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The Mysterious Victory of the Newsboys: The Grand Duke Theatre's 1874 Challenge to the Theatre Licensing Law

  • Michelle Granshaw
Extract

In 1874, a group of newsboys took on some of the wealthiest, most respected, and most powerful New Yorkers and emerged victorious. The Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents, a philanthropic organization that worked to guard public morals and championed Christian values, faced two challenges that year over the city's theatre licensing fee. Its prominent members and their financial power made the organization a formidable force in local city matters. As a result of the 1872 Act to Regulate Places of Public Amusement in the City of New York, theatre managers were required to pay $500 to the city for an operating license. The city gave the fees to the society, which it used to operate the city's House of Refuge. The society believed that theatres corrupted the city's youth and that, therefore, the theatres should help fund youth reform efforts. In its legal proceedings against theatres without licenses, the society typically targeted cheap entertainment establishments in poor neighborhoods. These playhouses “were not particularly powerful and presumably would not put up too strenuous a legal battle.”

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Endnotes

1. McNamara, Brooks, The New York Concert Saloon: The Devil's Own Nights (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 22–3, 36, quote at 36. See also Nielsen, Alan, The Great Victorian Sacrilege: Preachers, Politics, and ‘The Passion,’ 1879–1884 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1991). For a complete transcript of the Act to Regulate Places of Public Amusement, see McNamara, Appendix I, 124–6.

2. Some references to the Grand Duke Theatre repeat an anecdote about the origin of the theatre's name. According to the story, the Russian Grand Duke Alexis visited the newsboys' theatre in 1871 during his American visit. As a result, the boys decided to name their theatre after him. Although the anecdote makes a good story, it seemingly has no basis in historical evidence. The Russian Grand Duke's trip to America was meticulously documented. Each day the newspapers reported his every move. Accounts of his trip to the Five Points make no mention of the newsboys' theatre. Letters related to the Russian Grand Duke's trip were published in 1872. They also make no report of such a visit. In addition, there is a good chance that the newsboys theatre did not exist in 1871. It is unclear if the later reports of the theatre's potential opening in 1871 resulted from the frequent telling of the Russian Grand Duke anecdote or actual evidence that no longer remains. Once the press starts covering the newsboys theatre in 1874, most newspaper accounts suggest the theatre opened in 1873, which would make the Russian Grand Duke's visit impossible. In this essay, the theatre's potential start dates are listed as 1871–1873 because there is no agreement in the historical record created during the theatre's existence. For the Russian Grand Duke anecdote, see Anbinder, Tyler, Five Points: The 19th Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum (New York: Free Press, 2001), 190; Moody, Richard, Ned Harrigan: From Corlear's Hook to Herald Square (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1980), 72. For accounts of the Grand Duke's visit to America, see the New York Times in 1871 and 1872 as well as His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Alexis in the United States of America during the Winter of 1871–1872 (Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1872).

3. “Newsboys Theatre,” New York Sun, 3 January 1874; “The Drama in the Five Points,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 17 January 1874, 316–17 [hereafter “Drama”]; “The Grand Duke Theatre and the Philanthropists,” New York Evening Telegram, 25 February 1874, 2 [hereafter “Philanthropists”]; New York Commercial Advertiser, 26 February 1874, 2; “Opera Rough,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 7 March 1874, 5; “Our Engraving,” New York Clipper, 14 March 1874, 1. In the mid- to late nineteenth century, general usage of the term “newsboy” in newspapers and literature referred not only to children who carried and hawked newspapers but also to any child street seller, including bootblacks and rag collectors. In many contexts, the term did not refer specifically to a particular gender or age; organizations and newspapers also associated the term with female or elderly street sellers. Yet statistics show that the majority of newsboys were males between the ages of six and fifteen. Drawing on the general and fluid meaning of the term, in this article, I use “newsboy” to refer to children (male unless otherwise noted) who worked in various street trades, including selling papers, blacking boots, and collecting rags. Vincent DiGirolamo highlights how categories that are too strictly defined “can contribute to the social invisibility and marginalization of those that do not fit the profile. … … it makes little sense to define street trading children too narrowly. [Newsboys] were poor youths who worked and sometimes slept on city streets, however irregularly and regardless of what other jobs or homes they may have had.” Vincent DiGirolamo, “Crying the News: Children, Street Work, and the American Press, 1830–1920” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1997), 22.

