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Interpreting the Evidence

Paperboy, New York City, 1936

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York City
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Paperboy, New York City, 1936 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A paperboy selling newspapers in New York City, 1936.

Historical Context
The use of newspaper boys to sell papers on city street corners began in the 1830s.  One of the founders of The New York Morning Post, Horace David Shepard, saw boys selling spice cakes for a penny on the New York streets.  When he started his newspaper with Horace Greeley, he remembered seeing the boys and thought it would be a good way to sell their newspaper, which sold for two cents a copy.  The newspaper boys, or hawkers as they were sometimes called, stood on the street corners and would cry, “Extra!” to get a buyer’s attention.  They would keep their supply of newspapers nearby on the sidewalk.  Most newspaper boys were either homeless or from poor immigrant families.  They were as young as six years old or as old as fourteen or fifteen.   Newspaper boys worked hard from early morning until late evening, and many didn’t attend school. 
Essential Question
How does technology influence the way people communicate?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain how the culture and economy influenced this form of communication.
Historical Challenges
Research the time period in which this photograph was taken. What was the economy like? Why would this job be important to the boy?
How old did a child have to be to have a job in New York City in 1936? How old do you have to be to have a job where you live today?
Research Father John Drumgoole. What actions did he take to help newsboys?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: A newsboy in 1898 buys a bundle of 100 newspapers from the newspaper publisher for 60 cents and sells the newspapers for a penny apiece. How many papers does the boy have to sell in a day to make a profit of 15 cents?
English Language Arts: Write a story describing a day in the life of a newsboy.