Crying the News: A History of America’s Newsboys
(Oxford University Press, 2019) looks at the legion of children and teenagers who sold newspapers on city streets, moving trains, and even Civil War battlefields in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Author Vincent DiGirolamo
, a history professor at Baruch College, is featured in this New Books Network/Gotham Center for New York City History
podcast interview with Beth Harpaz, editor of the City University of New York website SUM
A major theme of the book is the way in which the newspaper industry successfully fought efforts to ban newsboys as child labor. Instead, newspapers promoted newsboys as grand examples of the American dream, overcoming poverty through hard work on the road to success. Indeed, many famous Americans got their start as newsboys, from Thomas Edison to Walt Disney. But that may have been more an indication of the job’s ubiquity rather than its efficacy: "It was one of the most common, if not the most common, childhood occupation," DiGirolamo says on the podcast, adding: “There’s a thin line between opportunity and exploitation.”
Beth Harpaz is the editor for the CUNY website SUM, which showcases books and research from the CUNY community.