Skip to main content
Bicycle Messenger Boys and the Evolution of American Labor Laws
International Cycling History Conference (2018)
  • Christopher A. Sweet, Illinois Wesleyan University
Bicycle messenger boys often conjure up images of young boy riding an early morning newspaper delivery route. Long before the newspaper delivery boy, telegraph and shipping companies exploited child bicycle messengers as a cheap form of labor. Bicycle messenger boys worked long hours under dangerous conditions for little pay. Some worked overnight delivering messages and parcels to patrons and proprietors in red light districts. Some were injured or even killed on the job. This presentation will examine how bicycle messenger boys found themselves entwined in evolving American labor laws from 1890-1940. Anti-child labor organizations such as the National Child Labor Committee used exposés of the working conditions of messenger boys to help force passage of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Bicycle history,
  • labor law,
  • child labor,
  • bicycle messengers
Publication Date
June 13, 2018
London, England
Citation Information
Christopher A. Sweet. "Bicycle Messenger Boys and the Evolution of American Labor Laws" International Cycling History Conference (2018)
Available at:
Creative Commons License
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons CC_BY-NC International License.