"A Reputable Youngster"

Jazz journalist, James Karst, stumbled on an 8 second film clip on the Getty Images website and instantly knew the newsboy smiling at the camera in the footage could be Louis Armstrong.  In 1915 Louis Armstrong was a newsboy in New Orleans.  He would have been 13 or 14 years old and in need of a job since his recent release from a boys’ reformatory where he had been sent for shooting off a pistol in the air and where he learned to play trumpet. Since he was just starting on his musical career, playing a few local gigs, he likely would not have considered himself a musician.  His occupation was newsboy.       

In those days there weren’t many black newsboys in New Orleans. This video was made 6 blocks from the corner of Poydras and Baronne streets where Armstrong was known to sell newspapers. In the short clip of a crowded sidewalk, a newsboy crosses the camera field, turns to smile and then moves on .That smile, the location, and the date so convinced Karst that this was young Armstrong that he reached out to Dr. Kurt Luther, a professor at Virginia Tech known for his work identifying people in Civil War-era photographs. Luther compared the facial features of the boy in the video to those seen in the earliest known images of Armstrong. Karst accessed census records to verify the small number of black newsboys on the New Orleans records at the time the film was made and where they lived and sold newspapers. If Karst's theory is correct, the clip from 1915 shows Armstrong at a turning point in his early life, years before he became a jazz legend. There is that famous smile. You be the judge.

The young Louis Armstrong

The young Louis Armstrong