4. It was ironic that the leading theatre managers complained about the society's relationship to the theatre. During the previous decade, it had been at their insistence that the city passed the Concert Bill, which expanded the society's powers over New York entertainments. See McNamara, 22; “Local Miscellany: Theatrical Licenses,” New York Times, 9 May 1874, 2; “The Theatre and Public Morals,” New York Times, 10 May 1874; “Theatrical Licenses,” New York Times, 21 July 1874, 8.

5. The initial opinion against the city and the society was printed in the New York Times; see “Theatrical Licenses,” New York Times, 21 July 1874, 8. For the decision in the appeal, see New York Supreme Court Reports: Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of New York, vol. 5: November 1874 to January 1875, ed. Thompson, Isaac Grant and Cook, Robley D. (Albany: John D. Parsons Jr. Publishing, 1875), 319–22.

6. For more information on Wallack, theatre managers, and the theatrical profession in the late nineteenth century see Marra, Kim, Strange Duets: Impresarios and Actresses in the American Theatre, 1865–1914 (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2006); McArthur, Benjamin, Actors and American Culture, 1880–1920 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984), 77–8, 85–112; McDermott, Douglas, “Structure and Management in American Theatre from the Beginning to 1870,” in Cambridge History of American Theatre, vol. 1, ed. Wilmeth, Don and Bigsby, Christopher (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 182215.

7. The term “normal exception” was first used by Edoardo Grendi. In his writing, Grendi used the term to refer to the use of the exceptional to write history. “L'eccezionale normale”; see Grendi, Edoardo, “Microanalisi e storia sociale,” Quaderni Storici 12.35 (1977): 506–20. In this discussion of the Grand Duke Theatre, the term is used as first defined by Carlo Ginzburg and Carlo Poni at the 1979 Italian-French conference in Rome. Their talk was later translated and published. For specific discussion of their notion of “normal exception” see Ginzburg, Carlo and Poni, Carlo, “The Name and the Game: Unequal Exchange and the Historiographic Marketplace,” in Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe, eds. Muir, Edward and Ruggiero, Guido (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), 78. Although he does not always explicitly use the term “normal exception,” Ginzburg continued to develop the idea as an approach to microhistory in works such as Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm,” in Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, trans. Tedeschi, John and Tedeschi, Anne C. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 96125. Ginzburg experimented with this approach to microhistory in his well-known book, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth Century Miller, trans. Tedeschi, John and Tedeschi, Anne C. (Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980). As a result of his work, the understanding of “normal exception” used here is most frequently associated with Ginzburg. See also Muir, Edward, “Introduction: Observing Trifles,” in Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe, eds. Muir, Edward and Ruggiero, Guido (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), xiv; Magnússon, Sigurdur Gylfi, “‘The Singularization of History’: Social History and Microhistory within the Postmodern State of Knowledge,” The Journal of Social History 36, no. 3 (Spring 2003): 709710.

8. Darnton, Robert, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (New York: Basic Books, 1984), 78.

9. County Clerk's Office, State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan), Division of Old Records. The division is located at 31 Chambers Street, 7th Floor.

10. “Our Engraving.”

11. “The Grand Duke Theatre,” New York Times, 28 July 1887 [hereafter “Grand Duke Theatre,” Times].

12. Darnton, 78.

13. Ginzburg, Carlo, “Introduction,” in Ginzburg, Threads and Traces: True, False, Fictive, trans. Tedeschi, John and Tedeschi, Anne C. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 3.

14. New York Commercial Advertiser, 26 February 1874, 2.

15. “The Bootblack Theatre,” Buffalo Evening Courier and Republic, 27 February 1874, 1. In the nineteenth century, it was a common practice to reprint articles from other newspapers. The Buffalo Evening Courier credits this account to the New York Sun.

16. “Philanthropists.” The New York Commercial Advertiser reported that “this Baxter street game is rather small”; 26 February 1874, 2.

17. “Hard on the Newsboys and Bootblacks,” San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, 24 February 1874; “New York,” Daily Cleveland Herald, 24 February 1874, 3; “Small Business,” Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, 25 February 1874, 3; Daily Rocky Mountain News, 25 February 1874, 1.

