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"Picture a handsome, heroically charismatic, plainspoken, know-nothing, skirt-chasing, cocky little son of a..." — Description of Jack[1]
Jack (Francis Sullivan) Kelly (b. c. 1882) was the passionate and charismatic leader of the Manhattan Newsies, the president of the Newsboys Union, and spearhead of the 1899 July Newsboys Strike. The son of unknown parents, he was regarded as one of the most talented newsies of his generation, with both natural ability and years of experience on his side.

He rallied first the newsies of Lower Manhattan, and successively the entire city, to a strike in response to Joseph Pulitzer's newspaper price hike in July 1899, alongside his "close friend" David Jacobs.

Personality Edit

Early life (1882—18??)Edit

1992 Movie

Jack was born under the name Francis Sullivan c. 1882, to unknown parents. His mother is deceased and his father is, for unknown reasons, in the State Penitentiary (likely Rikers Island Jail). At an unspecified time, Jack was taken to the Refuge, where his initial 3 month sentence was extended to 6 months for rioting over the provision of food, and then extended to a year for escaping on Roosevelt's carriage. Sometime after his first brush with the law, he assumed the pseudonym of Jack Kelly and began pretending that his family were out in Santa Fe. At an unknown time, he took over the Manhattan newsies.

Hard Promises Script

Jack was born under the name Francis Malcolm Sullivan c. 1882, to unknown parents. They were alive until Jack was at least 15 years old. His mother is described as "young and frail", his father "proud". At an unknown time, he and his younger brother Michael were sentenced to the Refuge for theft. He watched Michael be crushed to death by a wagon shortly after their escape. Jack is severely traumatized by this incident, and pretends that his family are alive and in Santa Fe rather than facing reality. At some point, he changed his name. At an unknown time, he took over the Manhattan newsies.

Newsies Novel

Jack was born under the name Francis Sullivan c. 1882, to unknown parents. He's described as a "fast-talking Irish boy" who is incredibly at ease on the streets. He owns a photograph of himself and his parents that was taken at Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Broadway Show

Jack was born c. 1882 (possibly earlier), to unknown parents. He had a close relationship with his father until the man's employers "broke him... [and] tossed him to the curb", leaving Jack with a deep mistrust of corporations and a disillusionment with city life. He claimed that his father "taught him not to starve", perhaps implying a family history of crime. Nothing is known of his mother. At an unknown time (likely early), Jack was brought to the Refuge for "vagrancy and loitering" i.e. being homeless and unattended. Sometime later, he stole food and clothing to give to the boys in the Refuge and was caught. Sentenced to six months, Jack instead escaped on the back of Teddy Roosevelt's carriage during the election campaign (summer 1898). At an unknown time, he took over the Manhattan newsies. For unknown reasons, he is obsessed with Santa Fe. At some point, he developed a serious talent for sketching and painting.

Newsie Days (18??—1899) Edit

Jack is one of the oldest and most experienced newsies in Lower Manhattan, allowing him to comfortably lead the newsie cohort of one of the densest portions of New York City. The duration of his leadership is unknown. He is one of the only people who can stand up to Spot Conlon[2].

Jack's leadership style is largely hands-off, more inclined towards giving advice than orders. He stays at the Duane Street Lodging House, although (in the musical) he avoids paying for a bed by sleeping on the roof, and functions as an alarm-clock for the boys there. He cares deeply for his fellow newsies, sticking his neck out for them and sacrificing almost everything for their well being.

He deals skillfully in petty crime and mistruths, willing to do anything to keep himself and his boys from starving, and is a harbinger of mischief. He is typically late to everything.

1992 Movie/Hard Promises/Newsies Novel

Jack loves showing off and being the center of attention. He has a smart mouth and couldn't care less about the consequences of his actions or the demands of polite society. He has a smoking habit (cigarettes) and enjoys boxing matches.

