Adventures of a Tramp Printer 1880–1890
By John Edward Hicks
Midamericana Press, Kansas City Missouri 1950
If you should ask the name of the protagonist of this book, the answer would have to be that his name is legion. For his travels and experiences are but typical of the adventures met with in the planless rovings of every member of that extensive class of printers of the handset days. His adventures were those of one or more of all those peripatetic printers who roamed the country in the decade known as the eighties. The aim has been to recreate the world of the tramp. printers as it was before the typesetting machines came in, and to tell about those printers themselves-to give “some of their characteristics, their striking traits, their peculiarities, their idiosyncrasies, to clothe them with a touch of human interest.”
The intimate detail that permeates this book could never have been supplied without the assistance of a number of old timers who lived and printed in those far-off days, who lived, in part at least, the life that is described herein. For this assistance I must express my gratitude to the following: Frank Allen, editor the Journal, Sioux City, Iowa; William E. Chaplin, Van Nuys, California; John J. Chase, Boston; Leslie E. “Timberline” Dennison, Boston; J. D. Dickman, Washington; H. A. “Dixie” Diamond. Springfield, Illinois; Charles A. Elliott, Indianapolis; Charles H. Hill, Cleveland; Dan J. Keller, Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Erstine King, Plattsmouth, Nebraska; John T. Latshaw, Terre Haute, Indiana; Harry A. “Dutch” Lohff. Freeport. Illinois; Sylvester E. McDannell, Erie, Pennsylvania; Will J. McMahon, St. Petersburg, Florida; Will M. Maupin, Clay Center, Nebraska; Eugene Merz. Pittsburgh; J. E. “Spud” Murphy, St. Joseph, Missouri; James O’Brien, Kansas City; Edgar A. Perkins. Sr., Indianapolis; Fred L. Pferdesteller, Denver; Frank C. Reed, Springfield, Illinois; W. C. Schuman, Denver; T. H. Walker, Denver; William S. Wier, Atlanta; Purd B. Wright, Kansas City; Jacob H. Zehfuss, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Most of those named were contemporary with the scenes and times of which I have written in this book, which means that all were well beyond their allotted threescore and ten. It has been inevitable that in such a group of aged and aging men that a considerable number of them should have stepped out into eternity since this work was begun. Many had written of their eagerness to see this book completed. to read it and relive the old long-gone days of their carefree youth. Let us hope they now approve.
There are many who do not come within the foregoing category, but whose help in obtaining the material and verifying the facts for this manuscript have been of inestimable value. For which I wish to thank: Albert J. Biggins, Cleveland; Wallace Blakey, Indianapolis; Leo C. Dean, Salem, Oregon; S. W. Fogo, editor the Observar, Richland Center, Wisconsin; Eric W. Johnson, Cameron, Missouri; Miss Grace Berger, Kansas City Public Library; O. A. Kennedy, Ogden, Utah; W. H. Mirise, Denver; John A. Manry, Atlanta; Mrs. Susan Munson, Cameron, Missouri; Elmer Grant, Little Rock, Arkansas; Fred Ress, Lincoln, Nebraska; Floyd C. Shoemaker, State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia; Frank Smallman, Peoria, Illinois; Clifford V. Souders, Topeka; V. V. Van Tilburg, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Elmo Scott Watson, Publishers Auxiliary, Chicago; Lewis L. Brunnemer, Kokomo, Indiana; and the late Mike Dalton, Manson, Iowa; the late George A Root, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka; the late Addison E. Sheldon, Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln.
Kansas City, Missouri | John Edward Hicks May 15, 1950.
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
1. Shooting Too Many Editors
2. The Day of the Tramp Printer
3. Journalism in Hobnail Boots
4. The Missouri River Pirate
5. A Gay Cat In St. Louis
6. Death of an Outlaw King
7. In Wide-Open Omaha
8. A Rob Roy of The Sandhills
9. In The Lurid Days of Lincoln
10. In Deadwood’s Famous Gulch
11. Santa Claus of the Rockies
12. Denver and Gene Field
13. In a Provincial Capital
14. A Red Chapter in History
15. When the Derby Was Young
16. Prophet of The Promised Land
17. The City That Care Forgot
18. The Old Lady of Arkansas
19. Going Hob and Nob With Death
20. King of the Tramp Printers
21. Murder in the Haymarket
22. An Aristocrat of the Nomads
23. The Companionship of Fools
24. Ret Clarkson and the Regency
25. In the Days of the Session
26. On the Milk and Honey Route
27. Up the Barbary Coast
28. Through the Roaring Land
29. Perch of the Devil
30. Oh, the E-I-Ree Is Rising!
31. Happy Hunting Ground
32. Down the Avenue of Nations
33. Land of Chapter Endings
34. They Come No More
It has been said that any man, no matter how small and insignificant the post he may have filled in life, who will faithfully record the events in which he has borne a share, even though incapable himself of deriving profits from the lessons he has learned, may still be of use to others-sometimes a guide, sometimes a warning.
CHAPTER ONE Shooting Too Many Editors
Mother always told me that I was born on New Year’s Day “before the war broke out in the spring,” so I would have been just nineteen years old on that day when I crossed the Missouri River and rode in a hack up through the muddy streets of Leavenworth, Kansas, to the office of the Times to see about going to work at my trade as typesetter. It was still too early in the day for the printers to have shown up to begin throwing in their cases, but “Dusty” Dee Rhodes. the foreman, was on the job and told me to come back.
Deciding to take advantage of the opportunity to arrange for lodging, so that I might not finish the night’s work on a morning paper and find myself with no place to lay my head, I approached a hotel the appearance of which indicated it would have accommodations at a modest price. When the clerk said there was a room available, I asked about my getting in late at night.
“What would you’ be doing out late at night?” the clerk demanded.
“I expect to begin work tonight as a typesetter on the Times,” I told him.
“You can’t stay here,” was the curt rejoinder.
“But I can pay in advance,” I assured him, and to prove it I laid my money on the counter.
“We don’t want your money and we don’t want your company!” he told me rather sharply. “You printers are all alike; you might pay this week, but you would beat us next week. Out you go. No printers!”
This was to me a new attitude toward printers, and I was to learn that it was not at all unusual, despite the opinion I had formed back in the little Missouri town in which I had learned the trade. I had esteemed the tramp printer ever since the time when I first saw a lot of large gothic letters scattered throughout the lower-case boxes and was told how to hold the composing stick and manipulate the rule as I learned to set type.
During my early days at sweeping out the office and firing the big pot-bellied stove I had first met the genus. I have forgotten his name, but not the impression he made on me as a fourteen-year-old boy. He was sleeping on the floor of the shop one morning when I came in to sweep up. After the editor had given him the usual breakfast money, he returned from that meal, decided to work the day and stay that night. How I listened that night, entranced, to stories of his travels all over the United States. We made a bed on the floor between two type racks, bundles of newspapers for mattresses, type boxes for pillows. His tales made me long for a life on the open road, for boxcars, side-door Pullmans, and hay stacks-and to think of the sheer ecstasy of being able to keep a couple of inches ahead of the village constable.
He claimed he could smell a print shop a mile away; that anyone who couldn’t wasn’t a good union man. When he hit the case, stick in hand, his movements were something like deaf-and-dumb signs in the air, but a steady, sure motion that never permitted him to miss a letter. It was like clockwork.
That night he talked hour after hour while I listened, ears bent, mouth and eyes wide open. I don’t know which one of us enjoyed it the more. He wasn’t shooting off or exaggerating. He had been sub-editor, proofreader, engineer, press feeder, ad solicitor, and had plugged type in hundreds of jim crow towns and large cities. He quoted Shakespeare, Lincoln, Mark Twain and the Bible.
His tales of travel carried me away to many unfamiliar spots, everything made vivid and real to me as I sat spellbound. And his cuss-words-they were so original, musical and not overdone. I drank in his every word. Towards morning I fell asleep and had a grand and glorious nightmare in which the jolly tramp printer and I set out upon a journey in which we met and talked with Shakespeare, and Adam and Eve (to whom we passed our cards), made a speech at a Sunday school picnic, set type on the Bible, were thrown off coal cars, rode with engineers, sharing the contents of their lunch boxes, and saw all of the West and most of the East.
Next morning he was up early, read the morning paper, caught a lot of misspelled words, hummed a song, told more stories, smoked the foreman’s best cigars after jeffing with him, played tunes as he handled planer, mallet and shooting stick, plugged a dutchman here and there in poorly-spaced ads, washed up, turned his collar, brushed his hat and shoes and was on his way again-belly full, carefree, happy.
After the rebuff at the hotel, I turned my footsteps toward the saloon of Pat Doran on Cherokee Street near Fifth. Here I saw a man named Lamar from my own home town. He invited me to play cards, but I decided to sweat the game. I recognized another of the players as a Mr. Thurston, who some years before had been editor of a newspaper in the same county from which I came. I remembered he had been shot by an infuriated resident of that county and had been about a year in recovering.
The game of freezeout was proceeding uneventfully, when Thurston sprang out of his chair with the exclamation, “He’s going to get me!” I saw a dark man approaching from the front of the saloon, with Pat Doran hanging to his arm and apparently arguing with him. The man had a stove poker in his hand. Suddenly a shot was fired and all was confusion. Thurston ran out a back door, and the man with the poker, whose name I later learned was Embry, ran toward another door, but suddenly slumped down while Doran tried to support him. We put two of the card tables together and laid Embry on them. He died immediately.
Thurston and Embry had been partners in a small newspaper, the Appeal, and had disagreed to the extent of having each other arrested and thrown into jail.
The newspaper account of the shooting told that after recovering from the shooting in Missouri, Thurston had gone to Jefferson City as correspondent for the Kansas City Times. He engaged in frequent quarrels and fights there, and after the legislature adjourned his paper sent him into the Indian Territory. But he quarreled with the management of the paper and returned to Leavenworth, where he entered into an alliance with Dan R. Anthony, owner and editor of the Leavenwbrth Times. He quarreled with Anthony and hooked up with Embry.
Embry himself had not been above the pastime of editor shooting. As a result of abuse from Anthony’s newspaper, Embry waited for the editor one night in the lobby of a local theater and shot him. For several months the life of Anthony had hung in the balance. Dan R. Anthony was, without doubt, the most positive character in Kansas in the early days, having more enemies who hated him thoroughly and more friends who believed in him stanchly than any other editor or man in public life in the state. The St. Louis Times said of him, “He is perhaps the most quarrelsome, abusive and personally vindictive man in the West. He has been engaged in a constantly recurring series of rows ever since Kansas was organized as a territory.”
The paragraph probably had reference to the fact that Anthony had shot and killed R. C. Satterlee, editor of the Leavenworth Herald, in 1861; and led the enemies of his own cousin, George T. Anthony, defeating him for a second term as governor of Kansas. These cousins hated each other bitterly and the feud lasted as long as they lived.
So it was for that acrid, fire-eating editor of the Times that I started my career as a tramp printer.
In those days, all subs did not carry composing rules. The regular would hand his rule to a sub and say “Slug Seven,” which indicated the sub would be working that night for the caseholder designated by that number. If several subs were idle, the regular who did not wish to show preference would ask the subs to jeff for the work. In jeffing, em quads were used, three throws, and those with the greatest number of nicks up would be the winners.
Duplicate proofs were taken of the type set by a compositor, pasted together and called dupes. From these dupes the amount of the type the compositor had set was computed. The total amount of type set during the night was called his string. The rod used in that office for measuring dupes at that time was of doubtful integrity. It was so cut that a printer had to set eleven hundred ems to get credit for a thousand ems. But if the printer were able to set forty thousand ems in a week he would receive the correct measurement. Presumably this was a device to discourage “territorial printers” as inept typesetters were called. Fortunately, I was capable of setting the forty thousand ems in four nights; and at twenty-five cents a thousand ems, I could earn ten dollars in four nights, which I considered sufficient money and sufficient work.
As soon as possible after arriving in Leavenworth, I joined the typographical union, being given the obligation by a Mr. Hay, foreman at Ketchison’s and later a vice-president of the International Typographical Union. After a few weeks on the Times, I went to work at Ketchison’s, a large commercial printing house.
Leavenworth was the first town in territorial Kansas to boast a newspaper. Before a house had been completed on the townsite, a printer was reported to have been seen hard at work setting type under an elm tree on the levee for Leavenworth’s first newspaper, the Weekly Kansas Herald. This was on September 15, 1854, and the editor-printer was William H. Adams, who had been publisher of the Platte Argus across the river in Missouri. The paper, however, was not actually printed in the open, but the first issue was “struck off” in the Herald’s new frame building at the corner of Levee and Broadway. The fact the first issue of the paper contained a notice to the effect that the office had been removed to that location has not, it seems, been sufficient to correct endless misstatements that the paper was printed under an elm tree. Of this newspaper it was said, “The spirit of adventure thrust it forward ahead of the calaboose, the postoffice, the school, the church, and made of it a symbol of conquest.” It was not at all uncommon, where no printer appeared to start a newspaper for such a budding community, for the citizens or promoters of the prospective city to assume the financial obligations entailed in order to encourage some member of the craft to set up a press and to give the location publicity. Such encouragement might have had something to do with the well-known propensity of printers to seek greener pastures.
Early in May, Thurston, who had been acquitted of the killing of Embry, met Anthony on the street and began shooting. The first shot struck the wrong man, inflicted a painful but not dangerous wound; the second shot struck Thurston’s own attorney, the man who had got him out of the Embry shooting scrape. He was pretty seriously hit. I helped carry him into the telegraph office and then into a drug store. It was said many of the citizens were enraged at Thurston for shooting at Anthony-and missing.
This latest shooting affray was because at a public meeting a few nights earlier Anthony had referred to Thurston as a “murderer, assassin, thief, blackmailer and robber.” This fresh outburst of shooting in the editorial fraternity caused the Kansas City Times to say, “There has been, and there still is. altogether too much shooting among the editors of Leavenworth. It is about time to put a stop to the pastime, and the best way to do so seems to be to put the editors together in a calf pasture, arm them with shotguns, fence them in and let them exterminate each other. It is only a question whether a Leavenworth editor dies by whisky or powder. The powder being much better than the whisky, usually accomplishes its end first.”
One of the most noted tramp printers of that day, George W. Matchett, came into Leavenworth, made the usual touches, and told me he was going on toward Topeka. inviting me to accompany him. It was spring and I was young with a normal desire to see the otherwhere. That siren, the open road, was beckoning me to follow her.
CHAPTER TWO The Day of the Tramp Printer
In those days a printer was not a printer—his education was not considered complete and he was not accepted by his fellows—until he had done some wandering. It was the day of the tramp printer. The experiences of travel related by the veteran tramps glittered with romance and were listened to with eager ears by the novice, who was filled with a desire to go and do likewise.
It was a day, too, of craft ferment, with constant craft irritations. Proprietors were striving for lower wages; foremen were dictatorial and without restraint. There was little organization and virtually no protection. Man’s inhumanity , to man was common. The printer, as a usual thing, did not marry early, but if married, he had things so arranged that he could make his departure from town without delay, and when things became disagreeable he left quickly, without even a good-by. As for home, home was where he happened to be, and a situation was merely a matter of convenience. He didn’t own anything, never expected to, and wouldn’t know what to do with it if he had.
Two or three days’ work in each town was all that the tramp printer wanted or would expect. Offers of permanent or semi-permanent jobs were turned down. He was always on the move-going nowhere in particular-but moving, nevertheless. He usually reached a town on an early-morning freight train, and left the same way, under cover of darkness, a few nights later.
Many of them were intelligent and brilliant conversationalists on many subjects, but they usually avoided personal history other than a brief resume of their travels, and perhaps to relate an experience or two that gave a hint as to why they preferred the road to a steady job. They were reluctant to tell a great deal about themselves. They never mentioned families or revealed anything about their life history. They accepted the world day by day and proceeded on the theory that tomorrow would take care of itself. They lived an easy-going life and made no attempt to resist the lure of the open road.
They could discuss politics, religion, art, music, history, literature of most modern and ancient cultural subjects with such erudition that frequently the editor would be found sitting at their round-table discussions by the office stove after work hours in the dim light of a flickering coal-oil lamp. The home guards, as the stay-at-homes were called, were ever glad to see the tramp printer, for he brought many a new story and told of his work on the great daily newspapers. All foremen were “wolves,” he said, and editors were ignorant. He was, as a rule, fairly well educated; acquainted with the topics of the day; good company either in editorial sanctum, tavern, boarding house or saloon. The thoughts that fashioned commonwealths flowed through his mind and fingers to the public.
All type was set by hand, and the idea that a machine amId set type was considered ridiculous. A machine would have to have brains to set type! Tramp printers invariably were masters of their craft. Few “blacksmiths,” as poor workmen were called, were among them. I envied them their skill at the case, their knowledge of the world.
Printers were famed for moving about. Many of them stayed not long in one place, but became familiars in shops from coast to coast. The more celebrated of them acquired nicknames which will live long in the annals of printerdom. Their travels equipped them with stories unending of varied experiences, and with gossip of the craft, which they often related with much gusto. Printers were not tramps of necessity, but from choice. When a printer had finished his term of apprenticeship, he was told to get out and learn something. The style was different in each town and there was much to learn. He took to the road in order to broaden himself mentally and efficiently, or to see the country. In those days the trade afforded a good living to the itinerant printer. The tramp printer was a salty character, as interesting as he was salty. He was an individualist, sworn to personal freedom of action. He had an insatiable urge to be on the go. He could not be anchored to a regular job for long. He spent what he earned, often also spending what he had not earned. He was irresponsible and profligate. Like the Son of Man, he had not where to lay his head. He was habitually without funds. He was rough and ready, rude and often profane. He drank hard liquor and gambled. He was known by railroad men from coast to coast, for he scorned to pay railroad fare and rode the rods or the blind baggage, or hid himself in the dark corner of a boxcar.
I recall something that Washington Irving wrote concerning poetic temperament and the vagabond, and deem it particularly applicable to the tramp printer of the handset days: “The poetic temperament has naturally something in it of the vagabond. When left to itself it runs loosely and wildly, and delights in everything eccentric and licentious. It is often a turn-up of a die, in the gambling freaks of fate, whether a natural genius shall turn out a great rogue or a great poet.”
George W. Matchett, who had offered to initiate me into some of the mysteries of the road, was an old, old man. If one could have judged his age, the guess would have been that he was in his eighties. He was somewhat undersized, without a tooth in his head and with only one eye. He was chewing tobacco and as his jaws worked up and down the upper and nether formations would come together, bringing his nose close to his chin. The day was warm and he was wearing a linen duster. He carried a bundle wrapped in a bandana handkerchief.
When Matchett struck a print shop he would walk up to the foreman, peer through a pair of broken spectacles, and deliver himself of the stereotyped question, “How’s work?” If the prospect were bad, Matchett worked the broken spectacle game and everyone chipped in to buy a new one. Then began a howling drunk on the money thus contributed, and the old man would have a “picnic” for a week. Matchett was educated for the ministry, but early in manhood he was disappointed in a love affair and to drown his sorrows learned the art preservative-and at the same time acquired a liking for the cup that inebriates. He knew the Bible by heart and could quote Shakespeare equal to a Forrest or a McCullough.
He told me he learned to set type in Baltimore, and the type he used later was on a ship that was sunk in Baltimore harbor in the War of 1812. After the war, the ship was raised and the type was used again. He had been in every state in the Union and had set type in nearly all the newspaper offices. He had lost his eye, he said, while serving with Decatur against the Barbary pirates. I do not recollect that he went into detail as to the fracas, but his merely saying that the loss of the eye was due to the premature explosion of a Queen Anne musket.
The tales he told of his wanderings were as thrilling to me as if he had been another Marco Polo. I was fascinated as he spun the odyssey of his adventures and knew that I should never be content until I had done likewise.
He was on his way to Texas, he told me, to visit a sister whom he had not seen in thirty-five years. This, I learned later, was a stock story with “old one-eyed George,” a yarn he had been spinning for decades. Whether he ever reached Texas, or visited the sister, or even had such a sister, I never learned. We parted company at Lawrence.
I had no desire or ambition to become a foreman, but the printers always said of one of the craft who carried a humpback rule, that such was his aim. I had one of these makeup rules in my hand while standing on the depot platform at Lawrence when a husky locomotive fireman came along and noticed it.
“So you’re a printer?” he asked. I told him I was. “Well,” he replied, “I started out along that line and was the first devil on the Herald of Freedom when it was unfurled to the breezes right here in Lawrence-when we had to have a composing stick in one hand and a longbarreled rifle in the other to fight off the damned Missouri ruffians. I was the bad boy of Lawrence, and they called me ‘Young America.’ Preston B. Plumb, of whom you no doubt have heard, was the foreman. Edward P. Harris was one of the printers. He is foreman up at the state printing plant in Topeka right now. If you are going up there, tell him George A. Baldwin sent you. I’ll fix you a ride.”
And so I parted company with Matchett, who would not ride trains, and arrived in Topeka via boxcar. The state capital then was a city of about fifteen thousand with one wide principal throughfare, Kansas Avenue. The equipment for its first newspaper, the Kansas Freeman, had been unloaded from a freight wagon on the grassy prairie on Kansas Avenue on lots donated by the Topeka Town Association to E. C. K. Garvey, before there was a building erected to house it. To avoid waste of time, Mr. Garvey set up a type stand and cases and began setting type for the first paper, which was issued on July 1, 1855.
When I arrived, the Commonwealth was the largest morning paper in Topeka and was in a flourishing condition, being housed in new quarters, a two-story brick on Jackson Avenue near the capitol. The composing room was on the second floor. The paper had moved out of the old den on Sixth Street at the top of the longest and dirtiest flight of stairs in America. F. P. Baker was the editor. George A. Clark was the foreman. He had learned the trade at Hartville, Missouri, worked on the Columbia Herald (the same paper, by the way, which later gave to the world Walter Williams, dean of newspapermen), and for Ketchison’s at Leavenworth, besides having toured the Southwest. He was a member of the typographical union, though no local existed in Topeka at that time. The scale in Topeka was twenty-five cents a thousand ems, about fifteen dollars a week for a week of sixty hours.
One night I caught a piece of copy that would make about two inches of type. I couldn’t decipher it and took it to Clark, the foreman. He said, “Take it down to the ‘old man.’ ” I took it down to F. P. Baker, who had written it. He looked it over and asked, “What is it about?” Informed as to the subject of his editorial, he was able to fill in the words necessary to render it intelligible.
The Evening Journal was fairly established in its new quarters on West Sixth Street. Its editor, Reed, was described as “fat and unctuous.” Captain Henry King was on the Capital, which had been founded the year before by Major J. K. Hudson. As a boy, King had been a typesetter and differed from most printers who became editors in that he had a “good fist,” which was the printers’ way of saying he wrote legibly. A few years later he went to the Globe-Democrat in St. Louis and became a famous editor.
The iron railing above the basement place of Jack Darling was by way of being a historic gathering place for tramp printers from all directions-a sort of crossroads of the nation. It was not merely a place to sit and lean; it was an institution. It was virtually certain that every tramp printer who ever ventured west of Kansas City had perched there and traded experiences with the coast-to-coast contingent as well as the tri-state bums. Here I talked to Lon Hudson, who was not exactly a tramp printer, but rather a printer on the move. He was a good dresser and had a way with the ladies. He was a brother of Major J. K. Hudson of the Capital and Franklin K. Hudson, partner in the Kansas City printing firm of Ramsey, Millet & Hudson, and many years later famous as president of the Typothetae, national organization of employing printers, which journeymen printers jokingly called “the Teapot.” Still another brother, Mel Hudson, was manager of the Coates Opera House in Kansas City. Lon had learned to set type in the shop of his father, John Hudson, editor of the famous Anti-Slavery Bugle, at Salem, Ohio. The father and seven sons were members of the John Brown League and all came to Kansas in 1863 to join Company C of the Tenth Kansas Volunteers.
We were joined by “Mysterious” Johnson, he of the long, black beard, and the conversation turning to Kansas City, the three of us decided to visit that fast-growing metropolis at the mouth of the Kaw.
CHAPTER THREE Journalism in Hobnail Boots
Kansas City, in the summer of 1880, was sure W to be either dusty or muddy. It was the latter when I arrived there and undertook to navigate Bluff Street without the aid of one of those sea-going hacks which ran between the union depot and uptown. The wooden sidewalks were treacherous, their defects not being discernible due to the layer of mud that covered them. Huge flat rocks were laid across the streets at intersections to prevent pedestrians absolutely bogging down. Coming around Union Avenue and up Fifth Street to the public square, the city appeared to be composed largely of saloons; not altogether displeasing in those days of my youth when the bite of raw whisky was so comforting to my throat.
The city was booming, its population having rapidly increased to 55,000; but even so, it was only an overgrown frontier town, sprawling awkwardly on the hills overlooking the Missouri River and filling the deep gashes made in its clay banks by unpaved streets. It was the gateway to the West, being the place where the trails branched out, taking settlers and traders to California and the Oregon country; to Pike’s Peak, and to Santa Fe.
I soon obtained a satisfactory room, near Fifth and Wyandotte streets, near the newspapers and the heart of the downtown district. Then I was ready for the barber shop. In those days barber shops in the larger cities had bathrooms attached. A single man would go in Saturday afternoon or evening, pick up his laundry, which usually would be a shirt, collar, two-piece underwear, socks and handkerchief. Then he would have his bath, which cost twenty-five cents, leave his dirty linen in the barber shop for the laundry man, and be ready for another week.
The printers on the Journal and the Times were on strike, so I avoided those papers, going to the Daily Mail, which I found loaded with printers. The Journal referred to it as “one of those periodical strikes so common to the printing business,” and said that as most of the front-office men were practical printers, they would be able to get out a paper for a while until “new hands” could reach them. The paper claimed that morning newspaper printers were able to make eighteen and twenty dollars a week as against seven to twelve dollars a week in other printing establishments. It wound up with a plea that the “good men who live in the city and have families to support” would return to their jobs at the old rate of pay.
We had our own ideas as to what to do with the “new hands” as they carne. We got the tip-off that one of these was on his way from Independence to work for the Journal. Tony Duke, who was a strapping big young Irishman at the time, John Duke, myself and some others formed a reception committee and met the fellow at the Grand Avenue depot, at Second Street and Grand Avenue. We hustled him down toward the river front and made him believe we were going to drown him; then we walked him up and down the levee until the night train for Independence was due. We put him on the train and never saw him again.
After this we came up to the Free and Easy on Fourth Street, which was a low sort of saloon and show. Then we went to Bill Lewis’s place on Main, which was a lower dive, Bill renting rooms to harpies. He was a tough customer, with a strong political pull; so strong, in fact, that often arrested, he was never fined. The last I heard of him he was running a saloon in Toad-a-Loop, a tough section southwest of town. The name, by the way, is the Missourians’ way of pronouncing the early-day French tour de lupe, meaning walk of the wolf. With Bill Lewis on the job, the name was still apropos.
