Archival photos of the Globe’s strangely webpage-like Newspaper Row storefront, 1912-1963
By Chris Marstall, Creative Technologist for the Boston Globe
Long before the Web, The Boston Globe had a “homepage” of sorts – its old storefront downtown. Taking advantage of its location in a heavily trafficked block of Newspaper Row, the young daily brought the news to Bostonians in a whole new way: handwritten signs.
Today the newsroom’s digital staff rushes stories to Boston.com and parcels them out to the various sections of the homepage: the upbox, the center well, the inside box. A big story can mean a custom layout. Ads fill in the “spots and dots” between the headlines.
But this isn’t the first time the paper has tried a free, real-time, ad-supported product. From at least the turn of the century until the 1950s, Globe staff shuttled back and forth throughout the day from the newsroom to the street. There they wrote breaking news headlines and sports scores on four blackboards and two enormous sheets of newsprint. Behind the Globe’s windows? Ads.
Breaking news – a bank holdup, a bus accident, the death of FDR – was quickly featured on the storefront (NB: usually in 140 characters or less). The storefront even offered streaming multimedia of a kind: telegraph dispatches of boxing matches and baseball games were shouted out play by play through a pair of loudspeakers.
Different “layouts” were used. During World War II an outsized map of Europe loomed over the storefront. For Red Sox World Series appearances, a scaffold was built. Sports desk hacks stood on it to chalk up the scores for derby-hatted crowds numbering in the hundreds.
We’ve learned most of what we know about this era from 8½x11 prints carefully labeled and filed (“News & Periodicals – Boston Globe – Old Building – Bulletin Board”) in the Globe Library’s photo archives. Here is a small sample of what we found. Enjoy!
In the days before radio, fans crowded Newspaper Row (a section of Washington Street downtown) to follow big games on the Globe’s scoreboard. Hundreds “watched” the Red Sox beat the New York Giants four games to three in the 1912 World Series. (photo dated Oct. 18, 1912)
The Globe soon progressed to a two-blackboard layout for baseball, and added loudspeakers. A crowd listened to the play-by-play in the 1925 World Series. (Photo dated Oct. 8, 1925)
Closeup: Globe staffer in a newsboy cap took notes on the storefront scaffold during the 1925 World Series. One blackboard lists the team lineups, another the box score. (Photo dated Oct. 8, 1925)
Globe storefront with four blackboards. One reads “US Forces Invade Central Solomons” (Photo dated July 6, 1943)
Ads in the window, 1940s.
In the weeks after D-Day, a giant map of Europe dominated the storefront. (Photo dated June 22 or 23, 1944)
Globe staffer updated a storefront blackboard with the news of FDR’s death. (Photo dated April 14, 1945
Even after the Globe left Newspaper Row, small crowds would gather to read the news directly from an AP machine in the window of what was now called the “intown office.” (Photo dated Oct. 23, 1962)
The day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, a crowd gathered to read updates taped inside the Globe intown office window. (Photo dated Nov. 23, 1963)