Thursday, November 23, 2017
King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 13 Part 1
King News by Moses KoenigsbergPublished by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941
Monsieur Veto (part 1)link to previous installment link to next installment
The four years beginning with August, 1909, spanned a course in journalism the scope, richness and variety of which surpassed all my expectations. It would have been impossible anywhere except under the leadership of W. R. Hearst. I became the confidant of publishers from Shanghai to London. Publication problems of the most intimate and complicated character were submitted to me for analysis. For weeks at a time newspapers were operated under my direction from the private offices of the owners without the knowledge of their subordinates. Either I dictated or scribbled the orders which the proprietors would thereupon transmit as their own. And all this activity was without formal responsibility of any sort, except as a game played in pursuit of an assignment from Hearst.
Wads of humor strewed my way. A publisher, who began by repelling simple inquiries concerning his corporation set-up, would conclude by begging advice about a secret payroll. Another, who started with a protest that there wasn’t enough money in any one man’s hands to buy his newspaper, would wind up by urging me to fix the price. These transitions followed a common pattern of events. Usually, my errand opened with an academic query as to consequences that might ensue from the massing of the Hearst features in one local outlet.
Since the question was purely hypothetical, it could be propounded with complete sincerity. It lit three fuses in the proprietor’s mind. Was Hearst actually considering invasion of the field? Was the vile competitor down the street trying to corner these specialties? Might it not be a good plan to “sew up” this opportunity at once? My reluctance to negotiate a contract whetted any eagerness that had been aroused. In nearly every case, this approach worked out an earlier and more authentic answer than would have been otherwise obtainable to the inquiry with which Hearst had charged me: Is this publication purchasable at a fair price?
The canvass touched practically every city in the United States with more than 75,000 population in or near which Hearst was not already publishing a daily. Ultimately, it covered more than a quarter of a million miles of travel. I did not recommend the acquirement of one property. But in each of the newspaper centers I visited, there sprang up an avidity for the Hearst features. Probably, in many places, it had sprouted before my appearance on the scene. But the sprout budded into blossom shortly afterward. This led to a rapprochement with Farrelly. He was now in charge of the Hearst news services and syndicates.
Meanwhile, probing the possibilities of newspaper acquisitions for Hearst brought to the surface a latent phenomenon of the American press. The publishing field was studded with misfits. In the first decade of the twentieth century, a large percentage of the dailies were in the hands of men congenitally disqualified for journalistic leadership. Others were deficient in technical training and information. Fumbling with fundamentals retarded constructive endeavor. Frequently, ulterior objects diverted energies from public to private aims. Servitude for special interests or even corrupt politics was often masked by spurious labels of devotion to the common welfare.
No phase of my negotiations with publishers was more impressive than the eagerness with which many of them snatched at statistics that simplified problems of operation. While the dearth of this data was a damning commentary on the short-sightedness of the publishing craft, it afforded me no little amusement. The quotation of a few figures earned an inordinate respect in unexpected quarters. It sometimes led to tests and demonstrations calling for close supervision. It was in such cases that, to “prove my point,” I collaborated with or substituted for the proprietor behind the scenes in the actual management of his publication. The effect, in some instances, was embarrassingly successful. It invested me with an air of wisdom as unmerited as it was, on occasion, uncomfortable. Tempting offers—unacceptable if for no other reason than my contractual obligations—repeatedly bothered me. There were several proposals of partnership. Some of these propositions lost much of their flattery under the microscope. They reflected more the deficiencies of the proponents than any confirmed capability of the recipient.
One of my most interesting negotiations was with W. J. (“Fingy”) Conners, multimillionaire owner of the Buffalo Courier and the Buffalo Enquirer. He had brought the wits of his early years through the burnishing processes of the bar-room. “Fingy” was never satisfied with less than a proprietorial role. His climb upward began when he decided that he’d swap positions with the saloon-keeper—that thereafter he’d do the collecting instead of the spending.
At the outset, Conners’ knuckles advanced him faster than his finesse. After he took hold as a boss there was never a dockwalloper or a bully on the Buffalo wharves who dared to “pass up his score.” The few who tried to repudiate the account set out in chalk marks for settlement the next pay day never repeated the attempt. One of them, however, left a record of his failure in Conners’ nickname. “Fingy” was a rather coarse allusion to the absence of the two phalangial projections that normally separate the forefinger from the pinky. Conners missed his allotment after an intensive dispute with a contumacious customer. He insisted that the outcome affirmed the correctness of his position ethically, socially and zoologically. He based this claim on the assumption that the missing members had been detached by a process peculiar to rodents. “It was a rat that I called him and it was a rat that he proved himself,” explained “Fingy.”
Conners was essentially a realist. It was he who gave utterance to that apothegm which has comforted untold millions by solving the chief problem of the parvenu—“Them as has ’em, wears ’em.” The diction is preserved to fix the chronologic significance of the message and to emphasize the definiteness and breadth of “Fingy’s” judgment at a time when cultural niceties had not yet cramped his freedom of expression. The observation disposed of an earnest protest from David S. Taylor, managing editor of the Buffalo Courier.
On the way to attend his first formal function—the mayor’s inaugural ball—Conners stopped at the Courier office to exhibit the magnificence of a raiment he had never worn before. Taylor narrowly escaped gulping his cigar. The full-dress suit with tails was perfect. But from the broad expanse of “Fingy’s” shirt front blazed three diamonds of startling proportions. Taylor’s pleas against this display were waved aside with the gem of philosophy more precious than the stunning gems that Conners insisted on wearing to the mayor’s reception that night.
Pride rather than profit was tied to the upper rungs of Conners’ newspaper ladder. His admiration for Hearst’s journalistic success bordered on the fanatic. His highest ambition at that time was to duplicate in Buffalo one of Hearst’s triumphs. All this should have smoothed out any possible wrinkle in my first visit to the Buffalo Courier office. Instead, it led to a hazing. Conners refused to believe the call was of my own choice. He felt certain I had been assigned to conclude a contract with him. He interpreted my refusal as a feigned reluctance. The culmination came in what was afterward described in one of Conners’ favorite anecdotes as a friendly lark. It was actually a detention by force.
My wearing apparel disappeared in a Turkish-bath resort to which “Fingy” had inveigled me. Bribed attachés of the establishment, under Conners’ supervision, by various artifices kept me in seclusion until noon the next day. Then an elaborate document, meanwhile prepared by “Fingy’s” lawyers, was presented for my signature. It was intended to authorize the use in the Buffalo Courier of a list of Hearst features at what Conners regarded as an enormous price—$20,000 annually. Several years passed before “Fingy” secured any of these items.
It was Hearst’s policy during that period to reserve for his own newspapers the exclusive use of his copyrighted elements in sections defined as competitive circulation areas. The barrier against Buffalo—because it was in the state of New York—was even tighter than the fence around Philadelphia, barely more than a fifth as far away. Barclay H. Warburton, publisher of the Philadelphia Telegraph, son-in-law of John Wanamaker and arbiter elegantiarum, in charting his social sphere, would probably have apportioned to Conners an antipodal zoning. But his eagerness for a Hearst contract betrayed a proletarian zeal no more constrained than “Fingy’s.”
Warburton met me on terms of equal difficulty. He tried to fight off an ennui while I tried to ward off an hypnosis. His trouble was chronic. Mine was with the mesmeric effects of a massive gold bracelet. It was the first ornament of the sort that I had ever seen a man wear. Possibly a watch was hidden behind one of the links. I never found out. Warburton thought time could be saved by calling in one of his circulation experts to advise whether there was anything in my mission that really merited managerial attention. The Warburton minion came clad in a red flannel undershirt. Flannagan was his name. One of his first utterances knocked most of the elegance out of his master’s pose.
Flannagan assured his employer that “if he could get the Ella Wheeler Wilcox poems from Hearst, he’d beat out the Bulletin!’ Thereupon Warburton behaved in a manner emulating “Fingy” Conners’ most characteristic deportment. He didn’t intend to let me go until I had signed a contract with the Telegraph for the Hearst daily features. My expostulation went unheeded. Barclay wouldn’t believe that I had made a visit to his office “without authority to close an agreement for what he would buy.”