After a few slugs of forty-rod, we decided to see some of the city’s fiIles de joie, of which there was an extensive assortment, ranging from the high-priced beauties of Annie Chambers to the twenty-five-cent crones at the Lone Cottonwood. In between there were Nellie Scott’s place on West Fourth, Lou Bregard’s on Walnut, “Mollie Pawpaw’s” on Grand, Em Williams on Third, Bessie Stevenson’s on Broadway, Mollie O’Brien’s at First and Main, “Dutch Annie’s” at Lewis’s place, and the tent kept by the notorious Becky Ragan at the foot of Main Street. Not to overlook Jennie Armstrong, who kept “a small place of sin” at Fifth and Bluff and got arrested for beating one of her three painted mermaids with the business end of a stovelifter. Finally, we went to the foot of Grand Avenue, down a lonely stretch of railroad track, over some cattle guards and sharp stones until we passed the gas works, descended a slippery bank and were in front of the miserable hovel known as the Lone. Cottonwood. run by “Mother” Smith, who was old and blind.
The boys insisted that I go to work at the Journal, under cover, of course, urging that I was just a gay cat (which was what they called a young tramp) and unknown to the management of the struck paper. It was a distasteful job, but I offered to co-operate.
The Journal was a pioneer paper, being a continuation of the Enterprise which Colonel Van Horn had established a quarter century before in the straggling little village on the banks of the Missouri River when practically all beyond was wilderness. The Chouteaus had a warehouse there before the steamboats began bringing goods up the river for the Santa Fe trade. These goods were unloaded at Chouteau’s and hauled the four miles to Westport on the Santa Fe Trail. The place became known as Westport Landing and in time a village grew up, being given the name of the Town of Kanzas at a meeting held in the tavern next to Colonel Titus’s three-story gambling place; the tavern being described as “an old log house on the river bank, occupied by a lank, cadaverous specimen of humanity named Ellis, with one blind eye and the other on a sharp lookout for stray horses, straggling Indians, and squatters with whom to swap a tin cup of whisky for a coon skin.” The meeting was presided over by “One-Eye.” The Town of Kanzas sprawled in the mud, with its dance halls, variety shows, saloons; its roulette and keno, chuck-a-Iuck, stud poker and faro. Horace White, who later became editor of the New York Evening Post, recalled his visit there as a young newspaperman in 1857 and remembered the place as “a row of frame houses on the levee and the principal business seemed to be gambling, selling whisky and running dives.”
The Enterprise, in 1855, with Van Hom as the editor, was on the second floor of a building at Main Street and the wharf. A slender man in a black suit and with a solemn countenance constituted the composing-room force. He was Sam Quay, an uncle of Matthew Stanley Quay.
But now the Journal had just moved into its fine new building at the southwest comer of Sixth and Delaware. The site was an historic one, the front of the building facing Delaware Street, which formerly had been that part of the Santa Fe Trail which went from the landing to Westport. At the rear of the building was the former location of the Black Stump, a famous hostelry of the trail trade, deriving its name from a charred stump, ten or twelve feet high, which stood for years a conspicuous landmark. The tavern had been a primitive frame and log house combined, kept by John Wilhelmny. It was headquarters for the Democrats, and as there were no internal revenue laws, a barrel of the best bourbon, minus the head, usually was there to fire the eloquence of the young Democrats.
The composing room of the Journal was on the fourth floor, lighted on three sides by large windows. It could accommodate forty compositors, a far cry from the little place on the wharf and the lone compositor.
When I had earned some money at the Journal, I decided to buck the tiger in a modest sort of way. Gambling had been a recognized profession in Kansas City since the days of the levee, so there was no dearth of places where the itch to make a little bet could be scratched. Some were in the West Bottoms, or West Kansas, as it was called then, but most of them were uptown. Some were on the west side of Main, from Missouri Avenue to Third, a cluster of them being near the city hall at Fourth and Main. Others were through the block on Delaware Street.
The outstanding gambler was Major James S. Showers, who was more than six feet in height and weighed three hundred pounds. Years before he had been a gambler in Washington and claimed to have dealt hands to Daniel Webster and Henry Clay while working in the famous Hall of the Bleeding Heart. He was in partnership with “Doc” Frame. Others among the big-time gamblers were “Hank” Teas and John Evans. The Senate, at Fifth and Main, was owned by a man named Findlay and was one of the biggest games in town. Joe Bassett, a prince of the knights of the cloth of green, owned a swanky gambling place at 12 Missouri Avenue, but of course was better known as the owner of Marble Hall, on Main Street between Fifth and Missouri Avenue, where he maintained an elaborate splendor for visiting cattle barons and others such as “Wild Bill” Hickok, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Charlie Bassett, Canada Bill, Texas Jack Omahundro, and by no means the least famous, Jesse James. Another of the gambling princes was Bob Potee, who was the genial host of “No.3” on Missouri Avenue. This gambling house de luxe was on the second floor above Strein’s restaurant and saloon, and perhaps surpassed all others in the city with its lavish furnishings—its soft velvet carpets, its high windows hung with lace and damask curtains, and its tables glittering with mahogany and silver. For the comfort of the patrons, huge divans and easy chairs were scattered about the place. Here was faro bank and roulette for the big players; keno for the little players.
Potee, neatly dressed, clerical appearing, pale of countenance and carrying a gold-headed cane, one day walked into the river until his hat floated and in the words of the old song, “six tall gamblers carried him away.”
Tony Duke’s father was conducting the census for the western part of Missouri and had offices near Fifth and Main. Accompanying Tony to his father’s place one day, I was introduced to the elder Duke, a rare story-teller, a native of Ireland. There, also, I met a little man introduced as Senator Vest. In the ensuing conversation I learned Mr. Duke had been a boot and shoemaker in Independence during and prior to the Civil War. He made a fine boot for the trade called French kip, lined and faced about the top of the legs with red sheepskin. One day he had received a consignment of .the red sheepskin just as a raiding party of Kansas cavalry came, took a fancy to the red material and carried it away to wrap their ragged legs. From then on they, and all raiders from Kansas, were called “red legs.”
Senator Vest was interested in learning that Tony and I were printers. In his youth he had been a typesetter in Owensboro, Kentucky, a river town that had its full share of gambling and gamblers. One night he untied the rope by which a gambling boat was moored, letting the gamblers drift several miles down the river . To escape the ire of the gamblers, the young printer came to Missouri. He became a constructive leader in the United States senate and was referred to, even by the opposition, as “the big little man, who is the brains of the Democratic party.” He also accumulated a sizable fortune. But today he is known only, if he is known at all, for his eulogy of the dog, delivered in the course of a fifty-dollar law suit.
In September, two men from Fort Wayne, Indiana, came to Kansas City to establish an afternoon daily—a two-cent paper, an innovation where papers always sold for five cents. The new paper was called the Kansas City Evening Star and began publication at 419 Delaware Street, a six-column, four-page sheet, printed on an old flatbed press. The two men, Samuel E. Morss and William Rockhill Nelson, had sold the Fort Wayne Sentinel and with the proceeds were about to found a newspaper institution. Nelson appeared to be the dynamo of the team, about forty, stockily built, aggressive. He was a determined, fighting editor, “independent, but by no means neutral.” At the time of his death in 1915, a writer in Collier’s said: “The founder and editor of the Star took his place in journalism’s hall of fame by kicking in the door with hobnail boots.”
CHAPTER FOUR The Missouri River Pirates
The oldtime printer was a product of his environments, which were not exactly conducive to producing angelic characters. Nearly all papers then were published in the morning, which, of course, meant night work. The hours were long and the work exacting and nerve-wracking. The composing room too frequently was a space not available for anything else—poorly lighted, illy ventilated. Printers worked while others slept, slept while others worked. They became in a certain sense social outcasts, nomads, their habitat the North American continent.
This was true of those itinerant typographers known in the craft as the Missouri River Pirates, who frequented towns along the Missouri River between St. Louis and Sioux City, although some of them would occasionally get off the beaten path to work in towns on the upper Mississippi and in Chicago and even as far north as the Twin Cities. I was familiar with the term Missouri River Pirate as descriptive of these printers as early as in the seventies, although there are those who will say the Pirates were organized in Omaha on a certain later date, or in Kansas City or in Chicago. These statements had their genesis in certain mock ceremonials held when a number of the Pirates got together and did a little drinking—which was frequent. As a matter of fact, the Pirates were never formally organized, the name merely being given those who tramped the Missouri River valley and lived off the country. In the course of years, hundreds of printers have laid claim to having been Missouri River Pirates.
Of the early-day vintage of Pirates was “Judge” Grigsby. On my way to Sedalia, I ran across him near the little town of Knob Noster. He was dressed in a frock coat, white waistcoat, striped trousers, immaculate linen and patent-leather shoes—all topped by a silk hat. He was one of the most picturesque of the old tourist printers, one who never rode in boxcars, but did his traveling either on the velvet cushions or on foot. I believe he preferred the latter mode as being more cognate with his philosophy of a leisurely and gracious manner of spending one’s life. As we walked along, he told me something of his theory of life: To live fully and richly, to acquire the greatest delight for the mind in the joys of intellectual curiosity. He would study, he said, the text of nature and the book of life, learning from things about him. He quoted Rousseau to the effect that the only way to travel was on foot while one reveled in the freshness and harmony beside the little streams. Railroads and steamboats, he said, had robbed the pilgrimages of journeymen workers of their poetry, thereby shortening their journey of life.
In Sedalia, we started for the Democrat, stopping-off place for union printers on their travels between Kansas City and St. Louis.
As we passed the upstairs shop of the Sedalia Bazoo, two local rounders came tumbling down the steps and immediately got away from the vicinity. At the head of the stairs stood J. West Goodwin, editor of the Bazoo, dusting his palms as if to rid them of contamination. Angered by some of his editorials, the toughs had gone up to do the editor in. But J. West was big and rough himself.
He was one of the most picturesque figures of the newspaper profession, not only in Missouri, but in the nation. He had never worked on any of the larger newspapers, yet was widely known. He made a quaint figure, the most noticeable thing about him being his high white hat, a hairy thing of the old beaver type, the oriflamme of this editor of strong opinions and courageous policies. He had learned to set type on the Democratic Union at Watertown, New York, as a boy of thirteen. He served through the Civil War under McClellan and later set type on and edited several newspapers in Indiana before going to Springfield, Missouri, and later to Sedalia, where he established a job printing shop and then the Bazoo. He had been christened John Wesley Goodwin, but in the West was known as J. West Goodwin.
An enterprise in which he engaged as a sideline was that of running excursions to public hangings in Missouri. A legal execution in those days meant a crowd of several thousand persons, from all parts of the state; the country folk coming in wagons, bringing lunches and families, making of it an all-day gala affair; the townspeople coming by train, often several excursions from different points being run to the scene of the execution.
At the Democrat, I was able to catch on immediately. Among the printers there was Edward B. Burrowes. who in the next decade became editor and owner of the paper. Then it was said of him that he was the best friend the tramp printer ever had. He never refused to give one a financial lift-not a loan-without any thought of ever being repaid. He would give a tramp printer his last dollar and miss a meal if necessary that the less fortunate might eat. He reared a newspaper family of four children-one now in Texas, one editor of the St. Joseph News-Press, one business manager of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and a daughter still carrying on the family tradition with the Sedalia Democrat. Another printer on the Democrat was a slight youngster, Caspar Yost, who the next year went to St. Louis and fame as editor the next sixty years of the Globe-Democrat.
The editor of the Democrat was John Newman Edwards, a Virginian, who, while still a boy, learned to set type on the Front Royal Gazette, and who arrived in Lexington. Missouri, about 1855, where he became a typesetter on the Expositor. In the Civil War he had helped General Jo Shelby organize a Confederate regiment at Waverly, near Lexington, and had fought · through the war. Mter Appomattox he made the march to Mexico with his leader when the latter refused to follow General Robert E. Lee in surrender. As aide to General Shelby, Edwards wrote the many flowery orders and military communications which have been attributed to Shelby. With Colonel John C. Moore, first mayor of Denver, he had founded the Kansas City Times. He had later worked on the St. Louis Dispatch under Stilson Hutchins when that ambitious newspaperman from Duhuque, Iowa, was trying to set himself up as dictator of Missouri politics. Later he was with Hutchins on the St. Louis Times.
Major ‘ Edwards was a hard drinker but never became too intoxicated to write brilliantly. He often carne into the composing room and chatted familiarly with the boys. One night he announced that he had devised a scheme to destroy his appetite for whisky. He had bought a ten-gallon keg of whisky and inserted a spigot. Every time he took a drink from the keg he was going to put an equal amount of water back. “By the time all the liquor is gone and nothing but water is left I’ll no longer want liquor,” he said. The cure didn’t work, however, and before his death eight years later, Edwards was destined to receive many a hard blow from John Barleycorn.
Edwards was a stanch friend of those two noted Confederate veterans, Frank and Jesse James. One day Mont Knapp, one of the printers, paused in setting the exceedingly small but beautifully clear manuscript of an Edwards editorial to ask me to note a visitor in the editor’s office. The visitor was about five feet eight inches in height, of a solid, firm compact build, but rather on the slender type. His hair was black, not overly long; blue eyes, well shaded with dark lashes, fair complexion and the lower portion of his face covered by dark brown whiskers, trimmed with evident careful attention. He was clothed in a neat business suit. His white shirt was immaculate, and what with his collar and cravat he looked more like a substantial business man than what he really was—Jesse James, outlaw.
Sedalia still had many of the aspects of a frontier town. Men still young could remember when it had been a receiving point for the herds of cattle driven up from the Southwest by the cowboys, the town in that respect antedating Dodge City, Abilene and other famous cow towns of the West; and the Butterfield stage route that had branched off there, going south to Fort Smith, thence west across the deserts to California; and when it had been “end of steel” as the Missouri Pacific reached toward Kansas City and the west. The town had a goodly quota of saloons, rowdies, three-card monte men, pickpockets and prostitutes. The Wine Hall, which Nick Searle ran at 119 Main Street, was one of the livelier spots. Places were not lacking where one could indulge in fa~o, roulette and keno. Tim Dunnigan’s gang of young toughs had the town almost terrorized; while Triplett’s gang of three-card men and pickpockets made their headquarters in Sedalia, but found their victims on the trains.
With “Senator” Plum and AI Corum I decided to go on toward Jefferson City. Corum was well known as a tourist printer and was somewhat of a writer, too, so when he could not get work at the case, would do reportorial work. The Jefferson City Tribune was being published on High Street, the main street of the town, running along the backbone of a ridge about a half mile south of the river. None of the streets were paved, but there were wooden sidewalks and sometimes sidewalks of bricks and flagstones. Hogs, geese, ducks and cows meandered about in the mud of the streets. Uptown were Felker’s saloon and gambling establishment at Madison and High, the principal corner in the city. Tom Burt had a similar institution on a different comer of the same intersection. Near by was the notorious Hog Alley, against which the Tribune fulminated, saying “It is not only an intolerable nuisance, but the lowest and vilest colonize there … each filthy den of sin an insult to the decency and morality of our people.” Police boarded up the places in the alley and it later became more respectable as Commercial Alley. South and just beyond the Elm Street bridge on Madison, was Turner Garden, where the thirsty gathered on Sunday afternoons. It was surrounded by a large grove of beautiful trees and shrubs and had a long wooden building in which there was a bar where wine, beer and sandwiches were sold. This was in the edge of Munichberg—or “Minchberg”—so called because that section of the city had been settled by emigrants from Bavaria.
The favorite hangout of the tramp printer while sojourning in Jefferson City was the “Catfish” hotel, on the river front near Lohman’s Landing. There one could get a six-inch slab of fried catfish, a quart of potatoes, a hunk of corn pone and buttermilk without limit for fifteen cents. This was near the old Lohman Tavern, then serving as a warehouse, but in the heyday of river traffic a social institution known up and down the river for its high-class cuisine and entertainment. But the social level of the river front had declined to the extent that it was more nearly represented by Cinda Barnes’s bawdy house.
The supreme joy of the river was “jugging for cat.” The river was full of catfish, some weighing more than a hundred pounds, with mouths large enough to swallow a keg, and spines that made painful wounds. In the spring and summer many tourist printers would float down the Missouri River on flat boats with a cabin amidships containing a stove and supplies. The trap for catching catfish consisted of a cord line a half-inch thick and a hundred and twenty-five feet long. Smaller cord-lines twelve feet long were placed at fifteen-foot intervals on the main line. Three-inch hooks were placed on each of the smaller lines, along with a tightly-corked jug. Each hook was baited with a piece of beef or liver and covered with a piece of red flannel. A heavy piece of wood at the head of the main line served as a float. When ready, the boat was cut loose and when in the center of the river the float was dropped and the line paid out, a rudder keeping the boat in control, the float and jugs riding the current. When a jug went under, the line was pulled in and the fish taken off.
These tourist printers on their way down the river frequently were a godsend to some country newspaperman who needed help to get out his paper. In this way they would pick up a few dollars to help them along on their journey. Sometimes part of the day’s catch would be sold when the boat tied up for the night. These trips usually ended at St. Louis, but occasionally extended to New Orleans.
When such a boat tied up at the Lohman Landing in Jefferson City with “Fatty” Jack White, “Cowboy” Jones and other Pirates aboard, I thought it a good chance to pursue my journey to St. Louis. So I joined the party.
CHAPTER FIVE A Gay Cat in St. Louis
Rounding the point at the Chain of Rocks, we found ourselves on the bosom of the broad Mississippi and virtually at our destination of St. Louis. What kind of reception the St. Louis police might give us was a matter of conjecture, so we tied up our boat among the willows a mile from the little town of Baden, which was the first town north of St. Louis, deciding to disperse and venture on in from there. “Fatty” White said we might need an interpreter to get through Baden, as the inhabitants spoke nothing but German. However, we made it on into the big burg and hunted up Dick Coulishaw, who fixed us up. He took us to Mrs. Murphy’s boarding house, a place patronized almost entirely by printers.
The bitter warfare between the Globe and the Democrat had been terminated when McKee & Houser, proprietors of the Globe, bought the Democrat and consolidated the papers as the Globe-Democrat under the editorship of Joseph B. McCullagh, who had come over from the “ould airt’ ” when a boy of eleven and had learned the printer’s trade in the office of the Freeman’s Journal in New York. He was only sixteen when he arrived in St. Louis to set type on the Christian Advocate. By the next year, however, he was a reporter on the Democrat. He went through the Civil War as soldier and correspondent, afterward becoming Washington correspondent for the Cincinnati Commercial. Then he became editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer. He was known as the father of interviewing, as he was the first to use that method of journalism, first as war correspondent and later in Washington. He resigned his editorship in Cincinnati to found the Chicago Republican in 1870 and was wiped out by the great fire. He had no formal education, yet nevertheless enjoyed a wide acquaintance with the classics of literature. He was a fine-looking man, smooth-shaved, with a firm chin, and was what in those days was called a “rustler.”
The Globe-Democrat was at the southwest corner of Fourth and Pine and employed sixty printers in its four-story building, where was done commercial, legal, railroad, college and business catalogs and theatrical and mammoth show printing as well as getting out a newspaper. This paper was the place for traveling printers to show up. McCullagh, perhaps remembering his own days as a typesetter, had devised something for the itinerant who happened to be “down on his luck.” This was what were known as the “grasshopper cases.” Whenever a tourist printer failed to catch on as a sub he was permitted to tackle the “grasshopper cases,” set a couple of thousand ems from reprint copy, cash in at the regular scale—and eat.
I had never before been in a big city such as St. Louis, which boasted of a population in the neighborhood of one hundred thousand, so there was much for me to see. Interesting were the French Market, on Convent, between Fourth and Fifth, and the Maguire Market at Broadway and Bremen, where large crowds came, especially on Saturday nights. The Olmypic Theater and De Bar’s were playing stock and the Theater Comique on Pine offered variety—song and dance men, clog dancers, trapeze performers, ballets and character performers. The Globe, on Morgan, was given over to blood and thunder. Sprague & Butler’s restaurant on Olive near Third, was well patronized by the night crowds, and the same could be said of George Milford’s restaurant and oyster house on North Third. Best known of all, however, in this line, was Tony Faust’s cafe, oyster house and saloon at Fifth and Elm.
The so-called sample rooms which abounded along Morgan, Washington, Locust, Olive and Chestnut, from Eighth to Eleventh, had private entrances marked “Ladies’ Entrance” where ladies could enter unnoticed to meet their gentlemen friends and entertain them in the tiny booths which were draped with heavy curtains which assured plenty of privacy. There were also in the vicinity many places with “Furnished Rooms” signs—and no questions asked.
Farther out, whole families of the German St. Louisans would gather to drink beer at the Castle Gardens on Almond or at Bodemann’s Grove, near Gravois and Arsenal.
But the place that held my interest was Franklin Avenue. This thoroughfare of small shops was of the Bowery pattern, but even more closely crowded together. All the stock in trade appeared to hang outside, and as the shops were narrow, the sidewalks for blocks showed one unbroken front of cheap dry goods, shoes and other wares. There was no break in the display. The thickly-hung shoes of one dealer joined the calicoes of the next, and these seemed hitched onto another’s ready-made clothing, while this joined an avalanche of hats and bonnets. Gun stores and cheap jewelry stores abounded. Half-hidden among all this merchandise were the shirt-sleeved dealers and children of olive complexion, frescoed more or less with bread and butter, debris and tinges from the gutter. Franklin Avenue was the thoroughfare of the masses. On Saturday nights, especially, the avenue would be packed with people the two miles from Fourth Street to Leffingwell. These were mostly employed girls and young men, there to meet or make dates or just to flirt and ogle. After ten o’clock, however, the street took on a more sinister aspect and the girls were more likely to be streetwalkers—the higher-toned ones being found in the vicinity of Fifteenth Street.
In Billy Beebe’s saloon one night-Billy’s was the place where the printers congregated-I was talking to Ben Burch, who had been a typesetter out in Kansas, and some tip he gave me caused me to start showing up on the Post-Dispatch. This was a new paper, made of a merger when Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the Westliche Post, had bought the Dispatch at a sheriff’s sale for twenty-five hundred dollars and blended them into one .
The Post-Dispatch was making a fight on the special interests of the city such as tax dodgers, gamblers, commercialized vice, opium shops, wine-room dens, loan sharks and the corrupt politicians back of all these undesirable elements. It called the city “a gambler’s paradise” and gave the names and addresses of the gambling houses, describing each one. Faro and keno apartments and poker rooms flourished on Fourth, Fifth and Sixth streets in the vicinity of Olive and Chestnut. The principal games were faro, poker, keno and rouge et noir. When the chief of police said he could not find these gambling rooms, the paper called him “an innocent sort of hairpin.” Bob Pate was head of the gambling ring and had the resignation of the police board in his pocket so it could be mailed to the governor in Jefferson City at any time the police board failed to please the boss. Of gambling, Pulitzer said: “The pollution of its bribery has silenced a servile press; has corrupted an obsequious police; and has defiled the very seat of justice itself. The congenial alliance between the gambling hell and the brothel; the convenient service of the panderer and the capper; the coercion of the spy and the blackmailer—these have been the influences which have ruled St. Louis, mocking at honesty, insulting purity, defying decency—our burden, our shame and our ruin.”
Pulitzer rode to work every morning in a brougham drawn by a big iron-gray horse driven by a Negro. He wrote all the editorials for the paper and when he appeared at eight-thirty he would have the lead editorials for the day in his pocket, ready for the printers. Then he would disappear into his sanctum, a curtained alcove just off the city room. At ten o’clock he would be given the first corrected proof of his editorial, when he would go to work in earnest, making revision after revision, until Jack Williams, foreman of the composing room, would beg for a final o. k. so the paper could go to press. About noon he would go into the near-by saloon of Anthony & Kuhn, on Broadway, for a sandwich and a glass of beer. Late at night, he would be in his den writing editorials by the single gas jet, something that might have been a factor in his later blindness.
He used to say that “every reporter is a hope-every editor a disappointment,” but I don’t believe he was disappointed when he secured the services of John A. Cockerill as editor, bringing him from the Baltimore Gazette. Cockerill used to say Pulitzer was the best damned man in the world to have in a newspaper office for one hour in the morning; after that, he was the world’s biggest damned nuisance. Between them, however, they laid out the plans, tested the ideas, and made the money which later resulted in Pulitzer’s phenomenal success with the New York World.
From St. Louis I went upriver to Hannibal, on the old St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern, which later became a part of the Burlington system. I was accompanied by Charlie Stiles and Tom Ming. In due time we arrived at the place Mark Twain had called “the little white town drowsing in the sunshine,” but which, since the boyhood of Twain had become a lively little city. The town had two newspapers, the Morning Standard and the Courier, and I was able to pick up some work on the latter.
Everyone in the world, I suppose, knows that this was the town where Mark Twain first essayed to learn the art preservative of all arts. When he was twelve years old, he went into the composing room of the Hannibal Weekly Journal, later going to work on the paper conducted by his brother Orion. Before he was sixteen, he had worked in the composing rooms of newspapers in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and New York. He made his first speech in Keokuk at a dinner given by printers in celebration of Benjamin Franklin’s birthday. His tramp printer days, however, were over by the time he was twenty.
Some of the older persons in Hannibal remembered him as a “start natured fool” who used to “fool around the print shop.” He had written a book or two, they understood, which they hadn’t read, but which the newspapers said were good. Still, they couldn’t believe Sam Clemens ever would amount to much. He was too fond of playing jokes. They still remembered a joke he had played on Sam Snell, a tramp printer, when he had placed a skeleton in Snell’s bed. The tramp printer slept peacefully with the skeleton all night and the next morning had sold it for seven dollars and got cock-eyed drunk on the proceeds of the sale. One of the typesetters, who had worked with Twain, said, “Sam was a rustler—he was always doing something, but he could get more ink and grease on him for the amount of work he did than any printer I ever saw.” The evidence is, however, that Twain was a neat and competent workman, with cleaner proofs than the average typesetter. He was proud of his ability as a printer.
Hannibal was a lumber town, With sawmills strung out for a mile or more to the south of the town. The sawyers were a pretty hard lot, as were the men who worked the lumber on the river, bringing in the rafts or working on the boats. I saw much of them in O’Brien’s saloon and in Joe Wilson’s saloon near the river front.
A tonier place was that kept by Oertes & Green at Fourth and Broadway. Here ~e entire second and third floors were given over to gambling, including such games as poker, black jack and roulette. Henry Oertes was a tall, slender, dignified man, an impeccable dresser. Green was not so tall as his partner, but made a good impression sartorially. The real flash of the establishment, so far as appearances were concerned, was a bartender employed in the immense barroom which the partners conducted on the ground floor of the building. This bartender, a well set-up man, wore a purple vest with five-dollar goldpieces for buttons, a huge diamond in his cravat, a silk hat, a cutaway coat, and he sported a white Malacca cane with a gold head.
While I was in Hannibal, a circus came to town and it was only natural that I should turn out to see the parade. at the end of which, immediately following the calliope, there came a barouche, drawn by a team of shining bays. Driving the bays was a Negro coachman in livery, tall silk hat and all. And seated in the barouche, bowing and smiling to all their gentlemen acquaintances, were Madame Morgan and six of the most beauteous nymphs from her high-toned resort out toward “Stringtown.”
Heading west from Hannibal, I paused at the immense flat stone just south of Brookfield, a noted rendezvous for tramps called “Bums’ Rock,” where I picked up Harding Montgomery and “Agate” Wallace and went on toward St. Joseph.
