Many children living in cities in the 1800s sold newspapers and shined shoes; they were called “newsies” and “shiners.” The term “newsboy”—they were almost exclusively boys—was most frequently used, but “newsie” began appearing frequently in newspaper headlines in the 1880s.
“Pretty Good for a Newsy” was cited in The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA) in 1861. “‘Newsies’ and ‘shiners’” was cited in an 1884 newspaper.
Newsies is a 1992 Disney movie musical (later adapted to the stage) that tells the story of New York City’s newsboys’ strike of 1899.
Newsies (released as The News Boys in the United Kingdom) is a 1992 American musical drama film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega in his film directing debut. It is loosely based on the New York City Newsboys Strike of 1899 and features twelve original songs from composers Alan Menken and J.A.C. Redford. It stars Christian Bale, David Moscow, Bill Pullman, Robert Duvall and Ann-Margret. The film was an initial box office flop and received negative reviews at the time of its release, but later gained a cult following on home video. It was later adapted into a successful stage adaptation on Broadway that won two Tony Awards.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
Chiefly U.S. A newspaper seller, a newsboy.
1875 North Alabamian (Tuscaloosa, Alabama) 1 July 3/2 A newsboy..was cruelly beating a dog which had jumped on the train, when its owner suddenly appeared at the car door, knocked ‘newsy’ off and commenced to pay him in his own coin.
1916 C. Sandburg Chicago Poems 42 The newsies are pitching pennies.
1953 S. J. Baker Austral. Speaks iv. 105 Newsie, a paper seller.
8 April 1861, The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), pg. 1, col. 5:
PRETTY GOOD FOR A NEWSY.—In one of the funny pieces selected by Mr. Owens for his benefit, on Saturday evening, he plays the part of a roving young gentleman, who had been through a good many of the mutations of life. In telling his story, he says he commenced as a newsboy, and by way of illustration, gave a very good imitation of that useful, though eccentric craft.
18 August 1882, Truth (New York, NY), pg. 1, col. 4:
STREET ARABS AT LARGE.
J. H. STARIN’S ANNUAL BOOTBLACKS AND NEWSBOYS’ EXCURSION.
This, as with other boxes, had been arranged so as to form a dollie through which the “newsies” passed to get their rations and to embark.
2 January 1884, Elkhart (IN) Daily Review, pg. 1, col. 5:
Pittsburg Newsboys in Luck
PITTTSBURG, Pa., Jan. 2.—Six hundred and twenty-five newsboys and bootblacks of the city were entertained at a sumptuous dinner in the Allegheny Colliseum building. This was the twenty-fifth consecutive annual dinner provided by some of the charitably disposed citizens of the city, William N. Riddle, president of the Penn bank, being the donor of the feast, which was a success, and complete in every detail, and quite evidently appreciated by he “newsies” and “shiners.”
25 May 1888, Boston (MA) Daily Globe, pg. 5, col. 1:
How The Globe Newsies Do Play.
Alleged Lynn Newsboys Pulverized.
12 January 1889, Kansas City (MO) Times, pg. 2, col. 3:
NEARLY NINE HUNDRED NEWSIES.
“We have distributed 864 licenses to newsboys and bootblacks,” remarked Police Secretary Huckett to a TIMES reporter last night.
17 April 1904, New-York (NY) Tribune, Illustrated Supplement, “Waldorf Room at the Newsboys’ Lodging House,” pg. 6, cols. 3-4:
In order to succeed the newsboy must be a fighter. He must guard the particular piece of sidewalk where he sells his “papers” against all comers. “An dere’s only one way ter do it,” as a Park Row “newsie” expressed it. “You’se got ter scrap fer it.”