In the “old days” the most common job for kids was selling newspapers. They were called “newsies.” This is how it worked. Newsies had to buy their own newspapers. In 1899, (the good old days?) it cost fifty cents to buy 100 papers. Each paper sold for one cent. Newsies waited outside newspaper offices to get their papers “hot off the press.” In order to determine how many papers to buy, newsies considered headlines, time of day, day of the week, season of the year, weather conditions and sports scores. Newsies calculated carefully because leftover newspapers were refundable.

In the 1880’s and 90’s the newspaper industry boomed. William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were two of the wealthiest publishers. But by 1899 their huge profits were tapering off. They wanted to recover their losses and rather than charge the customers more they decided to charge the newsies by raising the cost of papers from 50 cents to 60 cents per hundred. When the newsies demanded that Hearst and Pulitzer roll back the price the publishers refused. The new-sies went on strike. Hearst and Pulitzer hired scabs at $2.00 a day to sell their papers. When the newsies refused to back down the publishers advertised for men to sell the papers. Seven hundred men showed up to work as scabs. Despite the scabs, circulation of the Hearst and Pulitzer papers was on the decline. The publishers finally struck a compromise with the newsies. The wholesale price of the papers would remain at 60 cents for one hundred papers, but they agreed to refund the cost of all unsold papers.

1899 is over 100 years ago, but the issues are the same.


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