(n. p.): (n. d.). Ca late 1800s / early 1900s (?). SIGNED by Rob. Boyd, Messenger Boy. Single sheet leaflet, printed, in 3 colors, recto only. Large image of the blue-uniformed message boy. 9-1/16" x 6-1/16". Now housed in an archival mylar sleeve. Shows minor handling wear, soiling & one small tear to bottom edge. A VG copy. Item #48457
From Wiki, we find "Telegraph boys (also referred to as district messenger boys, telegraph messenger boys, or simply as messenger boys) were uniformed young men between 10 and 18 years of age who carried telegrams through urban streets. In most areas they used bicycles; in some dense areas they went on foot. Unlike the men in the telegraph office who worked indoors on fixed wages under close supervision, enjoyed union benefits, and managed the electrical transfer of information, telegraph boys worked outdoors under no supervision on piece wages, saw no union benefits, and managed the physical aspect of the industry in the form of handwritten or printed paper messages.
Boys reported for work in the morning clad in their uniforms and awaited their assignments, receiving payment by the mile. Though some chose to travel by foot, bicycles were required for distant destinations. John Dickinson of Dallas, Texas accumulated more than 16,000 miles between April and September 1916. Western Union bought 5,000 bicycles a year and resold them to their telegraph boys nationwide at a discount. A local fleet might number from one to three dozen or more. Companies were responsible for providing uniform laundries, locker rooms, assembly halls, and classrooms.
In the call-box system developed in 1872, a customer would ring the telegraph office for a messenger who would then speed to the customer's door to pick up a handwritten message and return to the telegraph office to have it sent electrically to its destination.
The life could be dangerous. Boys were expected to "scorch" their bicycles in urban traffic. Strikes occurred with messenger boys cycling en-masse to keep scabs from being hired. Boys attended continuation schools on a four-hours-per-week schedule rather than the 36-hour schedule of public schools. During slack times, the telegraph office hid the boys from public view in basements and back rooms where they smoked, read penny dreadfuls, and shot craps. Weekends or evenings might involve taking part in uniformed military drills before the public. At night, the boys might be required to enter the red light districts in connection with their job duties. The demand for telegraph boys fell when companies began reading messages over the telephone." In his book, Telegraph Messenger Boys: Labor, Technology and Geography, 1850-1950, Gregory Downey notes: “Messenger employment peaked around 1930 and began to drop off after World War II."
A rare survivor from that bygone era, perhaps today best reincarnated in the current day big-city bicycle messenger service, as portrayed in the 2012 movie, Premium Rush, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.