What went on during the day in the Duane Street Lodging House, after the boys had gone to work?

The Industrial School was in session: different classes were taught in the building during the day. A newspaper article for which I have no date and source, but which likely was written in the 1890's, describes 142 "tiny" boys and girls attending classes, aged three to fourteen. "The doors are open to all who, for any reason, do not attend the regular city schools. Truants; children whose conduct is so bad that they are not permitted to attend other schools; children who can only attend half days or only two or three days in the week; children who must bring 'baby' or remain at home to take care of it; children who have so little clothing that they are hardly covered and must be cleansed and fed before entering the school room—-all are welcome."

An 1892 article mentions 250 people, 175 of whom were children attending school, in the building around 1 p.m. that day. At 9:30 a.m. on one day in 1900, there were about 200 students in the building.

Also, some of the lodging boys had to help with the cleaning and sweeping-up during the day.

What about schooling for the boys who had to work in the daytime?

The DSLH held night classes from 7:30 p.m to 9 p.m.

The night school had an average of 150 boys attending. One evening a week was spent on arithmetic; another evening was spent on history. Reading, spelling, writing, and geography were also covered.

A typical day's census.

On a typical day, the following people were likely to be found at the DSLH:

Other boys needing shelter, such as bootblacks*
Superintendent's family**
Industrial School Principal
Teachers (day school and night school)
Industrial School students (daytime only)
Gymnasium instructor

During special events, there would also be visitors, special guests, and reporters. For the big holiday dinners, police were sometimes asked to help keep order inside the DSLH, and the boys were told they could invite any friends they wanted to join in on the feast (provided they were also boys). The CAS often held board meetings at the DSLH, and would periodically send inspectors to make sure the building was up to health and safety standards.

* Bootblacks were shoe-shine boys. It was not uncommon for a boy to be both newsie and bootblack, depending on the season and his financial needs. By 1910, however, apparently this double-duty was no longer common practice, and there had not been bootblacks at the DSLH for several years.

** Aside from the lodging boys, these people also lived at the DSLH. The June 11, 1900 official census lists a cook, a servant, a house-keeper, and an engineer. The cook, servant, and house-keeper were all women.

Nationalities of lodgers.

A boy could not be turned away from the DSLH on the basis of his nationality.

As Heig described it, "I’ve had as many as thirty-nine different nationalities in this lodging house in one night, including Chinese, negroes, Arabs and Egyptians." (The Evening Telegram, June 27, 1910)

According to the official federal census on June 11, 1900, the 81 boys spending the night were born in seven different countries. After the US, the second-most common country of origin was Russia.

Note: summer, due to the mild weather, was traditionally a time of low attendance at the lodging houses; 81 is less than half the building's standard holding capacity of 260. In addition, many of the boys on the census listed their occupation as something other than "newsboy," although whether this is typical of the DSLH's year-round complement of lodgers or, again, a consequence of the season is unclear. As such, this sample is probably not a true cross-section of the homeless newsboy population of Manhattan, but it does give us a useful summer picture of the DSLH.

Many thanks to Sampler for compiling the following numbers and graphs from the original hand-written census data. Illegible entries in the census are due to what appears to be either poor preservation or reproduction of the documents.

Birthplace of lodger:

Birthplace of lodger's father:

Birthplace of lodger's mother:

What were meals like?

The dining-hall could seat 165 to nearly 200 boys.

Dinner was six cents and was served at 7 p.m., signaled by the ringing of a bell.

The weekly dinner menu, as reported in 1895, consisted of roast beef on Sundays, beef stew on Tuesdays, corned beef and cabbage (reported in 1892 to be the second-favorite dish) on Wednesdays, and fish balls on Fridays. Pork and beans was the most popular dish, and as such was served Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Tea and bread and butter were available at every dinner.

Pork and beans nights also included soup (possibly on other nights as well). A boy was allowed as many helpings of dinner as he wanted.

It's implied in Newsies that there's no breakfast at the DSLH, but in fact there was. It was another six cents, with bread and butter, oatmeal, rolls, and coffee.

Lunch was not served to the boys. Many would work through lunch, as the the afternoon editions came out during that time, making the early afternoon the busiest part of the day.

Did the DSLH supply clothes to the boys?

They would, if a boy needed them when he came to the LH. (I am not sure if he was required to pay for them, whether on the spot or deferred.) The CAS regularly took out newspaper ads to encourage readers to donate old items of clothing, especially winter clothing, which could then be cleaned/mended (sometimes by the boys themselves) and passed on to the boys. (For an example of an ad taken out by the Brooklyn CAS, see "No. 61: Images.")

A boy could buy these donated cast-offs from the DSLH. Mrs. Heig, the Superintendent's wife, was known for her kindness and taught the boys how to darn their own stockings and launder and mend their own clothes. She sold them shoes at a great discount and without requiring immediate payment, if they could not afford it. If a boy could not pay for his "new" clothes in cash, he could work in exchange for them.

Brand-new clothes were frequently given out to the boys at Christmas, usually donated by some generous individual or company.

How old were the boys at the DLSH?

I've seen mentions of boys as young as 6 and as old as 19, although supposedly the rule was one had to be under 18 to stay at the DSLH.

The official 1900 census, taken on June 11, shows boys ranging in age from 11 to 19 lodging at the DSLH.

What entertainment could you find at the DSLH?

The DSLH provided books, newspapers and games. There was also the gymnasium on the top floor.