CHAPTER SIX Death of An Outlaw King
Joe Town, as the itinerant typographers always called St. Joseph, was usually good for a stretch. I found this to be true on the Gazette and soon had arranged for food and lodging at the Galt House, a small hotel frequented by printers. Here I met Will Maupin, a young printer from Oregon, Missouri, later a famous Nebraska editor. Here, too, I met the Cunningham brothers, Pat and Bill, tramp printers from Indiana—a quarrelsome and pugnacious pair. I jumped them up about something one day, but we didn’t come to blows. However, after that they were more mannerly and kept a civil tongue. Pat Cunningham was killed about a decade later in a street brawl in Pittsburgh when another printer knocked him down and caused his head to strike the curbing. Bill continued for many years in print shops of the Mid-West.
The Gazette had been established in 1845, when St. Joseph was two years old, with William Ridenbaugh as publisher and printer. Some of the original Gazette’s equipment was a press and type that had been brought from Cincinnati to Independence to print the Mormon paper, the Morning Star. The printing equipment had been thrown into the Missouri River in 1833 when a group of Missouri gentiles had driven the Mormons from Jackson County. Later it was salvaged and found its way to St. Joseph. When I arrived in St. Joseph, the paper was under the guidance of James N. Burnes, Jr., and the Herald was being run by Dan W. Wilder. Ferd Schlagel was foreman of the Herald, with Peter Nugent as assistant. The foreman of the Gazette was Benjamin F. Hill, known throughout printerdom as a tough foreman. He had served through the Civil War while still but a boy and later had learned the printer’s trade at Brownsville, Nebraska, a booming river town of the old days. He had corne to St. Joseph in 1877. Occasionally he would toss some disturber or incompetent doWIi the stairs.
About this time, a young printer, Purd B. Wright, came in from Cameron, Missouri, where he had been working on the Vindicator, and soon was giving indication of the pursuit he was to follow the rest of his life. In his spare time he assembled books to form the nucleus of a library. This task completed, he became the librarian of the first public library in St. Joseph and the state of Missouri. Afterwards for many years he held a similar position in the public library in Kansas City. One night he had the temerity to change the structure of a sentence in an editorial that had been written in the beautifully rounded chirography of Walter Hines Page, “the boy editor,” as the new city editor was called. We looked for Wright to be peremptorily fired. but instead Page wrote on the margin of the proof, “Thanks.” This little exchange led to a friendship between the two that lasted a lifetime. Years later, after Page had been wartime “ambassador to the Court of St. James’, he met the librarian and former printer at a gathering of literary persons in New York, remembered him instantly and introduced him to the guests as “one who had risen from tramp printer to librarian, in the same town.” It was at this gathering that Wright met a young writer, Christopher Morley, and another of those lasting friendships was begun. Wright became an authority on western lore, particularly on the Pony Express, and was helpful in furnishing material for “The Pony Express” of Arthur Chapman, another oldtime printer.
Samuel D. Wilson was a young printer who had been working on the Gazette some six years before when the printers of the town gave a banquet, the guest of honor being Eugene Field, then in the budding days of his brilliant career. He was general utility man on the Gazette, but dignified with the title of city editor. At the banquet he recited an original poem called “Slug Fourteen,” which ran for many, many verses and told of the carryings-on in the Gazette composing room of a newcomer who was particularly inept at everything he undertook. Wilson was fond of quoting from the poem:
One night we all remember well
He pied a market galley all to hell;
Again, spaced out agate with nonpareil.
Only a printer could comprehend the disaster of which the first two lines told, and the annoyance entailed in spacing out agate with nonpareil. The new man, according to the poem, continued to pursue his blacksmithing course until the foreman became so exasperated
He leaned upon the stone and swore
“By Jesus Christ! As I have said before
And you have often, often heard me tell—
Brevier won’t justify with nonpareil!”
Then the foreman demanded to know where Slug Fourteen had learned to print—demanded to see his union card. It appeared he had no card. He admitted, in fact, he was a “rat.” Wilson would intone solemnly: “He sealed his doom.” The union printers dragged out an old cannon and
Grapeshot and cannister, pound after pound;
Mallet and shootin’ stick rammed it down.
At the end of the poem the wretch was shot through the roof and into the sky, “where he sought cases on high.”
Field was taken into the bosom of companionship of the printers, and ever after one of us tramp printers could be sure of getting the price of a meal from the poet though it meant that Field himself would have to borrow from some editorial colleague. He would refer to us as “one of my printers.”
When the Gazette ran another of those stories which said it was believed officers had succeeded in bringing to a close the career of banditry of Jesse James, a certain Mr. Howard, “a gentleman interested in horses,” then living in St. Joseph, must have smiled.
One night I was in the Buffalo saloon, near Fourth and Edmond. This place was originally so named because its first owner had come from Buffalo, New York. Shortly afterward, hunters killed an enormous buffalo on the site that later became Denver and brought the head across the plains as a trophy and for several decades it was the chief item of ornament in the saloon. Some of those present that night were along toward becoming high. One of them, a merchant, blurted out: “Boys, I’ve got seven hundred dollars on me, receipts from the store, and I’m afraid to start home with it; I’ve been hearing so much about highwaymen, especially about Jesse James.” Someone suggested he spend the money right there in the Buffalo, thus obviating the necessity of going home and also the fear of bandits. One quiet gentleman in the crowd said: “My name is Tom Howard. I live out your way. I have two good pistols here and I know how to use them. If you want me to, I’ll see that you get home unharmed.” As the two were leaving, someone shouted, “What if you meet Jesse James?” Howard replied, ”I’ll never meet Jesse James. As for that, I’m as good a man as he is.” It seemed to me I had seen Mr. Howard somewhere, but it was several days later before I remembered him as having been pointed out to me.in the office of the Sedalia Democrat. He apparently proved a good guard, for the merchant reached home safely.
The morning of April 3, 1882, I had ambled up from the Galt House rather earlier than usual, anticipating something on account of the municipal election. Sam Wilson came hurrying toward me with “They’ve shot Jesse James! They’ve taken the body to Sidenfaden’s! Come on, let’s go see it!” I hurried along with Sam until we were milling about with the mass of people that thronged the undertaker’s establishment. The crowd was not being admitted, but a reporter we knew being present to vouch for us, Sam and I were permitted to enter. Later they put Jesse in a coffin and propped him up in a window for all to see.
Sam and I walked out from the crowd, and inevitably toward the little house on Lafayette Street where Jesse under the name of Torn Howard had been living quietly with his wife and two children. It was a neat, well-painted cottage-still standing, by the way, but moved to another location as a show place. There were many Doubting Thomases in the street below the house, gazing at the place wherein the king of outlaws had lived-and died, particularly those who had seen the quiet-spoken, mild-mannered “Mr. Howard” going about the city, ostensibly interested in horses and occasionally making a trade. Some, to whom the name of Jesse James was a picaresque legend, said he never would have been killed in this fashion. He would have been slain in some bold dash of banditry. “Jesse James would never take off his pistols and turn his back on any living man,” they would offer as a clincher and not without logic, for his apparent neglect which resulted in his immediate assassination remains to this day inexplicable.
Shortly after this, I traveled on, and arriving at Atchison, Kansas, sought work on the Champion, but without success. However, I was referred to the new little paper, the Globe. This was run by an austere fellow by the name of Ed Howe. He was a member of the typographical union and had been a tourist printer before settling in Atchison. He had learned to set type on his father’s newspaper at Bethany, Missouri. At fifteen, he went to set type on the North Missourian at Gallatin for’ five dollars a week and board. He subbed on the St. Joseph Herald and the Council . Bluffs Nonpareil. He had gone to Chicago, he said, with the intention of setting type on the Tribune, but saw so many printers that he got cold feet and left town. He came back to Omaha and worked on the Republican, later moving along to Cheyenne, where he got a dollar a thousand ems for setting type. Next he went to the News in Salt Lake City, thence back to Falls City, Nebraska, which was not far from Atchison. His last fling at being a journeyman printer was on the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. After that, he bought the Eagle in Golden, Colorado, and failed utterly as a newspaper publisher and editor. Then he returned to Atchison and started the Globe, which through the years he developed into a very successful small city daily, incidentally amassing a fortune.
He didn’t need a printer for the newspaper, he said, but might use me on book work. He had written a book which several publishers had rejected. So he had determined to print the book himself, having ordered cases of new minion type to that end. He engaged me to lay the cases of the new type and then I proceeded to set in type “The Story of a Country Town,” which Howe printed, four pages at a time, on the job press. Publishers have since corrected their error by bringing out this book in a regular edition. It was a good yarn, bleak and austere, even as the author.
Howe despised anything in the nature of show-off, sham, or ostentation. He seemed to think all of these were combined in Oscar Wilde, who was touring America at that time. When Wilde lectured in Atchison, Howe employed a small Negro boy to lead a donkey up and down Commercial Street, wearing a banner: “I will lecture at the opera house tonight at eight o’clock. Oscar Wilde.” As he grew older and richer, Howe became known for his philosophical aphorisms, such as: The thing that distinguishes this country over any other is that a greater percentage of its poor may become well-to-do or distinguished …Every successful man I have ever heard of has done the best he could with the conditions as he found them, and not waited till next year for better…Every man throws a rock now and then that he would like to have back in his hand…Every great man must realize that he is not as great as the newspapers say he is.
Having finished the book, I again went to the office of the Champion, where Noble L. Prentis was the editor. He had been a printer before the Civil War. He divided editors into two classes: “Those who came into the profession from college or from the composing room and those who are newspaper writers from the beginning.”
Prentis employed a muscular Negro whom we called Old Ben to do such heavy work as carrying the type forms. Ben had noticed that when we put the type back in the proper boxes we called the operation “distributing.” One noon I walked into the composing room and found Old Ben perched on one of the high stools used by the printers. He was gleefully employed in flinging the type toward the boxes, but alas, he was giving no consideration as to whether it might reach the proper compartment. When I asked him what he thought he was doing, he showed his gums in a flashing smile and said: “I’s estrivicatin’!”
CHAPTER SEVEN In Wide-Open Omaha
Leaving Atchison, accompanied by “Red” Hill and Nicodemus “Whiskers” Johnson, I traveled north to Falls City and Nebraska City, where we crossed the river and went on north to Council Bluffs, hopeful of catching work on the Nonpareil. This paper had been established in 1857 by W. W. Maynard, a printer from Michigan who had made his entrance into the western world by the remarkable feat of driving a flock of sheep from the state of Michigan to the site of Council Bluffs. He had established and for a while conducted the Chronotype, leaving it to return to his trade as typesetter in Des Moines. But again corning to Council Bluffs at the insistence of General Granville M. Dodge and others, he founded the Nonpareil, going to St. Louis to purchase the equipment. The first issue boasted of the paper’s “Well’s celebrated power press,” which was operated by a crank turned by manpower.
After a few days in Council Bluffs, I crossed the river again to Omaha, then called a wide-open town. Saloons were numerous and the many women of the tenderloin that centered about Ninth and Douglas seldom were molested by the police. In fact, a system of fines had been worked out that made it unnecessary for the painted ladies to appear in police court. The madames paid ten dollars a month and the girls paid five dollars a month to a collector who called punctually. Under this system, raids were either accidental or in reprisal .for failure to pay. It might have been the latter that caused the marshal one night to get his dander up and start raiding, beginning with the gamblers, first pulling the place of Dan B. Allen and Tom Dozier at 211 South Twelfth Street; then to the gambling rooms over Hornberger’s saloon at 1321 Douglas conducted by Frank Shaw from Minneapolis and Tom Ratliff, one of the Council Bluffs gentry. Dick Wilde’s tony place over his saloon at Twelfth and Farnham was next.
But the marshal did not stop when he had landed the gamblers in the calaboose. He glared with baleful eye in the direction of “Hell’s Half Acre,” as the district was called, and descended upon the establishments of Lou Tuck, Carrie Dillon and Jennie Dickinson in tum. Then “the Castle,” as Madame Fairchild’s sombre place on North Ninth Street was called. But when he reached the pretentious place of Anna Wilson he was given pause as Anna handed him a note signed by the police judge, saying “Anna Wilson and her girls have paid their fine. Layoff.”
Anna reigned undisputed as the queen of the underworld. She had been publicly crowned as such in a grand underworld ball held in a hall adjacent to Clayton’s Crystal saloon where she led the grand march with her lover, Dan Allen. There was no denying that she was a beautiful woman and her beauty was enhanced by ten thousand dollars’ worth of diamonds she wore that night at her coronation. To prove the exception to the old adage about honor among thieves, the Clayton saloon gang contrived sometime that night to steal the gems. A touch of modem gangster tactics was injected when Allen sent word to the Clayton gang to return the rocks “or else.” They didn’t return them, but told him where to find them, which seemed to suffice.
Rumor had it that Anna was a southern girl and that Allen had met her in a famous New Orleans resort and had brought her to the North. I could never detect a trace of the South in her speech. She encouraged tramp printers to visit her because they, more than the usual run, could discuss books. Prominent in her library were a Bible and a complete set of the works of Shakespeare. Noticing “Moll Flanders” as another of her books, I asked if she regarded Moll as “a successful thief and prostitute.” Anna was of the opinion that “Moll didn’t have any sense as a prostitute and needed a manager; her success came as a thief after she became too old to follow her earlier calling.”
Anna’s establishment was a rather ornate brick building at 912-914 Douglas Street, consisting of three stories and a half basement. It had a mansard roof and several fancy little lightning rods. A broad flight of stairs led up to the parlor entrance. A bit of conspicuous ornamentation . was made by two life-size statues of Aphrodite, arms extended toward each other, upholding a framework for flowers, thus signifying an entrance to the arbor of love.
“And why not?” Anna asked in that cool way she had. “Men hang out signs to indicate their trades or callings—the tobacconist an Indian, the watchmaker a watch, the shoemaker a shoe, and a big gold tooth for the dentist; to say nothing of the three gold balls of the Lombardy money lenders that nowadays adorn a pawn shop.”
Dan Allen employed George Crawford, a telegrapher of my acquaintance, to operate a private wire in his gambling place. A syndicate of several gamblers from New Orleans came in to buck the tiger at Allen’s. Every day they would wait until they received a code telegram from New Orleans and then they would proceed to make the tiger roar. Crawford told me he could never make head or tail of the messages—they seemed the sheerest nonsense. At the beginning of one of these onslaughts by the syndicate, Allen had twenty-two thousand dollars, but after several hours he was down to the cloth, or nearly so, when he told Crawford, “Tell Anna to send me some money.” Crawford gave me the office and I accompanied him to Wilson’s. When the the message was delivered, she brought out one of those old canvas telescope grips and began to throw greenbacks into it. I think my eyes stuck out a foot. I never saw so much lettuce in my life. She didn’t count the money, but when the grip was full we took it to Allen. Whatever the amount, it turned the tide and enabled him to clean out the syndicate gamblers, who soon shook the dust of Omaha from their feet.
An 1882 edition of what later became known as a “go-getter” existed in Omaha in the person of George A. Joslyn, who lately had come to Omaha as branch manager of the Western Newspaper Union. His story at that time was not so much different from that of many other young men who went West in search of a fortune; but the ending of his story was not matched by one in a million of those young men. He had come from the East, some place in New England, I believe. He had come as far as Des Moines with his bride, neither of them being more than twenty years old. Their funds were running low, so Joslyn got a job carrying paper into the plant of the A. N. Kellogg company in Des Moines. It had been only about fifteen years since Kellogg, short of printers, had had the inside pages of his newspaper printed at a neighboring plant and from that incident had grown the chain of ready-print concerns of which the Des Moines plant was a link.
At the time I met him in Omaha, Joslyn was about twenty-one years old. In addition to being branch manager of the Western Newspaper Union there, he was proprietor of the Metropolitan Hotel at 1120 Douglas Street and manager of the St. Charles Hotel. The Metropolitan long since had ceased to be the city’s leading hotel and the St. Charles was even less noteworthy. Joslyn rose rapidly in the fast-expanding concern for which he was branch manager and in a few years was president of the company. When he died, he left the largest fortune in Nebraska and his widow had built for him a three-mill ion-dollar memorial building of pink marble which now houses an art museum on the hill far to the west of Joslyn’s first successes on the edge of “Hell’s Half Acre.”
Edward Rosewater was the fighting editor of the Omaha Bee, a newspaper he had started some ten years before as a free-throw paper, a small, two-page thing in the nature of a theater program surrounded by advertising. He had considered calling his paper the Punchinello, after the leading cartoon weekly of the time, as he was inclined to lampoon those whom he thought deserved it. However, he finally decided to call his newspaper the Bee, and said it would have a sting. Which it did. He was a champion of the underdog and his paper constantly fought “those who ground the faces of the poor.” The Bee, organ of the Antimonopoly party, that strange coalescence of Democrats and Republicans that laid the groundwork for the upsurge of Populism, bitterly opposed the railroads and monopoliesof any kind. He gave Nebraska its first virile newspaper and helped greatly in the development of the state. He was a Bohemian who had emigrated to this country and become a telegrapher. He was short, inclined to rotundity and would fight a buzz-saw at the drop of a hat. In fact, his pugnacious proclivities seemed to have overawed his two competitors, the Herald and the Republican.
It would be difficult to understand, however, how even Rosewater could overawe the strenuously pugnacious Dr. George L. Miller, editor of the Herald. He had come to Omaha in 1854 and established himself in a cottonwood-board cabin which was floorless and windowless, in the tall grass that was then everywhere. He wrote a few pieces for the St. Joseph Gazette, and in 1865, with D. W. Carpenter, a printer from Council Bluffs, established the Herald. Only a few weeks before my arrival in Omaha, a mob of four thousand strikers and their friends had marched to the freight yards of the Burlington & Missouri River railroad, beaten strikebreakers, tore up things generally, put three policemen in a hospital and then resolved to throw the Herald into the Missouri River, because Dr. Miller, its editor, had criticized the strikers. So it would appear that Miller still had an abundance of courage.
There was no local of the typographical union in Omaha at that time, a charter being granted the local printers in the following year, however. An attempt had been made in the late fifties to organize a local of the typographical union when Harrison J. Brown as president and others. including William A. Musser and one other printer in Council Bluffs, sent money to the international along with a request for a charter. But in those days, the office of the international secretary was in his hat-and sometimes he lost his hat. So nothing further came of the matter. Brown had served his apprenticeship in Medina, Ohio, in the office of Bird B. Chapman and had come to Omaha with the latter to set type on that city’s first newspaper, the Omaha Nebraskian, which Chapman founded in 1854. The equipment was purchased in Cincinnati and brought up the river. Brown later assisted E. F. Schneider at the birth of the Omaha Republican, Many years later, he closed his career as publisher of a little paper in the small town of Silver Lake, Indiana.
The place where I stayed, and I would not be far wrong in saying the place where all tourist printers in Omaha at that time stayed, was run by a giantess we called “Mother Welles” and as a sarcastic thrust at the morals of the boarders there. some wag had designated the place as “Saints’ Rest.” So you could have called it by either name and oldtime printers would have known the place of which you spoke. “Mother Welles” was illiterate and could not keep books, but in her head she remembered the amounts due her and when anyone jumped his board bill she remembered him, too. Inevitably he would return and then she would collect—and how.
One time someone started a fight in her dining room. I am inclined to think it was a frame-up between Willis Pritchard and Ed Bessette, or “Big Biz from Boston” as we called him. There was a whaling big gay cat they were after and as they pretended to swing at each other they both hit the gay cat at the same time. He took window, sash and all, as he landed in the front yard. At this juncture, the six-foot-two proprietress of the place entered the fracas swinging a huge knife. That is when I went through another window without anybody hitting me. Peter B. Lee was among those present, and walked out without his dignity becoming ruffled, or even his stovepipe hat becoming unbalanced.
I was about ready to travel on. Sometimes we might have used the word wanderlust to describe the urge; more likely we would have called it the “itching foot.” Whatever might have been the inherent basis of our desire to travel we would attempt to give it a coating of practicality by saying it was to search for work or better conditions, knowing all the while that the best job in the world would not keep us in one place.
CHAPTER EIGHT A Rob Roy of the Sandhills
There had been so much talk of the new country U that was opening up to the northwest of Omaha that I decided to go have a look-see on my own account. The glowing circulars put out by the railroads and colonization agents had not impressed me in the least. To me they were only so much sucker-bait. So I had no false hopes of easy wealth. but started out merely because I had “a stone in my shoe”.
Grabbing a handful of boxcars, it was an easy matter to negotiate the forty miles to Fremont. But things were rather quiet in my line. The “bottom had dropped out” at the Tribune, which lately had come into the possession of Frank and Ross L. Hammond. Better luck was had at the Herald, which printed both a daily and a weekly edition under the editorship of N. W. Smails. However, a couple of days was all that paper offered, half wage and half charity, the second day being spent in “cleaning up.”
The Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley railroad had been built a few years before from California Junction, Iowa, crossing the Missouri River on a ferry at Yazoo Landing and connecting with the Union Pacific’ at Fremont. This link constituted a short cut between Chicago and the West. Having made this junction, the road now was building north and west, with an eye to the opening up to settlement of the Nebraska Panhandle and also to the riches of the Black Hills. It had paused at Wisner to rest for a year following the grasshopper scourge of ’79, but now had pushed on to Norfolk. So to Norfolk I proceeded, finding it necessary to bribe a shack with a four-bit piece to insure my continued safe passage. Norfolk had attained some eminence as a railroad center, what with the coming of the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley, followed by the Omaha, Niobrara & Black Hills in 1880. In April, 1882, the St. Paul & Sioux City had completed its tracks into town. But the prosperity I had hoped for was not there.
The Elkhorn Valley News was being put out by Norton & Spreecher. Extra work in this plant was non est. Clarence Selah, who was running the Norfolk Journal, came to my rescue with the usual two days’ work, after which I was faced with the question of going on or going back. One of the printers gave me a tip that there might be a job at “O’Nale’s” if I were willing to “kiss the Blarney Stone.” He winked when he said it and I soon elicited the information that “O’Nale’s” was not the name of a print-shop, but a colloquialism for O’Neill, a settlement up in ” ‘Doc’ Middleton’s country” that was Irish as Bridget’s pig. He thought Judge G. M. Cleveland, who lately had taken over the editorship of the Holt County Banner, was in need of a printer, being himself deficient in the art preservative. The wag added further that doubtless the judge would arrange accommodations for his printer at the Grand Central Hotel in O’Neill.
What more urging would one need? There were visions of setting type on the Banner for the kindly judge and of spending my evenings in a comfortable wicker chair on the broad veranda of the Grand Central Hotel. The culinary advantages, too, would be equally great—no doubt.
O’Neill was truly Irish. It had been founded by and named in honor of that fiery Fenian, General John J. O’Neill. The doughty warrior had gained a victory over Morgan the raider (General Morgan, if you’re from the South) in the Civil War and when the war was over had decided to conquer Canada. This activity met with such strong resistance from the Canadian and the United States governments that the effort was abandoned. So, the general brought wave after wave of colonists, made up for the most part of his Fenian followers, to this point in the sandhills of Nebraska. He died in Omaha in 1878.
My first disappointment here was to learn that the judge did not need a printer and that there would be no work whatever for me on the Banner. Somewhat dampened in spirit, I proceeded to the opposition sheet, the Frontier, the editor of which was W. D. Mathews, who also doubled in brass as the town’s postmaster. He was rather glad to see me. He could use a printer for a while, his man being on the jury-. He gave me an order on the Grand Central Hotel and shortly my dreams of opulence faded. The hostelry with the highsounding name was only a sod house. It had been used to house the Fenian colonists as they arrived from time to time and some of them had facetiously called it the Grand Central in contrast to the magnificent Grand Central in Omaha which just a few years before had been opened on the site of the present Paxton Hotel to the accompaniment of much fanfare. .
O’Neill was in that part of Nebraska at the time often referred to as “Doc” Middleton’s countrY, because up to that time there had been a minimum of organization in behalf of law and order and the doctor, though lawless, was a sort of law in the land. His cattle rustling activities were extensive and he had a large retinue of followers among the “pony boys” of the area. This ilk went heavily armed and usually could be counted on for any sort of devilment, but all in all their major crimes were cattle stealing. The doctor was a tall, dark man with a natural gift of leadership and a glint in his eye that boded ill for those who dared oppose him. He was a sort of Rob Roy of the sandhills and many tales were told of his helping the wretched settlers. It is no reflection upon the law-abiding proclivities of early-day Nebraskans that they would endeavor to shield Middleton when he was hiding out from the law. It simply is a psychological manifestation that has appeared among the common people in many places and at many times.
Opposed to the pony boys were the cowboys, who, while counted on the side of law and order, could raise seven kinds of merry hell and still stay within the rather elastic code of behavior known as “the law.” Invariably they rode into town on Saturday nights and spent their wages and just as invariably the good citizens went home and locked their doors—”hunted their holes” as the cowboys expressed it. It was customary and considered entirely legal for the cowboys to use force to compel a man to set ’em up. Once a lawyer whose name had been proposed as the purchaser of the next round of libations escaped the cowboys and hid temporarily under the depot platform, but eventually was pulled out and made to stand treat.
It was on such a rampage about a year before that a cowboy whose name I believe was Reed shot and killed Sheriff Bernard Kearnes in an O’Neill saloon when the officer sought to tone down the celebrants.
However, the settler, the railroad and the barbed-wire fence were pushing the tribe of the cowboy farther and farther into the Panhandle. An experience two lushers had with the new-fangled barbed-wire was said to have happened in that vicinity. Returning horne from O’Neill, slightly waterlogged, one dark night, their team stopped at a barbed-wire fence. Finding no other way to get forward, they cut the fence. This was done three times before they decided they might as well camp where they were and try to get their bearings when daylight carne. Carne the dawn, as the saying goes, and they found themselves camped between the barn and the house on their own claim. “And what’s more,” one of them related, Hall that bob-wahr we cut was our own.”
When the printer returned from jury service I was ready to push on to Valentine, which at that time was “end of steel” for the railroad. As I neared this town I could hardly believe that this dreary country was the “promised land” which the railroads had praised so extravagantly in their folders. Its drab, desolate sandhills, unbroken by habitation, were covered with sage brush and soapweed. Occasionally blackened expanses spoke powerfully of prairie fires that had burned on these vast, rolling plains.
There were many drifters and much wild life in Valentine: men who sought some easy way of living and men who were eager to escape something, not always the law, in the states to the east. There were earnest and· honest souls, too, bent only on making a living or getting a piece of ground they could call their own. The country was being settled largely by Danes, Bohemians, Polanders and Germans. But there were at least two Chinamen with the inevitable laundry. I know there was one Negro in the town. It was the old story of the American melting pot: An Austrian nobleman was a meatcutter; a brickmason who sang lovely arias claimed to be a descendant of the immortal Franz Schubert. A laundress who eked out an existence on the outskirts of the town made it known in her broken jargon that she was a noblewoman from Poland. Her gentle and refined appearance so far sustained her story that the townspeople called her “Lady Clare.”
