The “Manly Art of Self-Defense”

The "manly art of self-defense"

Title-The “Manly art of self-defense”; Creator- Newsboys’ Protective Association; Format-Photograph; Location-Cincinnati, Ohio; URL-


This photo is really interesting to me because it seems to have a motive of promoting manly toughness. There is not too much factual information on this picture, but the photo quality seems to be from the early 1900’s. The title seems to impose a strong motive on the part of the photographer or the Newsboys Protective Association and the boys look like they are posing for the picture. The photo makes it seem like this is something normal for young boys this age living with other boys, and the title backs up the practice calling boxing a “manly art”. Maybe the NPA published this photo to promote child labor, showing parents that allowing your son to live in a house of boys will make him tough and manly. I have seen many photos that demote child labor, but this is one of the few that seems to sway the other direction. How important was toughness and strength to men in the early 1900’s? Did they try to show a diverse group of boys for a reason? What would be the reaction to this by most Cincinnati families during the industrial revolution? -Ryan Roe



3 thoughts on “The “Manly Art of Self-Defense””

  1. This picture definitely shows how important it was to adhere to Gender roles in the early 1900’s. I believe this photo was published sometime in the 1910’s, and I agree with you, Ryan, it does seem to be one of the strange few (that I’ve seen at least) trying to promote and glorify child labor. I do find it strange, giving the time period, that the room is mixed with boys of different ages and race, but if I were to guess, I would think that it would be to encourage parents of all class and race to send their child into labor. Perhaps to try and give them a chance at equality and to grow into the strong young men all of the other boys are watching.

  2. I find this interesting as well – this picture shows how children in the 1900s were instilled with the understanding of gender roles and stereotypes that make men “manly,” and thus women “feminine,” and this is due to the child’s parents placing them in environments that exaggerate these beliefs. This photo does make it seem that typical male attributes such as “toughness” and “strength” were greatly valued in this time period, as young boys, despite their race, were taught to grow up with a strong mentality.

  3. It’s a typical thing to do amongst young men; fight each other to prove who’s the strongest and the alpha male. Here we see a group of young boys either watching the fight or actually fighting in what seems to be a bedroom or house. It’s interesting because this idea still exists in society today almost a century later in which fighting to prove ones self still exists. What’s even more interesting is that while it seems this photo is from the early to mid 1900s, there is a mix of culture and race. While these boys parents probably had strong views about discrimination, these kids probably weren’t educated as well on the subject yet. Do you think that without the influence of adults discrimination still would’ve existed?

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