From time to time the Children's Aid Society and/or the DSLH would arrange for special events at the DSLH. These included a Garden Show (for all the children of the CAS's schools, not just the newsboys), a speech made by a popular humorist, a two-hour amateur magic show, and a night of awarding prizes to the newsboys who had done best in their classes. In 1900, forty of them were treated to Buffalo Bill's "Wild West" Show, courtesy of a fund set up by some brokers.

There would often be singing at the end of evening events at the DSLH, such as at special dinners (hosted by some wealthy sponsor), or at the aforementioned prize-awarding night.

In addition, the boys set up their own Duane Social and Athletic Club in 1892, the aim of which was to arrange for at least one big entertainment a year. The Club had its own set of rules: a boy had to be voted in (reportedly more difficult for the younger boys), and there was a small weekly membership fee. The first year they held a musical concert; the second year had songs, recitations, and a speech. I am not sure how long the Club lasted.

Of course, the boys had their own...less official...forms of entertainment on their own time. There are pictures of them playing dominoes and craps in the DSLH.

Newsboys loved the stage theater; the nearby Windsor Theatre (which was at 45 and 47 Bowery, near Canal) was a favorite. The Windsor's evening performances were over by 11 p.m., which gave the boys time to return before the midnight curfew (provided they had obtained a pass earlier).

A word about craps.

Gambling had always been a vice of newsboys, taking a variety of forms such as pitching pennies or playing policy (an illegal lottery game), but in the 1890's THE preferred game of chance amongst them was craps. A lengthy article in a Dec. 1900 issue of New York Evening Post (reprinted in Nebraska State Journal, Dec. 16, 1900) stated that "with them gambling and 'crap-shooting' are almost synonymous." In Darkness and Daylight, Campbell noted that the boys defined a "crapshooter" as a boy fond of gambling. Above all, to newsboys, shooting craps was a mark of their toughness.

It was, however, illegal. Being caught shooting craps in the street by police could mean a stern lecture or even an overnight stay in jail; repeated offenses meant fines or more jail time. Getting caught shooting craps at the DSLH was grounds for expulsion. In fact, confiscated dice were kept in a box in a cabinet in the Superintendent's office, with a separate compartment for loaded dice.

Adding to the risk were the "professionals," older boys or young men who were not newsboys themselves but who preyed upon the newsboy's well-known love of craps, and would station themselves near places newsboys were likely to be. It was these professionals, conmen, who frequently employed the loaded dice. A newsboy on a losing streak, even if he knew he was being cheated, would often still continue to play, as it was considered a sign of weakness to quit.

The Lodging House staff tried to counteract the allure of gambling through providing other entertainments, and setting up the savings bank.

The savings-bank.

In order to encourage good savings habits and provide an incentive to not engage in reckless gambling/spending, the savings bank was set up at the DSLH. It took the form of a table located near the door of the third-floor school-room, in front of the registration desk. Underneath the surface of this table were numerous small compartments for storing money. A boy deposited his cash in the table, which was then locked for a specified amount of time. At the end of that period, the boy could retrieve his money, with a generous interest. In 1896 the Journal reported that more than forty boys currently had deposits in the bank.

In 1895, the interest rate was 6%...not a bad deal at all compared to interest rates today! In fact, it was about 18 times higher than what a typical savings account would offer at the time.

Use of the bank was voluntary. On occasion, a boy too caught up in the spell of crap-shooting would opt to take his money out early, forfeiting the interest.

What was available in the gymnasium?

The gymnasium was well-stocked with a variety of equipment. These included dumbbells, shoulder and chest machines, roller skates, boxing gloves and a punching bag, and even a trapeze.

In 1901, 40 boys from the Simpson Episcopal Methodist Church, together with their adult supervisor, paid a visit to the DSLH. In the gym were about 75 lodging boys, and a game of "basket ball" [sic] between visitors and lodgers was started. The newsboys won, 26-4.

On Saturday evenings, the boys could go to the gymnasium to learn boxing, club-swinging, and other activities.


Sunday was a special day for a newsboy, as it was the one day (not counting major holidays such as Christmas) that the newspapers would only print a morning edition. Thus, a boy selling papers full-time would have sort of a half-holiday after the morning's work was done.

Partly to keep the boys from engaging in less-reputable pursuits--going to dance halls, the theatre, drinking establishments, etc.--during their "time off," and partly to instill in them decent values, the DSLH held meetings for the boys every Sunday evening. Respected visitors, including Teddy Roosevelt and his father, were often there to lead the proceedings. The singing of hymns was also a key aspect of these meetings. Since Sunday meetings and bedtime prayers at the CAS's Farm School at Kensico were non-sectarian, it seems reasonable to conclude that Sunday meetings at the DSLH would have been the same.

A boy could not be denied admission to the LH based on his religion.

As a side note, Charles L. Brace himself was a Protestant minister; the two (unrelated, I believe, despite the name) St. Vincent's lodging houses (Manhattan and Brooklyn) were strongly Catholic. There was considerable tension between the CAS and the Catholic institutions regarding the "right" way to care for homeless children.

The LH's library, which contained 400 books, was also available to the boys on Sunday afternoons and evenings.

Singing school.

A signing school for the boys was held at the DSLH on Friday evenings.

Medical care.

Medical care was provided free at the DSLH. (Although I seem to recall a case in which the boys took up a collection amongst themselves to pay for a sick boy's hospital care, but I need to locate the specific article again.) Mrs. Heig tended to sick lodgers herself.

If a boy were seriously ill or injured, he would most likely have been sent to the Hudson Street Hospital.

An exterior photo of the DSLH in 1933 shows a sign that lists "Medical and Dental Clinic" amongst the services provided at the DSLH, although I do not know if this was true at the turn of the century.