Newsies in HistorySo if the movie Newsies was based on actual events, was there really a Jack Kelly, Spot Conlon, or Racetrack Higgins? I have created a little history page for you to find out!
Jack Kelly/Morris Cohen:
So was Jack Kelly really the leader of the 1899 Newsies strike against Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst? The answer is no. Jack Kelly is a totally fictional character based on real newsies such as Morris Cohen and Kid Blink. (That’s right…. Kid Blink.) Morris was said to have helped begin the strike, and help lead the rally at Irving Hall.
Kid Blink had a completely different role in history than he did in our lovely movie. He was actually the “strike leader” and in the end, ended up turning on his newsies along with another newsie named Dave Simmons, (not our David Jacobs however—he didn’t exist.) Kid Blink had been named after a legendary one eyed man who went by the name of “Blink”. Since he was indeed a “kid”, he went by Kid Blink, because he obviously also only had one eye.
Racetrack was a lot like he was in the movie in real life. He was a gambler, spending most of his days at the tracks. He did not, in fact, live with the other newsies in a lodging house however. He lived with one of his grandparents in a little apartment, and was forced to go to school. He would often ditch school to sell the morning edition of the newspaper, or go down to the tracks. When the price of newspapers was raised one tenth of a cent, it bothered Racetrack the most. He gathered the newsies together and they decided to strike. Kid Blink took the reigns from there.
Spot was the actual leader of the Brooklyn newsies, the toughest group of newsies around. He was actually pretty excited to help out with the strike, and encouraged his newsies and other newsies to strike as well. Spot was known for the pink suspenders he always donned. (I guess they were trying to make him a bit more manly in the movie by changing them to red.)
He was a trouble maker. He often defaced other’s property just for fun. He was named “Mush” because he was known to take his girlfriends into Central Park and make out with them. (He was “mushy” when it came to love.) He was very romantic with the ladies, but with others, he was just obnoxious.
Boots started out as a shoe shiner before he became a newsie. After his mother died, he began to sell papers because he could make more money that way. All of the other newsies were aware that he used to shine shoes, so they called him Boots.