours of the day are passed, since some of the evening papers are not returnable. He prefers to stand the small loss rather than spend the long tedious hours late in the evening to dispose of them. On the evening of the investigation W. S., a newsboy aged 7, was taking care of a stand at 11:30 p.m., and probably did not leave the place before midnight. The small boy is also very useful in the sale of papers on the street cars, for he does not hesitate to jump on and off when they are at full speed, and in this way secures many customers who would otherwise be lost. Those who have investigated the matter state that the constant jumping on an off the cars is injurious to the boy. "Flipping" the street car is but a step to the freight and express trains, easily accessible and going far out to the country and to other cities, and this, combined with irregular hours and uncertain income, are the chief means of training the boy for vagrancy.

EXPLOITATION BY PARENTS.

The newsboy is in many instances exploited by parents, who find that the boy can earn as much in a few hours as the father can in a day, and in consequence see little need that both should work. To a peasant from southern Europe, who had been compelled to work for weeks to secure the small returns of a scanty crop, the earnings of his young child upon the fertile fields of the street seem incredibly large. He has no [page 13] [image] Newsboy Begging at 12 o'clock Saturday Night [page 14] means of judging the harm which may come to his boy or girl, and quite naively reckons that his little children can earn more than himself. The fact that his child is deprived of school, learns no regular trade and is distracted in mind and stunted in growth naturally does not appeal to him, seeing as he does only the gain of the day. The child of such a parent can be protected only by law.

It is sometimes asserted that children under ten years of age, if not engaged in street trading, would lounge about in idleness and mischief. It must, however, be remembered that the truancy law required the attendance of all such children at school. It would certainly seem better for a normal physical development that these children should play about  the street,  around their homes, in the play grounds, at the settlements, or if in the crowded down town district at the Chicago Boy's Club, which is conducted exclusively for the boys of the street, than that they should share in the intense life of street trading.

Nor is it right to characterize as idleness the play of a child of ten after five hours' application in the public school, since play has been recognized as one of the most important factors in the physical and mental development of the child life. Any one familiar with the necessities of child life in the tenement districts understands that the street is the play ground of the child, and the demand in New York City for asphalt was successfully urged upon the necessity of the child life of that city. We wish to emphasize here the well known distinction between the physical and moral influences surrounding street trading in the down town district with all the freedom from external control either on the part of city or parent, as compared with the conditions of street play within the neighborhood in which the child lives where the restrictions of home and friends are able to influence to some measure his conduct.

The suggestion which may occur to the casual reader, that the newsboy under ten years of age, prohibited from trading on the street, would be deprived of a very important part of his support, is not sustained by the facts obtained during the investigation. Only a very small number of these children are from dependent families. A careful investigation of the records of the Charity Organization Society show that of the 1,000 newsboys investigated the names of but 16 families are found, and of these 16, 8 applied for the privilege of a vegetable garden, of the remaining 8 only 4 received direct help, such as coal, clothing or food.

Few of these children are even half-orphans. Of those under ten years of age, 21 out of 127, and many of them do not contribute to their own support or that of the family. In certain instances children were found to be the chief support of a family, but even in these cases it would be much better for the city to assist in supporting the family now than be compelled later to pay for the price of a ruined character [page 15] and a criminal life.  The following paragraph illustrates the point in question:

There are two families bearing the same name, related to each other, one living on East, the other on West Taylor street, who have been known to the different Children's Societies for many years. Ever since the Juvenile Court has been established one or more members of these two families have been before the Court every three or four months. Every male member of the West Side family has been in the John Worthy School. One of the boys is now at Pontiac, to remain until he is 21, the third son sells papers on the street, but seldom goes to his home. He can be found almost any night, late, loafing around the American Newspaper restaurant, where he gets his meals, and sleeps on the floor. The youngest member of this family has been sent to the Parental School. The father is dead, the mother demented, and all the money that has gone to the support of the family has been earned in the newspaper trade.