There were Indians in Valentine, and outlaws and horse-thieves, and gunmen and cowboys, and an occasional murderer no doubt, and perchance a soiled dove or two. Lynch law was not unknown and the regulators were not inactive, but said to be inspired by the big cattle owners: The fastidious, broadcloth-garbed professional gambler was a part of the picture, too, loafing about the saloons and rooming-houses, ever on the alert for a game.
Saloons and gambling places, not necessarily two separate institutions, were everywhere in Valentine. One combination place was kept by Robert H. Weller, who had moved his saloon every jump of the way on the railroad since it had pointed its construction activities toward the sandhills. His place of business always was at “end of steel.” Into his place one night came a minister of the gospel saying he had no place wherein to preach.
“Just a minute, parson,” said Bob Weller, and then to his patrons he boomed: “Quiet down, now, put those cards away, you fellows; here’s a sky pilot wants to preach.” And the sky pilot did preach. He didn’t make any converts so far as I could see, but at the conclusion of his sermon we all voted that ‘The parson is all right.”
There was no newspaper in Valentine, but here I met E. A. (Gene) Heath, who lived in Rushville and was a brother of the E. 1. Heath that later became publisher of the Rushville Standard. Rushville, Clinton, Gordon and Hay Springs were tent towns not yet reached by the railroad in its westward thrust. Gene knew of a place that he believed to be the logical site for a metropolis of the sandhills. As yet, it was no town, but, he argued, it could become one with a newspaper to boom it. Accordingly, I went with him on the stage, which really was only a long spring-wagon with three seats for passengers and a space at the back for mail and packages. There was a canopy over the rig to give the passengers some protection from the blistering sun. At Rushville we loaded a few cases of type and an army press into a wagon and proceeded to the scene of our hoped-for fortunes.
The equipment was housed in a rough-board shack with only the bare ground for a floor. The shack was some protection against the hot winds, but very little against the rattlesnakes and none whatever against the fleas that infested the region. “This town will be excelled by none in the Panhandle,” declared Gene, “so we should name the paper the Nonpareil.” This was the strange case of a newspaper without a town, but when a little settlement began to grow around the newspaper shack, the town was called Nonpareil.
Frank M. Broome came along to join Gene as partner and it seemed I got some sand in my shoe and needed to travel. A few years later when the Burlington came into that country, it purposely passed up Nonpareil in favor of the newer town of Alliance because it felt that landowners around Nonpareil were asking too much for their land. This was the death-knell of Nonpareil. The paper moved to Alliance and the ever-loyal town went with it and soon only a few holes in the ground that formerly had been cellars pointed to the glory that had been Nonpareil’s.
The country was full of railroad cappers and others working in the interests of the railroads. Issuing passes, especially to editors, was considered a legitimate method of making friends for the railroads. So, I was given a third interest in the Nonpareil long enough to enable me to qualify for a pass on the railroad back as far as Lincoln. As the little train pulled out of Valentine headed for what i called civilization, I was humming:
I’ve reached the land of drouth and heat,
Where nothing grows for man to eat;
For wind that blows with burning heat,
Nebraska Land is hard to beat.
CHAPTER NINE In the lurid Days of Lincoln
Lincoln was undergoing the most hectic boom LIlI of its career. The population in three years had more than doubled and had reached some forty thousand. As part of this building boom, the Nebraska State Journal earlier that year had occupied its handsome and spacious new building at the corner of P and Ninth streets, facing Government Square. It was a substantial brick and stone structure, of three stories and basement.
Charles H. Gere was the editor, a genuine pioneer of the city, recognized then and still recorded as one of the giants of Nebraska journalism. He had printed a.paper for Lincoln even before the city was platted—as soon as it had been chosen state capital and the name changed from Lancaster. This had been a weekly, the Nebraska Commonwealth, the first issue of which had been printed at Nebraska City September 7, 1867. The second issue was printed in Lincoln from old Nebraska City Press type.
Any citizen who could boast of having lived in Lincoln for more than a decade was classified as a pioneer, but there were still many who could talk of Lincoln’s first legislature in 1869 when the members journeyed overland by wagon to reach the capital or rode there in the “jerkies,” as they called the stage coaches of those days.
The pay given printers at that time would not admit of my staying at any of the hotels, so I accompanied Dick Hicks out to “the Swede’s”, a boarding house for printers where there never seemed to be any question of our credit being good. The printers’ scale was twenty-two cents a thousand, set ~gate, nonpareil and minion. The top-notchers such as J. D. Calhoun, W. D. Padgett and “Dirty Shirt” Smith might make close to three dollars in a ten-hour day. But ordinary lead slingers were more likely to earn about two dollars for the day’s toil. All three sizes of the body type were used in setting the Journal and we would jeff for the preferred takes. To jeff we would take seven quads and throw them three times as in dice. The printer getting the greatest number of nicks up in three throws was given the choice agate takes. The next received the nonpareil, and the balance had to be set run-of-the-hook, which was minion. The type was leaded with brass “shavings,” the question of whether this fat belonged to the men or the office being a bone of contention which might have had something to do with the organization there of the typographical union in the following February.
Some of the tramp printers considered me tony for going to a boarding house. After all, they philosophized, what did I obtain for my money-only food and a place to sleep. Both problems they had solved after their fashion. They knew which of the saloons that were clustered on Tenth Street served the best free lunch and which of the bartenders was most lenient with customers who did more eating than drinking, a condition sometimes forced upon the printers by impecunious circumstances. As to sleeping, that could be partly solved by spending the time in Tom Quick’s saloon and gambling parlor near the Journal.
Quick was a fine-looking, two-fisted sort of man, able to hold his own in the hurly-burly politics that existed in Lincoln in those days. He was the leader of what generally was called the saloon element in politics and was city councilman and later chief of the fire department. All of which in no wise detracted from his interest in his fine saloon and gambling establishment, the largest in town. Tom was” the man to see.”
In Lincoln as elsewhere there was what I had come to regard as the inevitable struggle between the devout ladies of the city and the saloons. This led to the ladies picketing Quick’s saloon, which caused Tom to say something which got him and all the ladies into court. But it was a friendly court for Tom, so nothing much came of the case except city-wide talk.
The Red Ribbon Club was holding forth near Tenth and N streets. This was only half a block from Lincoln’s cluster of saloons on Tenth Street and no doubt was a strategic location for an organization devoted to fighting’ the saloons.
In those lurid days of Lincoln, when the wets and drys were whooping it up over closing hours and other regulations, the mayor sided with the law and order element and one morning found before his door a coffin. He promptly sold the coffin for thirteen dollars and gave the money to the local temperance society. The police judge had an arrangement whereby he collected fines regularly from the employees of Gus Saunders’ gambling hall as well as from other gamblers, even going to the gambling places to collect. He is said to have had a similar arrangement with the houses of prostitution.
Every afternoon at three o’clock, weather permitting, there issued from the various bagnios contiguous upon Government Square groups of frail siren who unhurriedly took their daily constitutional about the square until it took on somewhat the aspect of a parade. Wearing apparel on this occasion ranged from the very latest in feminine styles from Gold’s to shocking and tawdry, scanty and outre. Lydia Stewart’s place across from the Journal, while furnishing the largest delegation in point of numbers, yielded place to the elite (if this stratum of society could be said to have an elite) from the “Big Five” at Eleventh and Q. The young printers, and some not so young, ranged themselves in front of Carr & Heilan’s saloon and exchanged banter of a ribald sort with the girls as they sauntered past. It is not of record that any of the men ever got the better of such repartee.
It was not unusual in those booming days for a sub to make more money than those holding cases on the newspaper. This might have been because the regulars were a free and independent lot and could layoff for any reason or for no reason at all. Theoretically at least the subs had to show up for work every day and take the place of the regulars when the latter were not inclined to work. I gradually built up a bank roll.
But other pastures always look greener and I had been hearing about Cheyenne being a rowdy-dowdy place with lots of life about it. So I decided to head west. I could have purchased a ticket, but it seemed an awful waste of money. With “Dutch” Schultz I bummed as far as Juniata and worked a few days on the Herald there for J. W. Liveringhouse. I went on to Kearney and worked another few days on the New Era. At Sidney I was bounced by a hard shack who scorned my ducat and ignored the four-bits I offered him. As a matter of principle, I would hot offer more than fifty cents to any brakeman. And I didn’t care to ride on the same train anyway with a fellow who would refuse to honor a union man’s ducat. There was no necessity of my working as I still had a comfortable wad from my Lincoln sojourn, but inevitably I found myself at the Plaindealer-Telegraph. The paper was being run by Mrs. A. C. Drake, widow of the late proprietor. She was a good newspaperman, but too cuss-fired persnickety about the cleanliness of the place. She didn’t want me to spit tobacco juice on the floor. In fact, she asked me to scrub the floor and for a moment I almost lost my aplomb. I had heard about a composing room floor being cleaned one time. It seems it was the Council Bluffs Nonpareil, though I could be mistaken about that. They took pick-axes and spades to it. They discovered in the excavating a lot of type and other articles that had been lost for years. But I was no explorer. I was a lead slinger. …She gave me my time.
Now, it seemed, the propitious moment had arrived for me to go down to the station, buy a ticket and ride into Cheyenne in style. But I didn’t. I went down to the Little Bonanza saloon and had some drinks and watched the boys playing bird cage and chuck-a-luck. I got to buying drinks for a printer called “Old Style” Jones, who got around over the Northwest quite a .bit. Soon he was telling of an adventure that had befallen him at Rawlins in Wyoming Territory: “The vigilantes were stringing up a tough bunch of bandits at Carbon, and hanged Jim Lacey, Opium Bob and Dutch Charley until they were dead, but when it came to ‘Big Nose’ George Parrott, he pleaded so hard and promised so much that he was taken to Rawlins and given a trial. He was found guilty and Judge William Ware Peck sentenced him to hang. Before the execution date, he assaulted Jim Rankin, the jailer, and would have escaped, but for Mrs. Rankin, who spread the alarm. In a few minutes, the vigilantes hanged ‘Big Nose’ for keeps. Bill Nye, who was city editor of the Laramie Sentinel, said Parrott had been hanged before, but not until he was dead. A young surgeon skinned the body and had a pair of shoes made from the epidermis.”
I heard the boys in the saloon talking about the Black Hills and saying the stage would be leaving shortly for Deadwood. The Sidney & Black Hills Stage and Express Company’s lines connected at Sidney with the Union Pacific, and was the only way of getting to the Black Hills from the south. Remembering my affluence, I decided to make a side trip to the gold diggin’s before going on to Cheyenne. I bought a ticket for Deadwood. It was paid for in advance and collected in advance and later I found out the reason for this: When the traveling got heavy, all able-bodied men were ordered to tumble out and help the horses. There was no alternative except to walk.
This stage coach was the real McCoy compared to the one I had been on at Valentine a few months before. Behind the body of the coach was what was called the “boot,” built in a triangular shape, to carry mad, express or baggage. Coming out of the hills it was customary to have an expert gunman sitting in the “boot” to give highwaymen “what for.” Many lawless men had been attracted to this country in the hope of getting their hands on some of the gold dust and other valuables being transported out of the Black Hills.
Hitchhikers, of whom most persons think in connection with automobiles and hard-surfaced roads, were to be seen even in those days and in that sparsely-settled country. Company rules forbade drivers noticing ride-beggars, but it was permissible to halt and investigate any dead men along the highway. The tramps, who frequently traveled in small groups, soon got on to this. One would “play dead” and when the coach stopped the others would hide on the vehicle and ride as far as possible before the irate driver could get around to shooing them off.
The terrain was not difficult before we reached Custer. This was the beginning of the foothills and the place where the gold was said to have been discovered, precipitating the rush into the Black Hills. As we drove into the wide and only street of the town, the usual crowd of miners and others greeted us. A young woman, riding with the driver on the front seat, impetuously removed a part of her more intimate apparel and stood up waving it (or them) in friendly greeting to the cheering denizens. Had certain federal laws concerning advertising been in effect at that time, she legally should have branded the garment “adv.” At any rate, her zeal to give the boys a friendly greeting reached its apex just as the coach wheel next her struck a chuck-hole and she was dumped kerplunk into a depression filled with muddy water. The miners laughed and cheered, but made no effort to assist her from the muddy bath. On that auspicious occasion she had a few words to say—and they were all blue. It occurred to me she was a soiled dove in more ways than one.
As we entered the Black Hills, the roads became precarious and those along the mountain sides nearly scared the daylights out of me. Luckily the driver was not of that smart-alecky type that loved to dash the coach toward the edge of the canyon just to give the passengers a thrill. It was said they knew just how close to come and still be safe. But I couldn’t have stood it. Something would have happened to me—personally. Happily, most of the road was along the bed of the canyon. I was expecting great things when we pulled into Gold Run and headed down the long grade past the toll gate and the Whitewater into Deadwood.
CHAPTER TEN In Deadwood’s Famous Gulch
Deadwood Gulch had dropped the “gulch” and instead of being the rip-roarin’ist gold camp in the world had tamed down to the rip-snortin’ist gold camp. Instead of several camps such as Deadwood, South Deadwood, Cleveland, Ingleside, Elizabethtown, Chinatown, Fountain City and Montana City, as it had been before the disastrous fire which started in Mrs. Ellsner’s bakery, the town now was incorporated in one, Deadwood. It was forty-five hundred feet above sea level and the white rocks of the canyon towered another two thousand feet above the gulch. Dirty water tumbled boisterously under the flimsy bridges that arched Deadwood Creek and past the even flimsier shacks that served as dwellings. The aspect was not inviting.
At the office of the Deadwood Times I found Porter Warner, the editor; a slender man, rather bald with what hair he possessed showing gray. His fiery eyes belied the hint of age, however. There was no work for me, he said, but added that if I did not catch on at the Democrat or the Pioneer I was to come back to him. I think he was interested in me because he had a son about my age. Very shortly I was back and was put to work on the Times.
Warner’s paper was the leading one and had attained some degree of financial stability, although the gulch in its short history had become something of a graveyard for journalistic enterprises. The first paper had been the Pioneer, established by W. A. Laughlin and A. W. Merrick, they having brought the equipment from Denver. Thousands of copies of the first issue were sold for twenty-five cents each. Charlie Collins of the Sioux City Times had started for the Black Hills with type and presses for his Champion, which he intended to establish at Gayville, “just around the corner” from Deadwood. The equipment was lost when the steamboat Carroll burned. He later obtained other equipment and established his paper, which, although a good one, lasted only a year. Collins was one of the most original, energetic and daring newspapermen in all that part of the country. It has been said that the original Black Hills gold was discovered in the type boxes of the Sioux City newspaper on which he was employed. Which is to say that it was his editorials, set out of the type case as he composed them, that first called attention to the possibilities of gold deposits in the Black Hills. and urged the territory be opened to white men. Failing this, he was the moving spirit back of the ill-fated Tallent party that in 1874 endeavored to move into the territory.
Events moved rapidly in Deadwood and already the killing of “Wild Bill” Hickok, which had occurred some seven years earlier in Nuttall & Maw’s saloon, known as “No. 10,” was ancient history. The halfwit who had been hired or urged to shoot Hickok had been acquitted by a miners’ court, -then rearrested, taken to Yankton, tried, found guilty and hanged.
Things had settled down, but still were far from dull. The story-and-a-half frame residence at Washington and Monroe streets which served Deadwood as city bastille, was not lacking tenants. These usually were persons who had become too boisterous in their play, such as the buffalo hunter who had filled up on bad whisky at Charley Shumach’s Four-Mile House one night and amused himself by firing his revolver several times at Charley’s head, without, however, scoring a bull’s-eye.
The police were not over-zealous in the case of established places. Several opium dens were in full blast in Chinatown and being extensively patronized by the poppy fiends who could be seen day or night corning to or going from the dens. The saloons were not interfered with and as a consequence were in a flourishing condition.
Nor were the girls along-Sherman Street being interfered with to any noticeable extent. Occasionally, when two or more of the fair denizens engaged in a rough and tumble fight the victor might be arrested and fined by Judge Hall five dollars and costs. Or, as the Times so quaintly put it: “mulcted the defendant in the sum of five dollars and trimmings. ”
Lou Desmond, notorious member of Deadwood’s fallen sisterhood, shot a young man in the back while both were drunk and quarreling about some money. She had some time before shot “Big Mag,” another of the sisterhood, but the big strumpet was saved due to the bullet-resistant quality of her corset. The newspaper said of Lou, “She will undoubtedly be again heard from.” Which was prophetic, for in less than three weeks she was again in police court — for once, strange as it may appear, as a plaintiff. She had enticed a mule skinner into her den and picked a quarrel with him, endeavoring to use her ready pistol. He slapped her face and left. The judge “mulcted” him for ten dollars.
One of my favorite hangouts was Russell & Higby’s billiard parlor. Higby was proud of his game roosters. Mike Russell, who was a practical joker, bought a couple of common “ldung hill” roosters and turned them loose with Higby’s game birds after having made a wager with Higby as to the result. The thoroughbreds were thoroughly whipped and run out of their own coop. An unusual bet had its inception in friendly banter at Russell & Higby’s one Saturday night and was between Henry Goetz and Jack Anchor. They had come down from Central City to do a little light drinking and otherwise to regale themselves at the Gem Variety Theater, the Bella Union, the Mansion and other places. Someone having made a remark about being sleepy, immediately a bet was made as to which could sleep the longest. We took a hack to Central City to determine the wager. I went along with <lCrazy Horse” Smith and “Frenchy” La Belle, two other itinerant printers, as witnesses. We consumed vast quantities of beer, whisky and cigars, to say nothing of bread and bologna sausage. The contest began at 11 o’clock Saturday night and ended Monday afternoon when Goetz gave up.
I was in Ah Sin’s restaurant one night when he announced that he had sold out and offered the Deadwood boys a chance to make some money and have a little fun at a seductive game called “stud.” Now this celestial was said to have been none other than the one made celebrated and immortal by Bret Harte, and I should have been forewarned. He had accumulated wealth and become somewhat tony, but for ways that were dark and for tricks that were vain he continued to be peculiar. When it came to a showdown he always produced the winning card.
Having played all night, we were invited by Ah Sin to participate in the celebration of Chinese N ew Year, always a great day on that portion of Deadwood’s lower Main Street designated as Chinatown. The day was ushered in by setting off firecrackers, bombs and other explosives. Joss sticks, candles and lamps were kept burning all day and a general air of festivity kept up. Dressed up in their store clothes the Chinamen made calls on one another and had a good time generally. They insisted I eat some of the strange concoctions that had been prepared for their feast.
On the afternoon of May 17 a rain began that increased steadily in volume. It melted the snow that had been lingering on the mountain tops and the waters came rushing down, in rivulets at first, then in torrents. The mayor and marshal soon were out with whatever force they could procure endeavoring to clean out the channel of the gulch as it ran higgledy-piggledy through the town. The stream of water that normally flowed through the gulch was so insignificant that its original channel had been pushed around somewhat to make room for buildings and in many instances buildings were directly over the stream.
About four o’clock in the afternoon, Mr. Warner told us Dan Rathbun had telephoned from the Ten-Mile ranch on the Whitewood saying the snow was all leaving the mountains; the water was higher than he had ever seen · it before and the citizens of Deadwood should prepare for a great flood that was coming. Shortly after this the Lee Street bridge began caving in, as did Sam Cushman’s building next to it. The old Oyster Bay House began settling and we were in for it.
In an effort to prevent the Cushman building damming up the channel, the fire companies were ordered out as a precaution before a Negro saturated the building with coal oil and set fire to it. As the fire~en prepared to attach their hose, several of them started to run across the sidewalk in front of the Oyster Bay House where the water was not less than twelve feet deep and running with extreme velocity through and over the bridge. Two men fell in, one of whom I recognized as Will Warner, son of the proprietor of the Times. My heart ceased to beat for a moment for it seemed no man could live in that maelstrom. Then I plunged in after him. His leg was injured as we were swept through the bridge, but we soon came up on the other side and I assisted him to shore. The other man, an engineer for the Homestake mine, received a slight cut on his forehead, but otherwise was all right. At this point, the Cushman building, ablaze all over, sank into the stream and disappeared.
Now the streets were thronged with a dense crowd anxious to see what was going on and by their very numbers retarding the work of the firemen and others trying to prepare against the onslaught of the flood. Word came that Forest Hill and Ingleside had been greatly damaged by caveins and that Cleveland was being swept by floodwaters.
At Sherman and Wall streets the water was knee-deep in the streets as nightfall found Seth Bullock directing a large force of men in building a levee.
The “female seminaries” that were so numerously located in that part of the city were found to be in a state of great confusion. The male friends of the lady “students” were removing the effects of the girls—here a man with a trunk, there a half-dozen men carrying a piano through water waist deep. A bawd cursing’ all and sundry in an effort to bring help in rescuing her parrot-and that villainous bird all the while keeping up an infernally raucous din. Chinamen carrying lamps and shouting “God damn Melican weather!”
The cellars along Main Street were flooded and all hands were engaged “in carrying material to higher locations. I carried out most of the contents of a millinery shop, which I deposited on the imposing stones and type racks of the Times, making worse the confusion in that place.
Tom Manning’s two-story livery stable started for the Gulf of Mexico; then Harris Franklin’s stable on Sherman Street quietly rose and sailed away. The Oyster Bay House followed. The bridge across the creek to the Northwesterp Stage Company’s steps went and next the bridges at Pine and Deadwood streets, severing all communication between the two parts of the city.
Every time a citizen was hauled out of the flood, all near by repaired to one of the many saloons that lined Main Street to take a drink—usually at the expense of the rescued person.
Porter Warner scouted about and obtained some patent insides that had been printed for the recently defunct Democrat. We went to press. On the outside we were the Times, but on the inside we were the Democrat.
While I, with astounding lack of foresight, was littering up the Times with feminine headgear, “Crazy Horse” and other printers had carried saloon goods to the composing room of the Pioneer. The latter office had been partially flooded, but not enough to in anywise harm the saloon stock. When the Pioneer printers had disposed of their salvage, they couldn’t get out a paper for two days.
As soon as transportation facilities were obtainable, I took a stage coach, Cheyenne bound, and the driver regaled me with yams of the wild and woolly days of a few years before. We passed Whoop-Up Station and Jenny’s Stockade, following the winding trail along Old Woman’s Creek until we carne to Hat Creek. “Down yere at Robbers’ Roost,” the driver was saying, “is where Boone May and John Zimmerman, shotgun messengers, battled road agents. May killed Frank Towle and when he got to Cheyenne learned there was a reward of several thousand dollars. He carne back, cut off Towle’s head and carried it in a gunnysack all the way to Cheyenne, but they screwed him out of the reward, somehow.” We passed Chugwater, and Lodge Pole, and rolled into Cheyenne, where the stage stopped at the Inter-Ocean Hotel.
CHAPTER ELEVEN Santa Claus of the Rockies
Cheyenne was a disappointment in that it was not as lively as I had expected it would be. When the soldiers came in on pay day from near-by Fort D. A. Russell there might be a little heightening of the activities in that district called “Little Chicago,” and especially would this be true if there were a liberal admixture of Wyoming cowboys in town to whoop it up.
The two newspapers, the Sun and the Leader, had hardly enough extra work to keep me going, and, too, there were other subs in town with whom the extra work had to be shared. Therefore much of my time was spent in the saloon of Colonel Luke Murrin on Seventeenth Street and in that of West Moyer, though the favorite saloon for a tramp printer flying light for dough was Jake Esselborn’s Pioneer, where the free lunch was excellent. Here I met and swapped yams with Cy Houser, sometimes known as “Leadville Cy,” and “Kid” George Woods, also a Leadville printer. When they said they were going back to take another look at that rowdy silver camp and invited me to go along, I saw no reason to refuse, for
Capitalist, criminal, tenderfoot, tramp
All drifted in to the silver camp.
Perched at more than ten thousand feet, opposite Colorado’s. highest peak, Mount Elbert, on one side of the wide Arkansas River valley, Leadville’s was one of the most beautiful settings in America. Next to Elbert, Mount Massive rose to thirteen thousand feet. To the east were the gray cliffs of the Saguache, the Sheridan and theMosquito. To the north were the Blue Mountains. The town lay in an elevated basin, between the main range of the Rockies and a parallel spur known as the Mosquito Range, with the broad valley of the Arkansas River running midway between them.
The first newspaper in Leadville had been the Reveille, the equipment for which was brought in by R. S. Allen, the proprietor, over rough mountain roads, by wagon and pack animals. At that time, 1878, copies of the paper had been eagerly bought by news-hungry miners at ten cents a copy. At that, the paper lasted only two years .. Contributing to its early demise might have been the coming of the Chronicle, the Herald and the Democrat. In the fall of 1879, three enterprising printers, all employed on the Denver Tribune, looked to Leadville and decided it offered a rich field for budding journalists. They were James Burnell, C. C. Davis and John Arkins. They started the Leadville Chronicle with equipment which they had purchased in St. Louis, shipped by rail to Canon City, thence by team to Leadville, the freight costing more than the equipment. Soon after, Burnell sold his one-third interest in the newspaper and got rich in mining deals. Arkins went back to the Denver newspapers and acquired a comfortable fortune; while Davis stayed and made his fortune with the newspaper in Leadville.
In 1879, also, the Herald was established. This morning newspaper was owned by several of Leadville’s capitalists and managed by Billy Bush, manager of the Clarendon. Hotel, and right-hand man of H. A. W. Tabor. The following year, John M. Barrett, editor of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, interested the owner of that paper, W. A. H. Loveland, in forming a stock company to launch the Leadville Democrat.
Leadville was said to have been founded in 1877, but had its predecessor in California Gulch, sometimes known as “Boughtown,” which dated back to 1860, when ten thousand persons flocked to the Arkansas and washed out more than eight million dollars in gold. “Boughtown” had been one long street, with very few houses, the miners living in wickiups, which they abandoned in winter, going back to Denver. Gold dust served for money in that lively settlement, and every merchant, gambler and saloonkeeper had his scale for weighing it. When the pay dirt began to get thin, the population drifted on, not forgetting first to raze the old log gambling hall and pan out two thousand dollars in dust that had sifted through the floor.
The thing that perhaps most of all had discouraged the miners was a heavy sand that interfered with the proper settling of the gold; sand so abundant that it clogged the riffles. This heavy sand was the carbonate of lead upon which the prosperity of Leadville later was built.
When the value of the carbonates was established. a motley crew poured into Leadville, and the joints along State Street catered to drunken miners and the depraved population. The cyprians were early on the ground, and in the lower part of the town, near California Gulch, established a district where the painted filles in their gailycolored Mother Hubbards were well advertised and are still heard about. This row of little shacks in the lower end of town—they were called “shotgun” houses—was built flush to the sidewalk and with no room ‘between them. The bedizened denizens would all but kidnap any passing male. Early Leadville was rather proud of this district which it called “the row.”
In those days Leadville’s saloons, restaurants and gambling houses seldom closed, and brass bands and orchestras blared from a score of dance halls. The Grand Union, the Coliseum, the Olympic, the Belle Union, the Canterbury, the Chestnut. the Carbonate, the Little Globe and the Comique, masquerading as theaters, were packed every night.