The gold bracelet somehow softened the menace in Warburton’s movements when he locked the door of his office. A momentary resumption of patrician condescension was reassuring. Barclay explained, with a smile, that he was “only making sure we would understand each other.” Like Conners, he pressed upon me for execution a document hurriedly prepared by his attorneys on telephone instructions. It stipulated the right to publish in Philadelphia a schedule of “novelties.” A protracted argument ended when I attached my name over the words, “Signed without authority.” Of course, it was a worthless document.
Between these encounters with Conners and Warburton lay a distorted reflection of the dispositions of their fellow publishers toward the Hearst procession. It was like the images in a suite of concave and convex looking-glasses. A vague annoyance ordinarily flickers through amusement over these mirrored grotesqueries. Here this annoyance was gravid with fear. Apprehension of an invasion of their field by Hearst nagged hundreds of owners of American dailies. Even “Fingy” Conners, with an intense eagerness to be Hearst’s client, winced at the mere thought of being his competitor. To hundreds of newspaper proprietors Hearst loomed like a Goliath with club raised to beat them into economic insecurity.
Lewis began the construction of an imposing community center— Universal City—on the northwest edge of St. Louis. One palatial marble edifice challenged worldwide architectural attention. Its main oddity consisted of wide central staircases projecting from the marble walls without visible supports. Lewis established what he described as the first mail-order bank in America. He estimated his quick assets in the tens of millions. An overabundance of cash led to his undoing. He decided to use some of it for the purchase of a forthcoming issue of St. Louis municipal bonds. Being an amateur, he didn’t consult the financial potentates. His bid for the flotation was startlingly higher than the average price offered by the local banking circle. That lacerated the feelings of the sensitive gentlemen operating the component arcs.
It was merely a coincidence that these bankers enjoyed a close friendship with a member of the cabinet in Washington. He was Charles Nagel. He had been appointed from St. Louis by President Taft as Secretary of Commerce and Labor. It was perhaps merely a coincidence, also, that Mr. Nagel did nothing to prevent the issuance of an order by his colleague, the postmaster general, holding up all mail addressed to or by Lewis and his group of organizations. That put the quietus on E. G. Lewis’ affairs. Incidentally, it insured the St. Louis bankers against any further insolence from him. It was followed by a strange omission. The official records lack any legal decision that explains just why the postal department ruined E. G. Lewis’ business.
A bit of over-zealousness on my behalf defeated the compulsion which might otherwise have required my attendance at Lewis’ downfall. He had proposed a yearly salary of $25,000 to edit his publications. The offer dazzled me. It meant more than a 200 percent increase of earnings. A recently signed contract with Hearst interfered. It was in my mind to ask for a release. Hugh K. Taylor, Lewis’ right-hand man, doubted that I would be sufficiently insistent. He decided to anticipate any hesitation on my part. Possibly he felt he would be more persuasive. He called on Carvalho. That disposed of the matter.
Eighteen months later, while Lewis was raking the remnants of his grandiose projects, a federal court summoned me as an expert witness in appraisal of his two dailies. The occasion spurred conflicting emotions. It was questionable whether avoidance in a share of Lewis’ plight was due more to providence than to my own deliberation.
Quite different from Lewis were those publishers who hoped to find in my overtures a means to dip into Hearst’s reputedly inexhaustible wealth. Most of these hoisted lightning-rods for partnership proposals. I submitted only one such suggestion. The vigor of Hearst’s rejection left no doubt about his attitude toward a divided domain. It is true that in various periods other men have held title to newspapers that really belonged to Hearst— Arthur Brisbane, Guy Barham, M. L. Annenberg, A. J. Kobler, and United States Ambassador Alexander P. Moore among them —in Washington, D. C., Milwaukee, Detroit, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New York City and elsewhere. But their proprietorship was fiction.
Each could have testified correctly that he was the sole owner of the stock. He could have rightfully brushed aside any hostile inquiry designed to show that consummation of his ownership was dependent on liquidation of unpaid notes or mortgages. There were none. But Hearst had retained the power to regain complete possession at will. The trick was done with an option for purchase. Simultaneously with his endorsement of the stock certificates, he received a guaranty of his right to redeem the publication at stated terms. The figures represented no actual payment for the property. They were reckoned to provide a fee for the services of the dummy proprietor. This was automatically scaled by two factors—elapsed time and contingent profits of operation.
This hocus-pocus—transparent to nearly everyone familiar with the background—was carried on in deep solemnity and in the conviction that it was highly important. It did serve several purposes. Foremost was the appeasement of space-buyers. No matter how comparatively cheap the rate, and despite superiorities either admitted or debatable, the Hearst newspapers generally encountered a greater sales resistance among advertisers than other first class American dailies. That was due to prejudice. Much of this bias could be traced to the slander, misrepresentation and misapprehension discussed earlier in these pages. But much was also due to a distrust among business men of Hearst’s political program. It was the vogue of conservatives to denounce him as a sensational radical.
That vogue imposed a serious handicap on Hearst’s space-selling staffs. It was particularly bothersome in cities in which he published two separate dailies. Advertisers, reluctantly using one of the units, backed up against “spending money twice in the same place.” Of course, it wasn’t “the same place.” But it was the same publisher whom they didn’t fancy and who was soliciting a double instead of a single patronage each day.
When Hearst, having established the Examiner in Los Angeles, decided to buy the Herald in that city, he persuaded his close friend, Guy Barham, to pose as the purchaser. That was the most successful of Hearst’s camouflaged deals. In New York, when he determined to launch a tabloid daily, he was already publishing the morning American and the Evening Journal. The newcomer —the Mirror—fought its way toward success under a series of synthetic proprietors, including A. J. Kobler and Alexander P. Moore.
Two dailies in the same field—one morning and one afternoon —were operated under a frankly single ownership in more than a score of different communities. Interesting examples have been the newspapers owned in New York City by Bennett, Dana, Pulitzer or Munsey; in Boston by the Taylors or Winslow; in Chicago by Lawson; in Kansas City by Nelson; in Minneapolis by Murphy; in Detroit by Scripps; in Wichita by the Murdocks; in Des Moines by Cowles; in Columbus, Ohio, by Wolfe; in Louisville by Bingham; in Birmingham by Hanson; in San Antonio by Huntress; in Springfield, Mass., by Bowles; in Baltimore by Abeles or Agnus. If any of them thought of shifting the label of paternity of one of their publications, the idea was not carried out. It remained for Hearst to hide proprietorship under a makeup of false whiskers and wigs. It would be impossible to determine whether the average of results obtained with these disguises was higher than that of unmasked operations.
Scouting for bargains in newspaper properties by my method was not without stumbling blocks. It entangled me in several awkward difficulties. On occasion, the statements of a manager differed materially from the independent audit prepared at my instance. Once, the friction resulting from this sort of a snarl was ironed out with data that I produced by actually operating the plant for a brief period. Demonstrations, described in earlier paragraphs, along lines dissimilar, but parallel, thrust upon me successively the Toledo Times, the Columbus (Ohio) News, the Cincinnati Commercial-Tribune and the Rochester Herald, either for a spin of the wheel openly or for a secret collaboration with the publisher.
At Toledo, it became apparent that the lovable personality of George W. Dun would prevent the reorganization essential to any quick drive forward by his paper. In Columbus, amiable Allen Diehl Albert agreed that he should move his talents to more important engagements than his hopeless task with the News. That paper subsequently verified my judgment by collapsing. In Cincinnati, E. O. Eshelby finally admitted that he was wasting my time in an attempt to extricate the Commercial- Tribune from a predicament beyond mastery. That posed a riddle the solution of which was limited to a narrow inner circle. The explanation lay in the hidden strategy of John R. McLean, owner of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
This was the McLean of uncounted millions who invaded the New York arena and turned tail, selling the New York Journal to W. R. Hearst. At his death a decade later, he was the owner of both the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Washington Post. McLean would not have permitted the Commercial-Tribune to pass under direction that might complicate the Cincinnati morning field. Strings by which that newspaper was made to dance to his tune were manipulated under cover. The Enquirer could prosper in security while the tempo of its competition was satisfactorily controlled.
At Rochester, Louis M. Antisdale declined to accept my conclusions concerning his newspaper, the Herald. He wanted to discuss the situation with Hearst. I arranged a meeting between them. It was fruitless. Antisdale demonstrated tremendous tenacity. Fifteen years passed before the Rochester Herald went into bankruptcy. The Rochester Democrat-Chronicle bought the remains.