Some children sell papers through the coercion of selfish parents. During the investigation a well dressed Italian was seen standing on the corner of Adams and State streets watching his three sons selling papers. The three boys, aged respectively 14, 10 and 8, earned jointly $2 a day. The father stood by to prevent any investigation of their earnings or school attendance, yet there seemed to be no desire on his part to participate in their labors. In the majority of cases the boys do not have the protection, even, of the fathers, but are left to the mercy of the street.

SEXUAL DANGERS.

The investigation disclosed the fact that the newsboy is peculiarly subject to dangers of this sort. He is the only working child whose occupation offers an excuse for remaining on the street at night, while apparently pursuing a legitimate industry. Although the city is full of unscrupulous men it is toward the newsboy that that such a man may most easily hold the advantage of an employer of boys under fourteen. Besides this he has had an opportunity of employing boys who are already enervated by irregular hours, improper food, and where sense of decency in many cases has broken down by life on the street at all hours of day or night. Instances of this kind are of frequent occurrences, although they are seldom made public. The police have direct evidence that a news dealer, who had a prosperous corner on Halsted street, hired eight young boys working for him at a percentage of one cent for five papers sold. This man required the boys to come to his room to receive their pay, and there committed violence on each of the eight boys, most of whom were under fourteen years of age. One of these boys was brought to the John Worthy School, where an investigation disclosed the facts as stated above. The case never [page 16] [image] A Greek Street Merchant Nine Years Old [page 17] came up in the Courts, as the man disappeared from the city when he discovered that there was such damaging evidence against him.

Mr. Sloan, the former superintendent of the John Worthy School, authorizes the statement, that, "One-third of the newsboys who come to the John Worthy School have venereal disease, and that 10 per cent of the remaining newsboys at present in the Bridewell, are, according to the physician's diagnosis, suffering from diseases due to unnatural relations with men. The newsboy is in a class by himself in this respect, for the rest of the boys are comparatively free from disease of this kind."

The newsboy, as well as the telegraph messenger boy, and A. D. T. boy, on account of his availability is frequently found in the "red light" district, and as a messenger boy for men and women of dissolute character, learns the very worst side of the city's life. He knows many of the professional prostitutes by name, and has become attached to them by presents of fruit and candy, that he may be ready to do their bidding. The messenger boys, however, come under the regulation of the present Child Labor Law, and the plan proposed at the end of this report offers at least a partial solution of the problem for the newsboys.

PHYSICAL DANGERS.

Mr. Sloan also states, that  "the newsboy who comes to John Worthy School is, on the average one-third below the ordinary boy in development physically." This is to be accounted for by irregular days and sleepless nights. The strongest  boy under these conditions can not long hope to compete with the boy who has a normal amount of sleep and who does not lack for proper food at regular intervals. If boys under ten are required to rise at 4:30 or 5 a. m. they have been under four and one-half hours' excitement and labor before entering school, where for five hours they are to be engaged in more or less mental effort. Then many of the boys distributing papers by the route system in the morning, also sell papers in the  evening, beginning in such instance that labor and excitement of their trade immediately upon leaving school, lasting for an average time of three hours, making a total daily activity of over twelve hours.

The physical danger to the child varies with his age. We must not and can not treat him like a man, for the youthful organism, is particularly susceptible to physical abuse. The excitement of the street stimulates unnatural desires on the part of the boy. He sees the men about him participating in questionable pleasures and soon learns to follow their example with disastrous results to himself.

TRUANCY.

Among the 1,000 newsboys examined there were 75.1 per cent who came under the Compulsory Education Law. Of these 662 gave the name of some school they were attending. Subsequent investigation [page 18] of the information thus given proved the statements to be generally true. It was found, however, that in many cases their attendance was so irregular as to amount to truancy.

Authorities on truancy agree that the street trades are the chief support and resource of truant children; requiring practically no capital, and demanding no recommendation, they are open to all alike.

In the minds of the parents who have had little or no education themselves the school in naturally made subordinate to the pecuniary gain of the child in selling papers, even if at times it is a mere pittance. The boy is made to feel at an early age that his value is determined by the money he can earn on the street. The school is the place that demands his time for some of the best hours in the day. He can not see the relation between the school and his daily trade, and in most cases he assumes that the school is his enemy. To the boy accustomed to the street school soon becomes irksome. The freedom of the life appeals to him, the very busy hours are soon over and there is time for loafing and idling with other and older boys, and it is in such idle hours as these that the vices that are later to prove the ruin of the boy are contracted. The Secretary of the Probation Court officers states that "there are 143 newsboys in charge of the officers of that court," and adds, that "the first offense of almost every boy that she has had to deal with has been truancy."

