Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Newspaper Brigade

This rather lovely photograph below shows one of our boys, Charles, dressed in the uniform of the charity’s Newspaper Brigade. The group was formed ‘for the purpose of counteracting the pernicious influence of bad books by the introduction of pure literature, in a cheap and an attractive form, into the homes of the people’.  
- The Quiver : an illustrated magazine for Sunday and general reading (1894)

 Charles in uniform
 
Those admitted to the Brigade were not usually resident in one of the charity’s homes. On application, a form was completed to determine place of birth, position of family, the education standard passed, and whether "he has been used to selling papers”. Once admitted, conduct was closely watched, parents, or guardians, visited periodically and a report of behaviour and the condition of home was completed. When the boys were old enough, the Committee undertook to find them regular employment. It will be noted that the service was strictly for boys, the Refuge not wanting to encourage any form of employment on the streets for girls.   


Caxton Brigade in the Central Refuge yard
 
The service was set up for a number of reasons. Mostly it was for the benefit of the boys themselves; firstly to make a stand on the issue of juvenile hawking but also to try and provide a stepping stone for them towards permanent employment. The problem of juvenile hawking in the mid to late Nineteenth century was abhorred by the charity, who went to great lengths to try and stop the employment of young children on the streets at night.

The service was also seen to benefit the public by providing cheap and healthy literature to the masses. As highlighted by the Quiver‘thousands, of the working classes, never enter a book- seller's shop. If, therefore, the homes of the working classes are to be permeated with pure literature, it is absolutely necessary that it should be offered to them at their own doors’.

During the year 1883, nearly £3,000 passed through the hands of 400 boys. It was a way for those who had a home, but needed to help supplement the family wage to obtain a safe, useful job, under supervision and prepare them for future full time employment.    

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