historical-fiction Each Friday as an alternative way of posting about a historical event that occurred on this day in history, I will weave the event into a fictional story while still providing all the necessary facts.



I am a day late with the subject of my story today.  On September 4, 1933, Barney Flaherty became the first newsboy.

Photo by Jacob Riis ca. 1890

This photograph is not Barney Flaherty. It was photographed ca. 1890 by Jacob Riis.

Mr. Day’s secretary, Jonathan Smith looked down at the small boy standing before him.  The boy wore tattered closing and his face showed the grime of the New York streets.

“What do you want boy?  Mr. Benjamin Day is a busy man.  He has the New York Sun to publish,” said Jonathan Smith.

McGraw Dominick 881085 Figure 4-5

With a voice from his native Cork, Ireland, the boy said, “I’ve come about the advertisement.  My name is Barney Flaherty and I want to be a newsboy.”

“Oh yes.  I forgot about that advertisement.  Wait here.”  Mr. Smith disappeared through a door.

Barney looked around the office and turned when he heard a commotion out in the hall.  A group of his pals from the streets were filing in.  They all wanted to be newsboys too.


When Mr. Smith returned, he was shocked and not happy to see that more boys had come in.  He pointed at Barney and said, “You are to go in to see Mr. Day.  Be respectful as this is a respectable place of business.”

Barney nodded and went through the door.

Mr. Smith addressed the rest of the boys, “The rest of you settle down.  Form a line  and I’ll take your names.”

Benjamin H. Day

Benjamin H. Day

Inside the inner office, Barney saw a man dress in a dark suit.  He was sitting behind and large mahogany desk.  Not knowing what to expect, Barney approached the desk timidly.

“Come closer I want to see  you.  I’m Benjamin Day and this here is my newspaper, the New York Sun,” said Mr. Day.

Barney stopped in front of the desk.

“What is your name?”

“Barney Flaherty, sir”

“Mr. Smith says that you came to become a newsboy.”

“Yes sir.  I saw the advertisement in the newspaper.”

“You can read?”

“Yes sir a little.  Enough to get by.”

“Do you think you can sell my papers?  Here is how it’s going to work.  I will sell you the newspapers at a discount and when you sell them for a penny each, you will keep the profits.  The more you sell, the more you will make.”

“I can do that sir.  I just need to be given a chance.”

“Tell you what I’m going to do.  We need to see how you will do.  I’ll start you out with 100 papers.  We’ll try that for a while and if you show that you can sell, we’ll let you have more.”

“Will people buy a newspaper every day sir.”

“They will my paper.   The object of this paper is to lay before the public, at a price within the means of every one, all the news of the day, and at the same time offer an advantageous medium for advertisements.   I print that motto at the top of every paper.”

“I’ll do my best, Mr. Day”

“Welcome aboard, Barney.

Newsboys in 1908

Newsboys in 1908


Newsboys.  Year unknown.

Newsboys. Year unknown.



Newsboys, 1899 around the time of strike made famous by Disney

Newsboys, 1899 around the time of strike made famous by Disney



Barney Flaherty later went on to be known as Barney Williams, Irish comedian, hero of "The Emerald Ring," and "The Connie Soo-gah.

Barney Flaherty later went on to be known as Barney Williams, Irish comedian, hero of “The Emerald Ring,” and “The Connie Soo-gah.






2 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    This was a great story that I really enjoyed! I loved learning a little bit more about the news boy and loved the clip from the musical too:)