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Michael O'Halloran - A Reader's Guide

Updated on July 6, 2015

Book Cover

This early cover shows the Mickey, the newsboy.
This early cover shows the Mickey, the newsboy.

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

Michael O'Halloran
Michael O'Halloran

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. Protecting the Weak - Mickey takes on the care of the handicapped Lily and does everything in his power to make her life better.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Freckles

Freckles
Freckles

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

The Keeper of the Bees (Library of Indiana Classics)
The Keeper of the Bees (Library of Indiana Classics)

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)

Have You Read Michael O'Halloran?

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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.

What Vintage Books or Authors Do You Like?

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    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      The Harvester is one that I read over every few years. It may be old-fashioned but it really resonates with me.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 3 years ago from Washington KS

      Gene Stratton-Porter is my favorite author. Her books are as important today as they were when she wrote them. She memorializes the natural beauty lost through modern technology and commercialization, plus introduces people to decent, honest people. The Harvester is my favorite Stratton-Porter book.

    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      @SusannaDuffy: Micky is a plucky little fellow, & you will enjoy his story.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      OK Just downloaded the book - thanks

    • oddobjective profile image

      oddobjective 4 years ago

      I love the author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her tales of her family are funny, serious and sad but very entertaining.

    • MaureenCee profile image

      MaureenCee 4 years ago

      Hi Virginia, this is a really lovely lens and I only visited it because my grandmother was an O'Halloran before marriage and did you know the name is so old they don't know when it originated and it's on the Antique Names register. Thank you for this marvellous lens.

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 4 years ago from Texas

      I've not heard before now of this author or books, but they sound worth reading!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      I'd like to emphasize my appreciation for the way you designed this lens. Especially important are the numbered points you make.

    • kerbev profile image

      kab 4 years ago from Upstate, NY

      This looks like a great read. Newsies was my favorite movie when I was 12.