New York City in the Nineteenth Century

Edward Rohs and Judith Estrine

in Raised by the Church

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780823240227
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823240265 | DOI:
New York City in the Nineteenth Century

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In the wake of war, famine, and an influx of impoverished immigrants, in the early 1800s an illiterate army of vagrant children coalesced in New York City. Seldom numbering fewer than ten thousand in any year they were known as “Street Arabs”. Some became newsboys—”newsies”—a prominent part of the urban landscape and victims of some of the worst child labor laws in the country. Very young boys (and occasionally girls) hawked papers for a penny and suffered homelessness, harassment, muggings, long hours, and uncertain weather. In 1899 they struck several NYC newspapers and won a significant, if symbolic, victory. The chapter also describes the indentured child movement. Indentured minors were legally bound to farmers, tradesmen, and artisans until they were legally emancipated at 18; the “orphan trains” that shipped thousands of urban children to rural locations in the Midwest; and the growth of public orphanages, with those being built in New York City acting as the template for institutions built around the country.

Keywords: Street Arabs; newsies; child labour laws; newsboy strike; Indentured Child Movement; orphan trains; public orphanages; New York City orphanages

Chapter.  2501 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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