By the time of my arrival in 1883, Leadville was able to boast of bigger, better, more vicious places and more of them, It then had a district, which in vice and corruption far surpassed the old district. The lower end of Harrison\ Avenue and State Street and other streets near the gulch, were lined with saloons, gambling houses, dance halls. variety theaters and the cribs of frail sirens.
Fighting. dancing, drinking and general tumult were the accepted thing along State Street. Some of these places were the Texas House, where Mont Duggan, alderman, was shot and killed; the Opera House Club, Louis Mitchell’s and the Board of Trade. The uptown parlor houses, such as Mollie May’s, Frankie Page’s, Mollie Price’s and Sallie Purple’s, were usually two-story houses, brilliantly lighted at night and catering to the gentlemen who were inclined to be more extravagant than those who visited “the row. ”
One of the best known and largest places on State was that of Pop Wyman, the activities of which were divided into four classifications; gambling, drinking, dancing, and harlotry. Every game of chance known to the fraternity was going full blast-—faro, keno, roulette and stud poker. Every night miners and businessmen, teamsters and tourists, bullwhackers and clerks, gathered at the long bar or around the gambling tables. The dance hall girls were in short skirts, with bare arms and shoulders, and busts partly exposed. Dancing never lagged and it was customary always to buy a drink for one’s fair partner.
One of the largest dance halls on State, a perfect den of vice, was that of Cole and Alexander, where from five hundred to fifteen hundred men would gather.
Very much to the fore in Leadville was H. A. W. Tabor, known as “Silver Dollar.” In the preceding spring he had been appointed United States senator to fill out about thirty days of a vacant senatorial term. He had seized the opportunity to obtain a White House wedding with the “blessings” of President Arthur. For this bride, his second, he had built a mansion in Denver, but still maintained extensive interests in and frequently visited Leadville. One of his interests was the Herald, into which he sank $150,000 before tiring of the newspaper game and selling the property to. C. C. Davis of the Chronicle. As a storekeeper in early-day Leadville, he had grubstaked two miners who struck it rich and thus had been started on the road to immense wealth. After that, everything he touched turned to gold. He is given credit for naming the city Leadville and was elected its first mayor. He gave the city the Tabor-Opera House, as he later gave Denver the Tabor Grand, in a magnificent gesture of lordly wealth. There are those who argue that because he drank and gambled and consorted with loose women and lost a monumental fortune that he was imbecile. He was an ordinary man, suddenly come into possession of an extraordinary fortune, and it “went to his head.” He had not been prepared for the judicious handling of such wealth. He thought he had come into possession of a magic purse. Eighteen million dollars were taken out of Leadville’s silver mines the year I was there, one million of it going into Tabor’s pockets. He lavished money on every conceivable project, too many of them unworthy, until he became known as “the Santa Claus of the Rockies.” But, unfortunately, the purse wasn’t magic and Tabor died in impecunious circumstances.
The man to whom Tabor sold the Herald, Carlyle Channing Davis, was known in Leadville as “Cad” Davis. As I mentioned before, he had been a typesetter in Denver before coming to Leadville to help establish the Chronicle. He had begun his apprenticeship as printer in 1861 in the shop of Booth & Parrott, publishers of the Eureka at Anamosa, Iowa. At eighteen, he was a veteran of the Civil War and editor of a newspaper, the Olney Record, in that region of Illinois known as “Egypt.” He later published a newspaper in St. Charles, Missouri. From there he went to the Rocky Mountain News as reporter.
Murders and holdups were common in Leadville, the town being full of various criminals, including footpads. The printers on the morning paper on their way home kept together for mutual protection from the latter gentry. The footpads met their master, however, in the person of Carl Bockhouse, a diminutive barber, who shot and killed one footpad and wounded another, the latter being caught by vigilantes and hanged. A grateful and admiring citizenry as an acknowledgment of his valor and courage presented the little barber with a gold watch and chain for which a fund of two hundred and fifty dollars had been raised.
I was holding cases on the Herald, the morning paper. Edward Cowan, a young man who a short time before had been employed on the Denver Tribune, was city editor of the Herald and as such had joined with Davis of the Chronicle in attacking the underworld element in Leadville- a particularly courageous stand in a city as notoriously tough as Leadville, where the thugs, gamblers, murderers, thieves, bunco-steerers, yeggs, confidence men, and madames of the district were such important elements, both as regards numerical strength and political power. Of\ this element was Alderman Joy, proprietor of a notoriously low dive, who by dint of a heavy fist and ready revolver retained his job for so many years he became known as the perpetual alderman. He was a heavy drinker, but drunk or sober, he would bluff or fight anyone who opposed him. Early one morning in September I was in the Board of Trade saloon when both Cowan and Joy were present and I recognized it as a combination likely to produce fireworks. I proceeded to get into a position where I could coldcock Joy at the first hostile move he made toward Cowan. I was told afterward that the political discussion suddenly flared, Joy knocked Cowan down, and while keeping the crowd at bay with a revolver, jumped up and down on Cowan’s face and stamped him with heavy boots until he was almost unrecognizable. Cowan’s life was despaired of for several weeks; and Eugene Field, who was on the Denver Tribune, wrote and printed an obituary. The reason I was told this afterward is that when I got into position to coldcock Joy I suddenly saw more stars than I had ever seen before with my eyes shut. I recovered consciousness in a ditch alongside the saloon. The fight was all over but the shouting. And I didn’t feel like shouting.
I moved on to Tin Cup, rough and ready mining town which had reached the six thousand mark, where I worked part time for the Tin Cup Banner and part time for Henry Olney on the Tin Cup Record. The town had twenty saloons and as many dance halls and gambling joints running wide open, day and night, taking the hard earned money of the miners employed at the Gold Cup and Jimmy Mack mines on Gold Hill. Gun play was frequent, several marshals died with their boots on and all in all Tin Cup was as lively a place as a young man could want. But I hankered to be on the go and my next move was toward Denver, that capital of the West.
CHAPTER TWELVE Denver and Gene Field
Denver was the mecca for two classes of men from the East—the first, and by far the largest, consisted of pioneers who sought homes for their families. These were the ones who really made the West. The second class was composed of persons who were “off-color” in the older sections of the country and found it convenient to live in the frontier settlements where the neighbors would not ask too many questions as to their antecedents. These were the colorful characters, much written about by newspapermen and others of the East, because they made “good copy.” They might have given to the West much of its popular reputation, but none of its real character.
It was inevitable that among these restless people there would be some geniuses of the erratic type who would have been journalists or who would drift into journalism as a means of livelihood and as a vehicle for expressing their individualism. For there was no denying their unmistakable individuality. The early-day newspapers of the West as a rule were crude mechanically, in this respect not differing from the early-day newspapers in any other section. In many instances their moral tone might also have been crude, which could have been charged to the fact that they were catering to a constituency which did not insist upon nice ethical distinctions or literary excellence, but only that the editor should get at once to the meat of the subject.
The first newspaper, by a margin of twenty minutes, to be printed in Denver was the Rocky Mountain News. In February, 1859, William Newton B~rsOf Omaha agreed with Dr. George C. Monell, also of Omaha, and Thomas Gibson of Fontanelle, Nebraska, that they would establish a newspaper “at the new mines” as they called the location of the present Denver. Byers had settled in Omaha about 1855, was county surveyor and a member of the first territorial legislature of Nebraska. He took an active part in laying the foundations of Omaha and Nebraska. They consulted with Harrison J. Brown, who had been the printer on Omaha’s first newspaper, the Nebraskian, published by Bird B. Chapman. He and another printer took them to an abandoned newspaper plant at near-by Bellevue and helped them load the equipment for the long journey to Denver. They also helped them unload it when it became necessary to lighten the burden in order to get through the mud-bound streets of Omaha. This was in March. They proceeded west and at Fort Kearney, a hundred and eighty-five miles from Omaha, learned that another newspaperman with a “bee gum” full of type and a press had gone through there only a few days before and was heading for Denver to establish a newspaper. Thus was a race begun. At Denver, Byers found that the other editor, Jack Merrick, a jolly man from Elwood. Kansas, had not been in a hurry to unload his material. So the race was even from there and occasioned considerable excitement among the miners, who relayed word as to the progress the employees of each paper were making. The Rocky Mountain News appeared on the street twenty minutes before Merrick’s Cherry Creek Pioneer, and Merrick, being a good sport, sold out to the News and went into mining, occasionally working at the case for the News.
The press which Merrick took to Denver had a remarkable career. It was first bought in Cincinnati, to be used in printing the Morning Star of the Mormons at Independence, Missouri. Thrown into the Missouri River by a mob in 1833, it was salvaged and used by a paper in Liberty, Missouri. In 1845 it became the first press of the St. Joseph Gazette. Merrick had been using it on the Elwood Press at Elwood, Kansas. just before setting out for Denver. After one issue of the Cherry Creek (Denver) Pioneer, it was used on the Rocky Mountain Gold Reporter and Mountain City Herald. Mountain City became a part of Central City. The press then was used on the Western Mountaineer at Golden City, then the Canon City Times; and finally, for printing the Western Mountaineer at the mining camp of Buckskin Joe. The last known issue of that paper was ‘in August, 1862, where trace of the press was lost.
Denver, when Byers arrived, was but a collection of tents, rude shanties, and corrals on Cherry Creek. The nearest United States postoffice was at Laramie, more than two hundred miles away. Byers sent a messenger there to bring back a mule-load of letters and eastern newspapers. He vigorously opposed gamblers and their allies. Several attempts had been made to bum his home and shop, causing the printers to work with revolvers buckled on and shotguns leaning against their type cases. Once the rowdies fired into the building and one of them was killed by the answering fusillade of the printers.
When I arrived in Denver, the Republican was considered a good place to show for work. So I went to see Pete McIntyre, the chairman. This paper had abandoned its kerosene lamps for gas jets with six-foot burners, which, judged by present-day standards, gave a very poor light. The Tribune had just installed in its composing room ceiling arc lights, known as carbon lights. The contact of the two pieces of carbon caused flickering and an unsteady light. There was some discussion as to which light was the better—or worse.
The Republican was dressed in nonpareil and minion, leaded with one-point leads. The classified ads were in agate. When the copy-hook was made up to start the night, all the phats on hand were placed on top. The phat included classified ads left standing, display ads, markets, and all other items that our phat man kept standing in a trough of water. If one took from the copy-hook an advertisement or a table that he did not like to undertake, he could sell it to another compositor for a bonus. Our strings were composed of dupes, as we called the duplicate proofs which the galley man pulled of each galley. We took turns on the dupes, sorting them into piles and delivering them to their owners. Then the printers would paste up their strings, covering the slug at the top of each take. If a double-priced table, he would split the dupe into two takes. The strings were put on the hook to be measured later by the foreman to see whether the printer had been too generous in using white space, sometimes discounting the printer one hundred or two hundred ems. In keeping track of his takes, the printer used a marble and the ten figure boxes, moving the marble ahead as he finished a take.
Eugene Field was then on the Tribune, where he wrote his famous Tribune Primer. He was pioneering in a form of editorial writing, the column, depending for effect upon its short, barbed paragraphs, as opposed to the older, longer, editorial which attempted to approach a subject from all angles. There still is room on the editorial page for the long editorial and the column made up of short items, but the opinion of America today is being molded by a hybrid having some of the elements of both the foregoing — the syndicated column.
At this period in his development, too, he still was perpetrating boyish pranks, his victims ranging from Bill Nye to Oscar Wilde. He was a great favorite with the typesetters and spent much of his time in the composing room joshing the printers and being joshed in return. His reputation was made after he left Denver, but that city still lays some claim to a share in his fame. Typical of the Field quips at the time was: “Colonel C. K. Cooper went swimming in the hot water pool at Manitou last Sunday afternoon, and the place was used as a skating rink in the evening.” Writing of John McCulloch’s acting, he said the great tragedian “played the king as if he was afraid somebody else would play the ace.”
Speaking of theatrical criticism: There was a printer named Sikes who had drifted into town who had a stepson named Roy Mantle. The boy was a likeable little fellow and hung around the print shop quite a bit, finally going to work as apprentice and learning the printer’s trade. One night he was given a pass to a show and wrote a criticism for the paper that received some attention. He improved with practice and became dramatic critic on one of the Denver newspapers, later going to New York, where as Burns Mantle he became the world’s premier critic and most prolific writer on subjects theatrical. And to the day ” of his death he carried a paid-up working card in the Denver Typographical Union.
Arkins and Burnell had returned from Leadville and bought into the Rocky Mountain News, which W. A. H. Loveland had purchased in 1878. Burnell afterward sold his interest, and, with money made in mining deals, was worth perhaps a half-million dollars. Which was not bad for a man who had been pegging type for a living only a few years before.
One night when “Shanty” House had put in an appearance at the Republican for panhandling purposes, it was recognized that he already was three seas over and further contributions would be wasted. He was allowed to sleep on the floor under the chairman’s frame. Ordinarily, he was inoffensive, but he resented the nickname of “Shanty” and when drinking would announce belligerently that his name was William Tecumseh House. As if by way of contrast, “Timberline” Dennison arrived in Denver that night fresh from New York. He had been working on the Herald, then located at Ann Street and Park Row, and before leaving Gotham had had an Ann Street tailor fit him out in the latest sartorial trappings. His suit was a black cutaway coat and vest, with skin-tight striped trousers; his hat was an “iron” kelly and he was wearing high shoes with pump soles. Pump soles were thin, like those on dancing pumps, and were considered de rigueur for the well-dressed young printer. Save for what wear and tear riding in a boxcar gave his raiment, “Timberline” was indeed a rival, sartorially, of Denver printerdom’s “Plug Hat” Brown.
Some of the younger set among the typesetters made whoop-te-do in Denver’s tenderloin. They might visit the Anna Gould mansion or Jennie Rogers’s house of forbidden pleasures, or the maison d’ amour of Mattie Silks, considered the “most fashionable,” or Carrie Smith’s place, which was near French Lizzie’s; or Verona Baldwin’, Madame Fay, Vesta King, or Leona de Camp. Most of these places were on Holladay Street, named in honor of Ben Holladay, stagecoach entrepreneur of an earlier day. Finally, the city council appeared to feel that Ben would no longer feel honored, and changed the name of the street.
For gambling and drinking, there would be Ed Chase’s crooked gambling hall, the Palace. Chase insured strict order by sitting in an elevated place behind the bar with a shotgun across his knees. Hired cappers could win, but the outsider never got his money down on the right color. Chase was head of the gambling ring in Denver. Then there were the Inter-Ocean, the Jockey Club, the Arcade, the Morgue, the Tivoli, the Bucket of Blood, the Chicken Coop, and Murphy’s Exchange (called the “Slaughter House”), where more shooting affrays are said to have occurred than anywhere else in Denver. One place was a dance hall and saloon kept by Lou Blonger, a heavy-set affable Canadian, who had drifted around the western mining camps a few years, finally settling in Denver as bartender, then proprietor of a saloon. Dance girls were added, then ,roulette and all kinds of gambling. He became king of Denver’s underworld and in his old age went to the pen for attempting to perpetrate some sort of swindle or other. However, I am sure it was not, as some have said, for attempting to sell the gold off the capitol dome.
“Salty” Boardman, printer, was in appearance the typical bad man of the West, with his high-crowned black hat angling on his head and wearing a long flowing necktie. He had a coal-black mustache and a cocked eye that was so badly off the beam it was impossible to tell where he was looking. He wasn’t really tough, but had all the appearances. One night when he was laying off and drinking, he tried his luck at faro and won several hundred dollars. He came up to the composing room to tell us of his luck and invite the entire force to have dinner as his guest when time was called in the morning. He had made all arrangements with a fancy and high-priced cafe. But when we showed up for the eats, “Salty’s” luck had changed and he was flat broke, with the caterer swearing vengeance. Oh, well, the chili down at the corner wasn’t bad.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN In a Provincial Capital
In the days when all newspaper copy was written by hand, and a none too legible hand at that, the story was told that “Shad” Campbell, well-known tourist printer, had a piece of copy, the hieroglyphics of which, properly deciphered, would read, “Terre Haute, Ind.” The legend runs that “Shad” wrestled with the copy a while, spat a gargantuan stream of ambeer, swore a mouthfilling oath and set in type, “Terrible Hot Indian.”
When I arrived in Terre Haute, I went immediately to the saloon of John JakIe at Fourth and Ohio streets, where it was only necessary to lay a printer’s rule on the bar to get a drink. This jovial old German, known to the printers as “Jake,” would stake a traveler to a meal ticket and a room until work could be found. He told me he never lost a cent on a tramp printer, for as soon as they got work, they would come to him, on their first pay day and repay the money advanced and in many cases pay the bill of some pal who had failed to get work. His place was known to the touring fraternity throughout the country as “JakIe Chapel.” Back of that religious-sounding appellation for a saloon is a bit of printatorial history. A chapel is a place where typesetters work, the composing room, and every printing establishment has its chapel. The word goes back to the very beginning of printing. It was unlawful for workmen to meet and discuss matters pertaining to their craft, but it was lawful to meet for religious discussion. So, when printers wanted to talk shop, they said they were having a chapel meeting and so escaped prosecution. They appointed a leader, designated as the father of the chapel, and that term, too, continued in active use until the time of which I write, when it was beginning to give way to the more prosaic term, chairman of the chapel. Thus, any place where printers met to discuss shop practices became a chapel and they certainly talked shop in “JakIe’s Chapel.”
Another hangout of the tourist printers in Terre Haute, or “The Hut,” as the roadsters knew it, was the old National Hotel on Fourth Street, North. The night clerk was Billy Nelson. a brother of John Nelson, a printer on the old Terre Haute Express. To this hotel JakIe would send the travelers when his own place was filled up and they were always treated right. Sometimes he sent them to a houseboat he owned on the near-by Wabash.
Terre Haute, which, by the way, is French, meaning high land, became the home of Eugene V. Debs, Claude Bowers, Theodore Dreiser, Paul Dresser, Daniel Voorhees, Lyman Abbott, and John Babson Lane Soule, who, in the Terre Haute Express in 1851 gave to America the phrase, “Go west, young man.” This was taken up and reiterated by Horace Greeley and ever since has been attributed to him, though he conscientiously tried to give Soule credit. Just across the river from “The Hut” was a place called Taylorville, made up of shacks built of tin and river debris, where the very poor and the outcasts lived. Some of us young tramp printers would visit the joints over there and frequently get into fights. It was fairly tough. After one particularly interesting go-around there, I moved on toward Indianapolis, being in the company of a printer named “Cigarette” Kelly.
Ordinarily, Indianapolis was avoided as it was a rather low-rate town. We found it an unpretentious sort of place, made up in the main of a pretty strait-laced citizenry. The downtown stores were open until nine at night and an hour later the streets would be deserted.
The pickings were not overly generous at the News, an afternoon paper, where E. H. Perkins was the foreman. Afternoon newspapers were never much patronized by the knights of the road. Cal Devine, foreman at the Journal, gave us the brush-off, so we repaired to the Sentinel, where Frank L. Gates was foreman. This paper was the haven of refuge for the itinerant printer in Indianapolis. None was too nondescript to find sanctuary there, although Gates himself was the last word in sartorial perfection, with his silk topper, cutaway coat, tan gloves and gold-headed cane. We were both handed rules and put to work.
A young reporter there was Harry S. New, lightsome and gregarious and loved by all who labored in the composing room, a strong contrast to his father, John C. New, dour owner of the Journal and a big man in Republican politics. Young Harry in later years succeeded to his father’s place on the Journal and became even a bigger man in Republican politics—but never too big to remain on speaking terms with the printers of his acquaintance and oftentimes he would slip one the price of a meal. After nearly half a century, he wrote:
“Those were the great days. What the railroad and barbed wire has done for the cowboy, the typesetting machine has done for the old time printer. The ‘jour’ printer of my early association was as distinctive an American character as could be found. Neither the cowboy of the West, nor the lumberjack of the North, was more certainly a type of American development than was the itinerant printer. There were so many of them that the appearance of the crew in the composing room in any of the larger offices changed with kaleidoscopic frequency. They carne from everywhere and nowhere—wafted in on a friendly breeze, to be as certainly wafted out on another after a brief sojourn as a sub. They certainly possessed the wandering foot and carne and went with the most cheerful disregard of direction or destination. Many of them were known from Boston to San Francisco; from St. Paul to New Orleans. Any town was home. The only ties that were recognized were those that bound them to the trade, and the only certain and indispensable possession was the journeyman’s card. Everywhere they had acquaintances—friends. I can remember many of them who made their appearance from time to time at irregular periods, corning from nowhere and headed for the same place. Carefree and careless, prone to make too equal a division of time between the cases and the ‘Dutchman’s.’ They were days of camaraderie and good fellowship.”
A number of printers stayed at a printers’ boarding house in Kentucky Avenue, the name of the proprietress escaping me. When lunch time was called on the Sentinel, however, the crew gathered around the stone where a meal would have been set by employees of Lee Hanshaw’s restaurant in West Washington Street, a half block west of Illinois. This place was known far and wide to members of the craft and much type was “set” in Hanshaw’s restaurant while the printers got their cakes and coffee. Kershner’s restaurant performed a similar service for Journal employees.
When I was in Indianapolis, 1884, Gilmore’s zoo was in North Mississippi Street, across from the State House. It was a burlesque house with a bar attachment-something on the free and easy order, a place pretty well patronized by hoi polloi—which included me.
One of the better class saloons was the House of Lords on West Washington. Then there was Pat Welsh’s bar on the south side of Washington Street between Illinois and Meridian; and Bird’s Point, at Illinois Street and Indiana Avenue, which were frequented by the typographers. There were other places, too, that arrested the attention of those who juggled the silent little messengers of thought, such as the Corn Exchange and the saloons of Henry Smith, Charley Lauer, John Weichlacher, and Sam Dinnin. To say nothing of Doc Zap£’ s Washington Hall, where the thirsty printer could get a drink and playa game of cocked hat. Saturday nights Charley Polster’s bar at the Yellow bridge, where the canal crossed Indiana Avenue, was one of the ports of entry, for Polster set a Saturday-night lunch which none tried to resist.
Reichwein’s hall, Parnell hall and the National were dance halls with bars in the far end where beer was sold and one could feel sure that around midnight things would be enlivened by a fist fight or two.
Illinois Street was known chiefly for the one block running north from Washington Street to Market Street. This was known as the levee. On the east side at Court, which really was an alley, was a saloon and gambling place run by Cap Stewart. This was a place of the better sort and had been in existence a long time. The Iron Door, another gambling place, was a few doors up the street. Across the street in the old Windsor Block, Chapin and Gore had a saloon and gambling house. A few doors to the south of this was the old St. Charles Hotel, which with the old Bates House, corner of Illinois and Market, formed a part of the unit for years locally called the levee.
Queen Mab’s place was located in North New Jersey Street at the corner of Court. She was fat and forty and not over fair. Her place was one of the “better grade” parlor houses. In the same category, but less obtrusive, was Kate Denton’s in South New Jersey at Pearl. Long Branch had been established so long that it was legendary, and where it got such a name for the kind of place it was, I never learned. It was at the corn~r of Missouri and West Market, a block from the State House, and there were rumors that during sessions of the legislature the place, under the management of Lou Burton, did a thriving business.
Berry R. Sulgrove was a member of the News staff whose manuscript was famous among western printers who encountered it at Cincinnati, Chicago and Indianapolis. He wrote for various papers under the pseudonym of Timothy Tugmutton. He had been an early-day editor of the Journal, later joining the News and staying with that paper until his death in 1890. He wrote copy on the backs of old election tickets, scraps of programs, and bits of paper that he picked up, but never on a clean sheet of paper provided for that purpose. The News printers told me that his writing was microscopic but legible and that he could write a half-column editorial on the back of an envelope.
Sam D. Leffingwell was publishing Our Organette, the semi-official organ of the International Typographical Union. He was a type of printer not met with every day. He had been a soldier in the Mexican War and a major in the Civil War. He had a vocabulary of cuss words that would have put to shame a river mate or a muleteer. He had been an actor, gaining some prestige in the smaller towns for his rendition of the classics. He was well read and had the faculty to put his thoughts on paper. I gained the impression that it was he who drew the numbers at the Cincinnati convention of the National Typographical Union when the locals first were given numbers. He was working in New York when No.6 was organized under the presidency of Horace Greeley and still had in his possession a working card bearing Greeley’s signature. He was a delegate from Indianapolis to the Terre Haute meeting in 1881 when the groundwork was laid for the organization of the Federation of Trade and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, forerunner of the American Federation of Labor. He wrote the declaration of principles that was adopted at Pittsburgh the same year and was presiding officer at the meeting of the organization the next year in Cleveland.
One of the typesetters on the Sentinel was “Colonel” A. Decatur Rose, a long, thin, elderly man who wore a chapeau somewhat akin to a stovepipe hat and smoked a corncob pipe. Like most morning papers in those days, the Sentinel composing room had a deck of cards. “Colonel” Rose generally appeared early in the afternoon to distribute his type, and being fond of the game of solitaire, before beginning distribution would get the cards and seat himself at the board to try his luck. The kibitzers would gather and offer advice, until the colonel would lay down his pipe and the cards and say: “Gentlemen, this game is called solitaire because it is played by one man.” Then he would stalk indignantly to his distribution. His popularity in the Indianapolis local was indicated by the fact that when he passed to his reward, the local typographical union hired a brass band to lead the funeral cortege.
In Cap Stewart’s one night with “Cigarette” Kelly, I met “Colonel” Hargett, a tourist printer of the old school, who could spout Shakespeare all night and not repeat a line. Being a little vexed at some delay on the part of the bartender, the colonel said, “O base Hungarian wight! wilt thou wield the spigot?” And the beer-skimmer, who had not read “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” replied, “Don’t you go calling me no wop, or I’ll wield something over your head ”
CHAPTER FOURTEEN A Red Chapter in History
The Cincinnati Commercial-Gazette, I found, was a morning seven-day paper with sixty-two regulars and perhaps thirty to thirty-five subs. The building was at Fourth and Race streets with a stairway at the rear of the Race Street side up which compositors toiled to the composing room, which was located on the fifth floor. It was necessary for the printers to climb these stairs twice a day—at noon to throw in their cases for the night’s work and in the evening when the actual composition was begun. The regulars drifted in around one o’clock in the afternoon and the subs waited to be hired.
This paper had been formed about a year before when the Commercial had been merged with the Gazette, also a morning paper, the two papers separately having been considered the leading Republican newspapers of Ohio.
Murat Halstead was the president of the company. He had joined the staff of the Commercial as a reporter in 1853, and that paper was said to have had a new birth when it fell temporarily into his hands as manager. He not only recognized news when he saw it, but had the ability to get it. All western journalism felt the effect of his systematic compilation of news and tried to follow his pattern.
The Gazette, which began in 1793 as the Northwest Centinel, was the more conservative of the two and had made great strides under the management of Richard Smith.
This merger. put the two Republican papers in a more advantageous position with regard to their chief rival. the powerful Democratic morning paper, the Enquirer, which had been known as “Ohio’s Bible” and for more than forty years had been in the control of the McLean family with John R. McLean at that time its editor.