The boy who is out at four, or even earlier in the morning, either to deliver papers on a route, or to sell on a corner, is breaking into hours of sleep that the young and growing body is much in need of. The energy expended in the first spurt of selling or delivering his papers leaves him unfitted for the school-room when he reaches there at nine o'clock, the reaction sets in, the body demands rest, and the quiet monotony of the school-room is in such marked contrast to that of the street full of life and motion that the study of books seems more than ever a drudgery, and the desire to get away from it more than every intense.

In Chicago the larger proportion of papers are sold outside of school hours. The morning papers are generally of little value after 9 o'clock, and the afternoon editions are mostly in demand after 3 o'clock, so that the school boy has no legitimate excuse for being on the street during the time school is in session. During the day, however, the truant boy may get the early edition of the American at 9:15, the 12 o'clock edition of the News at 10 o'clock; at 1:30 the 3 o'clock News 5 o'clock American; and at 2:30 the 5 o'clock News and night edition of the American. All of which come within school hours.

GAMING.

Gaming is unquestionably a most common vice among newsboys. Selling newspapers does not make the boy gamble, and it can not be said that gambling is peculiar to newsboys, yet here the opportunities seem largest. Where money is ready at hand and more is to be easily had [page 19] the value is seldom recognized. It is very easy for the boy to "chance it" with the hope of greater gain, when at various times during the day and night he is brought into contact with many boys who are likewise inclined. Gambling in the down town district takes various forms.  "Shooting pennies" is the most common, although "craps" takes a large part of the earnings. In this way the income of a whole day may pass through the hands of a number of boys in a few moments.

A Juvenile Court officer, who investigated the case of 60 newsboys, found that 52 out of the 60 did not assist in the support of their families. Another officer says, that "most of the boys under 12 years of age sell papers for spending money, and bring little of it to the house." The money earned and spent in such a way can necessarily have very little value to the boy, and as an educational factor would prove of greater harm than usefulness in determining his subsequent career.

The Racing Form and "Stable-Boys' Racing Tips" in sealed envelopes can be found on most of the news stands, although orders have been given to the police officers to confiscate them wherever found on the corner stands. This stopped the sale for a short period, but at the present time they are much in evidence. The boy becomes familiar in his business with the processes and equipment of gaming, he sees the corner man participating in the great game of chance and sees no reason why he should not do likewise. He learns very readily to play "policy," a game that gives the chance to win very large amounts at a very small outlay. When once the boy has selected the winning numbers, however, the die is cast; after that a large portion of his earnings goes to the game.

The Harlem race track is a Mecca for many of the betting newsboys in the down town district. They learn the betting game on the street. They find the large opportunity on the race course where they can sell their papers, racing forms and programs at a much greater price than elsewhere. They do not stop here, however, but make their pools on the races, and even bet with the bookmakers, if they can find some one to place their bets for them. This is particularly true of the younger element of the Americanized Italians and Jews. They have caught the betting spirit, it is the frequent subject of their conversation and costs them no small part of their earnings. During one day the investigators found from thirty to forty boys selling papers at Harlem, some at the gate, others on the betting floor.

THE SEMI-VAGRANT NEWSBOY.

The semi-vagrant is present in the business of selling newspapers because he finds here the easiest way to earn money to sustain his irregular life. During three weeks preceding the investigation the alley in the rear of the Chicago American was visited no less than seven times, by different persons interested in the investigation, and on each occasion there were at least forty and sometimes seventy-five boys, many of them under fourteen years of age. They are smoking cigarettes, eating, sleeping,[page 20] [image] Race Track Extra [page 21] fighting, or "shooting craps;" towards morning the most of them will be found sleeping on the floor waiting for the morning editions. Some of these vagrants are foreigners, but a large number are American born, runaways from this and other cities, making their headquarters at this place; sure of a welcome on the restaurant floor. There are no class distinctions here, white and black, American and foreigner, share the same lot. The vagrant can live on 15 cents a day if he chooses. A cup of coffee, all the bread he can eat, and a stew, to be had for 5 cents. If he is more fastidious a bed can be secured in the neighborhood of West Madison street for 5 cents, making a total daily expenditure of 20 cents. Even the youngest newsboys earn more than this without any great effort, and many of these semi-vagrants, or "sleep-outs," earn from a dollar to two dollars a day. By selling extras on side streets some of the older boys earn a dollar in a few hours, and yet these same boys were seen on several successive nights sleeping out in the alley.

The question naturally arises, where does the money go to? The answer can be found in the training of the street boy for gambling, and that period of inertia which follows the possession of money when the boy refuses to work as long as he has the means of sustenance. A very small per cent of the earnings, either at the corner stand, or in the street, finds its way to the home or to some useful purpose. In News Alley the earnings change hands many times each day; "easy comes, easy goes," seems to be the power that animates the boy vagrant, and it certainly gives him a chance to learn the most dangerous side of life.

Probably no one familiar with juvenile delinquency can seriously doubt that any child that tires of parental or school restraints can go down town, borrow or beg a "stake," and by joining a "gang" live the exciting and ever degrading life of the streets. The immediate cost of this pernicious license falls most heavily upon the families of the foreign poor. There is no story more tragic in the annals of family life in Chicago than the break between the American boy of foreign parentage and his tenement home. The foreigner's child, even though born abroad, after two years in the public school is to all intents and purposes an American, while his parents remain European peasants. The mother quite probably speaks no English, and the father just enough to understand his Irish foreman. The boy learns to discount his parents' ignorance, and they misunderstand and half fear his strange new world wisdom. The boy, becoming impatient of their restraint, runs away, sleeps out a night or two, maintains himself by selling papers, likes the license and excitement of the street life, and his home knows him no more. He is now easy game for the experienced vagrant or sneak thief.

A typical case, taken from the records of the Chicago Municipal Lodging House, is that of Peter X. He was found about 2 in the morning, on one of the coldest days of last winter, sleeping in News Alley. In the morning at the Municipal Lodging House he claimed that he had no home, was an orphan boy and had come to Chicago from Milwaukee. [page 22] [image] An Italian Girl, 14 Years Old Who Sells Papers Down Town [page 23] Later he was persuaded to tell the truth, which was to the effect that he lived on West Ohio street and was a truant from home. A visit to his home discovered that Peter was the eldest of a family of five, recently emigrated from Italy. It was the old story of the break between new world wisdom and old world restraints. Peter had not been at home for six weeks.

The effect of the license of the street in this case was to take from this pleasant home its most educated and capable member, and to give to the down town "skip outs" a new recruit. So far from adding to the family maintenance he shirked his duty.

THE GIRL.

Girls have long been selling papers in Chicago, so long indeed that the fact seems to have passed unnoticed. The investigators saw 20, and a moderate estimate puts them at three times that number. They are mostly Italian, with a few Germans. At one time an attempt was made to stop the girls by refusing to sell them papers, but they were able to obtain them from stands. Since that time there has been no further effort to prevent their selling.

The little girls makes good sales, they are very persistent and follow a customer until he buys from them. Some earn as much as 50 cents in an afternoon. They do not hesitate to carry their papers into the saloon, in fact they frequent the saloons and are much more welcome there than the boys. The strange incongruity appeals to the frequenters, and it is here they make their most ready sales, but at what a cost it is difficult to determine.

The small boy, the semi-vagrant and the small girl, these three create the problem of the street. A problem that will not solve itself in time, but will grow daily, because the Child Labor Law leaves only one place for the child to work after or during school hours. If we leave the street unprotected we shall have new problems with each passing year.