18. “Philanthropists.” For additional reports on how much the boys donated, see New York Commercial Advertiser, 26 February 1874, 2; “The Grand Duke Theater's Offering,” Batavia Republican Advocate, 3 March 1874 [hereafter “Offering”]; Detroit Free Press, 4 March 1874, 4. Some reports claim that it was these benefits that first brought the newsboys' theatre to the attention of the society.

19. “Bootblack Theatre.”

20. “The Grand Duke Closed: Now Ask the Newsboys and Bootblacks to Pay the National Debt,” Utica Daily Observer, 7 March 1874, 6, reprinted from the New York Sun, 3 March 1874.

21. “Offering”; “Our Engraving.”

22. Chicago Inter Ocean, 1 March 1874, 4; “Philanthropists”; New York Commercial Advertiser, 26 February 1874, 2.

23. “Grand Duke Closed.”

24. “Philanthropists”; New York Commercial Advertiser, 26 February 1874, 2; Chicago Inter Ocean, 1 March 1874, 4.

25. “Theatre and Public Morals.” See also “Local Miscellany: Theatrical Licenses”; “Theatrical Licenses,” New York Times, 22 May 1874; “Theatrical Licenses,” New York Times, 21 July 1874, 8; “Theatrical Licenses,” New York Times, 7 October 1874, 3. According to the Buffalo Evening Courier and Republic, most of the New York City papers opposed the theatre license fee. “Theatrical Licenses,” Buffalo Evening Courier and Republic, 10 October 1874, 1.

26. Daily Cleveland Herald, 11 May 1874, 1.

27. See Whisnant, David E., “Selling the Gospel News, or: The Strange Career of Jimmy Brown the Newsboy,” Journal of Social History 5.3 (1972): 269309. An 1887 New York Times article refers to the close relationship between the newsboys' theatre and Frank Leslie of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper; see “Grand Duke Theatre,” Times. The writer claims that Leslie donated a curtain and scenery to the theatre. However, there is no evidence from the 1870s to support this assertion. In some ways, contemporary evidence works against the paper's claim of a close relationship between Frank Leslie and the Grand Duke. While other newspapers rallied to the Grand Duke's defense, Frank Leslie's newspaper remained silent. After the Grand Duke closed in the late 1870s, sources about it are riddled with inaccuracies, and there is no evidence that this article is an exception. It also seems convenient that the article includes a reference to the newspaper's benevolent actions toward the newsboys as labor conflicts intensified in the 1880s. A group of newsboys had even gone on strike several months before the New York Times article. These circumstances do not unquestionably demonstrate that Frank Leslie had no connection to the theatre, but they do present a challenge when speculating about the relationship between the newsboys and the local papers.

28. Mayne, Alan, “Tall Tales, but True?: New York's ‘Five Points’ Slum,” Journal of Urban History 33.2 (2007): 320–31, at 322. See also Mayne, The Imagined Slum: Newspaper Representation in Three Cities, 1870–1914, new ed. (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1994).

29. Sánchez-Eppler, Karen, “Playing at Class,” ELH 67.3 (2000): 819–42; Reckner, Paul, “Remembering Gotham: Urban Legends, Public History, and Representations of Poverty, Crime, and Race in New York City,” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 6.2 (2002): 95112, at 99–101.

30. The idea that Five Points life was more complicated than contemporary middle-class accounts suggest is not new. See Anbinder; The New York Irish, ed. Bayor, Ronald H. and Meagher, Timothy J. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996); Boyer, Paul, Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820–1920 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978); Burrows, Edwin G. and Wallace, Mike, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Diner, Hasia R., Erin's Daughters in America: Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983); The Pursuit of Urban History, ed. Fraser, Derek and Sutcliffe, Anthony (Baltimore: Edward Arnold, 1983); Gandal, Keith, The Virtues of the Vicious: Jacob Riis, Stephen Crane, and the Spectacle of the Slum (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); Gilfoyle, Timothy J., City of Eros: New York City Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790–1920 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992); Gilfoyle, “Scorsese's Gangs of New York: Why Myth Matters,” Journal of Urban History 29.5 (July 2003): 620–30; Carol Groneman, “The ‘Bloody Ould Sixth’: A Social Analysis of a New York City Working-Class Community in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Ph.D. diss., University of Rochester, 1973); Hill, Marilynn Wood, Their Sisters' Keepers: Prostitution in New York City, 1830–1870 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Mayne, Imagined Slum; Pozzetta, George E., “The Mulberry District of New York City: The Years before World War One,” in Little Italies in North America, ed. Harney, Richard F. and Scarpaci, J. Vincenza (Toronto: Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1981); Scherzer, Kenneth A., The Unbounded Community: Neighborhood Life and Social Structure in New York City, 1830–1875 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992); Rosenberg, Carroll Smith, Religion and the Rise of the American City: The New York Mission Movement, 1812–1870 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1971); Stott, Richard B., Workers in the Metropolis: Class, Ethnicity, and Youth in Antebellum New York City (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990); Stansell, Christine, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789–1860 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1987).

