A paperboy or papergirl is someone—often an adolescent—who distributes printed newspapers to homes or offices of subscribers on a regular route, usually by bicycle or automobile. In Western nations during the heyday of print newspapers during the early 20th century, this was often a young person's first job, and was often undertaken before or after school. This contrasts with the newsboy or newspaper hawker, now extremely rare in Western nations, who would sell newspapers to passersby on the street, often with very vocal promotion. They were common when multiple daily papers in every city—as many as 50 in New York City alone—competed for sales.
The paperboy occupies a prominent place in the popular memory of many countries, including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Japan. This is because it has long been the first paying job available to young teenagers.
The number of paperboys has declined dramatically in recent years. This is due partly to the disappearance of afternoon newspapers, whose delivery times worked better for school-aged children than did those of morning papers, which were typically delivered before 6 a.m. The numbers have also been affected by changing demographics, the availability of news and newspapers on the Internet; employment laws, and growing concerns for the safety of un-escorted children, all of which have led many newspapers to switch to delivery by adults. Today, they are mainly used by weekly community newspapers and free shopper papers, which still tend to be delivered in the afternoons. Alternatively, sometimes paperboys are only employed once a week to deliver the paper on Sunday.
Newspaper industry lore suggests that the first paperboy, hired in 1833, was 10-year-old Barney Flaherty who answered an advertisement in the New York Sun, which read "To the Unemployed a number of steady men can find employment by vending this paper."
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- Preus Museum. Lewis Hine, Newspaperboys photos