Chapter 13 Part 2 Next Week
link to previous installment link to next installment
Labels: King News
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: Don Herold's Sunday Page
In addition to a long string of successful humor books, the great Don Herold did a lot of newspaper work. Problem for me here at Stripper's Guide is that Mr. Herold often wrote illustrated columns, which don't fall in our purview. Therefore, a decade or so into this blog and I still haven't had much of a chance to wax rhapsodic over one of the truly great cartoonists.
Herold is one of those guys who just plain draws funny. Along with the likes of VIP and Milt Gross, who can make you crack up even before reading the gag, Herold can take class-B material and turn it into the humor event of the week. And a lot of Herold's material was definitely class-A stuff, so that is quite the powerful 1-2 punch. Just look at the second sample above, in which Herold trots out one of the creakiest old jokes; so ancient that the original may well have been drawn with a stylus on clay. His deceptively simple drawings, which at first blush may seem almost childlike, have more energy, grace and humor than all the noodling and anatomical rendering in the world could accomplish.
The page's subject was whatever Herold happened to dream up in any given week -- there were no continuing characters. There was also no unifying title, just a different headline each week. The page sometimes collected a group of vignettes like our upper sample, sometimes was a full-page strip as in the lower one. Although I'm sure it would look spectacular in color, as far as I know it only ran in black and white.
I believe this Sunday series, which ran from September 29 1918 to July 11 1920, is Herold's first of only two purely cartoon series he did for newspapers. It was syndicated while Herold was in the employ of the Indianapolis Star, and I'm not sure if the Star did the syndication or if Herold sold it himself. Herold's copyright is prominently lettered onto each page, so maybe he did self-syndicate; he was a good businessman so it's a definite possibility. The Star itself stopped running the page in January 1920, and the page kept going for another six months in syndication, so that's another bit of evidence that points to self-syndication.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans of the samples.
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: John Jarvis
John W. Jarvis was born in Geneva, Illinois, on July 3, 1918. Jarvis’s birth date is from a family tree at Ancestry.com, and his birthplace is based on his father’s World War I draft card which said he resided n Geneva.
The 1920 U.S. Federal Census recorded Jarvis as the only child of Frank and Estella. His father was an agent for a tea company. The trio lived in Geneva at 1030 First Street.
The address was the same and Jarvis had a brother, Francis, in the 1930 census.
A profile at Syracuse University Library (SUL) said Jarvis “sold his first cartoon while still in high school for five dollars to Health and Strength magazine. After graduating high school in 1936, Jarvis studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Chicago School of Professional Art. Javis taught at the Chicago School of Professional Art before serving over three years with the Air Force during World War II. While in the military, several of his cartoons were published in Yank magazine.”
During World War II, Jarvis enlisted on June 2, 1942.
According to the Kane County Chronicle (St. Charles, Illinois), November 21, 2015, after the war Jarvis “worked for the Western Newspaper Union (WNU) in Frankfort, Kentucky where he met his wife, Thelma Lee.”
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Jarvis drew Inklings for WNU from December 25, 1947 to February 23, 1950. He also produced Mayor McGup, from 1948 to 1955, for the National Weekly Newspaper Service.
SUL said Jarvis was laid off and he returned to Geneva. In 1953 Jarvis went to work at the Aurora Beacon News where he drew editorial cartoons and advertisements. The Chronicle said Jarvis retired thirty years later.
The 1956 and 1958 St. Charles, Illinois city directories listed Jarvis as a cartoonist at “29 Oak G”.
Jarvis’s cartoons appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Parade, Look, Esquire and others.
The Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, Illinois), May 7, 2006, said Jarvis and artist Al Ochsner held a cartooning workshop “Geneva Toons” for children in grades sixth through 12. His art was shown at the Geneva History Center as part of the “Art and Artists in Geneva’s History” exhibit.
Jarvis passed away October 30, 2015, in Geneva, according to the Chronicle.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
what if anything can you say about Fred Zumwalt?
- some wikipedia person
Monday, November 20, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: Inklings
John Jarvis. Inklings was reasonably well drawn with reasonably funny gags, and ran for a reasonably long time in a reasonable number of WNU weekly newspaper clients. Inklings was brought on board by the syndicate on the week of August 21 1947, and was dropped on the week of February 23 1950, as near as I can figure.
Saturday, November 18, 2017
May 27 1909 -- Herriman offers up a miscellany of sketches gleaned at the ballgame; the leftmost is interesting in that, yes Virginia, there was a time when baseball teams needed those balls back that went up into the stands -- evidently not without the problem of souvenir collectors who didn't go along with custom.
The middle cartoon is interesting in that it shows Herriman offering up some meta material in the tags for the sun, sea, and beach. That sort of thing would become a hallmark of his later work, but not much seen in his Examiner cartoons.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, November 17, 2017
Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael
Poor Mark Johnson, who really dislikes Albert Carmichael's artwork, is really gonna hate this card, with perhaps the most slapdash rendition of a cute girl you're likely to come across. Okay, okay, after this one I'll give the Carmichael cards a rest for awhile.
Although this card is obviously part of the Taylor Pratt & Company Series 565, the reverse does not have the company's logo or series info on it. Could the company have been embarrassed by this card, too?
Thursday, November 16, 2017
King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 12 Part 3
King News by Moses KoenigsbergPublished by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941
On The Trail of the "Silver Fox" (part 3)link to previous installment link to next installment
Now my efforts centered on getting away from the Boston American. The icy waters into which Carvalho had plunged me benumbed my spirit no more than chilling drafts from other sources. A rift had come in my priceless friendship with Foster Coates. All the generosity of the sponsorship he had accorded me as an editor was replaced by the grimness of his opposition to me as a publisher. Crossing swords with him was for me a species of flagellation.
Coates was assigned to the Boston American a week after my designation as publisher to succeed Farrelly. Hearst had summoned me to New York for a conference. It was two in the morning when I found him in the Rhinelander Building. He was bent over a page form, directing its make-up. Perspiration poured down his face. He dashed it off occasionally with his forefinger, like a laborer at a rockpile. It was a much more convincing gesture than the last pose in which I had seen him, full length on a floor, completely surrounded by colored comic sections. An hour later, we met in a small, boxlike inclosure that he used as an office on the floor below.
“What’s wrong in Boston?” was Hearst’s opening question. “What is it that seems to give so many of our people the tummy-ache there?”
He accepted my judgment that the gravest symptoms in Boston resulted from the need for a new managing editor and for a general manager of advertising. Three days later, Coates arrived, followed the next week by Russell R. Whitman from Chicago. Whitman was to act as director of advertising sales. Hearst was backing me up without stint. My confidence in the Boston American soared. A month later, it was in the depths.
At Coates’s request, one of Max Annenberg’s assistants, Harry L. Starkey, was brought from Chicago. He acted as technical adviser on distribution. In Chicago, Starkey had been a “ripping, roaring tiger.” In Boston, he behaved more like a mewling tabby. “I used to know where to look to dodge a knife in Chicago,” he confided to me, “but here they don’t even let you see it. The blade is sunk before you know about it.” Which explains why this aggressor in the windy West became an appeaser in the wily East.
My breach with Coates came over my rejection of Starkey’s plans to boost news sales by “buying” the favor of dealers with bonuses. The Boston American was insolvent; Carvalho declined to advance sorely needed funds; Coates cast aside our friendship in anger over my refusal to go deeper into debt; Hearst continued blithely to order new features at additional expense and—just how much fortitude might one job require? Repeated trips to New York got me no closer to a solution of the dilemma than a form of Carvalho diplomacy I had not previously observed. It was a reticence as bland as that of Bret Harte’s heathen Chinee. My appeals for release were parried.
John H. Fahey was publisher of the Traveler. His keenness has been evidenced by conspicuous activity in press association, shipping and governmental affairs for several decades. Individuals in control of the shoe-machinery trust were disinclined to approve the publication in Boston of a newspaper owned by W. R. Hearst. It would not be amiss to say they didn’t like him. They cordially detested everything he stood for, especially in journalism and politics. They were persuaded that the Traveler could “put the American out of business.” So they dumped barrel-loads of money into the Traveler. Fahey was disbursing one $250,000 installment of this endowment when we came to grips.
There was nothing in the catalogue of competitive tricks that remained untried by one or the other side. Each was “out to win by any means short of crime.” And it isn’t certain that all the underlings in both camps always fell short of the dividing line. But Fahey invariably played cricket.