Broadway Show

Jack's reputation for being "the best" newsie in Lower Manhattan is supported by the fact that he routinely buys 100 papers at a time and carries at least a dollar on his person. He appears to have closer relationships to Racetrack, Crutchie, and Romeo than to the other newsies.

Strike Days (July 1899) Edit

July 18

The morning that Joseph Pulitzer announced a price raise on the World newspaper from $0.50 to $0.60 per 100 newspapers, Jack Kelly was the one to initially blockade any newsies from buying at the new price. At the suggestion of new newsboy David Jacobs, he announced a general strike against the newspaper —against every newspaper. He is unanimously elected leader and, as such, is the one to go announce the strike to Pulitzer. He organizes messengers to run to every other newsie in the city, going to Brooklyn himself, and negotiates a deal with Katherine Plumber/Bryan Denton to report the strike in The Sun newspaper.

July 19

The morning of the strike, Jack successfully persuades multiple scabs to switch sides and join the strike. Even without the support of any other neighborhood/borough, the Lower Manhattan newsies successfully fight off Pulitzer's employees and hired hands. However, they fail once the police arrive. Jack feels incredibly responsible for the failure (particularly Crutchie's capture) and runs off, alone.

July 20/21

At some point, Jack sneaks into the Refuge and visits Crutchie.

Jack is found hiding in Medda's theatre, having given up on the strike. Davey and Katherine, still optimistic, restore his spirits and announce the idea to hold a newsie rally in the theatre. Later that day, Jack visits Pulitzer in person to extend an invitation to the rally only to be faced by Snyder and offered an alternative: he can speak out against the strike and have both money and his criminal record cleared, or he (and all his friends) can be sentenced to the Refuge. Later that night, he chooses to speak against the rally, condemning the strike. His betrayal shocks everyone and they react violently.

Later that night, Katherine/Denton announce their plan for a city-wide strike, the Children's Crusade, and Jack listens, providing the location of a usable printing press. At some unknown time, he faces and makes up with all of his newsies. One of his drawings of the Refuge is included in the newspaper.

July 21/22

Approximately 10,000 "kids under 21" appear the next morning in Newsie Square, successfully shutting down the city and drawing hell down on Pulitzer's head. Jack is still considered the leader of the Newsboys's Union. With Davey, Katherine, and Spot Conlon, Jack faces down Pulitzer. Governor Teddy Roosevelt intervenes and forces the newspaper magnate's hand, stopping to give advice to Jack. Pulitzer, impressed by Jack's artwork, offers him a job as a political cartoonist for the World. Ultimately, Jack decides to give up on his escapist dream of Santa Fe and chooses to stay in New York City.

Post-Newsies Edit

Jack is strongly implied to accept the illustration job offered by Pulitzer, as well as having his criminal record expunged by either Pulitzer or Governor Roosevelt. The Duane Street Lodging House only hosts boys until they turn 18, indicating a near future where Jack is no longer a newsie and has passed his leadership mantle to someone else.

Portrayals Edit

Jack, as the main character, has been portrayed in every version of Newsies.

  • Christian Bale played him in the 1992 movie.
  • Jeremy Jordan opened the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Newsies the Musical in 2011. He also portrayed Jack during the initial Broadway production from March 15 to September 4, 2012 before leaving for a role in Season 2 of NBC's Smash. He reprised the role in the 2017 Netflix production.
  • Max Ehrich played as Jordan's understudy in the Paper Mill shows.
  • Adam Kaplan played as a swing and Jordan's understudy for 2012 Broadway.
  • Brendon Stimson played as a replacement understudy for 2012 Broadway. He otherwise played Oscar Delancey.
  • Corey Cott took over the lead role on September 5, 2012 until it closed on August 24, 2014. He had previously been Jordan's understudy and then alternate.
  • Mike Faist functioned as Cott's understudy through most of 2012 and 2013. He also played Morris Delancey.
  • Dan DeLuca held the role during the National Tour from October 11, 2014 to October 13, 2015.
  • Joey Barriero finished the National Tour, taking it to its conclusion on October 2, 2016.
  • Flavio Gismondi played Jack in the 2016 Italian tour of Newsies.
  • Seo Kyung Su played Jack in the 2016 Seoul production.
  • Lee Jae Kyoon played Jack in the 2016 Seoul production.
  • On Joo Wan played Jack in the 2016 Seoul production.

Jack's role in the musical, according to Dan Deluca and Corey Cott, is a "marathon... the male version of Elphaba or Evita. It does not stop." When he passed on the torch, Jeremy Jordan told Cott that "there's no way you can prepare for this. You just have to do it."

History Check Edit

Jack Kelly was not a historical newsie from the 1899 strike. He is based, in part, on the real strike leaders Louis "Kid Blink" Balleti and Morris Cohen. His name may also derive from a newspaper stall manager named Jack Sullivan, although the man has little in common with the character.

Trivia Edit

  • Christian Bale's Jack smokes cigarettes while Jeremy Jordan's Jack chews gum. This progression is typical of people who are trying to quit smoking.
  • The Irish surname Sullivan means "one eyed", fitting for a character based off of Kid Blink.
  • Mike Faist, at 20 years old, played the youngest Jack Kelly. Jeremy Jordan, 32 when he returned to film the Netflix version in 2017, was the oldest.
  • Jack's paintings (in the 2017 film) are in the American luminist and impressionist styles.
  • There was a New Mexican (Santa Fe) outlaw named Jack Kelly in 1881 who was famous for escaping from jails.
  • The red neckerchief that Jack wears in the 1992 movie was historically a famous way for men in 1890s NYC to say "I'm gay."

Quotes Edit

  • "Don't you know that we's a family? Would I let you down? No way."
  • "Woah! New kid’s right, Weasel. You gave him nineteen. Hey, I’m sure it’s an honest mistake on account of Oscar can’t count to twenty with his shoes on."
  • "Hey, so, how’s about we divvy up the money? We’ll grab some chow and find you someplace safe to spend the night."
  • "A smart girl, huh? I admire smart girls. Beautiful. Smart. Independent--"
  • "Just ‘cause we only make pennies don’t give them the right to rub our noses in it."
  • "So…. Our union is hereby formed to watch each other’s backs."
  • "Say, for someone who works for The New York Sun, you are spending an awful lot of time hanging around at The World. So what’s that about, huh? Are you followin’ me?"
  • "Hey, hey! We can’t back down now, alright? No matter who does or doesn’t show. You like it or not, now is when we take a stand."
  • "Pulitzer thinks we are gutter rats. With no respect for nothin’, including each other. Is that who we are, huh? Well, we stab each other in the back and yeah, that’s who we are. But if we stand together, we can change the whole game."
  • "Ain’t no crime to being poor! No, not a one of us complains if the work we do is hard. All we ask is a square deal."
  • "No, no, go on. Call me a coward. You call me a quitter. Ain’t no way I am putting those kids back in danger."
  • "Oh, if you weren’t a girl, you’d be tryin’ to talk with a fist in your mouth."
  • "No, I spoke the truth. You win a fight when you got the other fellow down eatin’ pavement."
  • "No, no! I’m not an idiot! Look, I know girls like you don’t wind up with guys like me. And I don’t want you promisin’ nothin’ you’re just gotta take back later."
  • "We will work with you, we will even work for you, but we will be paid and treated as valuable members of your organization."
  • "I’m young. I ain’t stupid."

Fandom Edit

  • Jack is often shipped with David Jacobs, so much so that Javid is present in 26% of the fandom works on AO3. Comparatively, the most popular ship (Sprace) is present in 28%. (Data from Jan 2019)
  • Post-2014, there has been a large movement to headcanon Jack as hispanic and/or latino, especially in modern AU. He is also most often represented as bisexual.
  • The ship of Jack/Crutchie has received criticism.


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