John George Brown decided to leave his native England after hearing a music hall performer sing about life in America. In the decades following the Civil War, he became one of the most popular and commercially successful artists in the United States. Brown was best known for his paintings of the young newsboys and shoeshine boys he met on the streets of New York City, which earned him the nickname "the Boot Black Raphael.
The tattered clothes of these children identify them immediately as working-class. Likely the offspring of the immigrant population that grew New York City by more than 300,000 people over ten years, these children are burdened by an overcrowded and under resourced urban environment. Despite the circumstances the boys come to the aid of a lost girl and, in so doing, create an idyllic scene of community and support.