The conditions shown by the inquiry naturally lead to the presentation of some plan for the regulation of street trading. The following draft of a proposed ordinance seems to us to meet the need of protecting the more helpless or demoralized vendors without interfering with the present legitimate methods of newspaper distribution. The case of the newsboy is, of course, not an isolated problem. Illinois has labored for years to build up a system of legal protection for children. To this end the Juvenile Court Law, the Compulsory Education Law, the Truant School Law, and the Child Labor Law have been secured. The protection of the child street merchant is an essential part of this general effort to which those who have thus far secured legislation for the protection of childhood are logically pledged.

Without the aid of the press it is safe to say that it would be well nigh impossible to secure any of these laws. The very fact that the[page 24] [image] Two Small Girls Down Town at 10 o'clock p.m. [page 25] Chicago system of newspaper selling is far superior to the systems of other great cities should make it easy to obtain the moderate regulations needed here. The committee are confident that although the measure may affect  12 per cent of those who sell papers, this fact will not lessen the support which a public spirited press will give a reasonable ordinance, and the public will have a new assurance that the press is thoroughly disinterested in urging measures for the protection of children.

LEGISLATION NEEDED.

The state legislature of New York has passed a bill applying to the cities of New York and Buffalo, and embodying the identical regulations contained in the proposed ordinance for Chicago. With one single exception the representative papers of New York and Buffalo united in vigorous support of the bill.

Be it Ordained by the City Council of the City of Chicago:

Section 1. No male child under ten, and no girl under sixteen years of age shall sell, or expose, or offer for sale newspapers in any street or public place within the city limits.

Section 2. No male child actually or apparently under sixteen years of age shall sell, or expose, or offer for sale newspapers unless a permit and badge as hereinafter provided shall have been issued to him by the Superintendent of the Board of Education, or by such other officer thereof as may be officially designated by such board for that purpose, on the application of the parent, guardian or other person having the custody of the child desiring such a permit and badge, or in case said child has no parent, guardian or custodian then on the application of his next friend, being an adult. Such permit and badge shall not be issued until the officer issuing the same shall have received, examined, approved and placed on file in his office satisfactory proof that such male child is of the age of ten years or upwards, and a deposit of (25¢) twenty-five cents paid; to be returned upon the surrender of said badge. No permit or badge provided for herein shall be valid for any purpose except during the period in which such proof shall remain on file, nor shall such permit or badge be authority beyond the period fixed therein for its duration. After having received, examined, approved and placed on file such proof, and secured such deposit of (25¢) twenty-five cents, the officer shall issue to the child a permit and badge.

Section 3. Such permit shall state the date and place of birth of the child, the name and address of its parent, guardian, custodian or next friend, as the case may be; and describe the color of the hair and eyes, the height and weight and any distinguishing facial mark of such child, and shall further state that the proof required by the preceding section has been duly examined, approved and filed; and that the child named in [page 26] such permit has appeared before the officer issuing the permit. The badge furnished by the officer issuing the permit shall bear on its face a number corresponding to the number of the permit and the name of the child. Every such permit and every such badge, on its reverse side, shall be signed in the presence of the officer issuing the same by the child in whose name it is issued.

Section 4. The badge provided for herein shall be worn conspicuously at all time by such child while so working; and such permit and badge shall expire on the first Monday in September, next after date of issue.

No child to whom such permit and badge are issued shall transfer the same to any other person, nor be engaged as a newsboy, or shall sell or expose or offer for sale newspapers in any street or public place without having upon his person such badge, and he shall exhibit the same at any time upon demand to any police or truant officer.

Section 5. The parent, guardian, custodian or next friend, as the case may be, of every child to whom such permit and badge shall be issued shall surrender the same to the authority by which such permit and badge were issued at the expiration of the period provided therefor.

Section 6. No child to whom a permit and badge are issued as provided for in the preceding sections, shall sell, expose, or offer for sale any newspapers after nine o'clock in the evening or before five o'clock in the morning.

Section 7. Any child who shall work in any street or any public place as a newsboy, or who shall sell or expose, or offer for sale any newspapers under circumstances forbidden by the provisions of this ordinance, much be arrested and brought before a court or magistrate having jurisdiction to commit a child to an incorporated, charitable reformatory, or other institution, and be dealt with according to law.

