“Extra! Extra! Read All About It!” was a common cry from boys and girls peddling newspapers on city corners all across America. Learn about the newsboys who filled the streets of Salt Lake City.
Child labor played a big role in Utah’s turn of the century economy. With many urban families in poverty, sometimes with both parents born outside the U.S., children often became important breadwinners. They worked as office boys, errand boys, and newsboys.
Salt Lake City had its own force of newsboys – some as young as six years old – who were up at 5:00am to sell newspapers before school. Many earned as much as their fathers did at railroad or factory jobs. It was their profession. And many wanted the professional recognition and protection that came with a union.
The Newsboy Union No. 1 of Salt Lake City was formed in 1893 following a dispute with the Salt Lake Telegram. The Telegram sold for three cents a paper, which forced newsboys to carry pockets full of heavy pennies to make change for their customers. By boycotting the Telegram, the newsboys succeeded in getting the price of the paper raised to a nickel.
In 1902, members marched through downtown Salt Lake City in the Labor Day Parade, along with their canine mascot, who wore a sign that read, “a yellow dog is better than a scab.” A couple years later, they received a visit from the renowned “Noodles” Fagan. “Noodles” was the president of the Chicago Newsboys Association and the New York Newsboy Union and traveled the country advising newsboys in their efforts to sell and organize.
“Noodles” eventually traded in his newsboy cap for a vaudeville cape, in a move that heralded the decline of newsboy unions. By the early twentieth century, social reformers began to focus on children’s working conditions. Congress passed legislation that discouraged child labor and promoted compulsory education. Some of the Salt Lake newsboys agitated to keep their jobs, but, by 1920, American attitudes toward child labor had shifted. Children filled classrooms instead of city streets.
Image: Salt Lake newsboys welcome Noodles Fagan to Salt Lake City, 18 May 1910, Shipler Commercial Photographers Collection #10715. Courtesy Utah State Historical Society.
See Martha S. Bradley, “Protect the Children: Child Labor in Utah, 1880-1920,”Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 1, Winter 1991; "Salt Lake City's First Newsgirl," Salt Lake Telegram, August 19, 1902; "Parade in Detail," Deseret Evening News, September 9, 1902; "Noodles is Here," Salt Lake Telegram, April 2, 1904; “Newsboys Claimed Their Street Corners in Downtown SLC,” History Blazer, March 1996; "Newsboys at Saltair," Deseret Evening News, September 5, 1901.