The following is a newspaper profile of newspaper vendor Sammy Lichtman that appeared in the Toronto Star on July 31, 1913 under the heading “Sammy Lichtman is Afraid to Go Home to Austria.”
Lichtman, who was then 25 years old, went on to become a major newspaper distributor who built up a chain of newspaper stores. As was the fashion of the day, the story begins with a series of subheadings. ◊
He May Be Forced to Serve Three Years in the Army
Had 24 cents, but now worth $50,000
Owns Houses and Stores in the Central Part of Toronto
Advice to the Newsies
Romantic Story of the Wonderful Success of a Toronto Newsboy
Along in the summer of 1902, a young lad 14 years of age, stepped off the train in Toronto with 21 cents in his pocket. He had come all the way from Austrian Galicia with a friend to seek his fortune in Canada.
He could not speak a word of English, the customs of the people were entirely unknown to him, but he courageously invested his few cents in papes on that first Saturday night. He found out, almost at once, that it was difficult for one who could not cry his wares to sell papers, and that same night he had to see out his little stock for half what he had paid for them.
That was Sammy Lichtman’s introduction to Toronto, and his first business venture. Today (1913) he is worth well over $50,000, and has retired from the paper selling business, with an ample income derived from wise investments in real estate.
Sammy related his experiences to The Star, and told graphically an interesting story of the way in which he steadily worked his way up the ladder.
He was born in the little town of Palazowec, in Austrian Galicia, in 1888. His parents, who are still living, unfortunately lost their money, and Sammy, at the age of 11, decided that he would no longer be a burden upon them, but would strike out for himself. He was attracted to Toronto because at that time he had an uncle living there, and the reports they had received of the situation were most encouraging.
After his first experience as a newsboy Sammy studied the situation for a couple of weeks. Up and down the streets he wandered, watching how the boys disposed of their papers, learning a few words of English here and there, and finding out everything he could. What impressed him was the size of the bundles of papers that the boys disposed of so quickly, and he figured that there must be a good deal of money to be made, especially if brains and determination wee used to advantage.
“Where did you learn the language?” he was asked.
“Well, I picked it up on the street from the other boys, and then I went to the school which Mrs. Warburton had for newsboys. I was there for three months, and then I got a pass to handle papers, provided I went to night school.”
“How did you get along there?”
“Oh, I started to make so much money that I had no time to go to school. My luck turned, and I had as much as I could do to look after my papers.”
While he was studying the “newsies” games Sammy found that the stand the General Post-Office was not being worked so he decided to try that spot. Therre he sold papers for about a year and a half, and was able to dispose of between 400 and 500 papers a day.
That, however, was only part of his day’s work. At seven o’clock he used to go down to the corner of King and Yonge streets and buy out all the other boys and stay there until nearly two o’clock each morning selling papers to the late goers of the city.
THE CORNER STAND
Finally, one of the boys at the northeast corner of King and Yonge decided to give up, and presented his location to Sammy. Here for years he has been dispensing papers, and worked up not only a splendid retail business but also took a turn in the wholesale game, and often cleared between $80 and $100 a week.
Beaming with delight at his success, Sammy related how he had been able to increase his earnings until now has had about $2,000 capital for every cent he had when he landed in Toronto.
“How did you do it?” he was asked.
“I took my savings from the paper sales, he said, “and bought bits of property here and there, and was able to turn it over in small and large profits. It is all real estate in Toronto, and all stores and houses within the Belt Line. I am getting 80 per cent return from some of my investments,” he added with a smile.
About seven years ago Sammy was getting along so well that he brought his sister and her husband from New York, and he is living with them on Baldwin street.
HELPING THE SMALL BOYS
Sammy has always taken a great interest in the welfare of small boys who start in as newsies. At times he had quite a number working under him, on a percentage basis, and some of them would dispose of from one to four hundred papers a day. Altogether he has trained over sixty small boys whom he picked up in the Ward, and has helped them to go into business for themselves. Some fifteen of the boys that he has helped have from one to eight thousand dollars in the bank. There are ones that have acted upon his advice and been careful of their business.
“Newsboys in this city,” he said, “can go out with a small capital and work up a good trade providing they will be good works and … think always about their fathers and mothers.”
SELLS HIS BUSINESS
Last week he disposed of his business at the corner by a characteristic way. He had had two boys with him for the last three years, and a few months ago a cousin arrived in Toronto from his old home town. These have been carefully instructed in the retail side of the business and they will carry it on in the future. He started them out with a bank account, upon which checks for some of the papers could be given. Then each one was to have $10 a week as wages and the balance would go into the business account. Last week the partnership netted about $50, and Sammy was quite convinced that these boys, who are between 16 and 17 years of age, could easily make a small fortune in a few years if they were as careful as he himself had been.
THE NEWSIE’S PICNIC.
Sammy is looking forward to the Newsboys’ picnic, which will be held on Monday Aug. 4 at Centre Island. This will be the seventh one that he has had some share in managing and he expects to have about 500 boys for the day’s outing.
As to his future, Sammy has not decided. He is eager to go back to Austria to see his parents but if he did he might be forced to serve three years in the army, as he is liable to be drafted for service. This does not appeal to him at all, and it is not likely that he will take any chances for an enforced stay in Austria. ♦