The conception of the slum created by the bourgeois imagination continues to play a visible and profitable role in twenty-first-century America. Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York (2002) and the more recent BBC America series Copper (2012–13) illustrate the viewing public's continuing fascination with the urban poor and their supposedly vice-ridden, criminal, and corrupt lifestyles.

31. Reckner, 98. See also Zecker, Robert, Metropolis: The American City in Popular Culture (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008), 23; Dickens, Charles, American Notes (New York: Fromm International, 1985); Foster, George, New York in Slices: By an Experienced Carver (New York: 1849); and McCabe, James Dabney, Light and Shadows of New York Life (Philadelphia: National Publishing Company, 1872).

32. See Reckner.

33. “Drama.”

34. Ibid. Emphasis in the original.

35. “Opera Rough.”

36. Ibid.

37. “Drama.”

38. “Newsboys Theatre.”

39. “Opera Rough.”

40. “Offering”; see also “Drama.”

41. “Opera Rough”; see also “Drama.”

42. “Newsboys Theatre.” This comment is echoed almost verbatim in “Drama.”

43. “Opera Rough.”

44. “Newsboys Theatre.”

45. Ibid.

46. “Opera Rough.”

47. “Newsboys Theatre.”

48. “Drama.”

49. “Newsboys Theatre”; “Drama”; “Opera Rough.”

50. “Newsboys Theatre.”

51. Sánchez-Eppler, 823.

52. Whisnant, 282–3; See also Sánchez-Eppler, 823.

53. Jennie Collins, quoted in DiGirolamo, “Crying the News,” 145–6; italics hers.

54. “Drama”; For another image of the newsboys performing in their theatre, see “Our Engraving.”

55. Alger, Horatio Jr., Julius the Street Boy; or, Out West (New York: New York Book Co., 1910), 815.

56. Sánchez-Eppler, 823.

57. Ibid., 825.

58. Ibid., 826–7.

59. Ibid., 828–31.

60. Whisnant, 288. See also Nasaw, David, Children of the City: At Work and at Play (Garden City, NJ: Anchor Press, 1985).

61. Brace, Charles Loring, The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years' Work among Them, 3d ed. (New York: Wynkoop & Hallenbeck, 1880), 345.

62. “Urchins of the Streets,” New York Times, 19 December 1880, 2.

63. Gamber, Wendy, The Boardinghouse in Nineteenth-Century America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), 162.

64. Brace, Charles Loring, Short Sermons to Newsboys: With a History of the Formation of the Newsboys' Lodging House (New York: Charles Scribner & Co., 1866), 41.

65. Although historians such as Vincent DiGirolamo and Tyler Anbinder use Morrow as an example of a “real” newsboy voice, it is important to acknowledge how the memoir's formulaic narrative reflects many conventions of the literature of street children and pamphlets written by moral reformers. James Olney suggests that the conventions of the slave narrative produce “something other than an entirely free creator in the telling of his life story.” Similarly, the conventions of Morrow's narrative likely obscure the voice of the newsboy in a manner that reflects many of Olney's concerns about using slave narratives as autobiography. Morrow's account was edited by someone who one assumes did not grow up on the streets. Does the account portray his notion of “life as it is” or the notions of his middle-class editor and sponsors about street life? Olney, ‘I Was Born’: Slave Narratives, Their Status as Autobiography and as Literature,” in The Slave's Narrative, ed. Davis, Charles T. and Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 148–74, quote at 168.

66. Morrow, John, A Voice from the Newsboys (New York: [A. S. Barnes & Burr,] 1860), 120–1.

67. Ibid., 132.

68. Gilfoyle, Timothy, A Pickpocket's Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006), 26; Gilfoyle here quotes an unnamed journalist.

69. Quoted in ibid., 26–7. See also Pember, Arthur, Mysteries and Miseries of the Great Metropolis (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1874), 184.

