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London newsboy Ned Parfett with news of the Titanic disaster, April 16, 1912

A paperboy is someone – often an older child or adolescent – who distributes printed newspapers to homes or offices 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, perhaps 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.


Newsboy, Iowa City, 1940, Arthur Rothstein.
Paperboy license for boys under age 14 in 1970 when girls were not allowed to deliver newspapers in New York State
A paperboy for the Toronto Star in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, 1940

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 boys. Newspaper industry lore suggests that the first paperboy, hired in 1833, was 10-year-old Barney Flaherty who was hired after seeing an advertisement in the Sun News and signing up for the job.[1]

The duties of a paperboy varied by distributor,[2] but usually included counting and separating papers, rolling papers and inserting them in newspaper bags during inclement weather, and collecting payments from customers.[3]

The number of paperboys experienced a major decline. 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 (particularly the mid-20th century ban of child labour), the decline of small towns that could be traversed by bicycle, 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. Many deliveries these days are by adults in cars,[3] known as newspaper carriers. They have traditionally been hired by the newspapers as independent contractors.[4][5]


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  1. ^ "Ten-year-old Barney Flaherty was New York's first paperboy in 1833".
  2. ^ Gurr, Bob (11 December 2013). "DESIGN: Those Were The Times - No.24 1943 Movie Stars and Paper Routes". MiceChat. Retrieved 7 March 2022.
  3. ^ a b Julia Malakie (April 26, 2006). "While you were sleeping, the paperboy grew up". AP. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  4. ^ "Some States Do Not Recognize Newspaper Carriers as Independent Contractors". Kreischer Miller. June 14, 2012.
  5. ^ Gabrielle Canon (September 14, 2019). "Late-night win for California newspapers: Lawmakers OK 1-year exemption to AB 5 for carriers". USA Today.

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