Child Labor and Poverty In New York – 1910

7-Year-Old Gerald Schaitberger Sells Newspapers At Columbus Circle – October 8, 1910 At 9:30 p.m.

We Answer The Question: What Became of this Little Boy?

Jerald Schaitberger of 416 W. 57th St. N.Y. helps his older brother sell papers until 10 P.M. on Columbus Circle. 7 yrs. old. 9:30 P.M., October 8, 1910. Photo by Paul B. Schumm / Library of Congress

Photograph number 1 of Jerald Schaitberger 7 yrs. old, of 416 W. 57th St. N.Y. as he helps to sell papers until 10 P.M. on Columbus Circle. Photo taken 9:30 P.M. on October 8, 1910. Photo by Paul B. Schumm / Library of Congress

This scene captured by photographer Paul Schumm at 9:30 in the evening of Saturday, October 8, 1910 shows 7-year-old Gerald Schaitberger selling newspapers at Columbus Circle in front of a subway kiosk. The Library of Congress holds two photos of Gerald (misspelled as Jerald on the LOC website) seen here.

Over 100 years after they were taken, these two photographs still stir strong emotions about child labor and poverty.

According to 1910 census records, Gerald lived a couple of blocks away from Columbus Circle with his 36-year-old father Emanuel, mother Julia, six siblings and grandfather Michael. Emanuel was a clerk working in the fur industry and his eldest son Joseph, 15, worked at the newsstand to help make ends meet.

Apparently this cool October evening  Joseph enlisted the help of younger brother Gerald to aid in selling the papers.

Here is the second photo of Gerald taken a few seconds after the first. After he has apparently made the successful sale, Gerald looks up for approval at his older brother.

Jerald Schaitberger of 416 W. 57th St. N.Y. helps his older brother sell papers until 10 P.M. on Columbus Circle. 7 yrs. old. 9:30 P.M., October 8, 1910. Photo by Paul B. Schumm / Library of Congress

Photograph number 2 of Jerald Schaitberger 7 yrs. old. of 416 W. 57th St. N.Y. helping sell papers until 10 P.M. on Columbus Circle. taken at 9:30 P.M., October 8, 1910. Photo by Paul B. Schumm / Library of Congress

Young Gerald is so eager to help his poor family. When you zoom in on the photographs, you notice some interesting details.

The first is a close-up is of Gerald himself.

Jerald Schaitberger 416 W57th St loc 10 8 1910 Columbus Circle close upThe anticipation shows in Gerald’s eyes as he meekly offers the paper to the awaiting customer. The evening newspaper headline says that the “Yankees Win Two” and that the Giants lost the second game of their doubleheader on the final day of the regular season.

Jerald Schaitberger 416 W57th St loc 10 8 1910 Columbus Circle 1 close up handsThis next close-up shows the ink-stained hands of the hard working little boy.

Jerald Schaitberger 416 W57th St loc 10 8 1910 Columbus Circle close up shoesThe final close-up shows the condition of Gerald’s shoes which were probably hand-me-downs and had seen better days.

Being poor in New York was a hard fact of life for so many young people. Children were steeped in poverty without necessarily knowing how poor they were, but they all had dreams for a better life.

I wondered… what ever happened to Gerald?

Did he escape poverty?

Did he continue to work at the newsstand?

Tracing the Schaitberger family was tricky because their name was spelled differently by census enumerators in every  census from 1900 – 1940, respectively as Schafberger; Schwartzberger, Schatiberger, Schartberger and Schaitherger!

By 1920 the Schaitberger family had nine children living in the household. In the ten year period between the 1910 and 1920 censuses the Schaitberger’s had four more children. A daughter, Irene had died at the age of six in 1913.  The father, Emanuel, now owned his own newsstand. One son, Henry who was living at home had become chauffeur. Two other children were in the automobile supply business.  Gerald was no longer living at home at age 17 and is nowhere to be found in census records.

In 1923 Gerald Schaitberger married Marion Nihill. The 1930 census shows they had two children Gerald Jr. and Anna, and the family was living on West 49th Street. From the census we find out that Gerald’s occupation is given as chauffeur.

In 1934 Gerald’s father Emanuel passed away at the age of 61.

The 1940 census lists Gerald, Marion and their two children living on West 180th Street. That census reveals that Gerald had stopped attending school after completing the 8th grade around 1917. Gerald Schaitberger’s occupation is given as newsdealer.

In subsequent telephone and business directories up until 1949 Gerald Schaitberger is listed and he eventually moves to nearby Wadsworth Avenue in Washington Heights. Then all traces of newsboy / chauffeur Gerald Schaitberger vanish. His wife Marion dies in Georgia in 1985 but no record can be found of what exactly happened to Gerald. Hopefully he had a fulfilling and happy life.

Gerald’s son Gerald Jr. who went by the name of Jerry Schaitberger moved to California after World War II and successfully raised a family there. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 82.

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8 thoughts on “Child Labor and Poverty In New York – 1910

  1. Paul@Hull

    Thank you for posting. Not sure how I found this – just stumbled on it. Really pleased I did. I love history and to see a snap and a story behind it – brilliant. God bless little Gerald.

    Reply
  2. David Schaitberger

    My name is David Schaitberger and I am Gerald Schaitberger’s nephew. My father, Allen Scahitberger, was Jerry’s younger brother.

    Enjoyed reading your story and learned a lot about our family.

    I did quite a bit of family research about 25 years ago with my father, but you have information new to me.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. B.P. Post author

      You are welcome, David. This was one of the more challenging stories to research but was well worth it. I did not want to name any living family members due to privacy concerns, but I wondered if one day a relative might stumble across the story and write back. Even with all the research there were two question that I was unable to answer, one is factual- when and where did Gerald Jr. (Jerry) die? And the second question perhaps only Jerry knew the answer to – did he have a good life after working so hard as a child?

      Reply
  3. David Schaitberger

    According to our family records Gerald Schaitberger was born Sept 29, 1903 and he died Sept 6, 1950.
    I believe he died in New Jersey.

    I remember my father, Allen ((1/14/1914 to 5/2/2004). also worked at the newspaper stands. (There were 5 boys and 6 girls in the family). Here are the names of all eleven children: Joseph (1895-1963); Henry (1897-1976); Marion (1900-1986); Helen (1901-1961); Gerald (1903-1950); Edna (1908-1973); Irene (1907-1913); Roseanna (1911-2001?); Allen (1914-2004); Margaret (1915-1985); and, Harry (1918-1982)

    To answer your second question, your right, only Jerry would really know the answer. One thing We do know is that he only lived to be 46 so he had a rather short life.

    Of note, Harry Schaitberger’s son Harold Schaitberger, has been serving as the President of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) since 2000. Ironic that the Schaitberger’s family would be a leader in Union and labor rights.

    Reply
    1. B.P. Post author

      Thank you David for taking the time to share your family history and answering the question. Your comment about the irony of Harold Schaitberger’s involvement in the IAFF is a fitting coda for this story.

      Reply

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