Silent Partners 1800s Newspaper Hawkers

My photo is of an 1892 reproduction published by Heininger, Unger & Co. for Benjamin J. Falk, photographer, who was active in New York City during the late ...
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My photo is of an 1892 reproduction published by Heininger, Unger & Co. for Benjamin J. Falk, photographer, who was active in New York City during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His portrait studio was at Twenty-Third Street and Broadway, on the site where the Flatiron Building stands today. After he left Twenty-Third Street (probably around 1902, when the Flatiron Building was completed) Falk had an establishment at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Falk was born in 1853, and graduated City College of the City University of New York in 1872. He was described at his death in 1925 as "one of the leading New York photographers" (obituary, New York Times, March 21, 1925, p. 13).
In 19th-century New York, newsboys (there were few newsgirls) were numerous: between the 1850s and 1860s, there were about 500 newsboys in New York and Philadelphia. This number grew immensely over the latter part of the century as the number of daily publications and Sunday specials quadrupled. Yes, quadrupled. It's hard to imagine in today's technologically-inclined world, but there was a time when news was spread by newspapers. Newsrooms scrambled to meet demand so they issued multiple daily editions to capture as much news and as many readers as they could. It was an around-the-clock business, drawing labor from a growing population of immigrants. By the beginning of the 20th-century, there were more than 5000 newspaper hawkers in New York, Boston, and Chicago.
Newsboys could be as young as six years old. While many lived at home with their parents, it was a somewhat fragile arrangement: the birth of a new baby, job loss, and domestic violence could easily disrupt home life, requiring an additional or new source of income. Thousands of children lived and worked on the streets in New York City during this period, but times were changing and they were gaining visibility they didn't have before. Streetlights changed New York. They still make a difference today, too. Think about it: Areas where there are lights are more attractive. They tend to be more populated, and businesses stay open later to cater to the crowds. Streetlights signal security making it easier to stay out at night. These hubs would have been great places to sell papers too! And the newsboys knew it. As streetlights extended the times that New Yorkers could enjoy their spaces, the newspaper industry followed, and they were led by their fearless salesmen. Saturday nights being their busiest nights; the opportunity to boost sales with the early Sunday edition wasn't something serious newsboys could pass on.
So streetlights allowed newsboys to occupy spaces that they might not have access to, but these spaces were regarded as adult spaces, and middle class families led the cry for change. Regulation grew out of campaigns to shield children from premature exposure to adult knowledge. But these efforts cast newsboys as poor and desperate; in truth, they were actually shrewd businessmen. They haggled for their allotment from their newspapers. And some older boys ran operations where they took large orders of papers and then hired younger boys to help with distribution.
The opportunity for newspaper hawkers came from an economical shift. As factories gained ground, options for apprenticeships dwindled and factories and sweatshops replaced workshops and crafting households. Selling newspapers offered an alternative employment option. Not too much has changed in that regard. AM New York and the Metro—both free daily newspapers in New York City—hire people to help with distribution. Charged with handing out up to 1200 free newspapers, particularly to rushing commuters, today's hawkers start at 4 am or 5 am and work through about 10 am. But it's work for people who might not be able to otherwise find work, and there's something to be said for being handed the news in the morning. As more outlets turn to digital channels, there's a heavy push of marketing at work here. Both of these outlets are vying for your attention, and it falls to the hawkers to convince you that they have news worth reading.
Street hawkers have always provided a valuable service by providing goods where you need them. They've been integral developing the expectation of convenience in metropolitan areas, and in a city that prides itself on being a capital of convenience, that's no small legacy.

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5 Comments | Report
ricklecompte Platinum
ricklecompte January 24, 2016
What a complete description. Thanks
1Ernesto January 24, 2016
Thanks for your compliment on the description, it is my gift to those who see something in my gallery and wish to know more. I most often learn so much from such research.
valeriemurchie-stolpe February 06, 2016
1Ernesto March 23, 2016
It does have as you say "cute" written all over it, and yet speaks to the many who even so very young have only themeselves to cling to. How wonderful we in this country make sure this does not happen to out little ones, at least not to this extent of poverty ....
davidbidmead March 30, 2016
This Masterpiece is inspired ! Great work !!
1Ernesto March 30, 2016
How wonderful you like this one, as it does look similar to some of the types of photos in your gallery.
JDLifeshots June 02, 2016
Great job! Voted Visual Poetry.
JDLifeshots June 11, 2016
Voted Abandoned!
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