MP-0000.586.112 | Newsboy selling papers on street, about 1905

Newsboy selling papers on street, about 1905
Anonyme - Anonymous
1905, 20th century
Silver salts on paper - Gelatin silver process
8 x 12 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  child (64) , figure (1849) , male (1608) , newsboy (1) , newspaper (5) , Occupation (1110) , Photograph (77678) , vendor (7) , work (389) , work (126)
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Keys to History

At the turn of the 20th century, many children worked as newspaper vendors, messengers or delivery boys in the streets of North American cities. In Montreal, a number of young people were forced to work because their fathers' salaries were too small or irregular to provide for their families' needs.

Reformers of the period sought to improve the lot of these young workers. In the province of Quebec, the Loi des établissements industriels of 1894 set the minimum working age at 12 for boys and 14 for girls. Unfortunately, this law did not apply to newspaper vendors, who sometimes worked until 10 or 11 o'clock at night.

The minimum working age went from 13 in 1903 to 14 in 1907. As of this date, 14-year-olds applying for work in industrial establishments had to do an exam that evaluated their level of education. If the inspectors deemed them insufficiently educated, workers from the ages of 14 to 16 then had to attend evening school. Despite everything, it was only in 1919 that the law truly applied to newspaper vendors. Children under the age of 16 were then prohibited from carrying on trades like that of newspaper vendor in public places unless they were adequately educated. Furthermore, they could no longer be forced to work past 8 p.m.

  • What

    Jobs like those of newspaper vendor and messenger were intended for children and did not allow them to go on to exercise adult trades. However, some factory work for juveniles did lead, after a given number of years, to adult jobs.

  • Where

    Among the newspapers sold in Montreal in 1905 were the Family Herald, La Presse, Le Canada, Le journal, Le Nationaliste, the Star, the Toronto Globe, the Toronto Mail & Empire, the Globe and the Chronicle. Some of these, like La Presse and the Star, had their offices on St. James Street.

  • When

    From 1890 to 1930, the income of most members of Montreal's working class was barely enough to provide for their families' basic needs. This is one of the reasons why some children had to work.

  • Who

    Louis Guyon, chief inspector of manufacturing establishments for the province of Quebec at the turn of the 20th century, was one of those who fought against child labour. He considered it essential that children have access to a minimum level of instruction.