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 Bernard “Barney” Williams

Bernard “Barney” Williams

Cork, County Cork, Ireland
Death 25 Apr 1876 (aged 51)
Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Plot Greenbank path Sec 111 Lot 13464
Memorial ID 18013019 · View Source
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In memory of Bernard Flaherty
Aka: Bernard Williams
Age: 53 years old

First paperboy in New York City, Successful Actor and Comedian


The story of a long and very successful career before the Footlights.

New York Sun, April 26.

Bernard Flaherty, better known as Barney Williams, the irish comedian died yesterday of paralysis in his home at 41 East Thirty-eighth street. He was born in Cork on the 19th of June, 1824. His father was a sergeant in the British army, and after his death Mrs. Flaherty and her two son and three daughters emigrated to New York. Bernard was then six years of age. Mrs. Flaherty's sons began very early in life to earn their own living. Bernard ran errands for Washington market dealers, and subsequently became an errand boy in the office of the Courier and Enquirer when Col. James Watson Webb was editor of that journal. In 1886 he ran errands for the management of the Franklin theatre, and in time became an usher at $5 a week. During his employment in the theatre he learned a number of NEGRO SONGS AND DANCES,and in them he soon exhibited himself in saloons, and finally in Vauxhall Garden in the Bowery. As he approached manhood he played utility in both the Franklin and Chatham theatres, under the name of Barney Williams, and was intrusted with small irish characters. In these he showed ability, and was at length allowed to play Pat Rooney, the leading character in the force of "Ommbus." From that time he took a good position to the profession, and in March 1845, he appeared in the old national theatre, Philadelphia, as Mad Sampson in "The Heroic Struggle of 1776."
In August, 1845, Barney Williams returned to this city and became a manager of Vauxhall Gardens, and while he was manager there Dan Bryant made his debut as a boy negro dancer. Not finding ultimate sucess in Vauxhall Garden, Barney drifted back to the Chatham theatre, where Miss Maria Kathleen Pray was in the Ballet. She was soon married to Charles Mestayer, and after his death returned to the Chatham, and became popular as a fancy dancer and second acrobatic. In 1850 Barney was still in the company, and Joe Jefferson was the low comedian. His first wife Maggie Lockyer, whom he first knew as a young ballet girl in the Bowery theatre, was dead and he began to admire THE PRETTY MRS. MESTAYER.
Barney was also impressed by her, but both were too shy to offer themselves, and neither knew the other's feelings. One evening Joe

New post on Ephemeral New York

The first newsboy to hit the streets of New York by wild newyork.

The tough job of a newsboy—buying copies of a paper from the publisher,then reselling enough of them on the street to scratch out a profit—originated in Manhattan in 1833.
That's when a 10-year-old Irish immigrant answered an ad run by the sensationalist New York Sun looking for unemployed men to take on "vending this paper."

"The first unemployed person to apply for a job selling the Sun was a 10-year-old boy, Bernard Flaherty, born in Cork," recalls Munsey's Magazine in 1917. He couldn't have realized it at the time, but Barney, as he was known,
paved the way for thousands of newsboys after him in the 19th century.It was a gritty, unglamourous way to make a living:

"The majority of these boys live at home, but many of them are wanderers in the streets, selling papers at times, and begging at others," writes James McCabe in 1873's Lights and Shadows of New York

"Formerly, these little fellows suffered very much from exposure and hunger. In the cold nights of winter, they slept on the stairways of the newspaper offices, in old boxes and barrels, under door steps, and sometimes sought a 'warm bed' on the street gratings of the printing
offices, where the warm steam from the vaults below could pass over them."

No wonder late 19th century social reformers opened
"lodging houses" for newsboys and other kids who worked or lived on the streets.

For genealogy purposes only.

Bio by: New York Historian

Family Members

Gravesite Details Irish comedian, he "confirmed" fears about Irish immigrants by his caricature





  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Tony Cossean
  • Added: 21 Feb 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 18013019
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Bernard “Barney” Williams (19 Jun 1824–25 Apr 1876), Find A Grave Memorial no. 18013019, citing Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .