March 2, 1910: Officials announce that child labor laws to be enforced at local theaters

On this day in Duluth in 1910, a state labor commissioner warned that Minnesota would begin enforcing child labor laws at Duluth theaters. Duluth’s Savoy and Princess theaters, as well as the Savoy in Superior, were featuring a “Newsboy Quartet” of dancing paperboys. Deputy State Labor Inspector Jean Poirer pointed out that many of the “newsboys” were under 18 years old, which violated state labor laws. The boys themselves became a “very disappointed bunch” upon hearing the news as “they had been training for this act for weeks.” It was OK for kids under 18 to serve as ushers (and actual newsboys) but selling tickets and performing on stage was not allowed. Another state official, Mrs. Perry Starkweather, pointed out that the evil’s of child labor include “loss of rest, unhealthy mental atmosphere, stirring the activities in the wrong direction and vitiation of child life.” Further, performance work was particularly bad for children as it “results in all those evils and subjects the child to moral influences which are distressingly real in their affect on after life.” The Newsboys lost their night jobs, as did a ticket seller at the Orpheum Theatre who was under 18  and two orpheum ushers who were younger than 14. The manager faced a fine of $50 and thirty days in jail for each violation.