No photo of NYC newsboys in the 1900s is complete without a mention of the Orphan Trains that left NYC in the 1900s....
Nearly everyone has seen a movie or television show where a boy is standing on a street corner waving a newspaper and yelling, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it." While that scene was repeated on many street corners around the country, it is a severely romanticized version of the life of the newsboys. As the cities on the eastern seaboard of the United States filled with immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most of them were packed into crowded tenements. Government social services were almost nonexistent, leading to large numbers of children living on the streets. Many were orphans, but a lot of them were simply abandoned to their fates. A few ran away from a home life that was brutal, largely due to the influence of alcohol. Most of the boys and girls hawking papers were street children that struggled to survive by selling papers and doing whatever else they could to earn money and life's necessities.
This book sets the background for this group and describes the social safety net that arose through the efforts of many groups of people. The title is derived from the program where groups of the children were collected and then shipped by train to the Midwestern United States where farm families eager to have an extra child took them into their homes. It is often a factual recapitulation of the organizations and people that worked so tirelessly to make something for these poor children, some of which had been abandoned as babies.
A section is devoted to giving short histories of a few of the children that made the trek westward and there are a number of reprints of newspaper articles of the time that describe the plight of the children and what was being done to aid them. Several shelters were formed by organizations that took in the children and gave them a place to stay and something to eat. Not all the shelters were free; some charged a daily fee of 10 cents a day that included room and board. Most of the street children were able to earn that amount although some were forced to sleep in any place that would give them some shelter.
The children also formed a mutual support group, raising collections when one died and they even went on strike against the mighty newspaper companies when they felt that they were not being treated fairly. Life was hard for nearly everyone back then, but none had it harder than the street children of the major cities. This is not a novel or a detailed description of the lives of these children; it bounces around without a logical consistency. Yet it tells a coherent story of how good people did a lot to help a large number of societies most vulnerable members, the abandoned children of recent immigrants.
For better or worse, the change on Nostrand is going to make the change on Franklin look minor.