This Day in History

July 20, 1899: Newsboys Strike

Time Periods: Industrial Revolution: 1877 - 1899
Themes: Labor

Ain’t that ten cents worth as much to us as it is to Hearst and Pulitzer who are millionaires? Well, I guess it is. If they can’t spare it, how can we?…I’m trying to figure out how ten cents on a hundred papers can mean more to a millionaire than it does to newsboys, an’ I can’t see it. –Kid Blink, 1899


Roland, 11-years old, 1924, Newark. By Lewis Wickes Hine. Source: Library of Congress

The Newsboys Strike of 1899 began on July 20 in New York City. The “newsies” who hocked newspapers for the New York Journal and the New York World went on strike, demanding that the wholesale price increase, from 50 cents per one hundreds newspapers to 60 cents per one hundred newspapers, be rolled back. The boys organized under charismatic child leaders, meeting with the paper owners, holding 5,000 person planning meetings, and fending off the adult men hired as scabs.

Children selling papers, 1910, Wilmington. By Lewis W. Hine. Source: Library of Congress

Although the leaders of the strike, including Louis “Kid Blink” Ballatt and several other older salesboys, broke the strike after they were speculated to have been paid off by the owners of the Journal and the World, the two week strike was eventually successful after reducing paper sales by two thirds.

In the end, wholesale price remained at 60 cents, however the newspaper owners agreed to begin refunding boys for unsold papers.

Learn more about the strike from Exploited Children Organize, Defeat Newspaper Titans at the American Postal Workers Union (AFL-CIO) website. Also see the resources below for teaching about labor history.