M987.181.2 | Newsboy cap
1900-1925, 20th century
Gift of Mme Hubert Senecal
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Cap (39)
Keys to History
In 19th-century cities many boys worked in street trades, selling newspapers, shining shoes and running errands. This raised concerns about the threat to moral order: social reformers believed that it was imperative to expose these boys to proper values. In 1871 a group of Protestant philanthropists opened the Montreal Boys' Home, modelled on the newsboys' homes created by Lord Shaftesbury (1801-1885) in England. The Home, located on Mountain Street, admitted mostly teenage boys who paid board during their stay. The directors hoped to instil self-improvement and self-reliance through a regimen of strict rules and the provision of workshops, a library, reading rooms and a savings bank as well as educational and vocational evening classes and lectures. In 1905 a swimming pool and gymnasium were added. Although the directors largely used a moral regulation approach, the home was an important service for many boys, especially those alone in the city. In 1909 the association also opened Shawbridge Boys' Farm, providing the first reformatory for Protestant boys.
This is the type of hat often worn by newsboys. It had the advantage of being light and warm. Many models had retractable earflaps that offered additional warmth in long winter nights.
Young boys could be found working in the street trades as newsboys, bootblacks, messengers and the like in most Canadian and European cities.
Before school attendance laws were strictly enforced, many young boys worked to help support their families or, in the case of boys who had emigrated alone or had left their families, to support themselves.
Newsboys tended to be from the working class. They earned very low wages and often had trouble finding lodgings that were both cheap enough and safe.