Monday, August 22, 2016

Newspaper Boys Strike

Last night, I saw the touring production of Newsies, based on the strike initiated by newsboys in 1899 in New York.  Even though it was a fine production with acrobatic dancing, and wonderful music and staging,  the play trivializes history.  The play pictures the newsboys as strapping young men, while in reality, the real "newsies" were children.  Many were orphans.

The boys decided to strike when Joseph Pulitzer started charging  them 60 cents per bundle instead of 50 cents.  The increase was a sheer desire to capitalize on increasing the sale of newspapers during the Spanish American War (not, as depicted in the play, to make up for lost circulation due to the war's conclusion).

The real newsies were led by a boy nicknamed "Blink," because he was blind in one eye.  In the Disney version, the leader is sighted.  The strike ended when the newsies compromised with Pulitzer, setting the staging for future labor negotions.

In the play, Putlizer has a daughter Katherine, a reporter who falls in love with the newsies' leader.  Pulitzer did indeed have a daughter name Katherine, but she wasn't a reporter, and certainly did not fall for a newsboy.

The real story of the newsies would have made for a much more compelling, captivating play.  But what can you expect from Disney, which always puts its own spin on the real story.

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