Similarities and Differences between Disney's Newsboy Strike and the Actual Strike of 1899
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The Actual Strike vs. Disney's Newsboy Strike
The 1899 Strike
Disney's Version
Reason: At the beginning of the Spanish-American War, the price of the "World" and the "Journal" were raised from 50cents per hundred papers, to 60cents. At the time, the headlines were 'hot' and so many were buying the papers. However, at the end of the war the headlines began to doze, in a way, and people were not as interested in them. The papers did not decrease the price of the papers to the distributors, the newsies, and the boys and girls that sold the papers were beginning to feel the price increase. That is why the strike began in July of 1899. Reason: (DIFFERENCE) While the price increase remained the same in comparison to the real strike, the increase took place in the summer of 1899, rather than years before it.
Fights / Riots: Scabs, newsboys that continued to sell papers defiant of the others striking, were prime targets of the striking newsboys. Fights broke out on a daily basis between scabs and strikers and, due to larger numbers, the strikers came out the victors on just about all of the accounts. It was unlikely that the strikers lost any of their fights. At the end of many fights, torn papers would litter the streets. The newsboys would also stand along the streets and amuse themselves with singing and other such devices to get attention. Fights / Riots: (SIMILARITY) Obviously, Disney incorporated songs in their "Newsies" production. Also, the Newsies came out victorious each time they engaged in a fight (the rally excluded, since they were not expecting that battle).
Targets: While the newsies did persist in attacking those who sold "World" or "Journal" papers, they left one particular group of people who sold them alone. These were the newsgirls. Newsgirls could be seen among a whole crowd of striking newsboys and yet remained unhurt, mingling with the strikers even as they offered 'banned' papers for sale. When seeing this, a curious man questioned one newsie about it who answered: That's all right, boss. We're sorry, but we can't help it. We ain't fightin' women." Targets: The only female character that has a presence in the film, if you can call it a presence, is Sarah and it is clear that she is exactly what the men of that time looked at women as: sweet, gentle, and quiet. She was harrassed at one point, however, but not by the newsboys...but by Oscar and Morris. I am not quite sure whether this qualifies as a similarity or a difference since they never really showed any women newsgirls in the movie.
The Rally at Irving Hall: In 1899, newsies were gathered at Irving Hall from all over. 5,000 newsboys attended, with nearly 2 or 3 thousand pouring out into the streets, unable to fill the place. At the rally, speeches from various newsboys were given proposing what they should do or simply speaking about the strike in general. At the end, whoever made the best speech was awarded with a horseshoe that determined some sort of leadership in their ranks. They held several of these rallies and several leaders were thus appointed throughout the duration of the strike. The Rally at Irving Hall: (DIFFERENCE) In Disney's version, the newsboys gathered to further their unity just like they did in the real 1899 strike. However, in Disney's version, Jack had only gathered the boys to do that. This rally was not one where many got up and spoke their minds, trying to put themselves up for leader. They already had a leader, several actually...if you count Spot and David.
Traitors: Two leaders of the newsboys were accused of accepting bribes of $400 dollars when they appeared wearing new suits. These were Kid Blink and David Simmons. David Simmons, however, went forward and told the boys to check his pockets for money. They found that he was clean. It is still unknown to me on whether or not Kid Blink proved his innocence or proceeded to work as a scab. It is written, however, that he was later arrested and fined $5 for disorderly conduct by a magistrate that refused to listen to his explanations, so it is possible that he was able to convince the others that he was innocent and not really a "scabber". Traitors: (SIMILARITY) It is a well known fact that Jack Kelly turned scab for two days in Disney's version. He quickly rejoined the ranks of his newsie friends just as David, and maybe Blink, did back in 1899.
Outcome: The newsboy strike of 1899 weakened and soon were selling papers two weeks after their strike began after the "big guys" offered the boys a full refund of any papers that could not sell. However, they kept the price at 60cents rather than lowering it to 50. Outcome: After ten days, the newsboys in Disney's strike won the battle and the paper price was brought from 60cents back down to 50. Everyone lived happily ever after - except maybe Weasel, Oscar and Morris. Oh, and Snyder.