70. See Butsch, Richard, The Making of American Audiences: From Stage to Television, 1750–1990 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 130; Kahn, E. J., The Merry Partners: The Age and Stage of Harrigan and Hart (New York: Random House, 1955), 19; and Anbinder, 188. These sources describe a distinct audience of working-class youth that is frequently omitted from studies of children and the theatre. For an example of how twentieth- and twenty-first-century definitions of children's theatre lead to the exclusion of working-class children's relationship to performance, see McCaslin, Nellie, Historical Guide to Children's Theatre in America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987), 6. Jeanne Klein and Nan Mullenneaux have written important studies of middle-class children and the nineteenth-century theatre. Klein argues that certain characteristics of children's theatre historiography limit the scholarly and practical conversation; see Klein, Jeanne, “Without Distinction of Age: The Pivotal Roles of Child Actors and Their Spectators in Nineteenth-Century Theatre,” The Lion and the Unicorn 36.2 (2012): 117–35. See also Mullenneaux, Nan, “Our Genius, Goodness, and Gumption: Child Actresses and National Identity in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America,” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 5.2 (2012): 283308. For another example of how working-class children are often omitted from the conversation on children's theatre, see Bedard, Roger L. and Tolch, C. John, Spotlight on the Child: Studies in the History of American Children's Theatre (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1989).

71. “Newsboys Theatre”; “Drama”; “Opera Rough.” For later reports, see “Grand Duke Opera House,” Spirit of the Times, 31 March 1877, 204–5, at 205; “Life Sketches in the Metropolis,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 30 June 1877, 7; “Opening Night at the Grand Duke,” New York Daily Tribune, 17 August 1877.

72. “Opera Rough”; see also “Life Sketches in the Metropolis.”

73. Hartley Davis, “In Vaudeville,” Everybody's Magazine 13 (August 1905), 231–40, at 231, 238; Davis, “The Business Side of Vaudeville,” Everybody's Magazine 17 (October 1907), 527–37, at 529, 537; Kibler, M. Alison, Rank Ladies: Gender and Cultural Hierarchy in American Vaudeville (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 27.

74. Anbinder, 131.

75. O'Connor, Stephen, Orphan Trains: The Story of Charles Loring Brace and the Children He Saved and Failed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 91.

76. Reckner, 103. As Reckner reports, in one startling instance of the Five Points myth's power, one archeologist was so surprised by the find that he “bluntly suggested that the material must have been stolen by thieves and carried back to their dens in Five Points.…… The ease with which such an interpretation emerged speaks to the influential nature of existing narratives.”

77. Yamin, Rebecca, “Alternative Narratives: Respectability at New York's Five Points,” in The Archaeology of Urban Landscapes: Explorations in Slumland, ed. Mayne, Alan and Murray, Tim (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 154–70, at 158–9. In 1870, the tenement was occupied by Irish and German immigrants. Twelve out of nineteen male occupants were laborers. The dig found evidence of working-class engagement with consumer culture in the Five Points in previous years as well. The archaeologists do not claim that their evidence demonstrates that the middle-class accounts are fiction. However, they do suggest that these findings indicate a more complicated picture of working-class life in the Five Points than middle-class accounts suggest. The archaeological dig uncovered more than 850,000 items dating from 1790 to 1890. Twenty-one collaborators published a seven-volume study of the dig, which involves detailed technical discussion and extensive historical interpretation of the finds. See Tales of Five Points: Working-Class Life in Nineteenth-Century New York, 7 vols., ed. Yamin, Rebecca (Washington, DC: General Services Administration, 2000). For specific information on the part of the dig referred to here, see Fitts, R. K., “The Five Points Reformed, 1865–1900,” in Tales of Five Points, ed. Yamin, 1:6789; Yamin, “People and their Possessions,” in ibid., 90–145. For more information, see the special issue of Historical Archaeology dedicated to the dig: Becoming New York: The Five Points Neighborhood, ed. Yamin, Historical Archaeology 35.3 (2001): 1135. See also Yamin, “Lurid Tales and Homely Stories of New York's Notorious Five Points,” Historical Archaeology 32.1 (1998): 7485; Yamin, “New York's Mythic Slum: Digging Lower Manhattan's Infamous Five Points,” Archaeology 50.2 (1997): 4453; and Brighton, Stephen, “Middle-Class Ideologies and American Respectability: Archaeology and the Irish Immigrant Experience,” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 15.1 (March 2011): 3050.

