Originally modeled on New England town greens, Cleveland’s Public Square had become, by the early 1900s, the city’s busiest streetcar hub. One line ran directly from Public Square to Collinwood. When sensational news such as the In 1908, newspapers were the smartphones of Public Square.Collinwood fire burst from the front pages, commuters clamored for the papers. In the photo above, three newsboys are working the Square, probably crying out headlines. Many potential customers already have newspapers spread out or tucked under arms for the ride. Surrounded by fellow travelers, streetcar passengers lost themselves in the broad pages of the news, reading about the same world that rolled by at trackside. In 1908, newspapers were the smartphones of Public Square.
Commuters not only consumed the news, they shaped its style and content. Short sentences, photographs, and vivid illustrations made the papers digestible in spare moments on park benchesStreetcar Chivalry. Edison Studio, 1903. LOC. This early film makes a joke about commuters and newspapers. When an attractive young woman boards the car, the men make room. When a less attractive woman comes in, they hide behind their reading. and crowded, noisy streetcars. E. W. Scripps favored slightly smaller page sizes for his chain of newspapers, partly to cut costs but also, perhaps, because it made them easier to roll into a jacket pocket or unfold on buses and streetcars. While only men hold newspapers in the Public Square photo, the big-city dailies knew women were even more valuable to their largest advertisers, particularly department stores and other retailers. One editor, Robert Paine, reflecting on the relative impact of male and female readers on the sale of advertising, wrote that “a woman in a house who swears by a newspaper is worth five men who buy it on the street.”