"Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” The cry of the newsboys is well-remembered, even if the newsboys haven’t survived into the internet age of the 21st century.
Newspapers published “extra special” or “extra” editions after a big news event, such as a presidential election, or a war, or an assassination, or a trial verdict. Newsboys were crying “Extra! Extra!” by at least the 1860s and 1870s. The cry would then continue with the top news, often followed with “Read all about it!”
(Oxford English Dictionary)
extra-special, a. (and n.)
Applied to a special extra edition of a newspaper, etc.; also as n., such an edition. Hence transf. and fig., very special; exceptionally good or fine.
1889 E. DOWSON Let. 24 Mar. (1967) 54 Special Sunday Edition… This [sc. letter] appears to be an extra special: it is overunning [sic] all limits.
1891 Literary World 2 Jan. 11/3 An extra-special edition is to appear on the date named in honour of the birthday of the Proprietor-Editor.
1897 Truth (Christmas Number) 25 Dec. 13/2 Strange forms came out upon her,..And offered ‘Hextry speshuls’.
1901 Punch 31 July 86/1 The magazines, the newspapers, the extra-specials of the twentieth century.
21 June 1889, Oelwein (Iowa) Register, pg. 2, col. 3:
Lessons of Experience.
Gentleman—“How much is it?”
Newsboy—“Two cents. Have one?”
Friend—“Two cents is the regular price of that paper. Why didn’t you buy?”
Gentleman—“If there had been anything in it worth reading the boy would have charged five cents.”
22 July 1895, Marion (OH) Daily Star, pg. 7, col. 3:
Mr. Barnes was turning this over in his mond when a diminutive newsboy rushed into the corridor, shouting.
“Extra Sun! Extra Sun! All about the horrible murder! Extra!”
25 March 1903, New York (NY) Tribune, pg. 10, col. 1:
And Friday afternoon the newsboys, could we understand their cries, would be heard to shout: “Extra! Extra! Wonderful feat! Great literary stroke! Greatest novel of the age written in a week!”
30 June 1921, Lima (OH) News, pg. 8 ad:
EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ABOUT IT!
(Moss & Company—ed.)
27 May 1926, Massillon (OH) Evening Independent, “Wish for film of T. Roosevelt behind scandal,” pg. 6, col. 5:
The party caught the first train back to New York, where upon their arrival they heard newsboys yelling:
“Picture plot against T. R. Extra! Extra! Read all about it.”
9 January 1927, Lubbock (TX) Sunday Avalanche-Journal, pg. 4, col. 2:
Three blocks from the hospital—newsboys were barred from the hospital zone—extras were being carried by excited small boys, darting in and out of traffic with the agility of monkeys.
“Extra! Extra! Read all about the big murder! Flapper bride in jail.”
28 February 1930, New Castle (PA) News, pg. 17, col. 3 ad:
Read All About the Big Sale at All Handy Service Stores
4 December 1940, Zanesville (OH) Times Recorder, pg. 14, cols. 7-8 ad:
All About It --
OCLC WorldCat record
Extra, extra!! Read all about it!! 30,001 afternoons : a daily news talking history spanning a century : first-person tales of newspaper life, anecdotes, memoirs, personal stories, interviews and adventures : Vincent Starrett, A.S. Leckie, Lucia Lewis, Lois Wille, Edward D. Akers, Josephine Pattrson, Georgie Anne Geyer, Lestre Brownlee, Sydney J. Harris, Keyes Beech, Joe Rein, Mary Welsh, Larry Green, John Fischetti, Marshall Field, Raymond R. Coffey, Mike Royko, Richard Christiansen, Henry Herr Gill, John Justin Smith, John S. Knight, Robert G. Schultz, Edward De Luga, Robert Gruenberg, George Thiem, John Byrnes, Arthur Snider, Betty Washington, Basil L. Walters, Daniel Sullivan, Arthur E. Hall, Roy Tabbert, Peter Lisagor, Joseph Aiello and more : extra!!!
Type: Book : Biography; English
Publisher: [Chicago] : Chicago daily news, 1976.
New York (NY) Times
Word for Word/Newsboy Nostalgia; Flash! Street Urchins Hawk Tabs on City Streets!
By JOE SHARKEY
Published: September 17, 2000
‘’EXTRA! Extra! Read all about it!’’ Remember that cry from those old movies in which scrappy urban newsboys held up papers with screaming headlines?
Newsies, as the ruddy-cheeked hawkers were sometimes called, were both a useful plot device and an evocation of a time when the evening news was purchased on the street, not seen on television.
Last week, newsies returned when The Daily News in New York began publishing a slender new afternoon paper, Daily News Express, that is handed out free after 4 p.m. The paper reported that when it held interviews for dozens of modern-day newsies for its street distribution, among those who ‘’auditioned’’ were a Russian acrobat, a children’s actor in a dog costume and an opera singer ‘’who danced a jig dressed as an old-time newspaper boy.’’
