This Day in History (4-Sep-1833) – Ten-year-old Barney Flaherty was the first newspaper boy in New York

The Museum of the City of New York released the photo in 2012; from their extensive archives, showing a former fixture of New York City life, which got its start on this date in 1833 with an unsung Irish American media pioneer.  The photo’s caption read: “Today in 1833 a 10 year old boy named Barney Flaherty became the first newsboy after responding to an ad in the New York Sun. Newsboys became a prominent fixture in NYC life well into the 20th century. This fellow below was photographed ca. 1890 by Jacob Riis.” The ad in the newspaper read -“To the Unemployed a number of steady men can find employment by vending this paper.” The only job requirement, was that he had to show that he could throw a newspaper into the bushes.

Barney Flaherty was most likely an entrepreneur as well, because newsboys were not newspaper employees but instead free agents who bought their papers at a discount and were unable to return unsold copies. It made for a very rugged life and a sole means of support for many thousands of homeless. Barney couldn’t have realized it at the time, but he paved the way for thousands of newsboys after him in the 19th century.It was a gritty, unglamourous way to make a living: “The majority of these boys live at home, but many of them are wanderers in the streets, selling papers at times, and begging at others,” writes James McCabe in 1873’s  Lights and Shadows of New York Life.

New York City’s newsboys mounted several strikes; the Newsboys Strike of 1899 forced a change in the way leading papers compensated their streetwise sales agents.

The day is marked as ‘Newspaper Carrier Day’. Now, few kids deliver papers anymore except in small towns. But the “Carrier Day” tradition lives. This job is now largely held by adults.



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