One of the favorite hangouts of the printers was Moxey’s saloon in Nonpareil Alley, back of the Enquirer. Here, one afternoon, I was drinking with “Cincy” Jones, who, as his name implied, was a local man, but who was well known as a Missouri River Pirate. In dress, he was the typical Pirate, that is rather shabby. He told me I might get some work at Barclay’s on Vine Street, where the type for the Times-Star was being set, due to the recent fire in the composing room of that paper, with the forms carried to presses on Walnut Street. If I caught on, “Cincy” said, using one of his favorite expressions, that would be “as good as the gold.”
The Times-Star was the result of a merger four years before. The history of the Times began in 1840 in a little second-floor shop at 83 Main Street. One of its publishers then was Calvin W. Starbuck, who had established another Times as early as 1821. He was known as the fastest typesetter in the West and set most of the type for the Spirit of the Times, as the paper was called before he shortened the name to the Times in the early forties. After a number of years the paper came into the control of Charles P. Taft. who in 1880 united it with the Star.
Almost coincident with the merger of the Star and Times, James E. Scripps of Detroit, who had branched out with penny newspapers in St. Louis and Cleveland, decided to enter the Cincinnati field. The Cincinnati Penny Post, as it was at first called, was established on Home Street, which was really an alley, where it soon began to suffer from growing pains. Milton McRae was brought down from Detroit as advertising manager and thus began a long and remarkable newspaper career.
Cincinnati was a German city, its true character represented by “Over the Rhine,” which could best be seen through the bottom of an upturned beer glass.
Still, there was about the city a traditional air, a sort of lingering flavor of the cultured times before it had become so important from the commercial viewpoint. This was a flavor that went back to the time when the principal settlement was on Front Street and the chief houses were two-story frames, painted white, between Broadway and Sycamore—the old Cincinnati, with its beautiful views and rich landscapes. This flavor was reminiscent of those remarkable early-day editors, Moses Dawson, the Irishman who published the Advertiser, and Charles Hammond of the Gazette— who kept up a running fight in their newspapers but never forgot to hobnob over their toddy in a Front Street coffee house; Edward A. McLaughlin, the printer-poet; E. D. Mansfield, Miss Harriet Beecher, and Alice and Phoebe Cary. And last but not least, Stephen Foster, with memories of “Stay, Summer Breath” and “Oh, Susannah!” But that was tradition.
“Over the Rhine” was the name given the northeast section of the city which had been settled by Germans; the “Rhine” in this case being the Miami & Erie canal, which traversed the city in a southeasterly direction from Cumminsville to the Little Miami depot.
Here in the colorful beer gardens and concert halls of Vine Street the gay spirit of the city was manifest. Here were the Atlantic gardens, the Pacific gardens, Schuman’s, Weilert’s, Schickling’s, Kissel’s and the London concert hall. Here was Loewen’s gardens, on the west side of Vine, between Twelfth and Thirteenth, which became the Coliseum, a variety theater, with its big frame building running back to Bremen Street, depending more on the beer and cigars it sold than on its admission charge of ten and twenty-five cents. Here was Heuck’s, at Thirteenth and Vine, where the entrance was through the beer saloon; and Esher’s New Palace, where the audience was predominantly masculine, but having enough of the feminine to make its wine rooms and beer rooms interesting. Favorites with “Over the Rhine” crowds were such performers as Emma Carus, singer; Helen Mora, the girl with the baritone voice; Rose Sydell, May Howard, Johnny Carroll, and Weber and Fields.
There was a carefree spirit of camaraderie in those old beer gardens with their sawdust and tanbark floors; twenty-one beers for a dollar; and dancing girls in tights. Dancing, except by the professionals, was not permitted.
Farther out, there was Ohmer’s garden, or the East End garden as some called it, on the river bank at the east end of Pendleton; or John Neeb’s place at Highland and University, later to become famous as the Mecklenberg gardens.
Cincinnati disregarded the sabbath, and all manner of places kept open on that day. The town was engrossed in drinking beer and having fun. Many saloons kept open all night.
Gambling was a prevalent fever, the town being full of gamblers, tin-horn and otherwise. Gambling hells were numerous, being protected by the board of police commissioners, who extracted a weekly amount of blackmail from every gambling place. Cincinnati’s most noted gambler, “Billy” Lewis, had retired and become proprietor of one of the city’s leading hotels. “Blackie” Edwards ran an honest place, while Marshall Wooden’s large gambling place was the last to bow out under the wave of reform a couple of years later. Robert Lynn had places in both Cincinnati and Washington, while the chain principle was being employed by Torn Mead, with places on Fifth Street and on Longworth and on Vine. With the opening of the Latonia race track across the river a few months before, thoroughbred racing had been added to the list of varied amusements and the possibilities for wagering.
The city was being run by a group of politicians headed by Thomas C. Campbell. The Elm Street Club, originally for brewers and their affiliates, had become more of a political machine than a social club. At that time George Barnsdale Cox, a young man, huge physically, was interested in politics, but dabbled in real estate and owned a saloon on Central Avenue. He was just beginning to gather the threads of political destiny into his own hands. A former city councilman, he had been elected chairman of the Republican county committee.· His background was that of newsboy, bootblack, butcher boy, wagon driver, tobacco salesman and bartender. In time he came to control the Republican party of his city and the city itself; became a theatrical magnate and banker, owned a beautiful home in one of the city’s most aristocratic sections; and died, leaving an estate of three million dollars.
The new paper, the Penny Post, pitted its strength against the powerful Campbell-Cox political machine, and the controversy reached its height at about the time of my arrival in Cincinnati. The fight had spawned a spirit of lawlessness which was manifest in almost daily clashes of a minor character, but all of which might have been leading up to one of the greatest riots in the history of any American city—the Cincinnati courthouse riots.
Possibly it was because of this prevalent spirit that I failed to notice it when I heard talk of loose conduct in the affairs of the city and county; of juries being bought; of highbinders in the courts of justice. When a horse trader named Kirk who had stables in West End Alley, was killed by his employees, Joe Palmer, Negro, and a seventeen-year-old hoy named Berner, I thought it something to be expected in a town running wide open. I don’t know what there was about this particular killing that set off the fireworks in Cincinnati. The two had beaten Kirk to death with a hammer, wrapped his body in sacks and dumped it into Mill Creek at the foot of Dane in Cumminsville. Tom Campbell was attorney for the defense, and when, in the case of Berner, he obtained a manslaughter verdict and a twenty-year sentence, the reaction of the public was terrific. Still I was not interested in the mass meeting that overflowed Music Hall that night, but I was still intent upon the pleasures of Vine Street when a roaring mob swept out of Music Hall, shouting, “Let’s hang Berner!” I was swept along with thousands of other men and boys as the throng went south on Elm Street and then east into Court Street. Sheriff Mort Hawkins put up a fight. Soon police, firemen, fire apparatus and members of the mob were all mixed together. A battering ram was used on the Sycamore Street doors of the jail. Soldiers entered the Main Street side of the courthouse and came through a tunnel to the jail, as did Police Chief Reilly and a number of officers. About that time the jail door gave way with a crash and the mob poured in, but met with such a volley from the soldiers and policemen that it was forced out of the building. A seventeen-year-old boy next me slumped down. I carried him into a drug store where he died. I learned later he was the kid brother of Billy and Hank Shober, widely known typesetters and acquaintances of mine, Billy being one of the “swifts” of that period. The mob took several barrels of kerosene from a near-by warehouse, set them afire and rolled them down the jail steps. We laid planks from a fence on Sycamore to the windows of the jail and started crawling across. Other men were firing pistols into the windows of the courthouse. A patrol wagon clanged up; the driver was knocked off his seat and riddled with bullets. At a late hour, however, the law had the situation well in hand. But it was only a lull.
The next night the rioting flared with greater violence while the mob raged and roared south on Main Street and burned the courthouse. The soldiers fought gamely and in the clatter of musketry and rattle of Gatling guns, many men and boys of the mob were dropping on the street and writhing in their death agonies. They milled down Main Street and looted the gun store of William Powell, and soon the wide spaces of Court Street market were packed with men brandishing pistols and other weapons. But the soldiers, behind their barricades of barrels, tables and upended wagons. had the best of it. Ghouls, vandals and thieves began breaking windows of stores and helping themselves. I saw one fellow with a wheelbarrow full of pistols. I didn’t go for looting and soon lost interest in the whole melee, and began to be ashamed. I counted thirty-six bodies in the morgue, and some say as many as a hundred were killed. And the folly of it all was that the intended victims had been spirited out of town as soon as the rioting began.
A local newspaperman wrote: “The cloak of joviality which lighthearted Vine Street had worn so easily for many years was cast aside and she drew on the sinister rags of ferocity. Her brilliant, dazzling concert halls, her sumptuous restaurants and gilded saloons were dark and silent as thousands of her habitues were pushed into the seething cauldron of mob lawlessness … this night will forever be a red chapter in the history of our beloved city.”
CHAPTER FIFTEEN When the Derby Was Young
Easy-going was the word for Louisville, with its winding and old-fashioned Main Street, along which the city had been built. Its ample, flowery lawns and abundant foliage made of Louisville in the spring a beautiful city.
The older part of the city, next the river, was called Shippingport. Here the Tarascons came in the early part of the nineteenth century and established a mill at the foot of the falls. In the old tavern, which was still standing, they had entertained such personages as Blennerhassett, Aaron Burr, and General Wilkinson. A French settlement grew up around their mill, many of the houses still standing at the time of my visit in 1884, antique-looking with their long balconies and carved doors.
I arrived in the days of John Whallen, “the good boss,” who with his brother had come down from Cincinnati to become proprietor of the Buckingham burlesque theater and saloon and remained to become political overlord of the City. Barney Macauley’s theater was running legitimate and the usual variety show was being put on at the Comique on Fourth Street, which thoroughfare was Louisville’s equivalent of a white way.
I was just in time to be in on the birth of a newspaper, the Louisville Times, which was established on the first day of May by Walter N. Haldeman with Emmett Garvin Logan and E. Polk Johnson as editors. Haldeman was no stranger to the newspaper game or to Louisville. As far back as 1840, he had purchased a small newspaper called the Dime, which had been about to go under. He changed the name of the paper to the Courier and made a go of it, for more than a quarter of a century carrying on a successful fight against the older Journal, one of the most brilliant and powerful newspapers in the country under the editorship of George D. Prentice. After fighting to a standstill, the Courier and the Journal merged in 1868 as the Courier-Journal, absorbing the old Democrat at the same time. The new paper quickly became one of the greatest and wealthiest newspapers in the South.
This deal was engineered by the then young Henry Watterson, who had gone through the Civil War with an army press and a perambulating outfit, printing the Rebel, the most widely circulated paper in the South. After the war, he went to the Nashville Banner, and from there to join Prentice as editor of the Louisville Journal.
Watterson was the most picturesque figure in American journalism. I worked a few nights on his paper before going over to the new paper, the Times, and in that time it was my misfortune to catch a few takes of Marse Henry’s editorials. His fist was terrible. A Marse Henry editorial would be divided into as many as ten takes, so that no one printer would be unduly burdened with trying to decipher it. But there was, despite the bad chirography, a grace, a cadence, a mastery of style, and such infinite charm in his writing, that it has been described as “oratory set to music.” The Courier-Journal was compelled to get along with a minimum of attention from Marse Henry, who was more interested in politics, mint juleps, and “that all-absorbing problem whether a bob-tail flush can beat a pair of deuces when the wind and the chips are in the right direction.”
Came the day of the Kentucky Derby. The races were run at the Louisville Jockey Club course. which had not as yet begun to be called the Churchill Downs. In company with “Dixie” Dunbar, another tramp printer, I was able to get out to the track in about two hours on the horsedrawn cars. A cloud of dust hung over the road, all the way to the track, caused by the vast crowd that was racetrack bound, traveling in hacks and private conveyances of every kind—carts, coaches, elegant landaus, and flashy tally-hos, the latter drawn by four horses.
The inner field was full of people, the spectators sitting or standing on top of tally-hos, wagons and other vehicles, to say nothing of the myriad wooden boxes which boys were selling for a dollar up. The field fence next the track for nearly a quarter-mile was crowded eight or ten persons deep. The lawn and grandstand were crowded, too.
In the crowd was Riley Grannan, who was achieving some reputation as a racetrack plunger. I knew his brother, Joe, a printer, and some years after this saw Riley bring Joe’s little boy into a newspaper composing room where Joe was working, and to keep the boy occupied while the brothers conversed, he gave the little chap five hundred dollars in gold pieces to play with on the composing room floor. Riley Grannan went on to fame as a plunger, becoming a partner of Tex Rickard in some of the latter’s enterprises. He died at Rawhide, Nevada, in 1908, having gone to that booming gold camp to recoup failing health and falling fortunes. He broke the faro bank run by a local saloonkeeper, then bet the fifty-two thousand dollars he had won against the saloon, and lost on the turn of a card. Three weeks later he was dead, the silent messenger having come when his fortunes were at the lowest ebb. Brother Joe made the trip to the West and took the body of Riley back home to Paris, Kentucky, where it rests in the heart of the Bluegrass. In the course of the eulogy delivered at the funeral in Rawhide, the speaker said, “I believe that when you say one is a ‘dead game sport’ you have reached the climax of human philosophy.”
It had been nine years that spring since H. P. McGrath’s chestnut colt, Aristides, had won the first Kentucky Derby. this year Bob Miles was a slight favorite, due partly to the talk that Isaac Murphy, the famous Negro jockey, had refused to ride Buchanan because of that horse’s fractious behavior at Nashville, where he had gone through rodeo tactics at the post, broke with the field, and then gone on a bolting rampage. Cottrill and Guest, owners of Buchanan, appealed to the officials of the Jockey Club, who ruled that if Murphy didn’t ride Buchanan he wouldn’t ride at all. Murphy capitulated.
“Dixie” and I each had a week’s pay from the composing room of the Times. He was all for betting on Bob Miles, but I thought I would ask Grannan, who said he “liked” Buchanan, so I bet fifteen dollars, all I had, on that handsome chestnut colt, with Murphy, black as the ace of spades, up; but I didn’t like the confident air of McLaughlin astride Bob Miles as they paraded past the post, followed by Loftin, Audrain, The Admiral, Powhattan III, Exploit and Boreas.
After two or three tries, the starter’s flag swept down and they were off to a pretty start, Bob Miles in front and Buchanan far in the ruck. The Admiral bolted and was two lengths in front of Loftin as they passed the stand, holding the lead at the quarter with Bob Miles coming up. The story was the same at the half, with Buchanan lagging. Then Loftin took the lead as The Admiral blew up, and Bob Miles was second for an instant, yielding that place to Buchanan, and how that black boy was riding! He was all rhythm on a horse, the cleanest rider I ever saw. The boys all rode their horses sitting straight up, the forward crouch not having been brought out as yet by the kid from Kokomo, Tad Sloan. As they came into the stretch, Buchanan started to run out and my heart was in my mouth, but Murphy straightened him out and he came away, winning by a length and a half over Loftin, with Audrain and Bob Miles next in order. Buchanan’s time for the mile and a half was 2:40, paying three to one.
Murphy won the Derby twice again, in 1890 and 1891, on Riley and Kingman respectively, a record never beaten, and equaled only by Earl Sande. The black boy made a strong bid for another win in 1889 on Proctor Knott, but was beaten by Spokane with Kiley up.
Having a fine bank roll, what with my winnings, . we decided to see Atlanta, and as we struck out through the Bluegrass country, “Dixie,” who had been a tramp printer before I was born, and a soldier in the Confederate army, related an incident that happened shortly after the Civil War, when he got off a boat at Helena, Arkansas, and started through the hinterlands of that rambunctious commonwealth. This is “Dixie’s” story:
“I was hitting the blind baggage when a brakie put me off at a God-forsaken station. A native told me if I would follow the trail, I would come to the town about a halfmile away, which I did, and slept that night in the shack that housed the newspaper. Next morning the editor appeared and gave me the customary coin for breakfast, after which meal I came back to set type. The equipment consisted of a big shelf covered with assorted sizes of old wood type, three cases of display, and a rack of long primer. This, plus a dilapidated stone and two composing sticks, was the plant, so far as I could see.
“So I picked a piece of scrawled copy off a spindle, pulled the stool up to the long primer case and started getting out the paper. I set a stickful arid began looking around for a galley, but there was none. I asked what to do, and without batting an eye, the editor told me to ‘jest tie it up and hang it on a nail.’ I went to the back end of the shack, and sure enough, there was a whole row of spikes along the two sides of the shack. I tied up the stickful of type, made a little loop in the loose end of the string and hung it up on the wall.
“Well, sir, I had been pegging type there three or four days before I asked the old man when he went to press. He told me, ‘Whenever you get all the nails filled.’ In all my wanderings I never encountered a more sure-fire method of telling when you had enough type to fill a paper. Incidentally, a glance at the empty nails indicated that press day might he soon. However, it suddenly dawned on me that there wasn’t a damned thing in the place resembling a press, not even a Washington hand press. I puzzled about that the rest of the afternoon. I had filled the last nail when the old man came in, and I asked him about going to press. He told me to make up the paper and that he would tend to the press work. He handed me a couple of old six-column chases, which I laid up on the stone. Then he told me I would find the masthead back under the stove and to just start at the upper left corner of the first page with the type from the first nail and just go right on around the nails until the first page filled up. He would be back to help me with the press work.
“I followed instructions, undoubtedly the simplest makeup system ever devised, and pretty soon I had a first page locked up; a solid mass of long primer, with an occasional dash to show where the subject changed, and four lines left over to start page two. The old man, who had returned, picked up the form and said he would put it on the press. I followed, as I was getting plumb curious about that press. There was a contraption on the outside of the back door that I had seen but had never-thought of in connection with a printing press. It was made of two thick slabs of wood, about two feet square, one fastened up against the wall, the other in front and hinged to the floor so it could he lowered flat, then raised upright and fastened in that position with a heavy cast iron clamp at the top. He let down the front slab of wood, set the type form upright against the back slab, held a piece of news print in front of the form and pulled the front slab up against it, locking it all together with the big clamp.
“I was beginning to get the idea. It was something like a vertical Washington hand press, but there was no screw apparatus on the thing, just a form of type between two slabs of wood. I hadn’t long to wait. As the editor got the contraption set, he emitted a shrill whistle and here came bounding the biggest buck sheep I had ever seen. The old man said, ‘Okay, Buck,’ and the sheep’s head struck the press with enough force to shake the whole building. After which he pranced away, while the editor pulled off the printed sheet and reached for the ink brayer. “As I gazed out into the yard at the retreating form of Buck, I noticed several goats of varying size, and felt it incumbent upon me to pass some complimentary remark concerning the nice collection of goats.
“‘Yep,’ the old man assented, as he stepped to one side before giving Buck another go-ahead signal, ‘but most of them. I don’t use very much. Don’t get much job work around here, but when I do, Buck’s a mite heavy for light forms such as dodgers and bill heads’.”
CHAPTER SIXTEEN Prophet of the Promised Land
Ever enthusiastic about playing ball, the Cherokees of Georgia were never quite able to match skill with the Creeks, but had the courage to wager their wampum without stint. After a particularly disastrous series of ball games with the Creeks, the Cherokees had left only Standing Peachtree Village, which the government took over in 1813 to build a fort overlooking the Chattahoochee. From there, Peachtree Road angled off to a place not far away where it met and combined with two other main-traveled roads to form the “Five Points,” the hub around which grew, under various names, the city of Atlanta. Covered wagons of settlers swarmed in over the Peachtree Road, the Stone Mountain Road, and the Sandtown Trail to leave, in passing, their modicum of red-clay dust and an increment of residents to form the village of Whitehall, which name was changed to Marthasville to honor the young and comely daughter of a governor. Then the Western & Atlantic Railroad became interested in the development of the town and it had another change of name, becoming Atlanta, and there was heard in the land lithe clang of locomotive bells and the hoarse “voices of whistles, the clattering of wagons over rutted roads, the bawling of teamsters and laborers, and the carousing of gamblers. ” To house the laborers and floaters there grew up on the outskirts of Atlanta three disreputable sections called Snake Nation, Slab Town and Murrell’s Row, the latter named for a famous outlaw of the Natchez Trace. Atlanta became a rootin’ tootin’ frontier town with gambling day and night, cock fighting, brawling and shooting, and a saloon for each fifty of its thirsty inhabitants. Then came the inevitable showdown between the Rowdy Party and the Moral Party, accompanied by armed clashes, after which the victorious Moral Party loaded the rowdies and prostitutes into wagons and sent them out of town “never to return.”
At the time of my arrival, Atlanta’s most disreputable place was the old Beaver Slide on Ivy Street, an entire block of dilapidated houses which the health authorities had ordered torn down. The owner, who was waxing fat on the rentals, bluntly defied the order, after which the authorities warned the occupants, poured oil on the “Slide,” and set it afire. There also were the gambling dives, saloons, rowdy eating houses and bagnios that ran for several blocks along Decatur Street from the “Five Points,” being given the name of “Rusty Row.” Less vicious, but just as interesting, was “Humbug Square,” bounded by Whitehall, Pryor, Alabama and the railroad tracks. This was the scene of circuses, high-pitch men, medicine shows, itinerant vendors, auctioneers, fortune tellers and soap-box orators. The flare of kerosene torches was an every-night affair on “Humbug Square. ”
As if the “Square” couldn’t furnish enough entertainment or excitement for anyone, there was the visit of John L. Sullivan to the De Give Opera House, where he was hissed for giving a puny performance; the introduction of professional baseball in the city; the first long distance phone call; the Jenny Rose mystery slaying on Ezzard Street; the walking match in a warehouse at Hunter and Forsyth, the particIpants being reporters from the Constitution and the Journal. Then there were trips to the Ponce de Leon Springs, several miles out from the center of the town, reached by horse cars, where there were various amusements. The place now is covered by the huge building of a mail order concern and near by is the baseball field of the Crackers.
Upon my arrival, I went to see James G. Woodward, a popular and well known printer, who worked on the Constitution, afterwards appointed state deputy organizer by Mark L. Crawford, president of the International Typographical Union. Woodward was interested in Atlanta politics, being a candidate for councilman from the third ward, to which office he was elected, later becoming mayor.
Nearly all the newspapers and print shops were located on Alabama or Broad streets. This would have included the job shop owned by Cornelius W. Hanleiter, who had compiled and printed several directories of the city of Atlanta, was a famous Knight of Jericho, a temperance leader, and would always hang out an American flag over his place of business. He was an Atlanta historian of note, but in that year of grace, 1884, probably did not think it of any importance that in the preceding year a finely educated young lawyer, occupying a second-story room in a near-by building, had grown weary of sitting in his office, reading law books and magazines and growing poorer each day and had departed for other fields. He had made application for admission to practice in the federal court, but had never put up the fee, perhaps due to his impecunious circumstances. Atlantans called Woodrow Wilson a dreamer and the world confirmed the judgment. But what magnificent dreams!
The Atlanta Constitution was located on Broad Street, near the bridge over the railroad. It was of the older type of journalistic structure, being a three-story building with a twenty-four foot front, but only sixty feet long. The paper had been born in a storeroom on Alabama Street, a long room having a skylight and with the printers’ cases arranged along the wall on either side. It was in the Broad Street building, however, that the paper had its growth and a new home became necessary. This was in the process of being built at the corner of Alabama and Forsyth, the Broad Street building being sold to help finance the new structure.
Eight years before, Captain Evan P. Howell, lawyer and former city editor of the old Intelligencer, had joined his brother Albert in acquiring a one-half interest in the paper and had the dominating influence in its publication. At the time of my visit, his son, Clark Howell, twenty-six, had returned to Atlanta from an apprenticeship in newspapering in New York and Philadelphia to become night editor of the paper. His son, Major Clark Howell, is the present publisher of the Constitution.
It was a six-column paper, issued six days a week, skipping the Monday edition. During the week it would be an eight-page paper, going to fourteen or more pages on Sunday, considered a pretty good paper in those days.
There was a friendly feeling between the printers of the Constitution and the members of the news staff, a feeling engendered by the fact that some of the staff had been typesetters before becoming journalists. In this class was Bill Arp (Major Charles H. Smith), who had been a country printer in the northern part of the state; and Joel Chandler Harris, who had learned the trade on the Countryman, miles from the nearest town of Eatonton, Georgia, and later earned the Georgia Press Association prize for the finest country weekly while at Forsyth, Georgia. A printer named Manry, who had lived three years in the Harris home at Forsyth, while learning the printer’s trade under Harris, told me that the future Uncle Remus had been a tall, readheaded, freckle-faced youth, who blushed when noticed by anyone, and stammered so badly that when taking the obligation as a journeyman member of the typographical union, was excused from taking the oath to save him the embarrassment. Josiah Carter, the city editor, had worked as a printer on the Herald under Henry W. Grady. In the interim, before coming to the Constitution as city editor, he had conducted a weekly newspaper at Stone Mountain, Georgia. Addison Milton Wier was one of the typesetters, being promoted the following year to the staff of the paper, and writing under the pen name of Sarge Plunkett. His son, William S. Wier, was a twelve-year-old proof runner in the composing room. Other writers on the paper that year were Betsy Hamilton, Sam W. Small, Rev. T. DeWitt Talmadge, Wallace P. Reed, W. A. Hemphill, E. C. Bruffy, C. T. Logan and P. J. Moran.
Henry W. Grady had made his advent onto the Constitution with the passing of his own Herald. As early as 1875 the two papers had been chief rivals for dominancy in the Atlanta area, although there were several other papers in the city. Both were morning papers, fighting for circulation in the middle and southern parts of the state, a territory served only by the Macon & Western Railroad. As the M. & W. had no morning train to Macon, each of the newspapers hired an engine daily to carry its papers to that city. The first paper to reach the engine had the right of way, and it soon became a race between the cart boys from the printing office to the depot.
Both papers were rapidly losing money, and when Robert Toombs, Georgia statesman, who had lent Grady the money to finance the Herald, saw how things were, he foreclosed and the Herald was suspended. Then Captain Howell did a magnanimous thing. He hired Grady and Joel Chandler Harris to work for him on the Constitution. Then Cyrus W. Field lent Grady twenty thousand dollars with which to purchase a one-fourth interest in the paper. Grady’s influence immediately began to be manifest. Soon there were correspondents at every cross roads in the state as well as in all the principal cities of the South.
Grady was a prohibitionist, and Howell was anti-prohibitionist. At this time, each might have had an editorial in their paper setting forth his views on the liquor problem. They even ridiculed each other in these editorials; and went up and down the state together, making stump speeches in defense of and attacking liquor-and each other. But it all was friendly debating.
Both, of course, were interested in the election of Grover Cleveland as president of the United States. That fall, as the campaign progressed, crowds came to watch the bulletins in the window of the Constitution. One morning in November when it had become apparent that Cleveland was elected, a joyous party led by Howell and Grady went from the Constitution to Marietta Street in a giant procession that kept growing larger each step of the way. A band was brought up and the march through town was hilarious and exultant. The crowd carried a huge can of red paint, the contents of which were lavishly applied to sidewalks and prominent places along the line of march. When the procession got to Marietta Street, it quite naturally gravitated to the old opera house where the legislature was meeting. Leading the celebrators to the door of the hall, Grady marched into the main aisle and shouted: “Mr. Speaker, a message from the American people!”