The Traveler used presses one plate wide. That meant the printing of an edition could begin less than a minute after the stereotype starter was ready. More than twice as much time was necessary to commence grinding out the American on double widths of cylinders. So the Traveler was enabled to “blanket” the newsboys with a supply of newspapers at various centers ahead of its competitor. A larger volume of production permitted the American to smother that handicap on later distribution. But the daily beating on first deliveries grew exasperating.
A somewhat spectacular operation was devised to offset this handicap. It became a routine during the baseball season. Statistics showed that for several years a large majority of ball games had been decided before the eighth inning. So, at the end of the seventh inning, the American’s sporting edition was sent to press. The leading team was announced as the final winner in a headline in red ink across the top of the first page. These papers were loaded on trucks. Red and green electric bulbs, strung along adjacent streets, would signal the drivers either to spurt to designated points or to unload a worthless issue. Usually more than 30,000 copies had been packed in readiness in the automobiles before the ninth inning was over. A shift of the lead or a tied score rendered them useless. A heavy waste accumulated. But that didn’t faze John Fahey. He duplicated the practice.
With what was designed as consummate artfulness, but which later graded as superfluous finesse, I proposed to Fahey to abandon this “cutthroat” competition. He agreed. It was stipulated that the printing of corresponding editions should begin simultaneously. A detailed schedule was perfected. The American and the Traveler occupied adjoining plants. A hole was knocked through the basement wall so that mutual compliance with every particular of our compact could be closely observed. Thereafter, a watcher for each paper flashed the order for the starting of the other’s presses. Of course, that meant a great advantage to the American. But Fahey hadn’t been fooled. He had no choice. His purse strings had been abruptly tightened. The coup, for which I was tempted to credit myself, worked out as a face-saving for Fahey.
After fourteen months of my term of nerve abrasion and emotional attrition in Boston, Hearst consented to discuss my repeated requests for a transfer. He listened to my statements of unfitness for the position. He seemed especially interested in my anxiety to escape friction with Coates. Apparently, nothing was left except to choose my next berth. But I had not yet learned how Hearst’s tenacity in any transaction fed on the reluctance of the other fellow. It was nearly daybreak when he withdrew to the next room. An hour later, when I felt sure Hearst had forgotten that I was waiting, his secretary, L. J. O’Reilly, entered. O’Reilly handed me an envelope. “Mr. Hearst instructs that you read this and deliver it to Mr. Carvalho,” he said.
The message—Hearst’s decision—was thus removed from appeal. Its composition was characteristic. The style persisted through all Hearst’s business communications. One felt that they were written with the thought of ultimate inclusion in some anthology. The note to Carvalho read: “Koenigsberg can and will handle the business department in Boston; Coates can and will handle the editorial department; Whitman can and will handle the advertising. Please arrange accordingly.”
“It has been bad enough,” Carvalho commented, “but this would make it impossible. If you will hold your peace long enough, I’ll undertake to get you out of Boston.” At that moment, Carvalho was in my eyes a potential benefactor. Six weeks later, he laid upon me a bitter hostility. In April, 1909, true to his promise, he telegraphed, directing me to turn over to Whitman all pending matters in my hands and come to New York. The next day Carvalho outlined the most welcome assignment I had yet received—the management of the Hearst telegraph news systems and feature syndicates.
This embraced the nature of work for which I felt myself best fitted—service free from any advertising, political, counting-room or local encumbrances and devised exclusively for the reader. There would be no dependence on individual favor. No single proprietor would waylay initiative, balk enterprise or impose abortive policy. Success would be determined by a sort of elective process—by the verdicts of clients, most of them outside the Hearst circle. But my elation over this most desirable opportunity was rudely dashed. Eight years were to elapse before I got the job.
Outside Carvalho’s office Richard A. Farrelly stopped me for a chat. A week before he had discussed with me his orders to launch and edit a ten-cent magazine for Hearst. Now he was curious about my affairs. He felicitated me on being “a fellow refugee from ‘the black hole’ of Boston.” Had I received any new sailing orders? Exuberance over the most attractive position yet assigned to me wagged my tongue. Anyhow, why shouldn’t Farrelly know of my good fortune? Twice my immediate superior and high in Hearst’s confidence, he should be a fit recipient of my cheerful tidings. Weeks passed before I learned how ill-advised had been that conclusion.
Only on the previous day, Farrelly was notified that the project for a new magazine had been abandoned. That eliminated his prospective editorship. He immediately renewed to Carvalho a proposal he had been urging for months. It covered a reorganization of the department, the management of which I was now telling him had been committed to me. Carvalho had stalled Farrelly. While I was on my way out of the building, Farrelly intercepted Carvalho on his way home. They had been friends since boyhood. Farrelly upbraided Carvalho for turning over to me, without notice to him, the post for which he had applied.
The grievance this brewed against me in Carvalho’s mind gained a full month’s impetus before it burst. I was reporting for duty early in May, after a vacation at San Antonio. Carvalho denounced me for “violating a fundamental principle of sound business relations.” My contract would expire in a couple of months. I could draw salary for the unexpired term immediately or I could have the checks mailed to me weekly. Meanwhile, he had nothing and he would have nothing for me to do. Of course, there was an indignant demand for an explanation. It evoked the heinous charge that I had ignored his instruction for secrecy. The heat of my denial fired a grudge that smoldered between us for four years.
There were half a dozen droll interludes in this quarrel. Under directions from Hearst, Carvalho executed three different personal service contracts with me. Each document was signed in duplicate without the exchange of one word. On several occasions, Carvalho found it necessary to analyze in my presence agreements I had negotiated with motion picture or other companies. Our deportment at each meeting would have belonged better in a stage satire than a business discussion.
The break with Carvalho exposed a cross-section of the Hearst organization, as pitilessly revealing as the woodsman’s ax hewing through a timber. It laid bare innermost oddities of that colorful company of individualists who, under Hearst’s leadership, revised the topographic conformations of the Fourth Estate, lifting and altering if not embellishing the face of journalism. It presented a picture of absurdly strenuous confusion. An apt title might have been: “All in Frenzied Fun.” While it did show a panorama of incongruities, there was some exaggeration in the description of a setting into which one might expect at any moment the entrance of a troop of cross-eyed giants playing leap frog with bow-legged midgets on stilts.
An oral report to Hearst on my trip to San Antonio was in order. He had authorized me to investigate the desirability of buying the San Antonio Express. That authorization forged the first link in a collateral relationship that grew to earn from Hearst a much keener interest than he gave to the performance of my regular duties. It revolved around an obsession—a yearning for the ownership of a newspaper in every advantageous center in America. By gratifying that ambition, he could command the performance of any program he favored, including his installation in the White House.
First, I told Hearst that R. H. Russell, publisher of the Express, had set a prohibitive price on the property—$600,000. Then, I mentioned the fact that Carvalho had greased the skids for my exit. It is amusing to recall Hearst’s look of distress. Maybe it only expressed an aversion for such a subject of conversation. It was not easy to believe that he had been unaware of Carvalho’s action. Hearst volunteered to “see what he could do about it,” This elicited a statement that I was not actually leaving his employment; that William Bradford Merrill, manager of the New York American, had proposed to engage me under a contract to produce a special edition to be published in the following November; and that the prospective undertaking—the tentative title of which was “Southern Prosperity Parade”—promised to prove both interesting and lucrative. Hearst nodded approval. That assent armored me against a series of attacks so preposterous that it is still difficult to believe they occurred.
|Arthur Brisbane, 1926 Time cover|
Arthur Brisbane, editor of the Hearst evening papers, cheerfully agreed to write several articles for the issue I was preparing. He showed a remarkably ready compliance in such matters. His typewriter fairly leaped to the mere hint of an idea that might multiply advertising dollars. No matter how vulgarly commercial the topic, a classic essay was forthcoming. Brisbane everted the human soul to prove why housewives should do their shopping on the days preferred by the biggest advertisers; he recaptured from the planets a formula to demonstrate the superiority of the latest automobile transmission; he dug from the strata of the Silurian age a fossil to illustrate the virtues of a new cleansing liquid.