Section 8. Any parent or other person who employs a child to sell or expose or offer for sale newspapers, under circumstances forbidden by this ordinance, or who having the care or custody of such child permits him to sell  or expose or offer for sale newspapers under circumstances forbidden by this ordinance shall be punished by a fine of not less than (5) five nor more than (25) twenty-five dollars.

This ordinance shall take effect July 1st, nineteen hundred and seven. [page 27]

NEWSBOYS OF CHICAGO

TABLE 1

AGE AND NATIONALITY

AGE.

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

Over 21

Total

Per Cent

Italian

1

3

8

10

20

28

23

33

21

25

13

8

4

4

6

2

-

2

211

21.1

American

-

2

2

9

12

21

26

36

31

18

13

13

8

6

5

3

-

3

308

30.8

German

-

-

2

10

12

19

18

33

44

22

9

7

1

3

-

-

-

-

180

18

Irish

-

-

-

6

10

14

15

23

16

4

11

8

1

2

-

-

1

2

113

11.3

Negro

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

2

-

1

3

4

11

25

25

6

1

1

79

7.9

Scandinavian

-

-

1

1

5

3

6

14

7

7

8

2

-

2

2

-

-

-

58

5.8

Jewish

-

-

3

1

4

6

4

13

6

6

1

3

-

2

-

-

-

-

49

4.9

Polish

-

-

-

-

4

2

2

13

7

7

3

2

1

-

1

-

-

-

42

4.2

English

-

-

-

-

-

2

-

4

7

1

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

15

1.5

Bohemian

-

-

-

-

-

1

2

-

6

1

3

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

14

1.4

Dutch

-

-

-

-

-

2

2

2

1

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

8

.8

French

-

-

-

-

1

1

-

2

1

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

6

.6

Canadian

-

-

-

-

-

-

4

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

4

.4

Greek

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

1

1

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

4

.4

Scotch

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

2

.2

Arabian

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

2

.2

Austrian

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

1

.1

Danish

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

.1

Lithuanian

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

.1

Roumanian

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

.1

Syrian

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

.1

Totals

1

5

16

37

64

99

103

178

149

95

67

48

28

46

39

11

2

8

1,000

100

 

[page 28]

TABLE 2

PARENTS

AGE.

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

Over 21

Total

Per Cent.

Both living

1

4

13

32

56

84

85

163

115

81

56

34

13

36

18

8

1

3

803

80.3

Father dead

-

-

1

5

10

2

15

8

18

11

4

5

8

4

6

-

-

-

97

9.7

Mother dead

 

-

1

2

-

2

4

3

7

11

3

6

9

6

-

13

3

-

4

74

7.4

Both dead

-

-

-

-

-

9

-

-

5

-

-

1

1

6

2

-

1

1

26

2.6

Totals

1

5

16

37

68

99

103

178

149

95

66

49

28

46

39

11

2

8

1,000

100

 

AVERAGE DAILY EARNINGS

No. of boys

1

5

16

37

68

99

103

178

149

93

66

49

28

46

39

18

2

8

1,000

Total earnings

$0.10

0.76

3.01

7.40

26.13

26.30

32.55

56.87

55.96

52.25

42.37

44.67

18.15

51.30

40.55

18.95

3.50

15.75

496.57

Average earnings

.10

.15

.19

.20

.38

.27

.31

.32

.[38]

.55

.64

.90

.65

1.10

1.04

1.58

1.75

1.97

.50

The earnings are given in dollars and cents.


SCHOOL ATTENDANCE

In school

-

5

13

35

65

92

90

168

129

65

34

26

9

11

9

2

-

-

753

Out of school

1

-

3

2

3

7

13

10

20

30

32

23

19

35

30

9

2

8

247

Totals

1

5

16

37

68

99

103

178

149

95

66

49

28

46

39

11

2

8

1,000

 

WORKING HOURS

Aggregate hours

4

19

63

128

219

394

380

695

617

517

315

[303?]

211

319

284

[77]

16

71

4,553

No. of boys

1

5

16

37

68

99

103

178

149

93

66

49

28

46

39

11

2

8

1,000

Average hours

4

4

4

3

4

4

4

5

5

6

8

7

7

8

9

 

 

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