78. Yamin, “Alternative Narratives,” 154–62. See also Fitts, Robert, “The Rhetoric of Reform: The Five Points Missions and the Cult of Domesticity,” Historical Archaeology 35.3 (2001): 115–32.

79. “Philanthropists”; see also New York Commercial Advertiser, 26 February 1874, 2.

80. “Opera Rough.”

81. “Grand Duke Opera House,” 205; see also New York Clipper, 6 August 1887, 324.

82. “The Manager of the Grand Duke Theatre Is Excited,” New York Herald, 22 November 1874, 7. The manager called Talmage's sermon bad theatre.

83. For more on how the myth of the happy newsboy distracted from ills propagated by social and economic systems, see Whisnant, 278–80. See also Sánchez-Eppler, 823–4, 838.

84. Yamin, Rebecca, “From Tanning to Tea: The Evolution of a Neighborhood,” Historical Archaeology 35.3 (2001): 615, at 13.

85. Powers, Madelon, Faces along the Bar: Lore and Order in the Workingman's Saloon, 1870–1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 2930. See also Rosenweig, Roy, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870–1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

86. Powers, 205.

87. Ibid., 30.

88. Ibid., 36, 201–2.

89. Asbury, Herbert, The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld (1927; reprint, New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2001), 225–26. Inaccuracies in names, prices, events, and the general chronology of the Grand Duke Theatre appear in his short discussion. Timothy Gilfoyle's Pickpocket's Tale documents and analyzes how the activities of youth gangs led to crime and violence in some cases.

90. Powers, 39. See also Gilfoyle, Pickpocket's Tale.

91. Using the theatre to create a space that “belonged” to the newsboys was not unique to the Grand Duke Theatre. Describing how the boys carve their names into the gallery benches, George Foster explains that the newsboys “secur[e] them against invasion, and occupy them (as they suppose) by as good a right, and with more regularity nightly, than the rich frequenters of Grace Church and St. Patrick's, their pews.” Foster, 105.

92. Boston Globe, quoted in DiGirolamo, Vincent, “Newsboy Funerals: Tales of Sorrow and Solidarity in Urban America,” Journal of Social History 36.1 (2002): 530, at 5; and reprinted in Rituals and Patterns in Children's Lives, ed. Jackson, Kathy Merlock (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005), 156–88)”.

93. Ibid., 6.

94. Ibid., 22.

95. “Baxter Street Theatricals,” New York Herald, 14 October 1879, 3; See also “Drama”; “Opera Rough”; “Grand Duke Opera House,” 205. The boys extended the theatre's performers and other members the professional courtesy of benefit nights. See New York Herald, 4 May 1874, 7; “Opera Rough.”

96. “Drama”; “Opera Rough”; “Baxter Street Theatricals”; “Grand Duke Opera House,” 205. See also Ford, James L., Forty-Odd Years in the Literary Shop (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1922), 104; and Bernard Sorbel, “Interviewing a Constellation of Stars,” Theatre Magazine (January 1922): 34.

97. Anbinder, 344–5.

98. “Grand Duke Opera House,” 204; “Grand Duke Closed.”

99. Ferris, Virginia, “Inside the Family Circle: Irish and African American Interracial Marriage in New York City's Eighth Ward, 1870,” American Journal of Irish Studies 9 (2012): 151–77; Harris, Leslie M., In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626–1863 (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2003), 247–62; Hodges, Graham, “‘Desirable Companions and Lovers’: Irish and African Americans in the Sixth Ward, 1830–1870,” in The New York Irish, ed. Bayor and Meagher, 107–24.

100. Anbinder, 343–66, 176–206; Harris, 247–62.

101. DiGirolamo, “Newsboy Funerals,” 23.

102. “Newsboys Theatre.”

103. “Grand Duke Opera House,” 205.

104. Ibid.

105. See Harris, 247–62; Hodges.

106. “Grand Duke Theatre,” Times; “The Drama among the Boys,” New York Herald, 15 December 1878, 5.

107. “Not the Widow's Mite,” Utica Daily Observer, 4 May 1875, 1, reprinted from the New York Sun. The theatre profession had held a benefit night for Bryant's widow and children the preceding month, organized by the city's leading theatre managers and featuring the city's top actors and performers. See “Bryant Testimonial,” New York Times, 16 April 1875, 10.