Editorials in the New York Journal worked miracles of theatrical resuscitation. Producers, having decided to close plays, were persuaded to use doses of the Brisbane elixir. The shows revived. So accommodating was the illustrious editor that resourceful advertising solicitors were encouraged to flights of unbelievable audacity. They submitted proposals for articles expatiating on the connubial bliss to be derived from the use of a trademarked bunion-eradicator; the winning personality to be developed in business as well as romance by the wearing of a certain patented garter; or the guaranty against marital disaster contained in every deed to a lot in a restricted suburban area.
Brisbane didn’t get around to these particular propositions, but he did bastardize enough editorial columns to corrupt the morale of a considerable part of the space-selling fraternity. There was a specific cause for this complaisance. It might have been distasteful to his more ardent admirers. It proved the extraordinary flexibility of his extraordinary talents. His contract with Hearst assured extra compensation for these extra-editorial lucubrations.
The larger part of this character of activity came before Brisbane inaugurated the “Today” column which won for him indisputable recognition as “The World’s Foremost Commentator on Current Events.” It also came before his accumulation of wealth assumed precedence over all his avocations. Taking a leaf out of Carvalho’s book, I pledged Brisbane to a secrecy to be maintained until necessary formal announcements could be made. The next week Hearst sailed abroad. Two days later Merrill called me into conference. He wanted to know why, when and where I had approached Brisbane for help. Merrill was no more given to garrulity than Carvalho. So he added nothing to my information beyond the inescapable conclusion that Brisbane had broken his word to me.
“The Silver Fox” was by no means an ill-chosen appellation for Merrill. His lustrous white hair, though fast thinning, crowned an impressive countenance in which affability seemed to preside over intelligence and refinement. Each line spelled a wedding of form and force. In later years, at more than a score of public functions, Brisbane was always seated at my left and Merrill at my right. Brisbane excited more curiosity at a gathering of journalists than anyone else. Merrill’s presence radiated an aura of greater distinction than was projected by any other personality at newspaper assemblies in those years. The showmanship of that arrangement offered no clue to the satiric comedy which it hid. It is doubtful that either Brisbane or Merrill could think of anyone whose proximity he would enjoy less.
Brisbane excelled in many mental arenas, but he was at his best in rationalization. There were few deviations from the true beyond correction or even justification with his glib logic. His facility in these matters was aided by a rare amenability of conscience. If there were any ethical shackles to restrain his reasoning, they didn’t clank in his utterances. He wasn’t the least bit ruffled by my reproach for violating his promise.
“I never recognize any pledge infringing on my loyalty to Hearst,” Brisbane said crisply.
This pronouncement catapulted into one rubbish heap many of the philosophies and moralities that I had considered supremely important. How could Brisbane’s fealty to his employer interfere with an undertaking to keep confidential a prospective service to that employer? I might have asked, “How does he get that way?” The same question would have been pertinent from time to time with each of several of his colleagues. They employed exactly the same verbiage on varying pretexts. A psychiatrist might have discerned in this an endemic pathology. He would have been in error. It was a simple game of “follow the leader”—imitation of a master of tergiversation.
Merrill, who was an associate of Brisbane and Carvalho on the New York World, had followed them into the Hearst fold. He brought for them, and received from them, the same treatment of refrigerated neutrality that had furnished bystanders in the Pulitzer organization a continuously edifying performance. It was my first contact with undeclared warfare. My request for cooperation had given Brisbane a morsel of news for Carvalho about one of Merrill’s impending projects. Of course, this scheme must be scuttled. It is only fair to Carvalho to say that as much principle as personality may have entered into his motive. He was opposed to special editions on general grounds.
In the first week my earnings exceeded $2,400. That didn’t seem legitimate. More than half this amount accrued through one contract signed by B. F. Yoakum, Chairman of the Board of both the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Bradford Merrill was present at my meeting with Yoakum. That fact later assumed especial importance. Early in June, a telegram reached me in Chicago from Fred C. Veon, advertising manager of the New York American. It advised me to hurry east. “Terrific gale blowing,” the wire ran. “Come immediately or it may be too late to bail the boat. Better telephone me before coming to office.” From Veon, such whimsicality betokened extreme urgency. He was funny only when he was frantic.
Veon’s troubles had begun when Yoakum’s secretary telephoned suggesting “a method to minimize unpleasantness.” It would be more agreeable to Mr. Yoakum, Veon was told, if the matter were disposed of by returning to him the original contract instead of effecting a cancelation with an exchange of letters. Mr. Yoakum preferred not to have any further correspondence about this business. The fog in which that left Veon had not fully dispersed when he recited the incident to me two days later. He had consulted his chief, Merrill. “The Silver Fox” was unable to hide his irritation over the episode. He had no specific instructions. But he would “think aloud” in an effort to help Veon organize the facts.
Yoakum probably was under the impression that a representative of the New York American had expressed a willingness to cancel the agreement for advertising in the special edition. Since neither Veon nor Merrill knew anything about this, they must turn elsewhere for information. A remark that somebody in the cashier’s office had dropped the other day might supply a lead. It had to do with some sort of notice about checks for Koenigsberg. No more were to be countersigned without Carvalho’s okeh. Merrill would look into this. Meanwhile, a constructive result might be hastened if Koenigsberg ascertained from Carvalho the reason for the order. Veon, as Koenigsberg’s friend, might bring this about.
No model of conversational decorum was set up during my call on Carvalho. In fact, it was the stormiest business interview of my experience. Carvalho started at me hammer and tongs. The advertising contracts for the special edition had been negotiated without proper authority, he said; therefore, they had been obtained on false representations; that meant they were fraudulent; he had repudiated those that reached him and he would continue to repudiate any that came to hand. My self-control during this tirade may have been partly discredited by the language in which I answered Carvalho. My only regret afterward arose from the shortage of my vocabulary.
Carvalho seemed less affected by the epithets I flung than by the evidence I offered. First was my formal agreement with Merrill. Next came a copy of a prospectus for the special edition, indorsed with Merrill’s signature. Then I referred to Hearst’s assent. Carvalho reached for the oversize shears with which he sometimes found relaxation in a tonsorial trick. His hands were too shaky at the moment for that pastime. They weren’t steadied by the list of gravamens on which I proposed to take action against the New York American and everyone who tried to besmirch the propriety of my professional conduct.
The legs of outrage sped me from Carvalho to Merrill. But one didn’t brawl with “The Silver Fox.” Usually, one could not be sure, until it was all over, whether the grievance presented by a caller actually belonged to the visitor or to Merrill. While no such doubt could have befuddled me, my rage did respond to the mellowing influences of a friendly discourse. Merrill’s theme was the great superiority of a wholly satisfactory redress over litigation of any sort. It would have annoyed me greatly to believe that I had yielded to blandishment. But there was no sign of anything else “The Silver Fox” used to hold me in line. And, pending the reparation, of which he gave intimation without stipulation, it became apparent that he was responsible for our joint difficulty. Our embarrassment was due more to his Fabian tactics than to any other factor. It seemed judicious to tell him so.
The vexations of that waiting period pointed to another unhappy consideration. Friction of varying kinds had brought down upon me the violent opposition, the open disfavor or the untoward inclination of Hearst’s six leading lieutenants. In the order of their importance at that time, they were: Carvalho, Brisbane, Merrill, Lawrence, Coates and—again—Farrelly. These were then the most active members of Hearst’s newspaper cabinet.
In August, Hearst returned from abroad. Again a dispatch from Veon caught me in Chicago. “Mr. Carvalho has a message for you from Mr. Hearst,” it read. “When can you be here?” That struck a note quite different from Veon’s previous summons. It gave promise of clearing skies. Of course, the meeting with Carvalho was difficult for both of us. But the burden was on him. He had to talk. And it wasn’t to his liking. There were no salutations.
“Mr. Hearst has decided to abandon that special edition,” Carvalho began, the instant I entered the door. This, in itself, was a complete face-about from the position he had held in our last torrid exchange. At that time, he questioned the validity of my authorization from Merrill. Now he admitted, by inference at least, that there had been an acquiescence from Hearst himself.
“I am instructed to make a personal service contract with you,” Carvalho continued. “Properly, before that is done, you will execute a release from any and all pending claims.”
Merrill’s off-schedule enterprise had never aroused my private enthusiasm. Similar ventures had repelled me despite the lure of seemingly great earnings. Expenses might shrink the profits to an unattractive net result. And managing a special edition might eventually detract from my journalistic rating. Carvalho had said nothing about the term of the agreement I was to sign or the amount of salary it would fix. The scent of a striking personal victory invited a buoyant mood. I would make the gesture of ignoring these items. But the triumph must leave no shadow of impropriety.