Stranger things have bubbled up in the vast melting pot of popular culture. What’s worth remembering, though, is that real-life newsboys, who first appeared in the mid-19th century with the rise of mass-circulation newspapers, were hardly the lovable street urchins of Hollywood myth. They were often wretchedly poor homeless children who shrieked the headlines well into the night and often slept on the streets. Singing and dancing were usually not among their concerns.
In 1866, Charles Loring Brace, a reformer, slum missionary and self-help proponent, wrote a book called ‘’Short Sermons to News Boys, With a History of the Formation of the News Boys’ Lodging House.’’ Brace, who called newsboys ‘’little merchants,’’ had been among the founders of the Lodging House, which provided beds, meals and nighttime supervision to homeless boys.
I remember one cold night seeing some 10 or a dozen of the little homeless creatures piled together to keep each other warm beneath the stairway of The Sun office. There used to be a mass of them also at The Atlas office, sleeping in the lobbies, until the printers drove them away by pouring water on them. One winter, an old burnt-out safe lay all the season in Wall Street, which was used as a bedroom by two boys who managed to crawl into the hole that had been burnt. I was often amused at the accounts of their various lodgings. ‘’Oh mister,’’ one of them said, ‘’there’s nothing like them steam gratins—it’s just as good as a feather-bed. And next to ‘em I likes a good box of sand, cause you can git it up all around you.’’ . . .
The great peculiarity of the New York News Boys’ Lodging House, as distinguished from similar European institutions, is the payment demanded from the lodgers. (This is now 5 cents for lodging, 3 cents for supper and 1 cent for the use of lockers). The object of this is to cultivate the feeling of independence and self-respect in these children. They value the place more in paying for it.
Sometimes, it seems, the wily rascals tried to cadge a warm bed without paying, as suggested in an 1854 article in The New York Dispatch about C. C. Tracy, the superintendent of the Lodging House:
To show how necessary it is for Mr. Tracy to always be on the alert, to keep even with some of his slippery little customers, we may mention that upon one occasion, a boy stated that he had been badly ‘’stuck’’ and had no money to pay, but would liquidate at some other time. Accordingly he was allowed to go to bed without paying, but the next night, he had been stuck again, and this time another boy had been equally unfortunate. This set Mr. Tracy to thinking, and by dint of close listening, he discovered that the youngsters had sewn up their money in their underclothes.
Despite the reformers’ efforts, the newsboys’ plight was often depicted as merely an unpleasant fact of life in the big city.
There are 10,000 children living on the streets of New York. . . . The newsboys constitute an important division of this army of homeless children. You see them everywhere. . . . They rend the air and deafen you with their shrill cries. They surround you on the sidewalk and almost force you to buy their papers. They are ragged and dirty. Some have no coats, no shoes and no hat. Some are simply stupid, others are bright, intelligent little fellows.
-- ‘’Lights and Shadows of New York Life,’’ by James D. McCabe Jr. (1872)
Washington (DC) Post
Answer Man: Pre-Internet, Newspapers Had ‘Extras’
By John Kelly
Sunday, May 7, 2006; Page C02
We’ve all grown up with images and concepts of which we have no firsthand experience, yet are shared among all Americans (at least all television-watching Americans). For example, we all know that newspapers once gave us breaking news, and it was peddled on street corners by boys who doubled as modern-day town criers shouting: “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” What happened to the extra? How long has it been since The Post had one? How often did they typically come out?
Garrett Nievin, Ashburn
Oh those rascally newsboys, with their dirty faces, torn knickerbockers and cloth caps. Did you know that Washington newsboys were not allowed to “call” their papers—that is, shout out the news to entice customers—before 6 a.m. and after 8 p.m., and not at all on Sundays? That didn’t stop them from trying—and from occasionally getting arrested.
The newspaper “extra” has been around a very long time. Answer Man was surprised to learn that the word does not derive from the synonym for “additional,” but is truncated from the word “extraordinary”—as in extraordinary news.
Extraordinary news is what prompted newspapers as far back as the 18th century to produce a special issue outside their normal range of editions. The Newseum has in its collection an “extraordinary” edition of the London Gazette from 1746 that was rushed to press after the Battle of Culloden, at which the English defeated the Scottish.
Extras were common in U.S. papers in the 19th century, said Jeff Schlosberg, curator of print news at the Newseum. The telegraph and the invention of large, high-speed printing presses allowed papers to produce them quickly. The New York Herald put out six editions the morning after Lincoln was shot, each successive new story topped with the word “EXTRA.”
New York City • Media/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • (1) Comments • Saturday, December 13, 2008 • Permalink
1848: SUNDAY was a lovely day. [people wore summer clothing, perhaps for the last time; chat after church, incl. news of the safety of the steamer “United States"] The newsboys were let loose, in Broadway, with “extry ‘Eralds” and “extry Suns,” just about noon, when the people were leaving the churches. and such a squalling we never heard before! . . . the little rascals bawled out “the wreck of the “United States”. . . . [people bought, and were fleeced] The loafers read the Sunday papers, and huddled around the Park fountain (which didn’t play.) The Battery, too, was crowded with . . . the “middling classes,” and a slight sprinkling of the subterraneans. . . . ***
NY M Express, September 25, 1848, p. 2, cols. 4-5