History People People & Places St Landry History

Photos from the Past – Newsies

As in other towns, newspapers were an important part of life and the economy in the early days of Opelousas and St. Landry Parish. Besides local newspapers, those from other towns were sold by local stores including Jacobs News Depot, owned by Aaron Jacobs. Many of the newspapers Jacobs sold were delivered, or sold on downtown streets, by newsboys, sometimes called “newsies.” This top featured photograph shows a group of the boys employed by Jacobs News Depot along with the men who supervised them in the early 1900. Pictured are, left to right, front row, Joe Terracina, Dommick Romero, Joe Graffagnino, Levy Richard, and Russell Burke; second row, Lear Titard, Ogden Mistric, John Ruffino, J. O. “Gabe” Hargroder and Louis Ruffino; third row, Percy Devalcourt, Aaron Jacobs, Gary Tatman and Charles Ruffino.

At the time this photograph was taken in the late 1920s, Aaron Jacobs was the area agent for the New Orleans Item newspaper. That is the paper the “newsies” are holding, with the headline “Cash Bonus Fight is On.”

Besides owning and operating his business, Aaron Jacobs was known for his photography, and produced most of the early postcards of Opelousas at the turn of the 20th century. He was a cheerleader for the community, involved in most of the town’s activities and events. When his business closed, he served as secretary of the Opelousas Chamber of Commerce for several years.

Newspapers during the early 1900s were also delivered by horseback and bicycle. The bottom photo, labeled “Our Newsie,” shows a young man delivering papers in the Washington area at that time. The young man in the photo is not identified, but we know the photo was taken some time after 1914. The paper he is delivering is called the New Orleans Times Picayune. That paper was first called the Picayune, founded in 1837.  It was named that because it cost one picayune (a Spanish coin equivalent to 6¼¢) to purchase the paper at that time. Years later another paper known as the New Orleans Times Democrat was started. In the year 1914, those two papers were combined and the New Orleans Times Picayune was born. (Second photograph from the album of Ophelia Pitre Lafleur, Tommy Lafleur collection.)