“It was never my intention to oppose Mr. Hearst’s wishes about this,” I replied with an assumption of frigidity. “On the contrary, I have been attempting to carry out plans that he assured me he favored. But he has a perfect right to kill any edition of any newspaper he owns. In this case, there are obligations to be met. All commissions that have been earned must be paid. That applies to the solicitors I have employed as well as myself.” The readiness of Carvalho’s concurrence astonished me.
My new contract provided the same compensation I had been receiving. It was with Star Company, the holding unit that was then the base of the Hearst corporate pyramid. It documented a business regime that only a novelist could reconcile with actual business. It stirred the imagination for fanciful parallels. In one, Carvalho appears as Richelieu to Hearst’s amused Louis. This fantasy became substantial enough to fasten on Carvalho the office nickname of “The Richelieu.” We continued at swordspoints until the summer of 1913. Then Carvalho volunteered the conclusion that he had been mistaken about me. There was no offer of requital. But the admiration that had meanwhile grown up for the rare intellect and rarer integrity of this remarkable man fostered an eagerness to accept a friendship which has since given me real pride.
Chapter 13 Part 1 Next Week
link to previous installment link to next installment
Labels: King News
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: The Career of Cholly Cashcaller
I can understand an artist maintaining anonymity when they produce a bad strip, but when they produce something wonderful it certainly is a shame not to take credit. That's the case with The Career of Cholly Cashcaller, which ran in the Chicago Tribune's Sunday funnies from June 26 1904 to February 26 1905. It was usually unsigned, except on rare occasions when the artist would monogram it "G". I haven't a clue who "G" is, and I don't know of any Trib artists who might fill the bill.
This delightful strip stars a wet-behind-the-ears but very earnest young feller trying to make good in business. He reads an endless series of "How to Succeed" books that promise to teach him how to become the next Rockefeller, tries to put the lessons into practice and invariably finds that in the real world things don't go quite the way they do in books.
Both the art and writing on this feature are delightful, and far above the level of the typical slapstick shenanigans of that era's comic pages. In fact, the strip was often accompanied on the same page with Alice's Adventures in Funnyland, an utterly typical strip of the day. Rotten kids? Check. Stereotyped characters? Check. Dialect that's supposed to be funny, but just makes it hard to read? Check. I've included those strips on the scans above since they provide such a stark contrast between the typical dreck and this fabulous material.
If you'd like to read more of Cholly's misadventures, head over to Barnacle Press, which offers a nice selection of them. Thanks very much to Cole Johnson, who supplied the above samples.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Jack Collins
John V. “Jack” Collins was born in August 1898 in New York according to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census and his Michigan death certificate. In the census, Collins was the youngest of three sons born to Thomas and Mary. They were in Collins’ maternal grandfather’s household which included three uncles and an aunt. They all lived in Buffalo, New York at 425 Otto Street.
The 1905 New York state census recorded Collins, his parents, three brothers and two sisters in West Seneca, New York at 73 Fifth Street. Collins’ father, a train conductor, was the head of the household that included four relatives and four boarders.
Collins’ mother, a widow, was the head of the household in the 1910 census. Collins, his five brothers and sister were Buffalo residents at 589 Perry Street. The household included his mother’s brother, sister and brother-in-law.
Cartoons Magazine, April 1916, carried an advertisement for the Associated Art Studios that said “Mr. Jack Collins, Sport Cartoonist, New York Evening Telegram. Mr. Collins is 16 years of age and is the youngest Sport Cartoonist in the U.S. His work appears in the Evening Telegram and is on a par with any of the sport cartoonists. Our method secured Mr. Collins this position.” One of Collins’ Telegram cartoons was reprinted in The Outlook, October 23, 1918.
Collins was mentioned in The Fourth Estate, February 1, 1919, which reported on the Christmas issue.
Twenty-Seventh Division Issues Gas Attack
The Christmas number of the Gas Attack, a well edited magazine, published by the 27th American (New York) Division, December, 1918, and written and illustrated on the Western front, has been received in this country.
Major General John F. O’Ryan, commander of the division, is the honorary editor; Lieutenant-Colonel J. Leslie Kincaid, directing editor; Major Tristram Tupper, editor; Private Leslie W. Rowland, assistant editor; Private Raeburn Van Buren, art editor; Captain William J. Granger, business manager.
The publication is dedicated to the land from which the division came—America came and the land in which some of them fell—France.
The foreword is by Major General O’Ryan, with a splendid sketch by an Buren, drawn from life.
The leading article was written by Leslie W. Rowland, formerly of the Pittsburg (Pa.) Gazette-Times editorial staff, who tells what the 27th Division has been doing in France since leaving the training camp at Spartanburg, S.C. last April.
Sergeant Harry T. Mitchell, another former reporter on the Gazette-Times, has contributed several good articles; there is a full-page cartoon by Jack Collins, several drawings by Van Buren, and exceptionally well written stories and poems by various other members of the division.
The magazine contains thirty-two pages and the artistic cover is mauve-gray with black and crimson letters and a drawing of a soldier’ hat filled with Christmas letters. On the back cover is a soldier in a wreath of holly extending “Joyeux Noel.”
The Los Angeles Herald (California), October 19, 1921, published this item.
Funny StripAmerican Newspaper Comics (2012) said Collins drew the panel That Reminds Me, from 1921-22.
Jack Collins, the cartoonist who succeeded Larry Semon on the New York Evening Telegram, is now drawing the daily syndicated comic strip depicting the adventures of Fanny Fillum, the fillum fan. In one of the cartoons Larry Semon appears.
At some point the Collins family moved to Detroit, Michigan.
The 1930 census said Collins’ mother was married to Jerry O’Brien. Collins, his wife and siblings were part of the household in Detroit at 1977 Oakdale Avenue. Collins was employed as a “stationery fireman” in the construction trade.
Collins has not yet been found in the 1940 census.
Collins passed away October 25, 1942 in Eloise, Michigan according to his death certificate at Ancestry.com. He was divorced.
[Allan sez: if anyone can find "Fanny Fillum" appearing in a newspaper, I'd very much like to hear about it.]
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Monday, November 13, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: That Reminds Me
I get a bit of a kick out of cartoonists who evidently work harder on their signatures than their actual cartoon. Jack Collins' cartooning looks to be straight out of a correspondence school, but man that is one finely wrought signature.
To my knowledge Collins only has one syndicated feature to his credit, and he pretty much guaranteed it wouldn't last very long. His panel, That Reminds Me, depends for its humor on delivering the same punchline every single day. An incredibly creative cartoonist can get away with that for quite awhile, but they need to show WAY more ingenuity to keep such a feature fresh than Collins does (see And the Worst is Yet to Come for an example that actually works).
In my book I say that this feature was penned for the Brooklyn Eagle, but I was wrong. It was actually distributed by Philadelphia's Ledger Syndicate. The panel began on June 13 1921, and I can trace it now as far as December 1922, but by then I can only find it in the L.A. Times, which cuts off the dates on the panel, and runs it at least little late, so I cannot offer an exact end date.
PS _ I owe you an email. I'll write it as soon as my work deadline is over.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
May 24, 1909 -- Apparently the Portland manager was noted for using a little off-color language when things didn't go their way; however, since Portland had two PCL teams in 1909, I'm not sure if Herriman is referring to Pearl Casey of the Colts, or Walt McCredie of the Beavers (based on Herriman's take on the nose, I'm guessing probably the latter -- see the pic of McCredie at Wikipedia).
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, November 10, 2017
Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael
This card is from Carmichael's "If" series, issued by Samson Bros. as Series 262 in 1910. Most of this series uses put-down "If" lines, like "If thirstiness was pie you'd belong to the baker's union" (with a drawing of a drunk), but this particular card offers a very touching sentiment.
Labels: Wish You Were Here
Thursday, November 09, 2017
King News by Moses Koenigsberg: Chapter 12 Part 2
King News by Moses KoenigsbergPublished by F.A. Stokes Company, 1941
On The Trail of the "Silver Fox" (part 2)link to previous installment link to next installment
Assumption of an odd mission delayed compliance with my summons to New York. Hearst was trying to organize an automobile race around the world. It gave promise of great novelty. A first prize of $25,000 was hung up. The initiatory work had been assigned to Duncan Curry, yachting editor of the New York American. A $2,000 cash bond was required from each participant. Curry reported inability to sign any entrants. A sensitive soul, he was unfitted for any kind of solicitation. Indifference to a request from him was a rebuff. How it came about I never learned, but Curry and his problem were intrusted to me.