Colonel Lucius Lamar of Pulaski, with his long hair falling over his shoulders and his bearing magnificent, was presiding. Catching the spirit of the invasion of the dignified assembly by the happy crowd, Colonel Lamar said: “Let it be received.”
Grady went to the speaker’s stand, wrested the gavel from the speaker’s hands and announced: “In the name of God and the American people, I declare this house adjourned to celebrate the election of Grover Cleveland, the first Democratic president in twenty-four years.” The legislature adjourned. Grady said afterward that he and Oliver Cromwell were the only persons ever to have dissolved a legislative body in such a manner. He certainly was the gentle and well-loved leader.
Grady was urging his people of the South to accept the situation that had been brought about because of the war and to make the best of it. He was not a dreamer, but a realist, really of the go-getter type, but of such a kindly, amiable disposition that he had but to ask and it was given. He accomplished things seemingly without effort. He could say who should or should not be governor or United States senator without there being any hint of his being a political boss. He was unknown in the North at that time, but shortly after his fame spread rapidly because of his oratory, which was described, and aptly so, by a northern newspaperman as /(a cannonball in full flight, fringed with flowers.” When he died, five years later, not yet forty years old, one speaker said: “Henry Grady stood as a prophet on the verge of the promised land, bidding the Southland leave the desert of Reconstruction, of gloom and poverty behind it, and to enter with hope, and courage, and cheerfulness the rich inheritance that the future holds in store for us; and wherever truth, and courage, and unselfish performance of duty are appreciated, there will his name find an honored place on the roll of our country’s great names.”
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN The City That Care Forgot
Camp Street seemed to have had such an attraction for newspapers that all the English-speaking dailies published-in New Orleans were printed there, in one short block between Cravier and Natchez streets, the thoroughfare having been given the nickname, “newspaper row.” Here were the homes of the Times-Democrat; the Daily States, the Item, the Delta, and the Picayune, the latter being the only one of the group that had been in business before the Civil War. The venerable Bee, however, antedated the Picayune by ten years and was the oldest paper in the city, being published in French under the title, “L’Abeille de la Nouvelle-Orleans.”
The war had left a heavy impress on the newspapers, and the city, too, for that matter, what with the carpetbaggers, who came to rule the place for more than a decade after the close of the war until a popular uprising threw them out. This happened in 1877, and by the time of my arrival seven years later the affairs of the city and the newspapers were on the mend.
This was particularly true of the Picayune, which was making progress under the ownership of Mrs. George Nicholson, who had inherited it ten years before, upon the death of a former husband, E. J. Holbrook. Before her marriage to Holbrook she had been well known for the poetry she had written as “Pearl Rivers.” A remarkable character, she was the first woman in the world known to have owned and edited a metropolitan daily, and the first woman in the South to enter journalism. She had entered upon this career under a financial handicap, due to a still unexplained quirk of fate. Mr. Holbrook had sold the Picayune to a large group of businessmen for one hundred thousand dollars in cash, buying it back a short time before his death, paying the same sum and giving twenty thousand dollars as down payment. He was believed to have been trying to tell, with his dying words, where sixty thousand dollars of his money was deposited, but death intervened and that sum of his estate was never accounted for. She was handicapped, also, by a lack of organization in the editorial end of the paper. Despite the fact that she had married George Nicholson, an employee of the paper, most dependence was placed in George Stith. foreman of the composing room, who had been the Know-Nothing mayor of the city just before the war, and who was the real editor of the paper, saying what could and what could not be printed in its columns.
Nominally given the title of city editor was W. M. Robinson, while court reporting was done by Don Jose Quintero, a Cuban, who had been a teacher at Harvard and a friend of Longfellow and Edward Everett Hale, furnishing the latter material from which he wrote “Philip Nolan’s Friends.” An editorial writer on the Picayune was a Major Burbanks, an exceedingly fat man, who in his youth had worked on Ballou’s magazine in Boston, and also had been a friend of Longfellow as well as an intimate of Whittier and Holmes.
The Picayune had been established in 1837 by George Wilkins Kendall and Francis Asbury Lumsden, who had been typesetters together on the National Intelligencer in Washington. and became famous during the Mexican War due to the exploits of Kendall as a war correspondent and feature writer. His “Texan Santa Fe Expedition” is a classic of southwestern history. Coincident with the establishment of the paper, the local typographical union, which had been established as early as 1810, went on strike to reduce the working hours from sixteen to twelve a day. A new era in southern journalism was begun by this paper which sold for a picaillon (corrupted into picayune), a small coin which would be equivalent to six and one-fourth cents.
Nothing I had so far encountered in my travels compared with New Orleans—piquant, delightful, exotic. I had not crossed any oceans, but it seemed I was in some foreign city, some lovely foreign city, where so much that was of the old French and Spanish regimes lingered to give a patina of charm and render picturesque even the sordid and degraded. The sidewalks of blue-gray flagstones were called banquettes. Hanging gracefully from the limbs of trees the long streamers of gray Spanish moss, which the Choctaws had called “tree hair” and the French had called “Spaniard’s beard.” The never-to-be-forgotten beauty of the pale-orchid blooms of glistening green plants floating on the water and known as “bayou orchids.” That older section of the city known as the Vieux Carre with its cool, secluded courts and ever-present iron grillework that had been wrought into beautiful patterns by slave labor of a forgotten era. The Spanish dagger, the palmetto palm, the banana tree, the orange tree and the magnolia.
It is no wonder that Lafcadio Hearn, that strange little world wanderer, so fell in love with New Orleans, what with his inborn love of the beautifully exotic.
He had learned enough about typesetting to make a stagger at being a compositor and proofreader for the Robert Clarke company in Cincinnati, but was temperamentally unfitted for such an exacting task. His first newspaper employment was with the Cincinnati Enquirer, where he made a reputation for “horror” reporting of local news events. Desiring to go to New Orleans, he was given a commission by Murat Halstead to act as correspondent for the Cincinnati Commercial. Under the name of “Ozias Midwinter.” Hearn wrote of the levees, the French Market, the songs, the elevated tombs, and even of ghost stories and was fired for his pains. Halstead wanted politics. Hearn was soon destitute, resorting to park benches and five-cent meals. He was taken in hand by Major William Maturin Robinson, one of the best known journalists in New Orleans, who had been a printer by trade, and was encouraged to translate “One of Cleopatra’s Nights,” which marked his beginning in literature. Robinson took Hearn over to the Item, which was being published in Natchez AIley. and introduced him to Mark Bigney, the editor, who put him to work as assistant editor at ten dollars a week. Having been an underdog all his life, Hearn wrote editorials against police extortion, child labor, gang rule, the overworking of employees, and white slavery.
The Item had been founded in 1877 by eleven out-of-work printers, banding together to at least furnish employment for themselves. Mark Bigney had been the editor from the first and when John Fairfax gained control of the paper in 1881, he kept Bigney on that job. Within a year after his employment, Hearn had changed the Item from a dry, colorless sheet to a sparkling mirror of national events, literary criticisms, reviews, poems and cartoons. The latter were discontinued when the cartoonist was shot and killed. Hearn had employed an engraver named Zennick to make the cuts for his cartoons, the engraver also doing work for the Mascotte, a disreputable sheet that lived on scandal and thrived on sensation and was edited chiefly by one Levessee. One day a tobacconist named Van Benthuse, goaded to madness by some particularly offensive article, went to the Mascotte to shoot Levessee, but being a very poor marksman, his bullet killed Zennick instead.
Hearn was not the first or only printatorial celebrity to have worked on a New Orleans newspaper. Walt Whitman had preceded him by thirty years. Little is known of those youthful days Whitman spent living the vagabond life of the tramp printer. Only his “Song of the Open Road” hints of it. Perhaps this is all for the best, for his youthful escapades smacked strongly of the Rabelaisian. There have been rumors of his fondness for the so-called weaker sex and he himself once confessed that the activities of his adolescent days were not such as should serve as a model for young men. He wrote, “My life has been jolly, bodily, and doubtless open to criticism.”
In 1848, having left the Brooklyn Eagle, he accepted a job on the New Orleans Crescent, which was then being started to oppose the Picayune. His writing tastes then were similar to those of Lafcadio Hearn later, for he wrote of the characters about town, the levee workers, the vagrants and the under scum. The distinctive style of “Leaves of Grass” was not discernible in the articles Whitman wrote in New Orleans. There was no indication that he, with Mark Twain, would lead what Lewisohn calls “that modern revolt in American letters-which swept like a cleansing wind through the wilted and withered forest of the genteel tradition.” There was, however, in his sympathy for the underprivileged of New Orleans an adumbration of the Civil War samaritan, described by Stephen Vincent Benet as
Whitman, with his sack of tobacco and comfits,
Passing along the terrible, crowded wards,
Listening, writing letters, trying to breathe
Strong life into lead-colored lips.
The conversation of the people in hotel rotundas fascinated him. In police court, an old drunkard who had sunk to the depths excited his sorrow and a faded beauty, descended to vilest degradation, found a friendly pen in his hands. He delighted to mingle in the crowds at the old French market and to wander along the levees. He wrote of sailors, shopkeepers, stevedores, newsboys, clerks, and the catfish man. He came to the conclusion that “New Orleans was a great place and no mistake.” Many persons have “seconded the motion.”
I agreed with Whitman in his appraisal of the city, rather than sharing the ambivalent attitude of Hearn, who wrote, “This accursed city … I love it.”
Hearn dedicated his first book, “Chita,” to his good friend, Page M. Baker, managing editor of the Times-Democrat. This paper, a merger of the prosperous Democrat and the once brilliant Times, was run by Major Burke.
I became acquainted with one Newell, a printer on the Times-Democrat, whose father had befriended an old seafaring man and had been given a map to show where Lafitte had buried his golden doubloons. The father died, and the son devoted his whole life to the search for the gold, it becoming his only interest. Having little money, he would set type until he had earned enough to fit out an expedition, when he would go in search of the treasure. But alas, the winds and the tides were so constantly shifting the sandy islands that he could never be sure which one his chart called for. He asked me to join him on one of these expeditions, but it was too much like looking for a needle in a haystack. Half a dozen times he returned penniless to his printer’s case, saved, and left again, keeping up the search for twenty years, finally being drowned when a tropical hurricane swamped his sailboat. Don’t we all chase some sort of will o’ the wisp?
Because of its easy-going manners and its reputation as a lawless river town, New Orleans long had been a mecca for gamblers, criminals and riffraff from all over the world, who built up a side of the city probably in the mind of Colonel Creecy when he described it, in part, as: “Negroes in purple and fine linen, and slaves in rags and chains; ships, arks, steamboats, robbers, pirates, alligators; sailors, soldiers, pretty girls, and ugly fortune tellers, pimps, imps, shrimps and all sorts of-dirty fellows.”
Much of the foregoing still was in evidence in that quarter of the city known as the “Irish Channel,” where the saloons and brothels were the most boisterous and disorderly in the city, it being the locale of Corduroy Alley, once the most notorious red-light thoroughfare in America. The “Channel” was between Constance Street and the river, ·about twenty blocks above Canal. Across the river was Algiers, another rough neighborhood, originally called Slaughter House Point. Back across the river from Algiers was Gallatin Street, running parallel with the river, two blocks of sordid and ugly sin, undoubtedly the nadir of degradation in New Orleans and given over to the entertainment of sailors. Its dark alley led to darker courtyards, where tough young girls and wizened old crones invited one to go with them to the shabby rooms above.
But along Basin Street, lovely ladies with red lips invited me in. These were the mansions or parlor houses, such as Countess Willie Piazza’s, Josie Arlington’s and Lulu White’s. Along Custom· Place were the little one-story cribs, bearing such names as “French Marie” or “Chicago May.” Next the swank Arlington at Basin and Custom was the Keystone Annex, capital of commercialized vice, run by Tom Anderson, becoming the acknowledged king of the district.
Little wonder, then, that an early-day reporter on the Picayune wrote: “New Orleans is regarded as a sort of vaudeville show, where visitors put aside all ideas of business.” Certainly, in its gay abandon, it had well earned the title, “The city that care forgot.”
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN The Old lady of Arkansas
Oldest and most dignified of the Memphis newspapers was the Appeal, but at that time the Avalanche was the more progressive and better known. Besides these morning papers, there were the two afternoon papers, the Public Ledger and the Scimitar. Colonel Henry Van Pelt had founded the Appeal in 1840. The editorial heads of the paper at the time of my visit were Colonel Matt C. Gallaway and Colonel J. M. Keating. The latter was born in Ireland, where he learned the printer’s trade and by the time he was eighteen was foreman of the composing room of the Dublin World. After the revolution of 1848, he, being a member of the Young Ireland Club, was compelled to flee to America, where he became foreman of a New York newspaper, later sailing to New Orleans, thence to Baton Rouge and Nashville, where he was foreman of the Methodist Publishing House. He had been a close friend and adviser of President Johnson.
The yellow fever epidemic that six years before my arrival in Memphis had taken a toll of three thousand was still a source of conversation, particularly the heroism of Colonel Keating and a printer, Henry Moode. Victims of the fever had died at the rate of a hundred a day and coffins were stacked on the street corners while the dead wagons rumbled out the dusty road to Elmwood Cemetery all night long. Thousands had fled the city, but, alone in his office, Colonel Keating had penned: “All but one of the printers of the Appeal is now absent or down with the fever. The one remaining is Mr. Henry Moode, who, besides setting type, has to assist Mr. Richard Smith in superintending the printers’ infirmary and is consequently absent a good deal during working hours.” The two of them managed to get out a paper every day, though it was greatly reduced in size and was made up mostly of death notices and a day-to-day resume of gruesome scenes reminiscent of Defoe’s “Journal of the Plague Year.”
Despite the fact there were four newspapers in Memphis, it seemed impossible to crash any of them for a day’s work. I had been subsisting on the free lunch at Joe Mancini’s saloon on Madison Street until I felt that I had worn my welcome out. Tiring of sitting on a park bench and watching the murky Mississippi boil by, I decided to head out for Little Rock.
This was a humming river port of some fifteen thousand inhabitants. It had a rural appearance and yet assumed some city ways. The streets were unpaved and deep in mud and dust. Mule cars traversed West Markham and Main streets. In 1821, someone of a classic turn had named the place Arkopolis, but the still earlier name given it by the French trappers stuck to it. They had called the crossing of the Arkansas River at this point the Petit Rocher to distinguish it from Grand Rocher, a few miles upriver. The big rock has been forgotten, but Little Rock now is an important city.
The Arkansas Gazette, being a morning paper, naturally drew the largest share of the tourists. This paper had been established at Arkansas Post in 1819, by William E. Woodruff, a nineteen-year-old boy editor who brought the equipment to Arkansas by boat. Even as late as the time of my arrival, this veteran newspaperman could be seen on the spacious lawn of his home in the suburbs, now the site of a downtown hotel.
Cattle and hogs roved the streets and the stench of Town Branch brought comment, but little action. A disgusted legislator introduced a bill to the effect that both Markham and Main streets were navigable streams. The state capitol was a dingy-looking affair, modeled after a Greek pattern. Its wide lawn and elm trees, however, afforded a setti~g for numerous green benches, where tramps and other weary persons might rest.
I presented my traveling card to H. S. Andrews, the financial secretary of the local, at the union meeting in the old Torrant fire house. Earlier meetings had probably been held in secluded places and in secret, for any kind of organization of workmen was frowned upon during the Reconstruction days. Here, as in so many other cities, the typographical union was a pioneer.
From the rear windows of the Gazette a fine view could be had of the steamboats which still made regular trips on the Arkansas and the roustabouts could be heard as they chanted their coonjines. Much loading of cotton was done in the old Valley freight yards on the river bank. An open boxcar or a gondola in the yards sometimes proved too tempting for the traveling gentry as in the case of “Shorty” Gamble. He had a bottle concealed somewhere in the composing room and from time to time would take “three drops of the auld craythur,” each drink making him firmer in the belief that Little Rock was the least desirable spot in creation, and that wherever those boxcars in the yards below might carry him, the new location, though Hades itself, was bound to be an improvement. The old devil wanderlust kept tickling his feet until at last he made a grand sweep of the hand which held the type he was distributing, with the terse advice, “Go to your respective boxes!” With which parting admonition, he shuffled down the hill, crawled into a gondola and left Arkansas.
Little Rock was by no means a wide-open town, but a friendly game could be found here and there and near the comer of Main and Markham from at least three established gambling resorts could be heard the click of dice and the sound of the roulette wheel. These were Mike Foster’s, Ferling & Hanson’s, and Snodgrass & Bracy’s. An interesting place was Paradise Alley, which opened onto Markham adjacent to Garabaldi’s famous saloon.
East Markham was the popular location for the printing industry, being near the business district and in close proximity to the wharf. The Democrat was between Scott and Cumberland streets, while the Gazette was located at Markham and Scott. This paper was known all over the South as “the Old Lady of Arkansas” and one competitor referred to it as “the old harlot up the street.”
Opie Read was running the Arkansas Traveler. As a tramp printer, he had toured the South, finally arriving at Little Rock where he joined the typographical union and went to work as compositor on the Gazette. From the ranks of the oldtime printers many men rose to places of power and distinction; and for many years, before the school of journalism had been invented, it was the habit of editors to draft men from the composing room for duty in the front office as reporters or editors. One night the city editor was caught short of help and asked for a man from the composing room to cover an assignment. Read was sent in and his story was so readable that he was kept on regularly as a reporter and later as city editor. His was an exaggerated form of humor greatly in demand, as evidenced by the huge circulation of the Arkansas Traveler.
It was during his sojourn in Arkansas that Opie Read absorbed the atmosphere that later was to flow so delightfully into the many novels he wrote in which the locale was either Arkansas or Tennessee. No critic has ever pronounced his writings literature, but I enjoyed nearly every novel he wrote, particularly the earlier ones, such as “The Jucklins,” “The Tennessee Judge,” and “The Arkansas Planter,” which with their leisurely style were reminiscent of the conversation of Read himself and surely I have never met his equal as a conversationalist.
When I decided to leave Little Rock, I didn’t throw any type into the case in the unorthodox manner of “Shorty” Gamble, but I did swing onto a freight train that took me to Fort Smith. There I showed up on the Elevator.
Somewhere in the one-hundred-fifty miles between these two towns the charm of the Old South was lost and a strange mixture encountered. At Fort Smith the South, the Southwest and the West met and the resulting blend of characteristics was not pleasant. There was a grimness about Fort Smith. It had been established as a fort in 1817, an outpost of civilization, and in the early days was a steamboat town, which added further to the hardy, reckless element that lingered, visited; reveled and put on many a lusty fracas within its brief limits.
It was on the east bank of the Arkansas River, opposite the Indian Territory, the opening of which to railroad traffic had brought hordes of lawless and desperate criminals, the refuse of humanity, renegades’ and refugees from other states where many of them had perpetrated murders and other crimes. They now had banded together to terrify the surrounding country. It is little wonder that Fort Smith had acquired the title, lithe Swinging Doors to Hell.” The ruffians who infested lithe Nation,” as they called what is now Northeastern Oklahoma, had slain more than three-score deputy United States marshals who had ventured beyond the “swinging doors.”
One day I stepped out of the Hole-in-the-Wall saloon and saw Belle Starr, the noted female bandit, riding down wide Garrison Avenue full tilt, with deputy marshals in pursuit. When she reached the middle of the bridge over the river, she stopped briefly and patted her rump at the deputies in a gesture of defiance and contempt. They did not pursue her into the “Nation.”
Judge Isaac C. Parker, known as lithe hanging judge,” presided in the United States court in Fort Smith. I don’t know how many men he sentenced to hang in his career, but old George Maledon, the Bavarian who acted as official hangman, told me he had sprung the trap on as many as sixty-two, sometimes as many as five at a time, and had shot and killed two others who tried to escape.
I didn’t stay in Fort Smith long, but took a stage coach which would carry me to Baxter Springs, Kansas, where I could catch a train to Kansas City.
The stage coach stopped for some time at Tahlequah, the old Indian capital in “the Nation,” and there I got acquainted with a short, slight, red-haired young man with the map of Ireland all over his face. He was a printer, he said, working at a near-by huddle of huts called Muskogee. He had learned the trade in a South Carolina office and had got this far on his way to see the world. His name was Andrew J. Redmond. Two years later he joined the typographical union at Denison, Texas, and started that peripatetic career which made him one of the most famous tramp printers in America under the nickname of “Muskogee Red.” For more than half a century he saw the inside of more print shops and jails than any other man in the trade. On one occasion he burned down a jail of which he was an inmate. He sustained a broken nose when he plunged head first down three flights of iron steps in the building of the Topeka Capital. A friend once advised him that he should, when feeling the desire for strong drink coming on, eat an apple. “Who the hell,” inquired “Red,” “wants to run around with a bushel of apples on his shoulder?” He became a great friend of Jay House, writer on the Topeka Capital, mayor of that city, and in his early days himself a tramp printer. When the word came up from Oklahoma that “Muskogee Red” had been found dead with a half-empty whisky bottle in his pocket, Mr. House wrote a touching tribute for his paper in which, among other things, he said: “For forty years he fought a demon appetite that brought him nothing but misery and woe. He never had a home or reasonable assurance of a coming meal. No child . ever laid its soft face against his bearded cheek. No woman ever watched at the window or listened for his footsteps. And because there is no other to do it, the writer drops a tear on his neglected grave.” A few months later “Red” drifted into Topeka and gently reproved House for the premature obituary. “You might have known it wasn’t me,” he chided; “didn’t the report say the bottle was only half-emptied?”
The yarn I liked about “Muskogee Red” was of the time he was working in Coffeyville, Kansas, and feeling pretty low was induced by the other printers to visit a doctor . That gentleman looked the tramp printer over very carefully and said, “Mr. Redmond. you must have more ventilation in your sleeping quarters.” To which “Red” replied, ”I’m sleeping under a wagon now. What the hell do you want me to do-kick out a couple of spokes?”
CHAPTER NINETEEN Going Hob and Nob With Death
When I reached Kansas City, I found Colonel Nelson had been doing very well with the Kansas City Star, having bought the Daily Mail and its Associated Press franchise. It was another sixteen years, however, before he traded a farm for the Kansas City Times and made it the morning edition of the Star. By the combination and the issuance of a Sunday paper, the colonel was able to put out a newspaper value that was the envy of all other publishers and the despair of all competitors. Incidentally, along with that exchange, he acquired a city editor who abhorred snakes and would not let them be mentioned in the paper. It is told of him that once he had hired and fired a reporter whose work was done in an excellent manner, but who happened to have a serpent tattooed on his forearm.
In the middle eighties, the big Kansas City real estate boom was beginning. Everybody seemed to be buying lots and some of the fortunate few were making immense profits overnight, sometImes on a single transaction. Dr. Morrison Munford, owner of the Kansas City Times, was extending his real estate holdings at too rapid a rate for the good of his financial standing. When the real estate boom collapsed a few years later he was so heavily involved that he finally lost control of the Times.
Dr. Munford was tall, immaculate, his fine hair thinning noticeably, accentuating his high, intellectual forehead. I remember well his thin, effeminate voice. He had run a weekly newspaper in Tipton, Missouri, when it still was a lively place with memories of having been end of steel for the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
Charles Grasty, then managing editor of the Times, later went to Baltimore and made a name for himself. Sad to relate, neither Grasty nor Munford were friendly to the International Typographical Union, and in fact were making efforts to displace members of that union with printers belonging to the Printers Protective Fraternity, an anomoly, a union of nonunion printers, that had been formed a couple of years before in Omaha. This organization in a few years had perhaps as many as forty locals, most of them existing in cities where there already was a local of the International Typographical Union. In view of their attitude, the bosses did a strange thing in bringing John Keller from Denver to act as foreman of their composing room, for he was a stanch member of the International Typographical Union, and it was only a short time until his force was packed with members of that organization working under cover, that is keeping their union affiliations a secret from all except those who could be trusted as friends. We square men had a sign by which we knew each other. If a true brother came to my case, ostensibly to borrow sorts, and ·idly let a few lower-case “i’s” sift through his fingers, I would let some lower-case “k’s” sift through my fingers. Thus we would understand each other without need of conversation.
One night the sharp winds of early March brought into the composing room of the Times a man wearing a seer,. sucker suit and a straw hat. It was Paul Gautierre, a native of Alsace-Lorraine, just in from the bleak prairies of Kansas, where he, with one of his countrymen, had fallen for the alluring literature of the railroads, promising “free” land to settlers along their land-grant right of way. His bedraggled seersucker suit showed the ravages of the Kansas winds and sand storms. He and his partner had weathered the hardships and failures of crops for two years until their resources were entirely gone, when Paul had decided to get a job at his old trade of typesetting, leaving his partner out on the homestead, intending to send him money as it was earned. This he did for a time, but later had his partner leave the sand-blown farm and come into town. Paul made friends right away with his “ain’t-mad-at-anybody” smile and a subscription was taken up among the printers to buy him clothes more suitable to the climate. He was a good typesetter and got all the work he wanted. His education was good, his vocabulary extensive, and he spoke several languages. Being also a talented musician, it was not long until he joined the city band, of which he became the leader. But when he had saved sufficient money, and Paul was a frugal soul, he and his friend went back to France. I received a card from him, mailed in Paris, saying he hoped the Kansas homestead had blown away.
On a warm afternoon, late in May, I was with “Gig” Martin in Snavely’s, a combination saloon and variety theater frequented by printers. It was one of an almost solid line of saloons between Second and Fifth streets on the west side of Main Street, called “Battle Row.” This row was a hangout for tramps, idlers and crooks of all descriptions, and probably had more shootings, stabbings and plain fights per lineal foot per hour than any other similar section in America. In the Cartoon saloon, next door, we found the proprietor basking in the notoriety of havIng shot and killed a man the week before.
Here, too, I met an old drinking acquaintance from Denver, a tall young man in “a white sombrero, who looked like a cowboy, but really was a sign painter. He had plenty of money and an urge to spend it. “Gig” also happened to he in funds, having holed up in a small town till he saved a stake, then coming to Kansas City_ had successfully indulged his bent for playing policy. His name was Edward S. Martin, but was always called “Gig” for playing policy “gig and saddle.” He had gold coins in all his pockets and was itching to spend them. The three 0′ us went to the Vienna Gardens, at Missouri Avenue and Walnut, a leafy covert usually patronized by citizens of foreign extraction. We ordered beer, much to the disgust of Tony Caro, the proprietor, who specialized in fine imported wines. Next we went to the Goldmine Gardens at Sixth and Broadway.
From there, it was but a short hack ride to “Hell’s Half Acre,” near Ninth Street and Mulberry, where we had a few drinks in Ed Kelly’s place before having the hackman take us back around into Union Avenue to Robidoux’s saloon. That was in the heyday of the hackman, when an unsuspecting traveler asking to be taken to the Blossom House across the street from the union depot, would be taken around the block and charged one dollar.
The Blossom House was new, but already had acquired the reputation of being a second Kansas state capitol. It was located in Missouri, but was Republican headquarters for the state of Kansas when Cy Leland was the boss of that state. Many a deal was put over and some of the biggest political plots ever hatched by Kansans since the old border days were discussed and perfected in the Blossom House. The inside history of the rise and downfall, politically, of many a man can be traced to a secret conference there.
