Michael O'Halloran - A Reader's Guide
Learn about Gene Stratton-Porter's Book, Michael O'Halloran
Enter into the desperate world of poverty with the life of Michael O'Halloran, a plucky orphan who makes a living selling newspapers on the street corner in Chicago in the early part of the 1900s.
This vintage fiction has themes that modern readers can relate to. By straight living, Mickey follows the values instilled by his mother before she died. He works hard, stays away from trouble and is a model of self-reliance.
His life is complicated when he takes on the care of another orphan, an abused and sickly young girl that he names Lily. Now he has two mouths to feed and more responsibility. Read on to see the other themes that this vintage book contains.
(scanned book cover from the author's collection)
Michael O'Halloran by Gene Stratton-Porter
This classic book remains in print almost 100 years after it was published. It is available in several editions, including for the Kindle.
Michael O'Halloran was published in 1915. It ranked #3 on the best seller list for that year.
Plot Themes in the Book, Michael O'Halloran - by Gene Stratton-Porter
- Women's Suffrage - in the book, there are numerous mentions of women's place as the homemaker and letting the man rule the household. Yet, Gene Stratton-Porter herself was considered slightly radical at the time, since she wore pants and went into the swamps to photograph nature. She does depict the farm wife as deserving of better treatment and that character in the book has strong influence in her family's direction.
Learn more about the history of the women's rights movement in the early 1900s.
- City VS Country - Michael and his Lily live in a tenement so the reader gets a picture of slum life at that time. In an effort to improve Lily's health, he arranges for her to have a week in the country with a farm family. This is part of the open air movement that gave slum children a break from the heat and disease of the big city summertime.
The son of the farm family yearns for the bright lights of the city, while Michael is enchanted by the wonders of country living and the fresh air and bountiful food.
- Appreciation of Nature - In Michael O'Halloran, the heartless socialite regains her better self after being shown the wild birds in the Limberlost Swamp. Where previously she only cared for opera, she thrills to the intricate music of birds in the wild.
- Protecting the Weak - Mickey takes on the care of the handicapped Lily and does everything in his power to make her life better.
- Wealth Corrupts - The story shows the neglect of the children of wealthy socialites who turn the care of their children over to uninterested nannies. In the extreme case shown, this even leads to the death of a child at the hands of an abusive caregiver.
- Hardships of the Poor - Mickey lives in abject poverty, scrambling to earn enough nickels to pay the weekly rent on his room in a slum tenement.
- Clean Living - The young newsboy avoids hanging out with the wrong crowd and prides himself on keeping clean, being honest and not drinking or gambling. He catches the eye of a young lawyer who wants to be a Big Brother to Mickey. Although Mickey strongly values his independence; for the sake of Lily, he takes a job as an errand boy in the lawyer's office. The lawyer makes a good role model for the young boy.
Learn More about Newboys of the Early 1900s - Videos showing vintage photos and film of newspaper boys
More Classic Books by Gene Stratton-Porter
These vintage titles are all good reads. Gene Stratton-Porter tells her stories so well.
This is usually the first title that comes to mind when people think of Gene Stratton-Porter.
Freckles, an orphan, makes a living in the logging industry despite being handicapped from the loss of a hand. Lots of nature descriptions of the Limberlost swamp, romance, a mystery and just a good old-fashioned story.
Here's What Mickey, the Newsboy, Might Have Looked Like
These stickers were created on Zazzle by RetroCommunications. They can be ordered there.
Hustler Bartletts Square Stickers
Video Showing Newspaper Boys
Gene Stratton-Porter's The Keeper of the Bees
A touching story of a gravely injured soldier after WWI finding his way to recovery in the beauty of the California coastline. There's romance and some mystery and a great kid character too named Scout who's a plucky character.
Obviously the author greatly admires youngsters who are independent, out-spoken and determined.
Video Showing Newspaper Delivery Boys in 1899
A Newspaper Story from 1900 That Shows the Hard Life of a Newsboy
This is from the Chicago Tribune, September 1900:
NEWSBOY PLEADS FOR HIMSELF
Jimmie Newman, Arrested for Jumping on Street Cars, Argues His Case Before Justice Martin Successfully
" I have to support my mother and slster, Judge, and I do it by selling papers. That's the reason I jumped on the street car. I have customers -who ride on the cars and they buy-papers from me when they go home at night. Please let me go. Judge. I don't see how mother and sister can do without me." The speaker was 12-year-old Jlmmle Newman,' who lives at 1812 Wabash avenue. He was arrested for boarding a Wabash avenue cable train at Twelfth street on complaint of representatives of the Chicago City railway company, and stood before Justice Martin this morning pleading his own cause. " How long have you had to sell papers to support your mother and little sister?" the justice asked. " Nearly a year," the boy answered. : " Father died nearly a year ago. I was going to school then, and mother took in washIng. Then she got sick and I had to leave school and sell papers. I work hard, and sometimes make a dollar a day. It they keep me off the car I will lose a lot of my customers." ~ "I can't hold this boy," Justice Martin concluded. " Go home, Jlmmle, to your mother and sister. Here's something to give them," and the Justice handed the boy a dollar, . ,, - .
Note that in this day and age, there was no Social Security or safety net for families. When the bread earner died, they lost their income and had to scramble to make a living. In 1900, the average annual income was $439. (Source: Value of a Dollar 1860 - 1999. Grey House Publishing, 1999)
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Learn More about the Author, Gene Stratton Porter
- Gene Stratton-Porter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
More about Gene Stratton-Porter's life and books.
You Can Visit Places the Author Lived in Indiana
- Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site
The Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic is a 128 acre property located on the shore Lake Sylvan. The home is known as the Cabin in Wildflower Woods.
- Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site Rome City, Indiana
State Historic Site dedicated to author Gene Stratton-Porter. Notable Hoosier nature photographer, conservationist and woman ahead of her time. 150 acres.
- Limberlost State Historic Site
Limberlost State Historic Site in Indiana was the home of Gene Stratton-Porter. She was a popular author & naturalist in the early 1900s. Her best known book is
Delancy Place Talks about the Era of the Newsboys
- 600,000 Newspaper Boys
In the early days when papers were a penny a piece, the newsboys hawked the papers to readers on street cars and on high traffic corners to pedestrians. Read more about it.
The Golden Era of Youth Delivering Newspapers - Read the Book: Little Merchants
Read more about the plight of young boys in the early 1900s and also the later paperboys who delivered in neighborhoods by bicycle.
Many of the early newsboys were homeless children. They were orphans or runaways from abusive homes. Selling papers was their way of making a living.