What were some of the historical newsboy names that were featured in Newsies?There's probably more, but these are the ones I've found written records of. If an explanation for a nickname is given, take it as gospel, since it came directly from the boy himself or from his fellow newsboys. Boys marked with a * were known to be at the DSLH (question suggested by Klips) in 1891. An unmarked name doesn't mean he wasn't; it just means I have no proof.
"Snipe-Shooter" (because he likes snipe-shooting (picking cigar stubs out of the gutter and smoking them)) *
"Dutchy" (because he's German (not Dutch!)) *
"Snoddy" (no-one knows what this means, not even his fellow newsboys) *
"Pie-Eater" ("a boy very fond of pie") *
"Jake the Oyster" (because he's tender-hearted) *
"Kid Blink" (according to the reporter, an undersized boy with one blind eye)
"Racetrack" Higgins (according to the New York Times, he was from Brooklyn)
"The Snitcher" (because he tattles) *
I haven't found a "Swifty the Rake" yet, but there was a "Kelly the Rake" * . A "rake" was, as newsboys described it, someone who'd steal anything that wasn't nailed down. I have a theory, given that Jack wound up in the Refuge the first time for stealing, that "Jack Kelly" may be a tip of the hat to this.
[Later] Well, possibly that's not the case. A "Jack" Sullivan is listed as one of the leaders of the strike, which seems a more likely source for the character's name.
How about some other historical names?Many newsboys did use normal-sounding names, at least when they were reported about in the papers, but nicknames were very common.
Here's a sampling of the nicknames of NYC newsboys between 1893-1906:
"Scotty" Lavelle aka "the King of Chinatown," "Jim Gaiety," "Young Monix," "Barney Peanuts," "Morris," "Crazy" Arborn (or Arburn), "Seabutch," "Blind Diamond," "Nick" Myers, "Bob Indian," "Jimmy the Goat," "Army" (because he had only one arm); "Yellow" Simon Levy, "Skinny" (because he was very thin), "Whitey" (light hair and complexion), "Slobbery Jack" (a messy eater), "Yaller" ("an Italian boy of soft brown complexion"), "King of Crapshooters" (fond of gambling games), "King of Bums," "Hoppy" ("a little lame boy"), "Smoke" ("a colored boy"), "Sheeney," "Bag of Bones," "One Lung Pete," "Curley the Coon," "Peter the Guinea," "Bat" Leddin, "Pug-Nosed Pete," Kid Betts, Lize Adams (a boy), Sunny Jim, Kid Biscuit, Canal Boat Joe, Silver Jimmy.