108. “Not the Widow's Mite,” 1; “Amusements: Miscellaneous Notes,” New York Times, 19 September 1875, 6; “Drama among the Boys.”

109. For discussions of the inability of class or common trade to supersede racial prejudices, see Roediger, David R., The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (London: Verso, 1991); and Jones, Douglas A. Jr., “Black Politics but Not Black People: Rethinking the Social and ‘Racial’ History of Early Minstrelsy,” TDR 57.2 (2013): 2137.

110. “Drama”; See also “Philanthropists”; “Amusements,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 17 March 1874; “Baxter St. Thespians,” New York Evening Telegram, 15 August 1877, 1; “Baxter Street Theatricals”; “Grand Duke Opera House,” 205.

111. Anbinder, 187–90; DiGirolamo, “Newsboy Funerals”; Kahn, 17–19.

112. Oliar, Dotan and Sprigman, Christopher, “There's No Free Laugh (Anymore): The Emergence of Intellectual Property Norms and the Transformation of Stand-Up Comedy,” Virginia Law Review 94.8 (December 2008): 17871867, at 1844.

113. Levitt, Paul M., “Introduction,” in Vaudeville Humor: The Collected Jokes, Routines, and Skits of Ed Lowry, ed. Levitt, Paul M. (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002), 110, at 1.

114. “Drama”; “Newsboys Theatre.”

115. “Baxter Street Theatricals”; “The Dramatic Season,” National Police Gazette, 21 September 1878, 11.

116. “A Lost Star,” New York Sunday Telegram, 16 January 1876, 4.

117. “Grand Duke Opera House,” 205.

118. Ibid.

119. Kaplan, Barry J., “Reformers and Charity: The Abolition of Public Outdoor Relief in New York City, 1870–1898,” Social Service Review 52.2 (June 1978): 202–14, at 205.

120. For more on this struggle over public assistance, see Kaplan.

121. “Theatrical Licenses,” New York Times, 21 July 1874, 8.

122. New York Supreme Court Reports, ed. Thompson and Cook, 319.

123. Ibid., 322. Private charity more or less gained control of all the city's charity funds in 1875. This would remain the case until the Great Depression.

124. “Grand Duke Theatre,” Times. The 1887 New York Times article refers to nights for professional theatre performers at the Grand Duke sponsored by Tony Pastor and Harrigan and Hart. There is one report of the Grand Duke hosting a matinee for the top variety performers and managers in the city, including Harrigan and Pastor. “Talent at the Grand Duke Theatre,” Batavia Republican Advocate, 3 March 1874.

125. New York Evening Telegram, 6 April 1874, 2; Odell, George, Annals of the New York Stage, vol. 9, 1870–1875 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937), 503, 508, 512; “Grand Duke Theatre,” Times. See also Cullen, Frank with Hackman, Florence and McNeilly, Donald, Vaudeville, Old & New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers in America, 2 vols. (New York: Routledge, 2007), 1:100–1, 173.

126. For examples, see Ford, 104; “Gotham Gossip,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 20 May 1883, 17; “Grand Duke Theatre,” Times; “Sam Bernard Dies of Stroke,” New York Times, 19 May 1927; Sobel, Bernard, “Interviewing a Constellation of Stars,” Theatre Magazine 35.250 (1922): 34, 36, 60, at 34; Anbinder, 190; Faye, Lyndsay, The Gods of Gotham (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2012), 410.

127. “The Grand Duke Theatre,” New York Evening Telegram, 24 September 1878, 4 [hereafter “Grand Duke Theatre,” Telegram].

128. For more on the newsboys' theatre after 1874, see “Amusements: Miscellaneous Notes”; Detroit Free Press, 28 November 1875; “The Grand Duke Combination,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 23 September 1876; “Hooley's Theatre,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 25 September 1876; “Hooley's Theatre,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 26 September 1876; “Grand Duke Theatre,” Telegram; and “In General,” Atlanta Daily Constitution, 23 June 1878, 2.

129. New York Clipper, 18 August 1894, 370.

130. Death certificate for Pete Connors, 13 August 1894, Certificate 27699, New York Municipal Archives, New York, New York.

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Theatre Survey
  • ISSN: 0040-5574
  • EISSN: 1475-4533
  • URL: /core/journals/theatre-survey
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