The News Boys Bank

by the American Sunday-School Union

PART I.

"How much money have you in the bank?" I heard a gentleman inquire of a boy. "A dollar and a half," he replied. I looked up, and saw before me a slender, bright-looking lad, about fourteen years old. The pantaloons he wore had evidently belonged to a full-grown man, and were rolled up at the bottom to make them short enough for the present wearer. His coat had been cut short in the skirts, and the sleeves hung loosely about his hands. His shirt was not particularly clean, neither was it very dirty. His face, however, had been nicely washed, so that there was nothing repulsive about the fellow. The gentleman talked with him a few moments. I was quite interested in the conversation and learned from it that he was one of the news-boys of New York.


First interview with the news-boy. First interview with the news-boy.


Patrick—for by this name I shall call the boy—sleeps at the lodging-house for news-boys, and is there learning to read. I concluded that I would go there, and see for myself what had been done for the improvement and salvation of these energetic, active boys. I found the building to which I had been directed, but could not readily find the entrance which led to the room I was seeking. I inquired of some poorly-dressed children where it was. A boy about ten years old guided me. He asked if I wanted a boy. I was sorry to say "No," for he looked so bright and active that it seemed a pity not to give him some employment.

I ascended one flight of stairs, and another, and still another and another, before I came to the right door. I knocked, and was admitted by a gentleman who has the oversight of these boys. The room which I entered was nicely painted and whitewashed. There were many seats with desks as in a a schoolroom, and there were books and slates on them. Maps and pictures hung on the walls, and there was a library for those who could read.

The room was neat and tidy, and quite inviting in its appearance. At the farther end of it was an office for the caretaker, and a bathing-room, where water can be used without stint or measure. The boys enjoy the free use of the water, though probably many of them never bathed in their lives, before they came to the lodging-house. If "cleanliness is next to godliness," much has been already accomplished.

The school or sitting-room opens into the dormitory. This is a large and well-ventilated apartment, and, being in the sixth story, overlooks most of the buildings in the vicinity. There were accommodations for fifty boys, and the room is large enough for eighty. Each boy has a separate bed. They are arranged in two tiers, as in a steamboat. The beds were all neatly made, and looked quite comfortable. Many of these boys have never slept in a bed except in this room. The remarks which they make to each other, when comparing their beds, with their clean sheets and pillow-cases, with the boxes, areas, and crannies where they have been accustomed to sleep, are very amusing.

I am happy to know that there has been a constant improvement among the boys. They grow more orderly, and are more easily restrained, and some of them give promise of making useful men. They are not allowed to use profane language, to fight, nor to smoke in the rooms, and generally manifest much kindness of feeling toward each other.

There was a table in the room, which interested me greatly. It was of black-walnut. In the top there were one hundred and ten different holes, large enough to admit a half-dollar. Each of them was numbered. This was the bank in which Patrick had deposited his money. There were one hundred and ten little divisions in the drawer, corresponding with one hundred and ten openings in the top. The boys each have a certain number for their own use, and if they choose, can safely secure their day's earnings for a time of need. The superintendent keeps the key of the drawer.

Several weeks ago, the boys voted not to take their money from the bank till November, that they might then have the means of purchasing warm clothes for the winter. I had quite a curiosity to look into the bank, to see how much the boys had saved. In some of the divisions there were only a few pennies, while in others there were several dollars.

I never looked upon any bank with so much pleasure, as I did upon this simple one of the news-boys. It was teaching them a lesson of economy and forethought, which I trust they will never forget. When they enjoy their comfortable coats and warm pantaloons in the cold weather of winter, they cannot avoid remembering, that it was by taking care of the pennies, that they were enabled so nicely to clothe themselves. The news-boys have never been taught the true value of money. They have not hesitated to gamble it away, or to spend it for segars and tobacco, and other unnecessary and hurtful things. They have been exceedingly improvident and have had no idea of laying up any thing for the future.

One evening, as the boys were gathered in their sitting-room, one of them was leaning on the bank. He held up a quarter of a dollar between his thumb and finger, and, looking at his companions, said, "You know Simpson, the pawnbroker?" "Yes." "He is a friend in need, but here is a friend indeed!" and the bright silver dropped, jingling, into his bank.

Those news-boys all of them possess more than ordinary intelligence and energy of character. "Every one of them," as a gentleman said, "is worth saving." They are sure to make men, and to exert an influence in the world.

After my return from my visit to their rooms, I told some children about the necessities of these news-boys, and how much they need better clothing. A little girl, whom I know, has determined to make a shirt for one of them. I am sure it will be acceptable; for, frequently, when they first go to the lodging-house, they are so filthy that something must be given them to make them decent. Perhaps other children may like to do something to benefit those needy ones, who have no father nor mother to take care of them and provide for their wants.

PART II.

When the bank was opened, the first of November it was found to contain seventy-nine dollars and eleven cents! This sum of money had been saved in seven weeks, by twenty-four boys. They were quite astonished at their own success. They learned the lesson by personal experience, that if they took care of the pennies, the shillings would take care of themselves. Some of them had saved enough to buy a new suit of clothes, others enough for pantaloons, and others for a cap or shoes. They were advised not to spend their money hastily; but a few were too impatient to wait, and the same evening they received it they went out to make their purchases. Others laid by their money till morning.

The news-boys found it was so much better for them to put their money in the bank, than to spend it in gaming, or for cigars, or in other useless ways, that they voted to close it again, not to be opened till December. During the month of November, nineteen boys saved sixty-three dollars and forty-seven cents. One of them had put in thirteen dollars. He did not spend it all for himself, but gave a part of it to his mother to pay her rent.

The boys were delighted with their wealth. "No hard times here!" they cried. "Money isn't tight with us. There is plenty of it."

One of the boys purchased an entire suit of clothes; and when he made his appearance among the others, in his nice blue jacket, with bright buttons, his pantaloons to match, and his blue navy-cap, he was greeted with cheers. One and another examined his wardrobe, and all enjoyed his success. "Who are you? Who'd think this was Charley ——? Is this a news-boy? Who'd believe this was a news-boy?" and various other exclamations escaped from them. "Charley has done well this time." Yes, Charley did well, and he will not soon forget the lesson he learned that month. He knows more of the true use of money than ever before.

The first of December the boys voted to keep the bank closed till the third of January. They decided not to have it opened on the first, because there are so many temptations to spend money that they feared, if they had it in their pockets, they should part with it foolishly.

One of the news-boys has been recently run over by a stage. I inquired about him, and learned that he is the very boy whom I met in a friend's office, and my interest in whom led me first to visit the lodging-house. This is the third time he has narrowly escaped death. The omnibus passed directly over his body. When he was taken up, his companions thought him dying. He was conveyed immediately to the hospital.

The boys at the lodging-house were saddened by Patrick's troubles. They expected he would die. They recounted his excellencies of character. His cheerfulness and ready wit were not forgotten. Patrick is not a boy of many words, but when he speaks, it is to the purpose. The boys called at the hospital to see him. The door-keeper said he never knew a boy who had so many cousins!

The next day Patrick was better. It was found that he was not so much injured as was at first supposed. There was great rejoicing in the evening at the lodging-house. A heavy load had been lifted from their hearts. Patrick would soon be among them again. They were cheerful and full of life and spirits. "Patrick must be half made of India-rubber!" they exclaimed, gleefully.

This sympathy with each other is one of the most beautiful traits of their character, and shows a nature that may be nobly developed. They cannot but learn much that is good in the hours spent in their reading-room, as they listen to the instruction of those interested in their welfare. Many of them have already found good situations, and give promise of becoming useful men. They appreciate kindness and civility. "Mr. —— spoke to me in the street, when he was walking with another gentleman and he shook hands with me too," said one of them triumphantly, as if he had risen in the scale of being, and was more worthy of respect, in consequence of the respect with which he had been treated. Few can estimate the power of sympathy.

"Speak gently, kindly, to the poor; Let no harsh term be heard; They have enough they must endure, Without an unkind word."

"I have never forgotten your words of kindness, when I was poor and almost discouraged," wrote one lady to another, and no more will any child of want forget the utterance of a warm, generous heart.

I should have told you, that besides the money the boys put in the bank, they earn enough to pay for their lodging, six cents a night, and to purchase their food, and, sometimes, various articles of clothing. They are obliged to be very active, and to be up early in the morning. They may be found in all parts of the city, crying their papers with loud, piercing voices, and running at full speed from street to street, stopping only to sell papers to any who may buy.

It would be well if they had some occupation which would expose them less to bad company and unsteady habits; but a news-boy can be honest, virtuous, and temperate, as well as any other boy,—if he will take the right way to be.