REMINISCENCES OF EDITORS AND REPORTERS
Collected and published by ARTHUR S. WHITE
White Printing Company
Grand Rapids, Michigan
-UNFORGETTABLE WEEKS.by MRS. ETTA S. WILSON pg. 9
-ONE LONE WOMAN IN AN EDITORIAL ROOM by MRS. MYRTLE KOON CHERRYMAN pg. 17
-SALARY SIX DOLLARS A WEEK. by HARRIET CULVER pg. 21
-KNOWN AS LOCAL EDITOR. by J. D. DILLENBACK pg.25
-HIS BIGGEST SCOOP. by FRANK M. SPARKS pg. 29
-SCOOPED THE CONFERENCE ASSIGNMENTS. by WELLS F. HARVEY pg. 33
-ENTERED NEWSPAPER WORK OVER A SPECTACULAR AVENUE.
by HARRY W. MUSSELWHITE pg. 37
-FLETCHER AND WILLIAMS COOLED. by L. G. STUART pg. 41
-FROM CUB TO REPORTER. by CHARLES S. HATHAWAY pg. 43
-JUDGE CRESWELL'S LARGE AND INDEFINITE ASSIGNMENT.
by HARRY C. CRESWELL pg. 49
-HATHAWAY'S KINDERGARDEN by GEORGE W. LOCKE pg. 57
-IN MEMORIAM pg. 59
CONTRIBUTED BY A. S. WHITE, E. A. STOWE, CHARLES W. GARFIELD
MORRIS J. WHITE, CHARLES S. HATHAWAY, DAVID N. FOSTER.
-LETTER TO THE PUBLISHER by JOHN B. MILLS pg. 75
-HISTORICAL pg. 76
-UNFORGETTABLE WEEKS.by MRS. ETTA S. WILSON pg. 9
One cold blustery morning in a March long gone by as I was walking down Monroe street wondering if there was any way in which a woman might earn an honest living outside of sewing or teaching school, both of which I had tried and hated, I met Lloyd Brezee. We exchanged greetings and acting upon what seemed to be a sudden impulse, he asked me to step into a near-by doorway out of the wind, when he immediately offered me a position on the Telegram-Herald, at that time a mere struggling infant of a newspaper having to be trundled along very carefully, but now the successful Grand Rapids Herald. I accepted the position instantly without mention of salary or the number of hours of daily labor, and I admit that the salary proved to be exceedingly small while the hours of work were most liberal.
At that time women were unknown in the editorial rooms of the newspapers. There was no society column or anything approximating it, but Mr. Brezee being a man of novel ideas and revoluntionary notions, proposed to start one and he outlined his plan to me. He had been in the newspaper game in Detroit and had buried one paper which went down and out singing every line of its swan song in rhyme. He had started a weekly paper in Grand Rapids under the caption of Brezee's Herald and this had, at that time, been merged with the Morning Telegram, started about the same time by McDowell and Harford, two bright newspaper men who, however, were unable to finance a newly established morning newspaper, and under the new name of the Telegram-Herald it came under the control of Mr. Brezee and several theatrical men among whom were Fred G. Berger and Sol Smith Russell, both of whom were brothers-in-law of Mr. Brezee, the latter two having married Mr. Berger's sisters, members of the "Berger Family of Swiss Bell Ringers," a group of entertainers composed entirely of the Berger family and its connections.
The first three weeks that I spent in the toils of the newspaper office are unforgettable. I did not know just what to do or how to do it and Mr. Brezee, at that time managing editor, could not tell me. It was just one of those things that had to be worked out. Previously all personal items had been confined to the goings and comings of men in the business world and it was a ticklish task to tackle when mention was made of the travels of society women. For a time items for the "society column" as Mr. Brezee elected to name it, were brief statements of travel and business trips and the first time mention was made of an evening party in one of the exclusive homes in Grand Rapids, a storm of great violence raged over the Telegram-Herald offices and centered upon my inexperienced head. It seemed, at least so we were informed, that it was a scandalous thing for a newspaper to print anything about an affair in a private home, a matter that could not possibly concern anyone except "those present."
However, having elected to run a department of that kind we proceeded to do it and by exercising some care we managed to increase the scope of our column and also to retain the good will of those who had been progressive enough to see daylight coming and sensible enough to bask in its kindly light. The society column became a leading feature of the paper and very popular, yet it was a small effort measured by the society departments of the daily newspapers of today. One whole column seemed a wonderful grist to me and had any one told me that later I would "handle" 14 columns of society news as I had to do on the Detroit News, it would have been unbelievable. "Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, and "Jack's Bean Stalk", is not the only rapid grower in the world.
Of course my efforts while in the employ of the Grand Rapids Herald were not confined to the society page. I did general reportorial work accepting assignments in every line of human endeavor. For a number of years I was police and court reporter; and at various times I filled, I believe, every department in the editorial divison. I edited state and political news, telegraph, sports, etc., writing as occasion demanded, anything needed from the leading editorial down to the fall of a respected business man. I reported the wonderful $10,000 horse race between Nelson and Allerton, the two great stallion kings of their day; interviewed Susan B. Anthony on woman suffrage and reported a swell wedding all within the limits of a day's work. Reporters certainly worked in those days and I was not the only diligent one in the game in Grand Rapids. Newspapers paid small salaries and employed few reporters so one had to work at lightning speed while on the run from one assignment to another.
The one thing which contributed more to my success in the society field than anything else, I believe, was the fact that I had gone to school in Grand Rapids and had a wide acquaintance with the young matrons in the very best circles. After their first astonished gasp over the exploitation of their big and little parties they seemed to enter into the spirit of it and many would go out of their way to give me help in the matter of picking up items here and there. Some timidity was exhibited at first but this eventually gave way to a sensible view of newspaper mention. One lady said to me, "I love to read about the affairs of other people, so why shouldn't I let them read about mine?" and this spirit spread and grew so that I eventually had help from the most exclusive quarters.
I will never forget one of the early experiences in trying to get an item from a little "circle within a circle." I heard a rumor that some one was planning to do something very grand and unusual, but no one seemed able to speak with authority about it. I went first to the then president of the Ladies' Literary club, a liberal minded woman who had often given me good items, but she said, "Oh, my dear, I cannot tell you a word about that. Go and see Mrs. So and So, I think she knows all about it." But she added that Mrs. M. J. Smiley, at that time leader of the local four hundred, could tell if she would.
And I went to see Mrs. So and So and she repeated substantially what the first lady had said and advised me to go and see Mrs. So and So, who, knowing all about it no doubt would be willing to talk. The Mrs. So and So added that Mrs. Smiley could tell me more than anyone else could but that she was so exclusive and scornful that she probably would refuse to see me at all, let alone telling me anything for the newspaper; so, not wishing to be snubbed I went to see Mrs. So and So, who told me in effect what the other ladies had told but refused further information. Then, she, too remarked that Mrs. Smiley was the right one to give out the news only "she certainly would never talk to a reporter, she is so proud and haughty."
Well, I hadn't much time to waste so I said to myself, "Why not go and see Mrs. Smiley, if she is the only one who can tell me about this; she certainly will not kill me and if she will not tell me what I want to know it will be time to try again elsewhere."
So I went up to 300 Cherry street and rang the Smiley door bell and when the maid came to the door gave her my card. She invited me in, told me to be seated and then disappeared upstairs. In a few minutes Mrs. Smiley, lovely, gracious and cordial as her name, came down and we had a good old heart to heart conference which made us friends for life. She was a progressive woman and because I was doing something new in the line of women's work she was wonderfully interested. She told me all I wished to know and gave me much news in addition and when I departed she reminded me again to come to see her whenever I felt that she could help me in any way.
Another dear lady whom I met in my work was the late Mrs. W. S. Gunn. She was a beautiful and cultured woman. Among others who early took an interest in my work was the stately, Mrs. D. H. Waters, the lovable Mrs. J. H. Wonderly, the gifted Mrs. Edwin F. Uhl, the delightful Mrs. H. Parker Robinson and the ever youthful and charming Mrs. Will H. Gay. There is a saying, I know, that women are the worst enemies of their sex, but I did not find it so in the early days of my work when I needed and appreciated women friends. Never did I receive a rebuff even in the most exclusive circles. All were helpful and friendly.
I had determined from the beginning to make myself competent to report every sort of news for I aspired to be a general all-around reporter and I did not want any managing editor to feel that there were cases where I could not be sent because I was a woman. With this end in view I bought a book of base ball rules and studied it diligently. Whenever possible I went out to the ball game and watched it carefully hoping to learn it sufficiently well to report a game should occasion demand. The chance came about as soon as I was fitted for it. L. F. Williams, who after many changes had become managing editor of the Herald, had one day sent every one of the men out on assignments and he and I were alone in the office. He was grinding away on an editorial and I was editing state news when suddenly he looked up and said, "My God, there is a ball game this afternoon and every man is out, there is no one to take it."
"Well," I said, "Why don't you go out there yourself?"
"Dear lady," he said, "I don't know a thing about base ball. I sometimes go. I laugh when the crowd laughs, I guy the umpire when the others do, and I root for the team when the fans do, and altogether have a grand time; but, technically, I don't know a thing about it."
"I'll go," I said.
"You," he snorted.
"What good will that do the paper," he asked scornfully.
"I know I can report it," I said, "and if you will let me go out there, I'll show you."
So I went and often thereafter I was called upon to write sports since in those days there were no sporting editors on the Herald.
Newspaper work is so interesting that one never tires of it even when the day's work is exhausting. Any one who has been in the game for any length of time could write a fair sized book of the happenings of one day only in the editorial room. Mistakes are few even when one is working under pressure, but when one occurs it labels you the moment the paper drops off the press. Doctors bury their mistakes but when a reporter makes a mistake it shows up at the top of the column, front page.
I recall one mistake that I made that was laughable and excusable, too, as even the victims must have acknowledged if they were fair minded at all. I received a hurry up call to report a wedding. The bride was a member of a well-known family but the groom's name was not mentioned when a reporter was asked to write up the wedding. The ceremony had been performed at high noon and it was 2 o'clock when I reached the scene of the festivities. The bridal pair had departed upon their wedding journey and the parents and friends were sitting around in that more or less disheveled state common after a function entailing serious possibilities. I asked the usual questions and when I came to the name of the groom some one said, "Edward," then I said I meant his full name, to which the mother of the bride responded, "Austin." After inspecting the presents and so on, I departed and wrote up the wedding under the caption "Austin-Jones." A day or so later I discovered that the heading should have been "Brown-Jones" as Austin was only the middle name of the groom. But who was responsible for the mistake?
When I look back at newspaper life and realize the vast amount of work that must be covered daily, the short time in which the workers have to prepare their "copy" and the variety of the sources of their information, I wonder that more mistakes are not made. Somewhere there must be a Great Copy Reader who watches over these conscientious workers and saves them from voluminous errors.
Of the many really funny happenings that I now recall during the years of my life in a newspaper office was a little affair the participants of which were L. F. Williams, John D. McIntyre and Frank I. Cobb. The first two have long been numbered with the silent ones but Cobb is now an editorial writer on the New York World. In the early summer of 1893 Williams and Cobb prepared themselves to tramp over the vast spaces of the World's Fair then staged in Chicago, by taking a long walk daily, rain or shine. Every morning as soon as the jig was up they would start out South Division street, at first taking only a short walk, increasing the distance daily as they became hardened to it. Finally they were able to walk and run out to Burton avenue and then it occurred to one of them to put up a job on McIntyre. As all his associates knew John was pretty soft physically and was incapable of long walks, so they began their plans by telling him what a wonderfully fine thing the early morning walks were. They arounsed his interest as planned and when he expressed a desire to go with them some morning, they jumped at the chance and immediately arranged to have him go with them the following morning. John was doing the theaters at that time and after his work was finished he loitered around the office until Williams and Cobb could leave. They started out Division street at a fast clip purposely but John held up nobly and ran gaily along with them. Finally they broke into a run but John ran along nimbly, too. When Burton avenue was reached without the expected whimper from John, they ran right along as though Kalamazoo might be their destination. On and on they ran but their would-be victim was with the people apparently enjoying it. Finally realizing that the three would have to walk back, there being no owl cars on Division street, Williams suggested casually that they turn back, but McIntyre said, "What, already? Why, I'm just getting my second wind."