We retraced the circuit he had made over half a dozen states, calling on the presidents of practically all the automobile companies in America. That was in November and December, 1907. Many amusing incidents cropped up. None was more ludicrous than a brush with Henry Ford at his office in Detroit. With his general manager, James Couzens—afterward United States senator— he had indicated his intention to enter a Ford car in the race. It was agreed to execute the contracts the next morning. At the appointed hour, Couzens apologized for Ford’s absence. A severe cold would keep him away. A note in Couzens’ voice set me on guard. My eyes searched the room. Through the frosted glass panes of the partition directly in front of me, the figure of a man showed with a familiar droop of shoulder. Yanking open the door, I confronted Henry Ford. The expression on his face was unforgettable. It was the quintessence of a naughty boy’s guilt.
It flashed on me that there was more to gain than lose in an exploitation of this faux pas. So my risibilities were checked by an anger that was not wholly impulsive.
“What kind of nonsense is this?” I demanded. “Why did you offer to sign up and then try to run out in this silly way? If you want to renege, why not say so like a businessman? But don’t try to insult me with such a trick!”
Maybe a bit of profanity slipped in around the edges of this harangue. Neither Ford nor Couzens spoke. Ford reached for a pen. While he was signing the contract, Couzens was making out the forfeit check.
Different treatment awaited me at the plant of the Buick Motor Car Company in Flint, where an interesting friendship with W. C. Durant began. The next year he organized the General Motors Company and became for a period the king-pin of automotive enterprise. At twenty-five, Durant had founded the Durant-Dort Carriage Company. It reached a capacity of 150,000 vehicles annually. He developed the belt system of automatic manufacture. It was he, not Ford, who first applied it to automobile production. Durant radiated energy. A third of a century after my meeting with him, comparing the salient personalities with whom from time to time I had traveled the strenuous way, only two could be recalled with a vigor approximating Durant’s —Theodore Roosevelt and Mussolini. There the comparison ended, unless further analogy may be found between an antelope and a couple of grizzly bears.
|William C. Durant|
Durant told me of his plan to turn out five hundred Buicks daily. In an eight-hour day, that would mean more than one machine every sixty seconds. There was a story with a headline in the first sentence—“An Auto a Minute.” When Durant learned that it would appear in newspapers throughout the country the next day, he waxed enthusiastic. “As soon as we have won that $25,000 purse,” he chortled, “you’ll quit Hearst and be my promotion manager.” It would have been quixotic to resent the implication. But there was no prize to throw to Durant even if he had really meant that I would or could.
Eighteen manufacturers perfected entries for the race around the globe. That would have furnished an exciting competition. But all the makers of the then expensive cars—the Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Peerless and Locomobile—held aloof. They kept out because they felt they were sure to lose. Depots for repairs and replacements of parts could be provided along the route in numbers and under conditions that would build up a prohibitive advantage for the cheaper and lighter automobiles over the heavier motors. The outcome would discredit the higher-priced machines. That might arrest the progress of the industry. It would certainly work an adverse effect on advertising. I turned in the eighteen contracts with a recommendation that the race be abandoned. My advice was adopted.
The office of Solomon Solis Carvalho, in the Rhinelander Building at the corner of Duane and William Streets in New York, should have been preserved as a museum set. It was a capsule into which had been squeezed the essence of ten thousand newspaper crises. It was even smaller, darker and more uncomfortable than the “throne room” of the Chicago American. Unlike the Chicago den, it suited its occupant. Carvalho affected, if he did not prefer, the guise of the ascetic. His desk and chair were so arranged that the lights played on his visitors’ faces while his own visage remained in the shadows. It was my feeling that he overestimated the value of this strategy. It worked well with anxious callers. But it irked others into higher demands.
One would not have chosen Carvalho’s presence for the planning of a frivolous lark. His countenance recalled El Greco’s painting of Cardinal Don Fernando, not because of a resemblance in form or feature so much as a similitude of atmosphere. If Carvalho sat for a portrait, the artist might be tempted to entitle it “Reason, Triumphant.” What an anticlimax it was then to watch the general manager of the Hearst publications pull a pair of twelve-inch scissors from his desk drawer and slowly, but with evident satisfaction, clip several strands of his meager goatee.
An artificial leg impeded the celerity of Carvalho’s gait, but nothing impeded the celerity of his mental processes—or of his temper, except with his boss. No salary could have been adequate compensation for his services over the period in which he bore the executive burden of Hearst’s affairs. Carvalho quit his job twice. Each resignation marked the beginning of a sharp decline in Hearst’s fortunes. No one with equal ability and such sterling character was found to replace him. At eighty-four, still cheerful and disavowing disillusionment, Carvalho was an advisory member of the Hearst general staff.
An incident during one of Carvalho’s visits in Chicago had convinced me that under his cloak of austerity lay a rare sense of humor. A bulletin had been thrust into his hands by a flustrated messenger boy. It was an extremely important story. “This is worth an extra!” Carvalho exclaimed. “Let’s get it out quickly!” He called for the make-up editor, William (“Red” or “Wurra! Wurra!”) McLoughlin. There was no response. A flurry flew over the office. Half the staff started a search for the missing man in lockers, desk tops and other obviously impossible hiding places. Finally, Carvalho clomped to the composing room on the floor below, waving the sheet of copy like a diminutive battle flag. As he reached the foreman’s desk, McLoughlin entered through a door leading from the alley a dozen steps away.
“I’ve been trying to find you,” Carvalho greeted with some heat. “Where have you been, Mr. McLoughlin?”
“I’ve been across the alley, getting a drink, sir,” answered “Wurra! Wurra!” with tingling directness.
“Do you do that often during working hours, Mr. McLoughlin?”
“After every edition,” came the smiling response.
The general manager wasn’t stumped for an instant. “Then I’m afraid we’ll have to cut out some of the editions,” he observed.
McLoughlin had joined the staff of the New York World long before I reported to Carvalho in the Rhinelander Building. My reception was astonishingly pleasant. My assignment was even more unexpected. “Mr. Hearst is convinced that you carry around some heavy publishing timber,” Carvalho said. “He wants you to use it to build a success in his organization. First, however, it must be trimmed and dressed. You will be given a six months’ course of preparation. During that time you will have no duty except to ask questions. My assistant, Mr. W. R. Rowe, will be on hand to get for you all the practical business information available inside the walls of a going newspaper plant. Your desk will be alongside his in the next room. If you have any problems that Mr. Rowe and our heads of departments can’t solve, give me a trial.”
The generosity of this program squelched whatever disaffection had lingered from my Chicago shut-out. Not to be overlooked was the payment of all my living expenses in addition to my regular salary. Excessive liberality to Hearst attachés was not uncommon. Offsetting cases of picayunish mistreatment were sometimes the results of opportunist policies of economy. But between the prodigalities and the parsimonies was a marked absence of middle ground—a persistent characteristic of this unexampled institution of superlatives.
Word that a managing editor was being “put through school” in the business department set me out as something of a freak. Was this just a whimsy or was it a notion the chief might expand? The gossip stirred a keen curiosity. Even Samuel S. Chamberlain decided to look me over. That was flattering. There was none among journalism’s anointed to whom the profession made more reverential genuflection. And nobody else could bring an uncreased morning suit with an unwilted boutonniere through nearly so many libations. No employee or associate held Hearst’s favor more fully or more firmly. Hearst’s affection for him matured during Chamberlain’s leadership of the staff that made the San Francisco Examiner a newspaper prodigy. Later, Arthur Brisbane followed Chamberlain as Hearst’s intimate. But Artie never quite filled Sam’s shoes. The boss sifted and combed Brisbane’s fresh ideas. He grabbed Chamberlain’s.
No phase or phrase of journalism failed of enrichment through Chamberlain’s attention. We discussed the difficulty of estimating a newspaperman’s present capability without examining his current work. “In no other calling, except the stage,” I essayed, “does so much wealth of patter turn into such poverty of performance.”
