Bicycle Messenger Boys and the Evolution of American Labor Laws

Research output: Journal ArticleArticlepeer-review


This article examines how bicycle messenger boys found themselves entwined in evolving American labor laws from 1890-1940. Anti-child labor organizations such as the National Child Labor Committee used exposés of the working conditions of messenger boys to help force passage of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Beyond child labor laws, bicycle messenger boys also shaped workplace liability and worker’s compensation laws. Companies who employed bicycle messengers who were injured or killed on the job usually claimed the boys owned their own bicycles and worked as independent contractors rather than employees therefore absolving themselves of liability.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalCycle History 29: Proceedings of the 29th International Cycling History Conference
StatePublished - 2018


  • bicycles
  • bicycle history
  • social history
  • labor law


  • Social History
  • United States History

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