But they turned and during all the wearisome tramp John was as chipper as a sparrow. He was the life of the party.
Later in the day Williams and Cobb came into the office groaning and saying that their feet were blistered, their backs were borken and their legs full of cramps, but they laughed with fiendish glee when they mentioned McIntyre. They agreed that he probably would not be able to show up for a week but while they were still talking and groaning the door opened and in walked John jauntily wearing a new suit with a rose in his buttonhole and looking as fresh as a daisy.
It is certainly a pleasure to review the old days in the newspaper offices or any part of them but since a dreadful illness which resulted in a complete alteration in my mode of life, I have never gone back to the work although my pen has never been wholly idle. When I learned that although I would recover I would go about with my head drawn back through shortening of the cords of the neck from the poisoning resulting from the bite of a gnat, I had my bad hour. I felt that I was through with the activities of life and that hereafter I would have to sit on the side lines. With my head drawn back, what could I do? Not newspaper work surely, but as I pondered it came to me like a flash, I could study birds.
So I took up the study of birds with no other thought than that it would fill a gap in a life which had always been in touch with the things that count, the big things. I had no thought of making money. I felt that money making was a closed chapter in my life. Returning health brought renewed energy. In my study of birds I followed the flitting creatures from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico, from Florida to Alaska, seeking to know at first hand the secrets of their lives and their ways of living under different conditions. Ornithologies supplanted every other form of reading except the daily papers. I came into touch with others who were devoting their lives to bird study and soon found myself reporting migration and other phases of avian life to the Biological Survey at Washington and when a chance came to me to make more money than I had ever made in the newspaper game by lecturing on the conservation of bird life, I was surprised to find myself fitted for it, and was engaged as national lecturer by a New York bureau.
Since then I hve been busy and happy.
The deformity? Oh, it is gone. I overcame that long ago.
---Etta S. Wilson.
-ONE LONE WOMAN IN AN EDITORIAL ROOMby MRS. MYRTLE KOON CHERRYMAN pg. 17
As I look back over my twelve years of newspaper service, with another good round dozen of years intervening between that time and this, I find that instead of getting impressions of work done---concerts, conventions, club-meetings, church-shows, and other ventures on the high C's (ceas, if you please) of reporting, my strongest memories are of the office life itself, with its brisk camaraderie. Whenever, in these somewhat feministic days, I hear brute men criticised and condemned, I often say in their defense, "Yes, but they're brave, they don't whine, they do their work well, for the most part, and they nearly always have a joke ready on the hardest days."
I have tried to recall to recall my more vital experiences, for there must have been some, but when I start to visualize, for instance, a meeting of the State Federation of Women's Clubs, in Muskegon or Flint, or Benton Harbor, I get a blurred impression of busy, efficient women, then back flies my thought to the office, with its cordial welcome to the returned reporter. When I place on my mental phonograph the records of interviews with Schumann-Heink or Calve, I am more than likely to hear, mingled with their quaint German and French accents, the echoes of men's voices, with their gay or sardonic teasing.
And speaking of teasing, a single girl in a big family of brothers could not be called upon to endure more than a lone woman in an office of men. Never shall I forget how "Tink" started a story all around the state about my encounter with Chase Osborne and a parrot, at a little hotel in Lowell, where all of us chanced to be waiting for a delayed train, the men having been on duty at a political meeting, and I coming from an entertainment in a small town nearby. There was nothing to the adventure, except that when Mr. Osborne met me later at the station, he exclaimed, "Oh, you're the lady who was trying to talk to the parrot in the hotel! You didn't understand Spanish --- that's why you didn't get on better. Polly was calling you "Bella Signora!" Now the fact that the Polly in question hadn't said a word in any language, did not keep Tink from writing a story for next day's Press which made the incident seem like a scintillating war of wits between Mr. Osborne and me. As the ready-tongued politician was then running for governor, I suppose the story was good publicity for him; but I wasn't running for anything --- except cover, which seemed to be necessary by the time the squib was copied in Detroit and other towns in both peninsulas.
Then there was the day when I found on my desk a marked copy of the noon edition of the Press, with my verses for the day, "To Salvia" (an attempt to picture the brilliant scarlet flower of later summer) printed with the careful substitution of "saliva" for "salvia" throughout. The abashed and apologetic assurances of the M. E. that the mistake had been caught in time to be corrected in the later editions were a comfort, but hardly necessary, for the more I read such lines as "How brave and bright is saliva!" the more I thought the change would add much more to the gayety of nations than the original would have done. Then, a day or two later when it came out that the whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by Beach Conger, now of international fame, --- that he had caused the printers to strike off two or three copies of the absurd garbled version, and had pasted one on the copy of the paper set to catch me, I was almost ready to be "mad" for the first time. Did I get even? I hope so! I can't remember that I ever really did get back at Beach, but I do remember "sassing" Tom Fletcher one day, in a way that did my soul good. I was wearing a new black-and-white striped blouse and when Mr. Fletcher saw it (for no matter how bad Tom's eyes were, he could always seem to see what a woman was wearing) he called out loudly, "Ahh! Zebray?" giving the long "a" sound in the last syllable; then seizing a rare chance, I retorted, "Yes, and some other things bray, too!" I had the satisfaction of hearing a sort of combined grunt and chuckle from the city desk, which was the only acknowledgement I ever had that I was even, for that day, at least.
I never did get over having little spasms of delight at the quick retorts of Harry Stitt, and one of them always comes to mind when I think of the Press office. When, at the close of a long afternoon at the society desk, I found that I had eaten all the candy from a box some one had sent me, I put the empty box on the ledge of the bulletin board, chalking a hand pointing down to it with the words, "Good Space," which Mr. Stitt had written earlier in the day. When I arrived next day, I found no box at all, so I went to Mr. Stitt's desk and made a mock complaint, telling what I had done, and adding, "I thought when the boys saw "good space" there, they would take the hint and fill my box." Instantly, he replied, "Why, my dear Cherry, I saw that, but I thought it said, "God speed," so I chucked it into the waste-paper basket!"
Things may have changed in newspaper offices since my day. I dare say they have, for a good deal of water has run under Pearl street bridge since I began work in the office [ferninst it?]. No doubt the status of woman in the working world has improved in some ways, and the change perhaps brings with it a deterioration in the chivalrous attitude of men toward their feminine comrades. I have been told that it is so, and some women, indeed, go so far as to say that they don't want any of the old-time delicacies of attention from the men with whom they work. Be that as it may, I like to think that during my years of service with the men of the Press, though they treated me like another man so far as expecting me to do my work well, and earn my own pay-envelope; thought they tacitly expected me to keep going, with the sort of grim cheerfulness they themselves exhibited on days of toothache, bad cold, eye-strain or rheumatism, the same as other days, yet there were innumeralbe little kindnesses of the old-fashioned sort; flowers and bonbons left on the desk occasionally, an umbrella unobtrusively offered on days of unexpected rain, sudden hushings of coarse words from the composing room, and a cry of "Man-on-the-roof!" to the reporters themselves when there were evidences of conversational turns not fit for "the presence of Mrs. Boffin." I may be reactionary, old-fashioned, ---whatever you want to call it, but the memory of these small courtesies and considerations do not suggest to me a humiliating attitude of sentimental coddling of the mere feminine; they rather make me feel that whatever place women may take in the working world, there will always be a few men ready to show such trifling but pleasant attentions, of only by way by tribute to their own mothers and wives.
Anyway, the memory of the comradeship of the men, with their courage, humor and frequent considerateness is the thing which makes the newspaper chapter of my life-story read to me like a wholesome drama in which the dark moments and prosy scenes are forever brightened by heartsome incidents and flashes of genial comedy.
---Myrtle Koon Cherryman.
-SALARY SIX DOLLARS A WEEK. by HARRIET CULVER pg. 21
Naturally my reminiscences regarding newspaper work in Grand Rapids center about the late Alfred B. Tozer, or "Toz" as we always called him. "Toz" not only taught me all I know about newspaper work but he was my staunch friend, as well, and while memory lasts it will always revert affectionately to the days when I was a "cub" reporter down in the old Herald office on Pearl street.
L. G. Stuart was the managing editor and "Toz" the city editor, when I dropped off the train one hot, dusty afternoon in September, 1903, undecided whether to go back to the University of Michigan for an M.A. degree or try to land a newspaper job. I had been a high school teacher but the newspaper bee was buzing away in my bonnet and Mr. Stuart was good enought to give me a month's tryout at the munificent salary of $6 a week. Except for four years I have been in the game ever since and the experiences I had making those six cartwheels tide me over from one pay day to another have stood me in good stead ever since. If I remember rightly industry crowned my efforts with a raise to $8 the second month and then the extra $2's filtered along gingerly until, once, upon a time, by exercise of a "fluke" I got Billie Etten to give me $16 a week. That was the biggest salary I ever earned on the Grand Rapids Herald but maybe I didn't deserve even that much.
"Toz" had his feet planted on top of the city desk when I went into the office to begin my work. He eyed me rather savagely, I thought, and told me to go out and get some interviews on what sort of fiction should be placed in the public library. I didn't dare ask for any instructions and wandered out of the office wishing the earth would open and swallow me right away quick. I had seen the ministerial sign of the Rev. Henry Beets not far from my boarding house so I mustered up courage to go ask him where to get some information. He not only gave me my first interview but told me the names of the library commissioners and I got material for a story which I wrote out in my best U. of M. literary style. Like all beginners I sat up half the night wondering if it would do and beat the milk man on the rounds in the morning to see if it was in the paper. You will be surprised to know that it was, though the literary order was considerably reversed and the whole thing condensed and deleted.
For the first month "Toz" kept me stepping lively, determined to find out if I was what he half suspected "a high-brow" and if so, to get me out of it as soon as possible. After this period of initiation I know he would have fought for me at the drop of the hat and once he paid me the real compliment of telling one of the boys that I could say more in less space than any man in the office. I hope I can bear this in mind in this story.
While "Toz" discouraged my verbosity and clipped and pruned my adjectives L. G. Stuart taught me that I must keep everlastingly on the job. One horribly rainy night I was sent out to cover a wedding in one of the foreign neighborhoods. I had not looked much upon the foam in the beaker and when I found the wedding guests were all making merry and no one seemed to have time to tell me in English what it was all about, I went back to the office with my feelings very much hurt. I knew the names of the bride and groom, but not the minister, and didn't think it was worth writing about anyway.
L. G. peered at me over his glasses as severly as he knew how and said: "Yes, but you're a newspaper woman. And the first thing and the last thing to remember in this game is that you must always get what you are sent after."
I felt sadly crushed, but I've never forgotten this maxim. And sometimes it has helped me over seemingly impossible obstacles. Not long ago the Free Press wanted some information from the Rt. Rev. Bishop Gallagher and when I presented myself at the official residence and asked for an interview his secretary told me very emphatically that the Bishop was busy and could, under no circumstances, be disturbed.
"But tell him," I said, "that Mollie May of the Grand Rapids Herald wants to speak to him." The secretary registered horror at such frivolity, but left the room. Inside of two minutes I was talking to Bishop Gallagher about the scoops he used to give me when he was Father Michael Gallagher at St. Mary's and I was the church reporter with the office nickname which "Toz" bestowed upon me of "Rev." Incidentally I got the story I was after.
Some of the stories I worked on I shall never forget. One of these was an assignment to find out what the Board of Trade was going to report as its findings on one of the perennial agitations to secure water from Lake Michigan. George S. Whitworth, then the president, assured me he'd like to give me the information, but it would be embodied in the official report to be issued in a couple of months and until that time he knew it would be impossible for me to find out anything.
Hervey Stuart was then the managing editor and Hervey couldn't wait. He said I'd have to get it someway, he didn't care how. I knew that the committee on its tour of investigation must have stopped at Holland, and, like every newspaper person, I knew Charlie Floyd, superintendent of the Holland interurban. "Them" were the days when we used to be given free boat transportation to Chicago and over the line when we wanted them.
I told my troubles to Charlie and he shouldered them manfully. Saturday afternoon we went to Holland, hired a team and drove 23 miles to Port Sheldon, driving part of the way through water up to the hub of the wheels. We found Port Sheldon, deserted and the only farmer anywhere near had gone to Holland for his Saturday marketing. We drove back hoping to meet him on the way but failed. I went back to the office without my story. But the next day Charlie drove again to Port Sheldon, found the man, and learned that the party had, as we suspected, had lunch at his house the day they went through. The farmer had listened to the conversation to such good purpose that he could even tell Charlie the dimensions of the pipe they contemplated purchasing. That night he telephoned me the story and the Herald "scooped" the world on Monday morning. Mr. Whitworth always wondered how I got the story.
Of course there was the "Oom" murder, with "Toz" on the desk and Hervey Stuart as managing editor. Larry Morley drove the furious steeds which took "Jack" Worthington and me to the home through the lonely stretch of woods where the shot was fired. It was my first stight of a corpse and I had to write the "sob" while "Jack" got the facts. A night or so after they sent me out at 9 o'clock to interview a woman who thought she had a clue. It was out in the same neighborhood and she lived several blocks from the street car. Really I should never be afraid of the dark again, after this particular night's experience. And, worse luck, her story didn't amount to anything.
I worked on the Nellie Lewis trail with Billie Etten as managing editory, and some way or other I did manage to be in on most of the big things that happened in Grand Rapids those days. For instance, I was in "Uncle Billie" Turner's confidence the night he threatened to fire "Ed" Loomis, foreman of the composing room. "Uncle Billie" called me in and told me just how he was going to do it. Knowing his gentleness I was dubious as to the result. I saw "Ed" go into the office and come out again in a minute or two. Then "Uncle Billie" beckoned to me and was blowing his nose furiously when I went in.
"Miss Mollie, I'm an old fool. I just couldn't do it," he said, sheepishly. And all I could say in reply was:
"Uncle Billie, I knew all the time you wouldn't."
This is a rambling story. But the old days do beckon to us so.
-KNOWN AS LOCAL EDITOR. by J. D. DILLENBACK pg.25
Beginning to plan this article while riding in a street car, which is now my favorite recreation, an advertising card attracted my attention: "This Bank --- large enough to serve you, small enough to know you." Such, I thought, might serve as a characterization of the little city of Grand Rapids in 1868 and 1869, when I was local editor of the Grand Rapids Daily Eagle. Mind you, I was known as local editor, not city editor or reporter, both of which positions were comprised in one. Albert Baxter was editor and I was the only writer on his staff, save when one or the other of the proprietors, who were Aaron B. Turner and Eli F. Harrington, chose to treat some subject in which they were specially interested. Editor Turner was possibly the best known man in western Michigan, having published the Eagle for twenty-four years and made it a power to be reckoned with for all that time. As a daily the Eagle only dated back about twelve years.
When I began work on the Eagle I had been for nearly three years clerk in the office of Benjamin A. Harlan, Judge of Probate, where, after sweeping the office, I worked steadily at the desk ten hours a day until my health began to fail. It was too much of a change from three years at the front in the cavalry service, during which time I slept in a bed only three nights. George Smith, one of the most talented young men that Grand Rapids ever produced, had been local editor until the ravages of consumption forced him to quit work and go South --- alas, too late. After two or three other young men, who were given a trial, had failed to fit the place, Judge Harlan interceded in my behalf and Mr. Turner sent for me. I told him that I would very much like to try newspaper work, but that I should want him to agree to keep me for at least six months, as I didn't want to be laughed at. He laughed at that, and set me at work the next day.
I like to think of Grand Rapids as it was then. It was still in the small town class, having only fifteen or sixteen thousand inhabitants. But it was growing rapidly and the people were prosperous, enterprising, hopeful and harmonious. Those were golden days in the Valley City! At that time most of the earliest pioneers were still living, including Louis Campau, the first white settler, and I became acquainted with nearly all of them and felt very much at home among them, for I had come to the village in 1847 at the age of six. I can well remember seeing a squad of soldiers start from the Bridge Street House for the Mexican War.
It was worth while to be the only reporter on the leading daily of such a town, for it took but a short time to become personally acquainted with all the leading business and professional men and other prominent people. My note book protruded from my pocket and bore in gilt letters this legend: "Local Editor," that he who read might run to give me news. And sometimes there really wasn't much news to be had. When hard pressed to fill space I remember devoting more than half a column to a church social that in livelier times was perhaps worth three lines, if so much as that. I could frequently cover the courts, the sheriff's office and the fire department in half an hour --- and perhaps get nothing at all. P. R. L. Peirce, the genial and witty clerk of the circuit court, used often to give me the proceedings in rhyme, and I printed them as written.
I like to write up the manufactories, then just coming into prominence, which were later to make Grand Rapids famous. The furniture factories of Nelson, Matter & Company and Berkey Brothers & Gay already employed more than two hundred men. The plaster mills were doing a large business. C. C. Comstock's saw mills, pail and tub factory and sash, blind and door factory employed a good many men, as did William Harrison's wagon factory and Butterworth & Lowe's foundry and machine shop. Grand Rapids was still an important lumber town and great rafts of logs were floated down the river every spring, some to be worked up in the local mills and some to go on to Grand Haven. The City National Bank of which William B. Ledyard was president and Thomas D. Gilbert vice-president, had an uncommonly able and representative board of directors, and so did the First National Bank, of which Martin L. Sweet was president.
Powers' Opera House on Pearl street, was the principal place of amusement, some of the time supporting a stock company. Luce's hall was the great gathering place. There many famous men lectured and there all sorts of festivals and fairs were held.
In 1869 Sweet's Hotel was completed and its opening was the great social event of the season. The new Congregational church was dedicated with much rejoicing. The Methodist Church (known because of its many pinnacles as the "Church of the Holy Toothpicks") was completed in 1869, as was the new Central High schoolhouse to replace the old stone edifice.
While on the Eagle I reported many addresses by prominent speakers, for the old lecture bureau was still working. I used to like to report the speeches of Lawyer Thomas B. Church, whose slow, impressive delivery, clear enunciation and classical English made it possible for me to get almost every word in long hand. He once complimented me by saying that he would rather have my report than that of the average short hand writer. Two of the greatest speeches I ever heard were his address on the Fourth of July, 1861, when as a Democratic leader he announced his firm devotion to the cause of the Union, and his oration on the Centennial Fourth of July, 1876. Col. George Gray was a lawyer who could plead a cause with wonderful eloquence.
Arthur S. White was at that time beginning his long, useful and notable journalistic career. Clark C. Sexton was local editor of the Democrat. He could not write the best of English, but his "nose for news" more than made up for any deficiency in his vocabulary or his grammar.
My health in the fall of 1869 became so bad that I could no longer do justice to the work, and I was succeeded, as I remember, by Robert Wilson, who was later succeeded by E. B. Fisher. After that I did a good deal of work for the Eagle at different times, reporting several state fairs and one session of the Michigan state legislature. I also worked several months on the Daily Times for C. C. Sexton, three months for D. N. Foster on the Saturday Evening Post, just before he sold out, and published the Daily News Item for six months. Coming west forty-two years ago I soon lost touch with the Grand Rapids papers.
--J. D. Dillenback.
-HIS BIGGEST SCOOP. by FRANK M. SPARKS pg. 29
Can you remember your first big story --- real big one I mean --- how you got it and what it was about? Of course you can, for those events are the beacon lights in the life of the newspaper writer. And wasn't it true that that big story, like all other really big ones, came by accident? The ones really worth while are not those you go out to find nor the ones to which you are assigned, but rather the ones which you just happen to stumble upon.
That was the way I landed my first real big story, and as I look back upon more than twenty years of newspaper writing I still believe it was the really biggest yarn I ever wrote. I first contracted newspaperitis in the city of Bango, state of Maine, and it was the last story I wrote for the old Bangor Daily News before coming "out west" that I still count my biggest scoop.
From the time I was a very small boy I had peddled the Bangor Daily News on the streets. As a high school and college student I had written for it and worked as reporter on it during my vacations. In the summer of 1900 following my graduation from Bowdoin college, I entered upon the life which I have followed ever since. The "salaries" paid then were not such as the cubs now receive for my compensation, even after the experience I had had, was but five dollars a week. Naturally I was looking for something better and it came in April 1901 in an offer to come "west." I was forced to go to Boston to close the deal and it was on the day and night I left for Boston that I landed my big yarn.
One of the regular duties of the cub reporter on the Bangor papers was to go to the two railroad stations each train time and grab off a few personals. I had gone to the Exchange street depot for this purpose and arrived there just as a train from Oldtown rolled in. Hardly had the train come to a full stop when a big crowd gathered in an excited bunch. It was not particularly unusual as drunken Indians and lumber jacks alighting from that train almost daily gave occasion for the gathering of a crowd.
However I managed to push my way into the heart of the gathering and there found a young man and woman, an elderly and very dignified man and a deputy sheriff, Noah Gould, all arguing excitedly. The deputy was quite deaf. I yelled into his ear: "What's going on Noah?" He answered me quietly: "Look me up later. Here's a good story for you." I got out of the crowd and at the edge met "me hated rival" of the afternoon paper. He asked what all the excitement was about and I responded; truthfully in part: "I don't know. Somebody drunk I guess." he let loose a snort of contempt and went away.
Now to tell what really developed would be too long for the purpose of this story. It occupied seven full columns in the Daily News of the next day and every paper of any consequence in the country carried all the way from one to three or four columns of it for the boys in the office peddled it everywhere. The story had many sequels extending over a period of several years and became quite a sensational case. Very briefly the story was this:
The elderly gentleman was very wealthy. He lived in New York state and had come to the conclusion he wanted a wife. Through a matrimonial agency he had gotten into correspondence with the young woman in Oldtown. They had exchanged pictures and letters and made arrangements for the old man to come to Oldtown where they were to be married. The old man reached there about dusk one evening and was met at the door by a young man who, after the aged Lothario had announced he had "come to marry Bertha", informed him that Bertha was already married to him. The old man refused to believe it and Bertha declared the statement untrue. The young man produced a marriage certificate the corner of which was burned. Bertha declared she had been married. that the certificate was the record of her marriage to her deceased husband, that the young man was her husband's brother, who was pestering her to marry him but that she loved only the aged Lothario and proposed to marry him.
The young man did not object very strongly. The old man believed Bertha's story and all three took the train for Bangor the next day. The young man created a distrubance on the train and the deputy sheriff got into the game. After leaving the depot the three with the deputy went to a hotel where, after a lot of argument, the young man accepted $100, admitted Bertha's story was true and acted as best man while Bertha and her aged lover were married.
My investigation of the case showed a lot more interesting and unusual features, among which were that Bertha had no less than five living and undivorced husbands. Each had been won in some sensationaly manner. But Bertha and her new husband went away to New York and were supposed to live happily ever after. A few months later, however, one of the sequels to my story broke. The old man appeared in court to seek assistance in ousting from his home the young man who had unexpectedly shown up and whom Bertha had insisted must live with them. Still later another sequel appeared. The old man appeared before authorities to ask assistance to prevent the young man and Bertha from taking his property away from him. Still later came another sequel when the old man suddenly died under circumstances which caused the arrest of Bertha and the young man on a charge of murder. I never did see what was the outcome of the trial as I had "come west," and while western papers had been carrying the story all the time, I missed that last chapter in some manner.
I have said that story occupied an entire seven columns in the Bangor Daily News the morning after I ran into that crowd at the Exchange street depot. It also cost "me hated rival" of the afternoon sheet his job. I finished the story in time to catch the 1 a.m. train for Boston. I had mighty little money and as I walked along Washington street in Boston the idea occurred to me that I might make an honest dollar with that story. I found the office of the Boston Traveler. I had a copy of the Morning Globe in my hand. It carried two columns on the front page of my yarn.
"Did you notice this story?" I asked the managing editor of the Traveler.
He responded that he did and added: "It's a peach of a yarn, too."
I stuck out my chest somewhat and announced that I was the cub who had developed that story, and had all the intimate details of it. He listened as he worked, then glanced at the clock. it was 10:30.
"I'll take all of that you can write in fifteen minutes." he said. "Our next edition is out at 11. There's a typewriter. Go to it."
I never wrote faster in my life than during those fifteen minutes. The M. E. stood over me most of the time cutting short takes as fast as I could write them. He made me quit almost in the middle of a sentence at 10:45, sent out my last lines, wrote a head and then without a word wrote on a slip of paper an order. "Take that down to the cashier," he said and went on with his work. It was an order for $25. It was the biggest sum I had ever received for a story and it meant more just then than almost any sum I ever have received. I was figuring on coming west and I had not been able to save up much on my five per. I cashed the order but before I got on to the street, the paper was out with my story played all over the front page of the pink sheet and that meant more even to me than the $25 I had in my pocket.
The story was purely an accident. Most big stories are found by accident. Some are found by hunch but as Chase Osborn once said: "The fact that a man has the hunch or happens to be in the place where something happens is the proof that he is a newspaper man." Perhaps that is so but I really do believe that the biggest yarns are not those we go out in search of or are assigned to. The scoops are the things that one gets by accident.
---Frank M. Sparks.
-SCOOPED THE CONFERENCE ASSIGNMENTS. by WELLS F. HARVEY pg. 33
This is the story of a "scoop" which was put across in Grand Rapids with the help of the late Bishop McCabe. Through his co-operation the Grand Rapids Press was able to publish the conference assignments in advance of their announcement. Many of the preachers learned from the Press where they were to go the next year.
This "scoop" came quite early in the reporting experience of the writer. Hardly more than a cub, he was given the assignment of covering the annual conference, which was to meet at the old Division Street Methodist Church. The assignment came from the veteran city editor, Thomas W. Fletcher, who has an honored place at the various meetings of your organization. Mr. Fletcher's instructions were backed up by Harry B. Stitt, then managing editor of The Press, who took great interest in the effort to beat the rest of the state on the preachers' assignments.
The instructions were that the assignments were the big news item of the conference; that they were to be landed for the Press notwithstanding that they usually broke for the morning papers. It was put up to the reporter to find a way to get inside information on the work of the bishop and his cabinet, and thus to be able to get the story into The Press first.
The young reporter lost no time in making himself as solid as possible with Bishop McCabe, who presided at the conference. This was no difficult task, for the venerable bishop was a real person, with a heart in him as big as a mountain. He delighted in doing kind things for people. He would not test high by modern rules of efficiency, perhaps, though he raised millions for Methodism and was considered the greatest money raiser of any Methodist leader up to the time of the Centenary. But Bishop McCabe put the human side first, and it was his first thought to help the young reporter, if he could.
The request was that the list be furnished to The Press in advance, in order that the type might be set. We were to bind ourselves not to publish the list until it was released by the Bishop. We were to be furnished changes, in order that our list might be kept up to the minute. Then, when the word was given, we would be able, without loss of time, to slip the type into the turtles and print it first.
In looking back at this request, I quite admire myself for the effrontery of it. Certainly none of us concerned was lacking in nerve, and I believe that no other bishop would have considered such a suggestion very long. But Bishop McCabe inquired into it, and asked whether we would be willing to furnish proof sheets for the use of himself and the cabinet. His suggestion was that we set the list up in its original form, furnish him an ample supply of copies, make changes as the work of the cabinet progressed and keep the cabinet supplied with the latest list.
This bargain was made quickly, Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Stitt entering into it enthusiastically. We secured the list, furnished the copies and made changes.
But that blamed conference started out to quit at the wrong time. It became evident early in the afternoon that the work would be finished that day. The outlook was that the meeting might drag into the evening, but the whole show would surely be over that night. The reporter and his editors had a vision of losing out after all the trouble, with that list appearing in the Herald first.
The crisis came at about 2:30. Our dead line was approaching. The conference was in session. They struck up a song. The Bishop was presiding and was leading the singing with that robust voice which was known all over the country. The reporter went into the pulpit and the Bishop then let the rest do the singing. He listened while the reporter explained the desperate situation; how he and his paper were going to be beaten after all-----unless the Bishop would release the list and allow it to be published in advance of its announcement.
Bishop McCabe did not release the list. What he did was to tell the young reporter to use his own judgment. The reporter uttered thanks as cordial as any bishop ever heard and ran for the telephone. The word was given and the story was started on the first page, with a run-over inside. It was all there.
Probably Joe Taylor was running the circulation end then. Anyhow, the newsboys were over in front of the churh in short order. They were posted to shout that the paper gave the appointments. A few preachers were hanging around the entrance. They bought papers and saw that it was so; there their assignments were. They rushed upstairs and told their friends. Other preachers quietly hurried downstairs and bought copies of The Press. Papers were passed around the church, and presently all knew their fate.
The announcement was made along in the shank of the evening. Not many cared about that. The reporter wasn't there and the preachers knew all about it, anyhow. It was the first time, and perhaps the last time, that all of them could see it in a newspaper first.
In a few days I wrote a letter to Bishop McCabe and thanked him as well as I could for his help. He wrote me a kindly note in reply. Not long afterwards he died. I have known few bishops in my time, but if they are all like Bishop McCabe, I hope there is a specially nice place set apart for them in the future life. He was a real man, with a real heart in him.
---Wells F. Harvey.
-ENTERED NEWSPAPER WORK OVER A SPECTACULAR AVENUE.
by HARRY W. MUSSELWHITE pg. 37
So far as I recall my ten years connection with The Herald was pretty much a matter of steady routine, with a few high lights but none of an especially notable character. I do, however, recall quite vividly the difficulty I experienced in getting placed in the editorial department of any Grand Rapids newspaper, which was not until I had put in a year and a half in anouther department of the Herald. Coming to Grand Rapids in the fall of 1905, after having served an apprenticeship dating from 1887 on various papers of the middle-west, including Chicago and St. Louis, I esteemed myself a fairly competent news hound. It took the Grand Rapids newspapers to take any such conceit out of me. Applying first to the city editor of the Press, then down by Pearly street bridge, the proffer of my valued services was received with no enthusiasm whatever. At the office of the Grand Rapids Post, Will J. Sproat, then city editor, thought he might be able to use me at $7 a week, but I thought he might not. Hervey Stewart (or Stuart) then managing editor of the Herald, informed me that the Muskegon Chronicle wanted a telegraph editor. I called them up and they offered me $9 a week, which offer I likewise spurned.
But I had returned to my native state, Michigan, after adventuring widely in other fields, determined to stick. My people lived in Grand Rapids, and there I elected to remain. In the circulation department of the Herald I found an opening at what, in those days, was a good remuneration, and having had employment during my checkered experience, in all departments of a newspaper office except the pressroom, I managed to satisfy the boss that I was earning my salary in that capacity, and so I thought I had written my last piece of copy and was hooked forever to the productive end.
Meanwhile, however, I had written up several incidents that had impressed me in my travels throughout the state which, it appeared, attracted the notice of the new head of the works, Arthur H. Vandenberg. Coming in one Saturday night, I was asked if I could be ready in fifteen minutes to catch a train. I was transferred to the editorial department in a crisis and in a hurry.
My assignment was the memorable Salem wreck of a P. M. Special train carrying a large party of workers in the Ionia shops of that road on an excursion to Detroit, in which upward of 50 were killed and many injured. With Ed Moore, then city editor of the Herald, Max McArthur, reporter, and a telegraph operator, I was dispatched forthwith to Ionia to cover the story from that end. It was a Saturday night, and working our heads off the three of us fairly and fully covered the front page of Sunday morning's edition. I remember that while I was filing my longest and best feature, Billy Etten, then managing editor of the Herald and now with the Grand Rapids News, in a telephone conversation with Ed Moore, wanted to know "Who the hell is this fellow Musslewhite?" "He's making a lot of the front page all of a sudden!" Billy Etten is now one of my very best friends, though I never had the privilege of working for him long, he leaving the Herald almost immediately after this episode. He was succeeded by Tom Parker Junkin, with whose coming to that paper my connection with the editorial side was almost coincidental.
Shortly after, L. G. Stuart was transferred to the city desk of the Herald, and my two years under his direction were among the most pleasant of my life, my work being mainly feature stories for the Sunday edition and big assignments. Then I myself was transferred to the city desk, and the only pleasant feature in this connection that I recall was the splendid, loyal, silling force I had for a time. This included L. G. Stuart himself, covering the business beat; Jack Worthington, doing politics and anything requested of him (Jack is now publishing his own newspaper in Florida and I sincerely hope, flourishing finely); Gene Hull, now dead, a police reporter always on the job; John B. Mills, on the telegraph desk, and Lew Bailey; Tim Turner, who has since made a name for himself, but who was a tribulation at the time; Abe Geldhof, the most versatile "cub" I ever met up with, and others who come and went, including Elizabeth Muir, and Nellie Austin, who after she went I went and got, and who is now the sharer of my joys and sorrows and my business partner and associate as well.
I have forgotten to chronicle in the proper place the fact that my entree into the newswriting field in Grand Rapids was through the same spectacular avenue of entrance that it was on the three preceding newspapers on which I had worked --- a train wreck. My first assignment at Decatur, Ill., was a big wreck on the Wabash near there, in which 67 people were killed; my first on the Terre Haute Star was a freight wreck in which an engineer and fireman were killed, and my first on the St. Louis Star was an accommodation bottled up in the terminal tunnel in which no lives were lost, but a score or more were nearly suffocated before they could be released. And in passing, I may say that Terre Haute was the best "news" town in which I ever worked, and that the 18 months I spent there were more filled with memorable incidents than the ten years I put in on the Herald.
During my connection with the Herald I covered every beat at some time or other except the markets, and sat or subbed on every desk. It was inevitable that my sins should eventually find me out, and I should finally be forced to hold down the sport desk. Sport writing generally was and is odious to me, but it had its pleasant features, as for instance, harness racing, a great golf match or a regatta. Baseball and prize fight stories are my pet abominations, and yet for years I had to write them by the mile.
As on most newspapers on which I have worked, I eased myself out of the Herald via the sport desk, the work finally becoming so unendurable that I seized an opportunity to come to Manistee and take complete charge of this city's merged daily newspapers. Two months subsequent, I purchased the controlling interest in the Manistee News-Advocate, and the fates have dealt kindly with me. My feet are pretty firmly planted in this new setting, and indications are that I will terminate my career happily as the publisher of a good, clearn small city daily with a circulation of a little better than 3,000.
I have no laments to voice. The ten years with the Herald were pleasant ones, if commonplace. Grand Rapids is too well behaved a city to be a thrilling field for a hard-boiled reporter. Its crimes are of the sordid, rather than the picturesque, variety.
One valuable asset that I have always possessed in my newspaper work is the fact that I served my apprenticeship in a country print shop, learning the trade by the painful processes of 35 years ago. This knowledge of the trade many times has stood me in good stead, and I can pick an error in the type forms as easily as I can in the printed proof.
And I am content. What more could a newspaper man ask after close to thirty-five years in the business.
---Harry W. Musselwhite.
-FLETCHER AND WILLIAMS COOLED. by L. G. STUART pg. 41
This is the story of a double back action practical joke and the date of it was in the good old times when Waterloo street, Alma street, Summit, Kent and upper Canal street were on the map.
It was a desperately dull night and Tom Fletcher in the city room of the old Democrat and L. F. Williams on the desk in the office of the old Telegram-Herald, were at the end of their resources for something interesting to fill the columns.
A bright thought occurred to Williams. He grabbed the telephone: "Say, Tom, that man who was shot. Did you get the name as John or Joe?" was the question he asked.
"Wait a minute and I'll look up the copy," was the reply, and after a pause came the information that "our report gives his name as Joseph."
With neither story nor the rumor of a shooting, Fletcher jumped to the conclusion that the Telegram-Herald had him scooped. He called headquarters and the police had no news. Then he rallied all the reporters available and himself took the field, scurrying the districts where shooting episodes were least unknown. The paper was held back an hour and when it did go to press the tragedy was not to be found in its columns.
In the meantime, Williams chuckled over his joke. And then he begun to think that perhaps the Democrat did have a shooting and began to worry. He called headquarters and the police had not heard anything. And then he sent his reporters on the gallop to the run ways of the riotous. The Telegram-Herald was held back an hour and when it did go to press there was no first page scare.
--L. G. Stuart
-FROM CUB TO REPORTER. by CHARLES S. HATHAWAY pg. 43
Charles S. Hathaway wrote a long account of his experiences, from early childhood to mature manhood, as a newsboy, reporter, space writer and secretary of commercial bodies in Grand Rapids and Detroit. It included a great deal of local history which has been deposited in the Ryerson Public Library. Local newspapers use this material from time to time. Mr. Hathaway lives on a farm located in the township of Redford, Wayne County, Michigan. --- A. S. W.
My first work in the line of journalism was as a carrier for D. R. Utley, city circulator of the Eagle and "off and on" as "devil" in the press rooms, all through 1861 to 1864. I studied and practiced sign and ornamental painting under the late Julius Devendorf --- brother-in-law to "Bill" Tracy, still alive in Grand Rapids. My ornamental tutor of painting was Adrian Yates and I painted in Grand Rapids, Ottawa, Ill., Milwaukee and Detroit, intermittently from 1865 to 1869. I returned to Grand Rapids and worked as reporter for the Eagle, helping also in the press room with Benj. F. Sliter.
I went to Detroit and began painting again in 1866 and in the Fall of 1869 I secured a position as local editor of the Bay City Journal, (B. E. Warren, proprietor and managing editor) and Dr. Tom Cleland editorial writer. I left Bay City in November 1869 to accept a position of telegraph editor of the Detroit Post and remained there three years. In the Spring and Summer of 1873 I was a space writer in New York City, Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Buffalo. I didn't go hungry but was glad to get back to Grand Rapids in 1876.
I worked there a month or so and went to The Free Press as a reporter with the best city editor I ever worked under, George P. Goodale, and with Wm. E. Quimby as editor-in-chief. He was an upright, learned and delightful man. That is why he was invariably spoken of by those in his employ as "The Prince." I remained with The Free Press a yar and had many splendid associates, with John E. Bell as managing editor, C. B. Lewis (M Quad), Robert Barr (Luke Sharp), Joseph Greusel, M. P. Thatcher, George M. Chester, Ford Starring, Lloyd Brezee, D. J. McDonald, W. J. Lampton, F. H. Hosford, George Helwig, Matie Goff, and Jennie O. Starkey on the staff. It was a very good crowd --- competent in their respective fields.
Incidentally, and as I "tramped" I worked in press rooms and reportorially, in Louisville, Ky., Cincinnati, Pittsburg, two weeks on "The Paper" established and conducted by Bartley Campbell. I got my two weeks pay ($24) and quit. "The Paper" collapsed two weeks later. Bartley was a very agreeable chap, an artist as a writer and always seeing the bright side of things. Next I "hot footed" for Central Ohio, stopping a week or so each in Columbus, Dayton and Springfield. Meanwhile I had been appointed "Marine reporter" for The Detroit Free Press. Made the bargain while I was temporizing with Central Ohio.
I returned to Detroit in October 1877 and began work on The Free Press and remained there nine years.
Then came my Great Achievement. For a start I organized the first Board of Commerce --- but it wasn't called that --- in Detroit. I had for associate organizers the leading bankers, manufacturers and lawyers of the city. The Hon. Wm. E. Maybury was one of them. Through his earnest persistence and facility as a speaker, the name chosen was: "The Citizens General Welfare Association." The name killed it because of its longevity and oratory. Fine offices were fitted in the Moffat building on Griswold street. Simultaneously sarcastic digs and prophecies of failure began to appear. Meetings called were not attended; original members began to resign and citizens appealed to would not "get in line." The officers of the thing disputed, and I was the secretary. I didn't have brains or the nerve to harmonize conditions and in about three months --- three woeful months ---the obituary was published.
Fortunately for the haphazard progress of my desire to get into the journalistic ranks, the first news of the beginning of the Civil war, received in Grand Rapids, came in over the wires on a Sunday morning (April 14, 1861) --- probably --- and the message was "taken" by the genteel and competent citizen, the late Edward Benedict, the first manager and telegraph operator of the Western Union Telegraph Company in Grand Rapids, a position held with satisfaction to all for upward of twenty-five years.
On that morning my parents, my sister Carolyn and myself, were on our way to services in the Congregational Church of which Rev. S. S. N. Greeley was the pastor.
We had arrived at the corner of North Division and Park street, when we were met by the late Noah Stevens. Greeting us courteously, he asked father if he had heard the news and continued with considerable warmth: "Those 'hot-heads' in Charleston have begun the bombardment of Fort Sumter and Major Anderson has got to abandon the place."
Naturally we were all greatly excited and a flood of questions were asked, to which Mr. Stevens responded: "Its war and nothing less. The Eagle is getting out an Extra. Its awful!" My father put a ten-cent silver piece in my hand, saying "Charley run down to the Eagle office and get one of the extras and hurry back to the church."
I covered the five or six squares on a dog-trot, speculating as I lost track of the trend of sidewalks and crosswalks, as to whether or not I would get a chance to enlist and be accepted --- I was then almost 14 years old. When I arrived at and entered the business office of The Eagle, I was met by D. R. Utley who seized my hand and remarked: "Good for you Charley! I want you and a lot of boys to get out and sell extras!"
Within two or three minutes I had been provided with a package of fifty extras and instructions to "run up to the Rathbun house and sell 'em for five cents apiece and you'll get a cent for every one you sell."
The extras were --- in print-shop parlance --- "sixteenth-sheet dodgers," printed ----with scare-head --- on one side. All for five cents! Think of it and the kind of news it presented! There was no profiteering there.
Well I scooted for the Rathbun house, but at the southeast corner of Pearl street and Monroe avenue I was met by a considerable group of citizens waiting for extras so that when I at last arrived at the Rathbun house I had but a few dodgers on hand. Just then, however, a boy named George Totten and a friend of mine, who had been sent by Mr. Utley with another installment of fifty extras, to be delivered to "Charley Hathaway" appeared.
This narrative, already too long, may be closed by adding that I canvassed not only the Rathbun house but, further down Waterloo (Market) street to the Eagle Hotel.
I arrived at the Congregational Church just as the benediction had been pronounced, with an extra for my father and six more which I very speedily disposed of to others. Moreover I had "made" a profit, as I learned when I returned to the Eagle office, a clear profit of 92 cents; the largest amount of money I had ever earned in about an hour and a half.
And, as I learned on the following day, I had so satisfactorily impressed Mr. Utley, that I was given by him a daily delivery route to cover, embodying seventy-five papers or subscribers, at seventy-five cents per week.
I had won besides the ninety-two cents and the weekly wages as carrier, a specific and important place in the newspaper game.
George Totten was a steady, hard-working boy about my own age and for a considerable time had been the city's bill-poster. he developed quite an extensive equipment of available "dead walls" and bill-boards excellently located and he was very keen and prompt in handling contracts from circuses, Squier's opera house, Luce's hall and political parties and local merchants.
---Charles S. Hathaway.
-JUDGE CRESWELL'S LARGE AND INDEFINITE ASSIGNMENT.
by HARRY C. CRESWELL pg. 49
My good friend A. S. White has asked me for some autobiographical reminiscences of my early newspaper experiences in Grand Rapids. That is a large and rather indefiinite assignment. But I will start at the beginning and so to the end --- and let the "blue pencil" do its worst.
I once knew a boy --- I once knew him well ---- yet lately his life has seemed unreal to me. Sometimes he even seems more like somebody else than the man who is now day by day listening to so many law suits. I remember well, however, that his first view of Grand Rapids from the old Grand Trunk Station, was unfavorable. It looked to him a long ways behind the town of Wellsville, O., whence he came. This was June 29, 1880, and the quickly ensuing Fourth of July made him think better of this town. "Safe and Sane" Fourth had not as yet been adopted. Chan Hoy was not then feeding the people but was doing an importing business from China, chiefly in fireworks. And it was pop, fizz and boom day and night, from Hall to Sweet street and from East street to the big ditch. On the great day itself the boy saw the great parade, with its "Horribles," militia, pretty girls representing the thirteen states and so forth, from a reserved seat on the ledge just under the tower clock, of what is now the Fourth National Bank Buildiing. In those days the roofs of the blocks on Canal and Monroe streets were black with people, young and old, whenever there was a parade. (Now "safety first" prevents all that, although they go up a few thousand feet in airplanes. But "safety first" was nothing to the boy. Will it ever be for any real boy?) One of his favorite stunts was to stand on the tops of chimneys. He remembers standing on the big chimney on the Washington street side of what was then D. P. Clay's residence (now our public museum). It was a sheer drop of seventy feet or so.
Then he used to climb the tallest trees until the main trunk could be spanned by the hands. With a good breeze going --- presently he would be a sailor "gone reeling down to Rio" at the top of the mast bending before the storm. "Safety first." If they ever learned it, everyone would ask the boy to forget it when the next war came. But "A boy's will is the wind's will and the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts." Thus will they ever be. Hedge them about never so closely with juvenile laws, and artificial restraints, still they will be seeking adventures and dreaming of great things. Or so did the boy I knew whose greatest adventure in life was to be putting his signature all over the records of the Superior, Curcuit and Justice courts and the common jail for the County of Kent.
An old scrap book and diary combined, recently dug out of the garret, gives briefly the work of the boy for several years. Perhaps excerpts from this may be of interest, as showing how the newspaper business was taught before schools of journalism existed. It was the old theory that newspaper men are born, not made. But they had to be trained. The old course was in the school of experience, and hard knocks. Here goes:
"June 29, 1880 I arrived in Grand Rapids. Worked as Printer's Devil and compositor on the Grand Rapids Saturday Evening Post for two years and four months. Then went to High School until money gave out. Worked as compositor in the summer of 1883 on the Ohio Press and Steubenville, O., dailies; also one month as compositor on McCord's East Liverpool, O., Saturday Review.
From September 1883 to April 1884, as "Cub" and "Printer's Devil" on the Grand Rapids Democrat. Took this work because I could go to school in the afternoon. In the spring the double work proved too hard and left school for a while to become police reporter on the Buffalo Evening Telegraph. Was there until paper was consolidated with the Buffalo News, August 17, 1885. Also wrote special articles for the Author's Review and Scrap Book of Pittsburg, Pa., a literary and educational monthly magazine.
December 5, 1885 --- Began reading proof for the Democrat. Worked from 7 p.m. to midnight and got $1 a night. Entered High School again.
April 4, 1885 --- Began working again for the Democrat, reporting and carrying some studies in high school. May 28, quit work on Democrat and entered school, wrote special articles for Author's Review of Pittsburg on a contract of $12 per month.
September 6, 1886 --- Entered as senior in high school. Read Xenophon's Anabasis, Virgil's Aeneid. Also geometry and physical geography. The last half of the year had Virgil, Xenophon, Algebra and Solid Geometry. Lighted as gas lamp route and wrote articles for the Review. Living high on $26.00 a month but the work keeps me humping.
Friday, June 24, 1887 --- Graduated from the high school with honor. That meant in those days a general average of 85 per cent or more in all subjects. Learned from these records, also that I was a reporter on the Grand Rapids Democrat from oct. 1887 to August 17, 1888. On account of the illness of my father, I resigned work on the Democrat and until my father's death, worked on Albert Baxter's History of Grand Rapids. Wrote the chapters on the schools and the Press for which I received $60.00. Worked on various Grand Rapids papers until November 1889, when I spent the winter in Minneapolis, Minn., as telegraph editor of the Minneapolis Times, a new daily. I like the climate of Minneapolis and the work and doubtless would have remained there but Frank W. Ball raised my salary to $20 a week. And Cordelia May Wilde wrote me that was enough to get married on and so the boy came back and on June 14, 1890, they were married. Thus the boy became a man --- and through the love and ministrations of a good woman still remains to bless (or curse) the town. Take your choice. Whether you got a suspended sentence or a commitment to jail is, however, likely to influence your vote in the matter.
When I left Grand Rapids for Minneapolis, Frank W. Ball, editor and proprietor of the Democrat, by some means gained the idea that I was going on the staff of the Minneapolis Tribune. A few days after my arrival in my new berth the Tribune building office, which was only two blocks from the Times, was destroyed by fire. The editorial rooms were on the top floor and nearly all members of the staff were burned. It seems the Times staff had been largely recruited from the Tribune and there was scarcely a man killed who was not a personal friend and acquaintance of every member of the Times force except myself. We could see it all --- the poor fellows falling out of windows and dropping from red hot fire escapes. I remember Hugh Grey our managing editor put his head down on his desk, burst into tears and cried "my God! how can I stand this!" But that was all there was to it. He took command immediately; everyone began making copy and in short order the Times had an extra on the street telling all about the tragedy. On account of Mr. Ball's mistake, the Grand Rapids papers had me written up as one of the victims, a name coming through on the wire something like mine. I understand I had some fine obituary notices but have never looked them up. They might come in handy if some moulder of public opinion should get nasty during a political campaign. One might spring the "deadly parallel column" on them. Or is that done any more in good society?
One of the most enjoyable and useful institutions in the old days was the Grand Rapids Press Club. This was established when A. B. Tozer, one of our brightest newspaper writers, was clerk of the police court. He was one of its chief boosters. Meetings for a long time were held in his office on Sunday afternoons. For year the club flourished; had club rooms of its own, and was a member of the League of Press Clubs. It was the means of creating a spirit of good feeling and good fellowship among the profession, and of co-operation after hours in social and fraternal lines. The best minds of the United States and Europe were brought here in its lecture courses. The club used annually to give excursions to Niagara Falls, which were a good source of revenue and were managed, at least the later ones, by W. B. Weston. Nothing happened to this club except that the old members gradually left the city or went out of newspaper work and new comers did not come into it. It is a corporation that has never been dissolved and the writer is one of its last officers, still holding the office of treasurer. For years the funds remaining in the treasury have been used to help newspaper men in distress, to send flowers at their funerals. Now these funds are exhausted. Several attempts have been made to revive this organization in recent years. This was one of the last fond hopes of the late Fred J. Adams. W. J. Hannan during a short sojourn here had it going for a time. But for some reason, chiefly it seems petty jealousies between the daily newspaper staffs, this has not been accomplished.
One of the benefits of the Press Club was that it largely eliminated those petty rivalries and jealousies. In ancient times my scrap book proves that a newspaper even published special articles of a complimentary character about the members of a rival's staff. For instance the Press, in a special write up of all the staffs of the other local dailies, referring to the writers of the Grand Rapids Eagle said of myself: "If anything humorous accidentally creeps into the paper, it is credited to Harry L. Creswell. Harry also has a fondness for writing poetry. However, his verse is so good that the habit is seldom termed a vice. He is a good-natured gentleman and in general favor among newspaper workers."
Can on imagine the Evening Press making such a pleasant remark about any member of the News staff? Yet in the same article the Press referred in complimentary terms to W. B. Weston, Col. M. A. Aldrich, I. M. Weston, Harry B. Stitt, Thomas W. Fletcher, Louis G. Stuart, John B. Mills, Fred J. Adams, George A. McIntyer, Burridge D. Butler, Eugene D. Conger, L. F. Williams, Frank I. Cobb, Bert Hall, Stewart I. De Kraft, Harvey Brown, Freeman S. Milmine, E. B. Fisher, T. M. Carpenter, Will S. Turner, Benjamin Stottler and Victor Slayton ---who were in fact all the writers on the staff of its three rivals, the Herald, Democrat and Eagle. The old situation seems to me far more pleasant, at least than the present small-town methods of jealous rivalry. But a good, live press club is necessary to bring back another era of good feeling and it seems not possible to organize another.
Speaking of poetry, the habit of writing verse was inherted from my father, Thomas Creswell. One of the boy's earliest memories is of walking in the woods and fields while his father recited poem after poem from the English and American poets. I have as a treasured possession a collection of poems in father's beautiful hand writing. "Column Conductors" had not been employed in those days, verses were not regarded highly, yet we managed to get a few printed. Some of these fragments come up now from the subconscious mind, where all things which our brains have ever conceived remain in twilight sleep, waiting to be born again. They exist in the files of the Democrat, Herald and Press, but one might as well try to find some particularly pretty pebble in the terminal moraine of one of our old Michigan glaciers as to search out a poem from the unindexed files of a daily paper. There is only one bit of verse for which I ever received any money and this was a lullaby written between 3 and 4 a.m. At that hour I used to come home from work of managing editor of Frank W. Ball's old Democrat. Our first baby was a nervous, restless little boy. Frequently I found his mother trying to soothe him and nearly worn out when I came home. Then I used to take a turn at floor walking while she slept. This lullaby was the result of one of these sessions. It was a successful lullaby for it put the baby to sleep. Later I sold it to "The Churchman" for $1.50 (cash). There was another stanza, but that was more than the "make-up man" on the magazine needed to fill the hole, so he cut that out and this is what remained:
"Ole Shut Eye" Lullaby
Lullaby, Oh, lullaby;
Dear Ole Shut Eye Man come nigh.
While our baby laughs and crows
In sleepy eye a soft hand goes.
Lullaby, Oh, Lullaby;
Dear Ole Shut Eye Man, creep nigh.
Lullably, Sweet Lullably;
Dear Ole Shut Eye Man is nigh;
Soft on baby's neck he blows
And downward droops the drowsy rose.
Lullaby, Oh Lullaby,
Dear Ole Shut Eye Man is nigh.
Rock-a-by, Sweet, Rock-a-by,
Ole Shut Eye's Coverlet is nigh;
Of mother-love are all its folds
Sweet hearted dreams for thee it holds.
Rock-a-bye, sweet, rock-a-bye,
Love's coverlet doth o'er thee lie.
Some day I'm going to write a volume or two about the peculiar, interesting and picturesque things that happen to a Justice of the Peace. The city is still a village as far as telling its troubles to "the squire." The late Paul Weston knew that there are more good stories in Justice court than anywhere else in town --- but since he went away, a good many of them are going to waste. I couldn't even get the fellows to give me any decent amount of space for the bridegroom who was married three times and used the same marriage certificate for each of his wives by means of careful erasures. I suppose its the shortage of print paper that ails them. Anyway, sometime, I am going to "scoop" the whole bunch by writing a history of Justices of the Peace since the time Deborah held court under a palm tree and judged all Israel righteously and well. Everytime some dressmaker gets on the witness stand and begins talking in an unknown language about shirs, and biasses, I long for some woman judge to interpret for me, and by the way, is it not rather strange that a woman should have been elected judge in Israel several thousand years before the nineteenth amendment went into effect? Maybe we are not so far ahead of the ancients as we thought we were.
From these remarks, do not infer that I do not think the newspaper men of the present and the newspapers of today are not as good as those of old. A great deal of water has gone over the dam since we used to walk logs and go in swimming by the old Leonard street bridge. Many hundreds of law suits have been heard by me in the last fourteen years and God knows it is hard to know where justice lies in some of them. Nevertheless, I still love birds and babies and flowers and still believe in fairies. Occasionally, but not often, I drop into poetry and I will end with these lines by Jean Ingelow:
"Think not the past is wise alone,
For yesterday knows nothing of the best,
And thou shalt love it only as the nest
Whence glory-winged things to Heaven have flown."
---Harry L. Creswell.
-HATHAWAY'S KINDERGARDEN by GEORGE W. LOCKE pg. 57
About forty years ago I was fortunate enough to have a job in William M. Hathaway's Kindergarden of News Hounds on the Grand Rapids Democrat. I had then seen some seven years service on the Democrat under the ownership of M. H. Clark and later under General Stevens and Colonel I. E. Messmore, I. M. Weston and Frank Ball. I say fortunate, because the training I received working under Mr. Hathaway's direction, while not always followed, has been of great value in other newspaper fields. True, they were trying times, but endurance was practically unlimited. Grand Rapids was combed for news by the morning papers so closely that very little of the doings in the community escaped being reported to the Editor-in-Chief. All who know Mr. Hathaway will well remember that he had his own opinions about what was, and what was not printable, and it goes without saying that his will was the divine law in the Democrat while he was at the helm. I can recall instances where Hath's good judgment saved the good name of reputable citizens when scandal mongers sought their undoing, and at the same time, he was merciless to real wrongdoers.
It was this training that, in a way, fitted me for the position in which I found myself in later years. In this connection I will just say that the Kalamazoo Gazette office was never mobbed while I was responsible for what appeared in its columns, but it was under the same ownership before this duty devolved upon me. While I am not familiar with the lives and fortunes of Hath's kid reporters, I cannot help but think that, although at times it was very embarrassing, his influence toward right thinking has been a benefit to each one throught their whole lives.
--Geo. W. Locke
-IN MEMORIAM ofErnest B. Fisher, Alfred B. Tozer, "Will" J. Sproat, Frank Homer Hosford pg. 59
CONTRIBUTED BY A. S. WHITE, E. A. STOWE, CHARLES W. GARFIELD
MORRIS J. WHITE, CHARLES S. HATHAWAY, DAVID N. FOSTER.
ERNEST B. FISHER
In the month of June, 1871, Ernest B. Fisher entered the editorial room of the Grand Rapids Democrat and sought the acquaintance of the writers for that newspaper. He had been teaching a school in Gaines township. An offer of employment as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Eagle he desired to accept, but lacking experience in newspaper work, he offered his services for a month gratuitously. He needed experience and direction in the work to be done. The assignments given him were promptly and intelligently filled. He was energetic, enthusiastic and ready for every or any task the editor might place in his hands.
As a writer he developed unusual ability. His style was keen, incisive and pleasing. No writer for the local newspaper ever acquired a more comprehensive knowledge of civic affairs. Mr. Fisher assisted in the organization of the old Board of Trade and for a decade was an influential member of the directors of that body. As a trustee of the board of education (for two years he was its president), he rendered important service to the cause of education. He was elected mayor in the year 1894. Under his administration John Ball Park was improved, additional power was purchased for the pumping station and the enactment of an injudicious proposition for bonding the city for the purpose of establishing an electric lighting system was restrained. He was the first president of the Citizens Telephone Company and also served on the national commission of the Columbia exposition.
Mr. Fisher was a warm-hearted, loyal, unselfish and generous man. In recalling his memory John Hay's homely eulogy of Jim Bledsoe of the Prairie Belle, finds its way into the mind of the writer:
"He warn't no saint,
But at the jedgement
I'll take my stand with Jim."
Fortunate indeed would be the man who, in the day of judgment, might be considered worthy to take his stand with Ernest B. Fisher.
--Arthur S. White.
A "hustler and human dynamo" perhaps best describes Ernest B. Fisher as intimately known by myself personally for more than half a century in Grand Rapids and some years longer through Mrs. Hathaway as a country school teacher in Oakland county. Whether as a reporter, city editor of the old Daily Eagle, as mayor of Grand Rapids or as secretary and one of the founders of the Citizens Telephone Company, he was always alert with astounding energy and enthusiasm and untiring in whatever work he engaged in. Who of the old timers does not have a mental photograph of Reporter Fisher, flying about the street, his long rain coat tails streaming behind him, in chase of news --- the very personification of aliveness? Mr. Fisher was thoroughgoing. Once when still a reporter he said: "One of my great ambitions is to get in shape so I can give a first class dinner to all newspaper workers of Grand Rapids." Years later he gave that dinner at the Press Club, and if there was a cub reporter, correspondent or anyone in any way associated with newspaper editorship who was not at that dinner (with his or her better or worse half) it was because the indefatigable Fisher could not "smoke them out." The dinner was, in every way, one of the most complete ever given in the city. Nothing in the way of courses, service or accompaniment was lacking --- not even handsome bouquets for each guest. It was an example of the Fisher thoroughness.
Another characteristic of Mr. Fisher was his helpfulness, especially to cub and strange reporters. When on the Eagle Fisher "took" the city council --- that bete noir to cub and strange reporters, with its twenty-four alderman. Fisher was always ready to help them out in their reports. We little thought when we last met him (at the dinner given by Mr. and Mrs. Stowe Nov. 3, 1920), so full of seeming life and energy, although as he said, it was his first night out for months, that he was so soon to go. But, as says the old Tentmaker:
"The wine of life is oozing drop by drop
The leaves of life are falling one by one."
But, wherever he is we can not think of Ernest B. Fisher as other than alert and hustling.
And right here it may not be amiss to recall that, in the words of the old farce-comedy, "there are only a few of us left" of the old time newspaper men of Grand Rapids. Nearly a score registered at the last reunion dinner with the Stowe's, July 28 last, while more than double that number have, like Fisher, "crossed the Great Divide" since I joined Grand Rapids Newspaperdom in 1869. Of those whom I knew and with most of whom I have worked I here recall A. B. Turner, E. F. Harrington, Albert Baxter, Robert Wilson, Frank Godfrey, Jonathan P. Thomson, Alpha Child, Theodore Carpenter, Will Hull, and Will Maze , of the old Eagle; M. H. Clark, Dr. C. B. Smith, James N. Davis, Mort Hopkins, Col. Messmore, General Stevens, Charley Wright, George A. Foster (later prominent in newspaper work in New York City), Frank W. Ball, Charley Almy (afterward a staff humorist on a Chicago daily), I. M. Weston and Will J. Sproat of the Democrat; C. C. Sexton (founder) "Stern" Wheeler, Don C. Henderson, J. Mason Reynolds, Will A. Innes, A. B. Tozer, Louis Gale and Frank H. Hosford, of the old Times; Lloyd Brezee, C. G. Swensberg, Benjamin Stottler, Willis Turner, of the Herald and its predecessors; C. S. Burch (later Episcopal Bishop of New York), P. M. Jamieson, Paul Weston of the Press, E. P. Mills and Isaac Dygert of the old Workman; Dennis Schram of De Standaard; James Vandersluis of the Banner; D. R. Waters, of the Leader; James H. Maze (long of the Cedar Springs Clipper) but later a newspaper man of Grand Rapids; John A. Creswell, of the Saturday Evening Post and Charles M. White, long on the old Democrat and later with the Michigan Artisan and other trade journals, making the death list 45, compared with the seventeen survivors who were at the last reunion.
--William M. Hathaway.
My first knowledge of Ernest B. Fisher came through my friends in Gaines Township, who rehearsed to me stories of the accomplished but erractic school master who had come among them. I had previously taught in a neighboring district school and in those days it was the habit to exchange courtesies between districts and also enter competitive teams for honors in spelling and public speaking. Fisher coached his bright pupils in elocution and in the assemblies was gratified when his boys took the prizes in "speaking pieces." It was said of him that when a pupil became unruly and performed some stunt to bring the teacher into discomfort, he cured the habit through the exercise of his own unique abilitiy in the performance of the most daring jokes. He could throw a spitball with unerring precision and could place a snow ball in the most vulnerable spot on the anatomy of a boy fleeing from justice.
In his early journalistic ventures, his most venomous critic was Eli F. Harrington, who had no sympathy with grandiloquent phrases or circumlocution in narration. I am inclined to think that Harrington's sallies of unkind satire had a wholesome influence over Mr. Fisher's tendency in those days to over statement and undue embellishment of facts. Mr. Fisher was, however, more than a match for Harrington in controversial "bouts," and could be very emphatic without losing his temper, and after a time became so oblivious to the irony of his critic and so independent of his criticism that he more than held his own in the editorial sanctum. Mr. Fisher had a faculty of making friends, which, combined with his gift of expression, gave him the very best of ammunition when he entered the domain of politics.
I like a man who has courage in promoting his convictions and can forgive a good deal of dogmatism in the advocacy of a cause when the pleader is honest and terribly in earnest. Mr. Fisher, when he espoused a cause, equipped himself by making himself thoroughly acquainted with the bulwarks of his adversary and then entered fearlessly into any controversy and brought to bear an unusual vocabulary in the expression of his views. He also had ready wit in parrying undigested assertions and understood the value of rapid fire in all word controversies.
I knew him best as promoter of the venture in telephony caused by the intolerance and lack of neighborliness of the company occupying the field. I have a wholesome admiration for his enthusiasm, his ability to overrule difficulties and his aptness in marshalling his facts to the discomfiture of the opposition.
His great strength in this prolonged commercial controversy lay in his carefully developed equipment to meet every thrust of the opposing forces and to take immediate advantage of every error of statement or mistaken movement.
His memory of details was of the greatest value to him in all phases of his career. He was a unique figure on our streets and would be picked out of a crowd as one having unusual individuality not easily forgotten. I loved his friendliness and his inability to cherish a grudge. His ways were paths of pleasantness and his kindly nature radiated good fellowship.
--Charles W. Garfield.
My more intimate acquaintance with our departed friend, E. B. Fisher, only lasted during the years of 1873 to 1877, but I had watched with much interest, during the succeeding years, his most honorable career among the citizens of Grand Rapids. I rejoinced in all the public honors which came to him and was gratified at the very considerable success he achieved in a business way. On any of his trips to telephone conventions or upon other business which caused him to pass through Fort Wayne he always came to see me and I recall many such delightful occasions when we were wont to recall incidents of early days. I was always impressed with the feeling of personal responsibility felt by Mr. Fisher for the interests of his stockholders in the Telephone Company. He had himself sold much of this stock and he felt that he must make it of the value he had led his friends to believe there would be in it. He could never have been a successful salesman of "Blue Sky." I shall always remember my last meeting with him at the hospitable home of E. A. Stowe, who was acting as host to the old editors of Grand Rapids. Mr. Fisher had come from a sick bed to be with us. "The feast of reason and the flow of soul," which followed our dinner, seemed to act as a strong tonic upon him and instead of growing weary as the evening advanced, he seemed to gain in strength and to enjoy the occasion with the best of us. He tarried with us only a very littel while after that, dying suddenly, as I believe he would have preferred to die ---- still in the harness with the traces pulled taut. The world is better for his having lived in it.
---David N. Foster.
He would go around the block for a news item, and around two blocks to do a
favor for a friend.
--L. G. Stuart
Good citizen, exemplary family man, staunch friend, loyal to every trust,
incapable of committing a mean act even to an enemy.
--Thomas W. Fletcher.
Mr. Fisher's raincoat was never a sign of rain. It meant simply that he was
able to be out.
--Etta S. Wilson.
In the forty-three years I knew Mr. Fisher, including the years I worked at a
desk not over eight feet from his desk, I never saw Ernest Fisher so
excited that he lost control of himself. I never saw him downright mad. The
remarkable poise of the man was a source of constant wonderment to me.
--E. A. Stowe.
We worked together in all the avenues of news gathering, under varied
conditions and circumstances, pleasant and otherwise. We traveled together from
coast to coast, attended important conventions and notable gatherings, so that I
had an opportunity to know E. B. Fisher intimately, away from home as
well as with his family and it is a pleasure to be able to pay him this tribute:
I never knew or associated with a more honorable man. He did not lose himself;
he never forgot but always remembered.
--W. B. Weston.
ALFRED B. TOZER
Alfred B. Tozer was born at Northville, Mich., July 17, 1847. His antecendents were Scotch on his mother's side and English on his father's side. The names of his parents were Thomas and Mary Tozer. His boyhood was spent at Olivet and Bellevue. His education was obtained at Olivet and Battle Creek. His early newspaper experience was obtained on a weekly newspaper at Bangor, a daily paper at Jackson and the Battle Creek Journal. He subsequently acted as city editor of the Grand Rapids Daily Times, and for some months published, in connection with Robert Beard, the Grand Rapids Saturday Review. He was clerk of the police court for several years, subsequently removing to Chicago, where he was employed a decade as editor of the Chicago Ledger. While residing in Chicago and later while living in Battle Creek, he wrote something like 100 books for Street & Smith and the A. L. Burt Co., New York, and Donohue & Henneberry, Chicago. The books he wrote for Street & Smith were of the Dick Turpin variety, but his work for the other houses was mainly books of adventure and travel which met with a large sale among the young Americans of that day.
Mr. Tozer was married October 17, 1875, to Miss Flora Cornell of Battle Creek, Mich. Four children were born to them --- Mrs. Edith Allard, who is an expert business woman; Mrs. Mabel Ray, who conducts an art store at Oakland, Cal.; Earle, who is a mining engineer is married and resides at Warren, Arizona; and Lynn, the eldest, who died ten days after his father, aged 39.
My first introduction to Toze, as we called him in those days, was in January, 1877, when I took up my residence in Grand Rapids. He was then city editor of the Times, drawing the princely salary of $10 per week. He agumented his income by writing for other papers. About the time I speak of he received a check of $50 from the Detroit Evening News for a continued story entitled "Five Million Dollars in Gold." He was one of the most unselfish men I ever knew. I was deuced hard up in those days and he frequently put me on as his "sub" for a day, which gave me a chance to draw down $1.66. He never told me that he laid off solely to give me a little life, but as I look back over the forty-four years, which have since marched into eternity I candidly believe that his alleged reasons for laying off ---- sometimes a headache and sometimes "other business" --- were all bosh. What he did for me he did in added measure for others, because he loved his friends and would go to any extreme in assisting them whenever they neede assistance. He was tood good hearted for his own good and made many loans which turned out to be permanent investments. Only a few months before he died ---- Dec. 22, 1916 --- he came to Grand Rapids with his wife, roomed in the same house he lodged in when he first came to Grand Rapids (the old Amos Rathbone home next to St. Mark's church) and devoted a week to calling on old friends and acquaintances. On leaving for home, he remarked he had had the time of his life. He had a stroke on the train and never recovered his health or strength.
Although hampered by lack of an early education, "Toze" had an ample vocabulary and cultivated a style peculiarly fitted to his temperment and environment. In his later days he cast improvidence into the discard and scrupulously saved his earnings. The last time he was in Grand Rapids he showed me his bank book, disclosing a balance to his credit of $4,500. If he could have been spared a few years longer, I think he could have easily made his cash resources $25,000. Faithful to his friends, loyal to his family, generous to a fault, he left a memory which all who knew him cherish as a precious heritage.
--Ernest A. Stowe.
WILL J. SPROAT
It seems somewhat odd to be invited to contribute to your "Memories of Old Time Editors," for in memory it was but yesterday that I was breaking in as a cub under the tuition of "Will" J. Sproat. Yet, as I am almost as old now as Will was then, I suppose I can qualify. At least I remember a good many of the old timers, Tom Fletcher, W. M. Hathaway, George A. McIntyre, Bert Hall, Harvey Brown, Frank W. Ball, Henry M. Rose, Burridge D. Butler, Col. M. A. Aldrich, John Finn, Stewart De Kraft, Frank I. Cobb, M. B. Hopkins, the famous old trio of the Leader, W. B. Weston, Fred J. Adams and Lou Stuart ---memory runs on ad infinitum when it gets started along this line.
"Uncle Will," as I affectionately called him after the first year of our association, was more to me than a journalistic mentor. He became so through his fondness for the unusual, which, by the way is a natural characteristic of every good newspaper man. I stepped into his office one evening and asked him for some tickets to a show that was going on in the old Lockerby Hall. I had hardly closed my fist around them when a young lady entered with a similar request. "Will" figuratively knocked us both for a goal by calmly remarking to the girl:
"I've just given the last ones to Morris. I guess you'll have to go with him."
I took one look and forgot all the other girls I ever had known or heard of. It developed that she was "Will's" neice. In six weeks we were married. Hence the "Uncle." It certainly satisfied, temporarily at least, his longing for the unusual. Incidentally I never have ceased to be grateful to him for the confidence he must have had in me in introducing me in that romantic fashion to a niece of whom he thought as much as he did the one in question.
Unusual news was a hobby of his. That unusual news and unexpected news always were the best, because they were unexpected and therefore not discounted in any way, was a maxim he hammered into me when I was his pupil. His motto was that a good reporter was one who always kept his eyes and ears open when he went out on any particular assignment because by so doing he might blunder upon better news than he had been instructed to go and get. That was "skirmish," the old free lance style of news gathering. It is almost a lost art now, and perhaps that is the reason Grand Rapids no longer graduates star reporters to Detroit, New York and Chicago, as in the old days. Sproat was a strong believer in it. Half the time he would instruct me simply to "go out and get some scoops."
"Will" was one of the kindliest men who ever lived and one of the most patient and even tempered. I do not recollect that I ever noted displeasure in him but once. I had been with the staff about six months, long enough to get the idea that I was pretty smart. One day I did something no wise newspaper man would do. "Will" questioned me about it. I 'fessed up. "Don't you ever do that again," was his mild though firm reprimand, whereas he would have been justified in assigning me to go jump over the River Styx.
It was that mild temper and kindliness, coupled with a free hearted desire to help all who sought his help, which made him his host of friends. That he had them was proved in other ways than merely by the say-so of any person. About a dozen years ago someone suggested Sproat as a candidate for the legislature. He was a Democrat and as Democrats then had about as much chance of election in Kent county as they have now, nomination was equivalent to defeat. A committee asked him to accept. He said if the people wanted him in the legislature it was up to them. He would accept a nomination but would not spend a cent campaigning.
He kept his word and was elected. It was a vote of personal friends, not of a party, that did it.
He was so honest it would be impossible to be more so, and by honesty I do not mean merely in the sense of probity, but in unfaltering adherence to what he believed was right; in fidelity to principle. A million dollars could not have changed his vote on the simplest public question. His fealty to a trust, personal or public, was sublime. So also was his patience with fate. His last illness was a long and painful one and he knew for a year or more that he was doomed. "I am ready to go," he once said. "I've made many friends and few enemies and what greater success can a man have?" His home life had been dounded on that principle and from what I know of it, I doubt that any home ever was happier than his. It is easy to eulogize a man after he is dead. But will some one please tell why a person hesitates to speak or write his full thoughts of a friend, in the public prints at least, while he lives? It has been truly said that kind words, flowers and memorials do a man no good after his is dead but some such sentiments would have been appreciated while he lived. A person likes to know he has true friends. I would have liked to eulogize Will Sproat while he lived. But let any person set himself to the task of writing a eulogy of a living friend, with the knowledge that it will be printed and that the subject thereof and many mutual acquaintances will read it, and then let him analyze his sentiments in regard to such a situation.
--Morris J. White.
FRANK HOMER HOSFORD
Frank Homer Hosford was a born practical politician, although, incidentally, he was a fine chap socially and well equipped mentally as a newspaper man. When he came to Detroit to begin work on the Free Press, the first man with whom he talked was the late John E. Bell, managing editor. I was next to have a chat with him.
As Mr. Bell observed after "Hos" had taken his leave: "Mr. Hosford has proved that he is a singed cat."
He began work as municipal reporter and he "made good" at once. Although a stranger in the city, he knew intimately every city official within a week. When I say "intimately," it is because all the officials were calling him "Hos" and he was addressing them by their given names as though he had lived in Detroit all his life.
He "banked" most upon the political news he could "get" --- and he invaribly brought in a good grist daily ---than he did upon the style in which he turned it "in." This is not to say that he was not an effective, graceful writer and a hard worker, because he was all of that. Enthusiasm was his first name as a political reporter. And, speaking generally, he was an excellent "mixer." Thus it was that after a year or two as special writer as an interviewer and as municipal reporter, he was sent to Lansing but the Free Press didn't know it. He was elected to the house of representatives at Lansing from Detroit and served excellently. Then he was made the Washington correspondent of the Free Press and before he had lived there two years he was elected president of the "Gridiron Club."
Mr. Hosford's fund of general knowledge was remarkable for so young a man and he was an admirable and real journalist without self conceit, always alert as to the accuracy of his writings. His industry was evident at every point of each day. He was tireless and was acquainted with all of the sources --- individual and geographical --- of National news.
Merely to see Mr. Hosford was a bit disappointing so clearly was it evident that his childhood and early manhood had been passed among rural surroundings.
But watch him! He demonstrated that he had been a close student of philosophy, a thorough reader of history and a voracious partaker of the gems of poetry. He secured a position shortly after he located in Washington as "tally-clerk" in the house, a position he held several years.
Mr. Hosford married Miss Maggie McGuire of Kalamazoo about 30 years ago, and they had two children, a boy and a girl.
His foresight was shown by the fact that when he became "tally-clerk" it was stipulated that his salary for such service should be paid to his wife, as the salary he received from the Free Press was ample to cover the domestic demands in Washington. Moreover he carried life insurance policies and had obtained salaried positions for his daughter and son in good departments. I have been informed that the children are still good employees and are fine characters; that they live wiith their widowed mother and all are highly esteemed by their neighbors as well as by members of the Washington news fraternity.
Frank H. Hosford was a man who thoroughly deserved the respect and admiration of all with whom he had become acquainted; an honor to newspaperdom and a friend well worth while.
--Charles S. Hathaway.
-LETTER TO THE PUBLISHER by JOHN B. MILLS pg. 75
I have enjoyed "Incidents in the Lives of Editors." It has brought back many incidents I had forgotten in reading the several articles I can vividly picture the writers whom I had known for years. Speaking of Col. Aldrich, do you recall the night he fell into the Baptistry of the Fountain Street Baptist church while making one of his florid speeches? Perhaps Lou Stuart will tell you about the scrap he had with the Colonel, and how it happened that B. D. Butler and Charley Almy separated the contestants in the one round fight.
Reference to William M. Hathaway's penmanship reminds me that one Saturday night a sub blew into the Democrat office and Jim Lee gave him a take of Harry Creswell's copy. The sub went to his case and after studying it awhile went to Lee and asked "where in hell is the music case?"
George B. Catlin could see the humorous side of a happening and dish it up better than any man I ever knew. His story of the woman who bought a basket of peaches which a dog had irrigated and Ira Hatch told her was the finest flavor of any grown equaled anything Mark Twain ever wrote.
Tom Fletcher could boil copy the best of anyone I ever knew. One time a cub reporter named Palmer wrote twelve sheets about a ten dollar fire. Tom told him to "boil it." "I can't," said Palmer. "Can't!" replied Tom. "I could boil the ten commandments if necessary."
--John B. Mills
-HISTORICAL pg. 76
VETERAN NEWSPAPER MEN AT REUNION FEAST.
Mr. and Mrs. Ernest A. Stowe entertained the "old time editors" at their home, College avenue and Logan street, Thursday with a social session in the afternoon, dinner at 6:30 and table talk until a late hour. It was the annual reunion of the newspaper workers of from 30 to 50 years ago and the chat was of other days with down to date comment. Those present were Mr. and Mrs. Ernest A. Stowe, A. S. White, William Alden Smith, William M. Hathaway, Thomas W. Fletcher, David N. Foster of Fort Wayne, Harvey O. Carr, Charles A. French of Monroe, Charles W. Garfield, Robert Beard of Ionia, Henry M. Rose of Washington, L. G. Stuart, B. H. Howig of Big Rapids, Charles E. Belknap (guest), and E. B. Fisher. A volume of "Incidents in the Lives of Editors," compiled by A. S. White and illustrated with group photographs of the old time editors at their former reunions was distributed by Mr. White as a souvenir. It contained reminiscences by William M. Hathaway, George B. Catlin of Detroit, Clarence A. Cotton of Providence, R.I., Frank I. Cobb of New York, Burridge D. Butler of Chicago and other old timers in the Grand Rapids newspaper field. ----G. R. Press, Nov. 3, 1920.
VETERAN SCRIBES FLETCHERIZE WORDS AND LAWN DINNER.
"Old time" newspaper men of Grand Rapids held their annual reunion Thursday evening, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest A. Stowe entertaining them at dinner at their home, 504 College avenue, S. E. The dinner was served on the lawn and was preceeded by an afternoon visiting session on the porch and followed by a talkfest that lasted until late in the evening. Mr. Stowe presiding.
Jackson D. Dillenback of Denver, 50 years ago city editor of the Eagle; Col. David N. Foster of Fort Wayne, publisher of the old Saturday Evening Post of Grand Rapids; Charles A. French of Monroe, formerly of the city papers; and George W. Locke of Kalamazoo were the guests from out-of-town. Regrets were read from Mrs. Etta S. Wilson, C. S. Hathaway and others.
Tributes were paid to the memories of Earnest B. Fisher and M. Almy Aldrich, who died during the year, and greetings and good wishes were sent to E. W. Booth, who is recovering after a critical operation. Following were the guests of the evening: Robert Beard, Harvey O. Carr, Jackson D. Dillenback, Thomas W. Fletcher, David N. Foster, Charles A. French, Warren N. Fuller, Charles W. Garfield, Bryant H. Howig, William M. Hathaway, George W. Locke, S. Clark Rowlson, William Alden Smith, William B. Weston, Arthur S. White and Charles E. Belknap, guest of honor. ---G. R. Press, June 28, 1921
GRAND RAPIDS EDITORS REMINISCENT.
Reminiscence, frequently, is history yet living. "Incidents in the Lives of Editors," is a little brochure of reminiscence which is living history. It represents the story of the newspaper profession in Grand Rapids, and is collected and published by Arthur Scott White.
Every year the old-time editors of Grand Rapids hold a re-union at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ernest A. Stowe of that city, and the memories represented in those who attend and those who, not able to attend, yet share the spirit of the occasion, covers a significant period.
In the little book published by Mr. White the contributors pretend to indulge their sentimental recollections; in fact they write the record of an era. William M. Hathaway travels from Grand Rapids to Fleet Street and back again; George B. Catlin reviews pleasantly and with historical accuracy the history of the Press in Grand Rapids; David N. Foster relates an early battle for woman's suffrage, in which Susan B. Anthony co-operated; Clarence A. Cotton, Burridge D. Butler, Frank Il Cobb (now city editor of the New York World), Thomas W. Fletcher, Charles W. Garfield, William B. Weston, Louis G. Stuart, Henry M. Rose, Robert Beard, John H. "Mickey" Finn, John Bailey Mills, Geroge A. McIntyre, Henry G. Wanty, Mark T. Woodruff, and A. S. White all have tales and relate them well.
It is, at the least, a valuable contribution to state history, and in its highest, an inspiring record of that most valued of human experiences ---- the perpetuation of friendships. ----Detroit News, Dec. 1920.
Reminiscences of Editors and Reporters
Transcribed by Ronnie Aungst.