Paperboy (and less commonly Papergirl) was an iconic role of youngsters, often their first job, in Western nations during the heyday of printed newspapers. A paperboy's task was to distribute printed newspapers to homes or offices of subscribers on a regular route, usually by bicycle or automobile. This has often been a before-school or after-school job for adolescents. (Contrast 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—competed for sales each day.) Other phases of the newspaper distribution networks that developed—such as the siting of printing plants and the management of truck distribution networks—were typically not seen and not romanticized.
The position of paperboy occupies a prominent place in the popular culture 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, often male.
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 concern about 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."
Arnold Bennett's 1911 novel The Card features a newspaper take-over. Part of the success of the stratagem depends on the proprietor temporarily detaining all his rival's paperboys, which he does by promising them food and locking them in. The paperboys are depicted as a rumbustious and tight-knit group.
In 1986 a arcade game called Paperboy was released. It was also the first NES game created in the U.S.A.
Tony Macaulay's memoir Paperboy (2010) tells the experiences of a paperboy in West Belfast in the 1970s.
Bob Thurber's Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel (2011) tells experiences of a 14-year-old paperboy and his emotionally troubled sister during the summer of 1969.
Beethoven includes funny episodes with a paperboy.
Better Off Dead features a paperboy on a bicycle that throws a newspaper through a closed window breaking the window glass. There are several paperboys in this movie.
In the 2001 Disney film Max Keeble's Big Move, the film's protagonist is a local paperboy.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Newspaper vendors.|
- Preus Museum. Lewis Hine, Newspaperboys photos