“The contortions of the sibyl, without the inspiration,” Chamberlain replied in agreement. “Which recalls the most important fact that you should keep in mind about our revered chieftain. You’re not going to stick in the purser’s cabin. When you come back to the news deck, it would be well never to forget that W. R. Hearst cannot abide mediocrity. Beware his impatience with average or second-rate materials. It is cousin to a phobia. It can’t be stated more effectively than Hearst, himself, put it in a meeting with several of us some time after he bought the New York Journal. Charlie (Charles M.) Palmer was business manager. The losses had reached a point where Charlie’s nerves were on edge. He was constantly urging retrenchment. Finally Hearst assented. But he insisted that no editorial cuts be made without his specific approval.
“Hearst met Palmer and me with the city editor. We went over the news department payrolls. Charlie started to read off a list and to make notes after each name. We got to Oscar Barnes. ‘What does he do?’ Hearst asked.
“ ‘Why, he sits in this room,’ the city editor answered, as if aggrieved over Hearst’s failure to recognize the man. ‘Barnes has been with us ever since you bought the paper. I must say about Barnes that he’s always on the job. I’ve never known him to show up late or to complain about staying on in an emergency. And he never falls down on anything that he’s given to do.’ It was a perfect case.
“ ‘That’s like recommending a whore for being good to her mother,’ was Hearst’s comment.”
My six months’ curriculum was cut in half. Carvalho relayed to me Hearst’s direction to assume active duty at once as business manager of the Boston American. Meanwhile, raids by Hearst on Pulitzer’s stars had been followed by retaliatory depredations that led to the erection of legal barricades around a selective personnel in each establishment. “Master and man” agreements—as ironclad as leading attorneys of New York could draft them at that time—were executed with every employee whom the damnable opposition might try to tempt.
Hearst decided to impart my final instructions himself. Later on, I learned the reason. Carvalho had originally opposed invasion of the Boston field. After the launching of the Boston American, Hearst acted as if he were afraid to leave its fate in Carvalho’s hands. Uncomfortable days came when I knew such a fear was warranted. Carvalho believed the organization would fare better without the Boston “headache.” My second serious conference with Hearst was held in a house he then occupied at Lexington Avenue and Twenty-eighth Street. He was in a favorite posture, considerably publicized in those days—seated on the floor in the midst of colored sheets spread all around him.
It was stimulating to note the ease with which Hearst brought his massive body erect to take my hand and the still greater ease with which he slid back on his haunches. It was laughable to watch him shuffle comic pages back and forth, with frequent chuckles over the pictured humor. We sat for nearly a half-hour, he changing position from time to time like a carefree lad on a picnic ground while I commenced to fidget, at a loss whether to start a conversation or get down on all fours beside him.
As the moments dragged, an overtone of unreality settled on the scene. It smothered a fear that I was witnessing something not intended for my eyes. That big husky, rolling on the carpet and fussing with “funnies,” with an abandon a nursery scamp might envy—was that actually my forty-four-year-old employer? Was that sprawling person really the noted journalist, recipient of more execration and wider applause than had been visited on any other publisher? There was nothing about that slack figure to suggest the epic tableaux through which I was yet to see him pass. It inspired no vision of the power that would remain unmatched by any other American contemporaneously in unofficial life. It offered no hint of the influence which, holding world currents of politics in suspense, was to be charged with halting the greatest experiment of all times in international relationships, the League of Nations. And there was no indication of what I was to learn months later—that instead of being relaxed in amusement, Hearst was really at work. He studied comics from' the planes and angles of the juvenile enthusiast.
Instead of expounding directions, Hearst asked questions. They invited a review of my theories of managerial policy. They were answered with a few platitudinous observations, such as: “A reduction of expense is an extravagance, rather than an economy, if it entail impairment of service;” and “The best way to make savings is to make sales.” Hearst’s polite interest hid a special purpose. His real concern was to assure himself that I had not absorbed Carvalho’s pessimism about the Boston American. It is noteworthy that time confirmed Carvalho’s judgment. After thirty years of a bitter struggle, the Boston Evening American retired from the conventional (full-size) field and lapsed into the tabloid class with scarcely half the readers it once boasted. Despite the large circulation of his Sunday edition and the purchase of two more local dailies—the Advertiser and the Record—Hearst never caught the brass ring riding his Boston hobby horse.
Richard A. Farrelly, who had been my close friend in Chicago, was my predecessor as publisher of the Boston American. A duodenal ulcer forced him under the surgeon’s knife. He never returned to his post on the Boston American. I replaced him. That developed a course of events no more to my liking than it had been of my seeking.
Ninety days of intensive effort brought me to the watch tower from which thereafter Hearst’s publishing policy was always visible, clearly distinguished from the ways of most of his competitors. By measuring and weighing string and wrapping paper, by counting the finger movements of bundlers tying packages, by pacing the steps taken by type-setters from their machines to the copy-cutter’s desk and by various artifices involving the most infinitesimal items of operation, a curtailment of expenses was tabulated approximating $125,000 a year. That sum was equal to the Boston American’s losses. This would “take us out of the red.” It was a knock-out. Hearst, himself, must be informed. A report in duplicate went to him and Carvalho.
A telegram came from Hearst. “Fine!” it read. “Now please add a ‘Metropolitan’ and an ‘Outing’ section in colors.” The effect of all my economies was wiped out in a single order. Evidently Hearst only saved so that he could spend. Every dollar accruing from retrenchment was turned back into betterment of the newspaper. Such a program should command admiration and respect. Unfortunately, there was a counteracting vice. Hearst stretched his financial credit to the utmost limit.
None of his properties was permitted to accumulate large cash reserves. His individual exactions kept the money drawers well drained. That explained, in part, his acquisition of the sobriquet, “America’s biggest spender.” Fuller reasons for this appellation appear later in these chronicles. Such fluid surpluses as remained in Hearst’s profitable newspapers were milked to keep afloat less prosperous units. These operated on “shoe strings.” The evasion of bill-collectors required more of my time and frequently more ingenuity than any other single task in Boston.
One day, my precautions sagged long enough for the general manager of the Boston & Maine Railroad to reach me on the telephone. That was the second Wednesday in August, 1908. The Boston & Maine regularly transported fully 300,000 copies of the Sunday American, or more than half its circulation. Shipment of the major part of this baggage and fast freight, consisting of “bulldog” editions and sections printed and distributed to dealers in advance of release dates, began on Thursday forenoon of each week. A crisp voice notified me that unless $20,000 reached the railroad cashier from the American by nine o’clock the following morning, the Boston & Maine would refuse to handle another bundle of our papers. The notice was not astonishing. There was an arrearage of $70,000.
The insistence of other creditors was hastening a serious emergency. There were no facilities for a bank loan, no corporation officers to authorize one and no available credits. At last, in despair, I telephoned Carvalho. Quickly outlining the crisis, I urged that $50,000 be supplied overnight from the New York headquarters. The conversation lasted less than a minute. “I can do nothing for you,” Carvalho snapped, hanging up the receiver.
It is possible that Carvalho acted with keen judgment, a pious and constructive purpose and a clear conscience. His failure to inquire about the immediate consequences would support this assumption. But to me his action was incomprehensible. The impulsive comment it evoked might have puzzled him more than his let-down had disconcerted me. “The tinner’s temptation” seemed to be jerked off my tongue. That was a cliché literally burned into me by a boyhood experience.
Once, when a six-year-old, playing in the shop of a tinsmith who welcomed any admiration of his skill, I used the bad judgment to grasp in my palm the heated end of a soldering iron which he proffered me. The degree of my painful astonishment literally upset him. He fell onto the flames of a charcoal brazier. His sartorial and carnal subsequences were badly scorched. When rescuing neighbors rushed in, the tinsmith tearfully complained: “It’s his fault; he asked me to let him hold the iron.” That accounts for the curiosity that always drew me toward any anatomical research into the constituents of responsibility. But, of course, Carvalho wouldn’t have known about the analogy of the soldering tool. He shied the 8-ball at me, expecting it to ricochet against Hearst’s shins. The general manager’s strategy failed. There was no appeal to Hearst. There was, instead, the sudden but indomitable urge to seek a different pasture. It was the warp and the woof of a resolution which guided me thereafter. Never again would I undertake a managerial post with accountability to anyone except the owner.
Through a Chicago friend, temporarily in control of the Siegel & Cooper store in Boston, sufficient funds were raised, by anticipating advertising commitments, to placate the Boston & Maine Railroad.
Chapter 12 Part 3 Next Week
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