That was in the noisy, roaring days of Union Avenue, when it was considered the grafters’ paradise. The monte men were there, the green goods agents, the men who looked after the big game, and the jackals content with small pickings. Sure-thing men, pickpockets and petty gamblers infested this thoroughfare of the transients. There too, were hackmen, spielers, cappers, ballyhoo men and ticket brokers; booted cattlemen, silk-hatted confidence men, blanketed Indians, soldiers and painted women.
There, striving for attention of the motley cavalcade of humanity, was the jangle and glitter of the penny arcade, the pawn-shop windows, displaying “rolled gold” watches and other flummery, brass knuckles, revolvers, pearl handled daggers; besides second-hand shoes, overcoats and everything necessary to outfit migratory workers who thronged the numerous employment agencies with their red and yellow placards offering jobs to workers who would “ship out.”
There, the tattoo man plied his needle, and the cunning and overreaching barber lavished his complete stock of unguents, lotions, washes, powders and dyes on the face and head of the unwary customer and handed him a ticket ranging from four to fourteen dollars. The customer, who usually had to catch a train and lived many miles away, was coerced into paying.
The Blossom House, the New Albany Hotel, O’Leary’s saloon, Ross Frazier’s saloon and Macey’s restaurant with its large blue-and-white enamel signs announcing “Big meals, fifteen and twenty-five cents,” were landmarks eagerly sought when crowds from incoming trains broke, over the avenue. One gained the impression of immense movement, much of it crude, but all of it pregnant with purpose. One of those writers for the newspapers whose name must be lost in anonymity, has given this contemporaneous word-picture of what he describes as “one of the most picturesque, cosmopolitan streets of the American cities” :
“Through it the peoples of the nations have passed; past its dingy portals have drifted the conglomerate tide of immigration; against its walls have clashed the echoes of a hundred alien tongues but newly learning to shake off the paralysis of speech-stilling despotism, but newly breathing the inspiration of manhood in the bewildering immensity of an untrammeled land.
“It has been the lair of the cormorant of trade, the lurking place of the shrewd trickster, the seat of nameless, countless vices. Squalor has huddled beside riches and gilded arrogance, each spreading its lure to catch the transient who lingered between trains. Union Avenue as a commercial locality, is apart from Kansas City as completely as if water hemmed it on every hand. It lives, like a gull, on the drift of the great ocean of travel.
“Union Avenue has reviewed the invading army which has steadily marched through this distributing point to spread over the lands of the West, Northwest, and Southwest. The stolid Slav, with his bundled possessions, the wondering Norseman, the bearded Russian, the confident German, obscure tribesmen from obscure principalities of Europe—all these have been—and today are—a part of the daily show of nations on Union Avenue.”
We were eating supper in Macey’s when the painter said he intended to catch the Wabash night train to Chicago. He offered to pay our way. Buying a ticket seemed to me a waste of money, but I accepted the free trip. Not so, “Gig.” He hooted at the thought of riding the varnished cars, saying he would travel the usual way and be on hand when we stepped down to the platform in Chicago the next morning. “Gig” would never be caught with a I I turkey, ” as we called a small hand bag which some travelers used for carrying a few personal articles and a change of shirts. He would, however, when he had time, ship a small trunk containing his books, to his intended destination. Shakespeare, George Eliot, Edgar Allen Poe, Modern Eloquence, are some of his books I remember. In this case, however, he failed to send his books ahead.
I rode the train several hours with the painter, when suddenly his mood became violent, a wild gleam came into his eyes and he said “they” were after him. He drew a big revolver and fired several times down the length of the chair car. Of course, there was an exodus. Trainmen dared not attempt to overcome him, and I, alone with a maniac, managed to evade him and lock the door as I went out. The crew locked the other end of the car.
I wish it could be said he was sober and normal when he reached Chicago the next morning, but such was not the case. I learned later a posse of detectives awaited him. He climbed through a window and came down shooting. He killed a detective and was himself wounded before being captured in a near-by street.
I never learned what eventually became of him, as I had quietly hopped off the train in a little town in Illinois—quietly hopped off into the arms of a cinder dick who hauled me into police court where the beak clapped me in the clink for ten days for bumming, despite the fact that this was one of the few times when my transportation had been paid for in advance.
Much later I learned about “Gig.” That was tragedy, too. He had tried to ride the rods out of the Kansas City yards, and probably because of his fuddled condition, he missed his handhold and was dragged by the train, one leg being crushed and severed by the relentless wheels. And the legend continues to this day that gold coins that had fallen from the pockets of the luckless “Gig” were strewn from the union depot almost to the Missouri River.
CHAPTER TWENTY King of the Tramp Printers
Burlington was a river town. This simple statement in those days of the middle eighties would have had its own connotation. It would have brought up a vision of a small city sprawling along the bank of the Mississippi for several miles. It would have meant a mixture of hard work and hard living that inevitably would produce hard citizens. The heavily muscled denizens of the waterways found relief from their arduous tasks in roistering at night in the saloons and brothels that abounded along the river front.
Although the heyday of the lumber industry in Burlington had passed, there still were some lumber mills strung out toward the hills south of town and lumber rafts continued to come down the Mississippi. Some lumber boats were among the endless stream of craft, upstream and downstream, that rode the tawny flood flowing past the city. Some of the craft bore the names the Mary Morton, the Sidney, the J. G. Chapman, the Louisville, the War Eagle, the Mountain Belle, the Alfred Toll, the Kit Carson, the Bella Mac, the Isaac Staples, the Pauline, the Charlotte Boeckler, the Lumberman and the Pittsburgh.
The city at the time had two daily newspapers, the Hawk-Eye and the Gazette. The Iowa Tribune was a German sheet and had the largest circulation and the most influence among the Germans of the state of any foreign-language newspaper of the time. It was printed by Wohlwend & Sons at 212 Washington. The Gazette was printed across the street at 217 Washington; the Hawk-Eye in a slim four-story building at 322 North Main. Acres, Blackmar & Company, at 206 North Third, was the big job printing plant of the city.
At the latter place I met “Andy” Karns, who told me the local typographical union, organized the preceding February, had scored a victory over the two daily papers and that his son, “Jack” Karns, was holding cases on the Hawk-Eye. I went to this paper and had no trouble “catching on.” The paper was undergoing a shakeup in personnel as well as format. It was changing from eight small pages to four large ones. J. L. Waite was the new editor and general manager, while Louis Weinstein, regarded as one of the ablest German editors in the state, had come over from the Tribune to assume the duties of managing editor. At the Barrett House, then Burlington’s finest hotel, a farewell banquet was tendered the outgoing force, which included John W. Burdette, brother of the famous humorist and lecturer, Robert J. Burdette.
The Hawk-Eye, even in those days, had a long and interesting history as a newspaper, claiming, in its line of continuity, to have been the first paper printed in the old Wisconsin territory and therefore the first newspaper in that vast area extending north and west from Burlington, taken from Wisconsin and designated as the Iowa territory.
Its beginning had been in 1830. it was said, when James G. Edwards, a young printer, with his bride came from New York inspired with the purpose of establishing a newspaper that would IIpromote religion, crusade in the temperance cause, and sponsor the Whig party.” Edwards, when thirteen years old, had begun learning the printing trade in Boston where he had attended school with Charles Francis Adams. By the time he was fifteen, he was a typesetter in New York, and while he still was i~ his early twenties he began publication of the Courier, the first Sunday newspaper in New York City.
It was in 1829 that the twenty-seven-year-old printer and his young wife came to Jacksonville. Illinois, at the time a frontier village of six hundred people. His first paper was the Western Observer, the name of which a year later he changed to the Illinois Patriot. Moving the paper to Fort Madison, Iowa, the first issue of the Fort Madison Patriot was printed in 1838, one of the onlookers being Black Hawk, whose name was given to the war that made Abraham Lincoln famous. In less than another year, however, Edwards had taken his newspaper to Burlington where it became the Burlington Patriot. Soon after this, he had the idea of nicknaming the new commonwealth, when it should have attained statehood, “the Hawk-Eye state.” To this end. he again changed the name of his paper, it becoming the Hawk-Eye and Iowa Patriot. It finally became simply the Burlington Hawk-Eye.
Edwards became a man of some importance in national politics, a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, and denounced the war with Mexico and thumbed his nose, editorially, at the Locofoco, as he called the Democratic party. He died when the Asiatic cholera epidemic struck Burlington in 1851.
More recent prominent alumni of the newspaper, at the time of my visit there, were Frank Hatton and Robert J. Burdette. Hatton, shortly before retired as postmaster general, had gone that summer to the Chicago Daily Mail, as editor in chief. Burdette, I believe, was giving all his time to the lecture platform. He had written some for the papers between lectures, writing on the train, and the resultant manuscript was something between the Choctaw language and the hieroglyphics on the Egyptian obelisks. He said of it: “When I first got at it the printers would draw cuts for my copy, and those who got a slice of it would go around trying to hire a boy to kick them downstairs and break their necks. However, there was one old fellow who thirsted after it, and when he got a piece of it he immediately put on a sub and went on a drunk. Under other circumstances he would have been discharged. I do better now. I had to, because it had almost broken up the printers temperance union. The patrons of the cause in Burlington traced the thing back to me, and I had to improve my copy. It didn’t hurt me much, but it was a terrible blow to the printers.”
Fitz-Henry Warren had been an early-day editor of the Hawk-Eye, and as head of the New York Tribune‘s correspondence staff in Washington at the time of the Civil War had coined the phrase, “On to Richmond!” He became a major general in the war, then was minister to Guatemala. Later he was employed by Dana as Washington correspondent for the New York Sun.
Hanging around the river-front saloons, I occasionally had opportunity to study at close range the crew of a log raft which would come ashore to get drunk in Cissna’s saloon on Front Street or in that of Mrs. Pat Cox on the same thoroughfare, between Washington and Jefferson. These violent, boisterous and reckless rivermen sometimes would mix it with the gang of toughs which made its rendezvous on the levee, in which fights fists, daggers and pistols were used and a stabbing or sudden death frequently enlivened what otherwise would have been a dull night for the Hawk-Eye reporters. The typical raftsman has been described as “something of a Lothario, something of a pirate, something of a blackguard.” When they had conquered the levee and Front Street, they might go on up to the Vance Block, which the Hawk-Eye called a moral ulcer,” or spread out toward Lower Town, South Hill, or South Main. Then, too, Burlington had its own “Soudan” on the west side of Valley between Fourth and Fifth. It goes without saying that I never mixed in these rivermen’s brawls, as I knew I “wouldn’t have no more chance than a cat in hell without claws.”
At the summer garden in the rear of the Prospect House, operated by the Bonn brothers, I ran across “Lord” Byron, an itinerant typographer who had just returned from a trip into the deep South. Byron was a most amiable and convivial cuss who conversed pleasantly though deliberately the while he sipped his beer. He was telling me: “I was working the sticks in one of the southern states and came upon a print shop occupied only by a small Negro boy who told me the editor was across the way hoeing potatoes. After I had hunted him up and explained I was looking for work, the editor looked me over from head to foot, scratched his head and said, ‘You a printer? Don’t believe it. A real printer’s right shoulder is higher than his left.’ However, the old fellow put me to work and I got along fine. He didn’t kick much when he wrote that ‘the bam had been reduced to a mass of ruins’ and I made it ‘a mess of onions,’ but when he sent me out to bring in the cow at milking time’ one evening and I brought in a bovine of the wrong sex, he fired me for ‘incom-peet-ency’.”
Moving on up to Cedar Rapids, I ran across George A. Somarindyck, a tall, slim young man with black curly hair, who was the fastest typesetter I ever saw. Years afterward he became business manager of the Scranton Truth, the Scranton Republican, the Camden Post-Telegram, founder and manager of the Inland Herald at Spokane; general manager of the Newark Star; and the Memphis News-Scimitar; and business manager of the Syracuse Post-Standard.
Here, too, I again met Peter Bartlett Lee, known throughout the craft as “king of the tramp printers.” He was a fine figure of a man, usually wearing a spike-tailed coat and a wide-brimmed hat, though at times he sported a silk hat. He wore an unusually heavy watch chain and never was without it. He came and went in a quiet sort of way and little was said of his coming or going, how he arrived or what mode of travel would take him away. Sometimes he walked, at other times he rode the freight trains, and again he would ride the cushions. He always carried a number of newspapers which he had picked up off the exchange desk of the last newspaper office visited and he handed these out in the homes of farmers where he often was an overnight visitor. The papers were welcome because reading matter was scarce; and Lee was welcome because of his entertaining conversation, his courteous demeanor and gentlemanly bearing.
He was one of the best-read of the many well-read printers who roamed the country in those days. He would sit at the foreman’s desk for a while with a sheaf of papers and when he handed the result over it would be an editorial that for breadth and depth exceeded anything the regular editorial force might devise. It was a genuine tribute to his ability to observe and put the result of his observations cogently on paper that his editorials invariably were printed and welcome.
He was an effortless typesetter, and his product was remarkably free from errors. What is more, when he dumped a take, it would lift. And that, as all printers in the handset days knew, was a desirable accomplishment. He was always, in my opinion, at least, a sort of prince-ambassador between the journeymen and the employers; The latter recognized him as an unusually capable workman and respected his learning as equal to if not superior to their own. I am sure that many of us lesser lights of traveling printers were many times hospitably received in our travels because there was the hope, though unvoiced and perhaps only subconsciously entertained, that we would tum out to have some of the qualities that so highly recommended Peter B. Lee.
There was something of the poet in his make-up, for as we walked along through the open country he would give an attentive ear to the song of the bobolink and tell me to listen. “It is calling my name,” he would say; “can’t you hear it say ‘Pe-ter Lee, Pe-ter Lee’?”
The legend of Peter B. Lee was that upon the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the Union army and marched away, leaving a young wife behind. The war over, he returned home, but was unable to find the wife or any trace of her. The rest of his life, it was said, was spent in wandering up and down the earth, seeking the vanished one. The year after I met him in Cedar Rapids, wearied of his fruitless search, he sank to eternal rest in Lincoln, Nebraska, and was buried there. Later, at the instance of the local typographical union, his body was reinterred in the “old” cemetery at Beatrice, Nebraska, where it rests under a modest marker.
And thus we die, Still searching …
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Murder in the Haymarket
Falling in with “Senator” Frank Hall, I proceeded with him up the river to Dubuque, where we showed up on the Telegraph. Dubuque was a lively town which in the days of the Indians had been known as “Little Fox Village.” Then, I think. the opening of the lead mines ushered in the mining town of Dubuque. Then came lumber and the river traffic. It all added up to a citizenry always ready for a fight, frolic or footrace. There was horse racing at Lake Peosta. The packet Claudie Rogers carried the crowds at two dollars a head to a rendezvous for prizefighters at a place on the Wisconsin side above Eagle Point. There I saw Mike O’Connor and Danny Carr battle for five hundred dollars a side. Dubuque was divided into three parts: the southern part we called Dublin, the northern part Germany; and Babel was in the middle—not to mention such points of interest as Bee Town, the “Catfish Mill” and the Military Road on top of Whisky Hill. I left “Senator” Hall in Dubuque and eventually made my way to Peoria.
There I went to the saloon of Nick Kenney, whose brother Ed was a printer. Nick had a local reputation as a boxer and also kept a boarding house in connection with his saloon on Fayette Street. I was put to work on the Transcript by the foreman, Marsh Hanna, who afterwards became editor of the Journal. While I was in Peoria, Hi-Ass” Jones came into town. His nickname was derived from a Northwest Indian word, meaning “tall man.” We went down to Direwaechter’s saloon for a few drinks—the boys all called it “Dirtywater’s.” Then we went to John Gable’s variety show on Fulton, where we had more drinks and some food. Then to several places along North Washington Street, including Adaline Cole’s and finally wound up at Nick Kenney’s. Poor old “Hi-Ass” had had too much. He laid his head on the bar and groaned, “Oh, God, if I could only die for twenty-four hours!”
I made it on into Chicago and went to the place on West Madison Street run by “Jack” O’Brien, and, like many another weary tramp printer, found it to be a life saver. It was a basement joint known far and wide, and whether described as dive, parlor, or saloon, looked good to one seeking a place in which to flop. When I wandered into his place and told “Jack” I was broke, he permitted me to make a bed of one of the pool tables, the only restriction being that I would have to sleep under the “bed” if cash customers came in and wanted to play pool. He had an old gas stove in the rear of the basement and the next morning I was permitted to make biscuits and coffee, acting as cook for several other printers who had been allowed to carry the banner in the place. “Old Jack” as he was known, did not lose much money on credit a~counts. He was pretty well able to judge as to who would pay and who would not, and one day, when in his cups, he told me that when he did happen to make a mistake, the amount could he put on the bill of some other printer who would pay up, thinking he had been too drunk to remember how much or how little he had run into debt. I understood that O’Brien had originally come from Quincy or Peoria, or some other Illinois town, and at one time had been proprietor of a newspaper.
Frightful conditions in Chicago’s tenement areas were disclosed by a report of the Citizens’ Improvement Association; and P. H. Logan, a Chicago printer active in labor circles, had predicted a revolution as a result of the bitter resentment against the tenement conditions of laboring people in Chicago, saying, “The men who feel that they are oppressed are ready for almost any remedy. Even if it reached a revolution, if you choose, they are ripe for it.” The repressed resentment engendered by the wholesale violations of all rules of safety and laws of health was indeed leading up to a terrible riot. Fertile ground was being made for the anarchists. But more of that later.
I became acquainted with a reporter on the Times, an overgrown young man with a lumbering gait, coarse features and dull eyes. “Shang” Andrews, interested in the lecherous, had a wide acquaintance among the cyprians and tended toward writing of the slums and their contents. So did Lafcadio Hearn and Walt Whitman, but whereas they emerged on the high plains of literature, Andrews sank to the publication of a newspaper for prostitutes. However, his slender pamphlet, “Cranky Anne. the Streetwalker,” is now a collector’s item and fetches a price comparing favorably with first editions of Hearn.
Sometimes, just for the fun of it, I accompanied “Shang” in making his rounds. We might take in South Clark Street, with its nearly half-mile of cheap dives and saloons lining each side of the street, whence all night long came the sound of tin-pan pianos. One of these resorts, a notorious place, was called Lame Johnny’s, because it was the hangout of a character by that name who had studied music at Leipsic, but had sunk to the level of playing a piano in this saloon as a means of earning a livelihood. Clark Street was about as tough and vicious a place as there was on the face of the earth and sandbagging of strangers for their money was a common occurrence. Virtually every house was a brothel, dance hall, or saloon. Females, half-clad in gaudy, loose wrappers, could be seen about these places, or, if they wore the little red dresses which were almost a badge of their prostitution, the dresses would hit them above the knees, displaying their fancy shoes and striped stockings.
The “Bad Lands” and “Little Cheyenne” were two districts which spread along Clark Street, and as I made the rounds with “Shang” he told me of Big Maud. the giant Negress, who ran a dive near Twelfth Street called the Dark Secret. Close to it was the house kept by big Black Susan, who weighed more than four hundred pounds. The fee for a drink and a woman in either of these places was twenty-five cents, only half that charged at Nellie St. Clair’s and Candy Molly Jones’s. But the latter gave each customer a stick of candy as a souvenir. The street walkers hung out at Larry Gavin’s saloon and at the Pacific Garden, run by Jim Fitzsimmons.
Across the street from O’Brien’s and sharing equally with it national fame among traveling printers, was Jessup’s saloon on West Madison Street between Clark and Fifth Avenue (Wells Street). This place, known to the fraternity as “the Soup,” was owned by the brothers, George and Charles Jessup, both printers, whose working at the trade even then was legendary. Both this place and O’Brien’s, basement dives with uninviting entrances, were known from coast to coast and frequented by the touring printers.
Besides the Times, Chicago had the Inter-Ocean, which had been started just after the big fire as the organ of the stalwart Republicans. Here, the elevator man, “Swede” Olson, claimed to have the largest acquaintance among tramp printers of any nonprinter in America, for sooner or later they all showed up at the Inter-Ocean. Then there were the evening Journal, the oldest paper in Chicago, and the Evening Mail, both Republican; the Herald, a morning newspaper; and the Daily News, which was Melville Stone’s paper. The leading journal and the strongest, editorially, was the Tribune, under the editorship of Joseph Medill, who molded the political opinion of lesser lights in the journalistic field throughout the Central West. He was a newspaper giant, probably the biggest Chicago_has ever produced. He learned the printer’s trade in Ohio and became publisher of the Coshocton Republican. Greeley advised him to try his talents in Chicago. He bought the Tribune in 1855 when it was printed on an Adams press, the power being supplied by a shaggy Canadian pony that went round and round, like the horse of a sorghum mill, in a lot outside the editorial office.
I decided to calIon a man from my home town in Missouri, a friend of my parents. He was a lawyer, dabbling in real estate, by the name of John Peter Altgeld. He gave no indication of being interested in politics, but not long after he was elected governor of Illinois. He introduced me to the man who controlled politics in Chicago, Mike McDonald, whose most conspicuous activity was the running of an immense gambling house called lithe Store.” This four-story place at Clark and Monroe had a saloon on the first floor and gambling on the second. A boarding house occupied the two top floors. This was the nerve center of all organized gambling in Chicago. To this place came underworld big shots, politicians and city officials, and McDonald ran the city from his office on the second floor. He was the man to see about starting any kind of racket in Chicago. From bounty-broker and saloonkeeper in Civil War days, he had become millionaire and absolute dictator of the political and gambling situation in Chicago.
In company with a printer known to me only as “Red Oak,” I had stopped one evening in the little saloon kept by Henry Koster in “newspaper alley” as Calhoun Place was called, being near the News and Herald. He was telling me that up to that day he had been chairman of the chapel at Conkey’s in Plymouth Place, but had made some ruling which failed to meet the approval of Foreman Jim Russell and had been incontinently tossed down the stairs. This was a regular habit with Mr. Russell, I learned, which the union appeared unable to discourage to any appreciable extent.
Many newspapermen gathered at Koster’s. A year or so later, it became the birthplace and home of the famous Whitechapel Club of newspapermen and kindred souls. On this night, there was some talk of the trouble that had occurred the day before among strikers at some large implement manufacturing concern wherein several strikers had been shot to death. There was to be a protest meeting that night in the old Haymarket, someone said, but I was not interested. Protest meetings always seemed so futile.
Getting back to Jessup’s while it was still early, we decided to walk over to the Haymarket as it was not far. The square, a part of West Randolph Street, was near the junction of that street and Milwaukee, a street that ran diagonally. It was adjacent to Halstead Street and the Desplaines Street police station was less than two blocks away. The square was surrounded by ten-cent lodging houses, cheap saloons and some of the lowest dives in the city.
We found a good-sized crowd and listened to the speakers a while, but it appeared to be the usual Socialistic harangue of that time. One of those cold winds began to blow in off of Lake Michigan, bringing a light rain with it. As I turned up my coat collar, I suggested to “Red Oak” that we leave, as most of the crowd already was doing.
It appeared that the cold wind was about to break up the meeting, when all of a sudden what appeared to be a whole army of uniformed police carne marching up and a police captain ordered the meeting broken up. The speaker of the evening, who had been standing on a wagon, started to get down, just as a bomb carne flying from somewhere near the wagon and landed in the midst of the policemen. I had never heard dynamite explode before and I never want to hear it again. Several policemen appeared to be killed, but the others drew revolvers and began to fire indiscriminately into the crowd. Many men in the crowd were armed and returned the fire. Scores of men were knocked down and trampled upon like cattle. It became a scramble for life. Policemen and citizens were dropping in every direction. Men were dying in doorways and others were being carried by their friends down the dark alleys in the vicinity. We got out of it as quickly as we could. To this day, no one knows how many actually were killed.
No one ever learned who threw the bomb, although half a dozen or so men were hanged for being accomplices of whoever threw it. I might have thrown it for all anyone knew, and I certainly was not acquainted with any of the anarchists. A few years later, my friend, Governor Altgeld, was excoriated throughout the nation for freeing what was left of the group of men who had been convicted of complicity in what were termed the Haymarket murders. Time has justified his stand, but in those early years following the Haymarket riots it required magnificent courage for him to say: “The proof adduced at the trial did not show that the defendants were guilty … Until the state proves from whose hands the bomb came, it is impossible to show any connection between the man who threw it and these defendants.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO An Aristocrat of the Nomads
Between Chicago and Milwaukee there was to 1m be negotiated but a matter of a hundred miles, possibly less, and I made the hop with “Peg Leg” Wright. We soon found ourselves on Wisconsin Avenue, one of the main streets of the city that beer made famous. Milwaukee had been notoriously wide open since the local Republican party had joined hands with the whores, pimps and gamblers to elect Harrison Ludington mayor. Disreputable flotsam and jetsam from the iron country to the north flocked into Milwaukee as well as sports, fancy men, plug uglies, and bad hats generally, from other parts of the country, attracted by stories of Milwaukee’s easygoing proclivities.
The city had two principal newspapers, the Sentinel and the Evening Wisconsin. The first paper was in charge of Horace Rublee, a chubby little man with Lord Dundreary whiskers. The Wisconsin had for editor in chief William E. Cramer, who was almost totally blind and used an ear trumpet. He was assisted by Andrew J. Aikens, who laid claim to having originated in 1863 what was called in the trade “patent insides,” that is, the method of printing newspapers on one side at a central office, and on the other side at the office of publication. This distinction also was claimed for A. N. Kellogg, editor of the Baraboo (Wisconsin) Republican. As this controversy has not been settled in eighty years, I do not care to put my oar in.
George W. Peck, publisher of Peck’s Sun, was a familiar sight on the streets of Milwaukee, with his gray mustache and goatee, his eye glasses and ever-present red carnation. As a boy he had learned the printer’s trade on the Register at Whitewater, Wisconsin, later starting publication of the Sun, a national newspaper, then moving it to Milwaukee, where he had become famous as author of “Peck’s Bad Boy.” In 1890 he was elected mayor and in the same year became governor of Wisconsin.
With “Peg Leg” I had several drinks along Grand Avenue, then we staggered about the city, stepping higher than a blind rooster, until he stubbed his toe (the wooden one) and fell into the Kinnikinnic River. I had to fish him out and build a fire to get him dry. By then I was disgusted with Milwaukee and struck out for the hinterlands.
As I approached the little town of Richland Center, Wisconsin, I came across Colonel Ike Busby, one of the best known of traveling typographers. He was his usual immaculate self—frock coat, striped trousers, clean linen, high silk hat, a true aristocrat of the nomads who denied being a tramp printer and refused, as a rule, to consort with them, but the typographical wanderers claimed him as one of their own, nevertheless.
He was a highly accomplished man who could preach a sermon or deliver a lecture. When tramping through the country, he would go into a schoolhouse in the evening, light the lamps and the farmers would gather in to hear him preach a sermon. He could count on being the guest of one of them that night. He usually carried a book, some one of the classics, which he read as time permitted. Born in Sparta, New York, he had, at the age of sixteen, begun an apprenticeship in the office of the Alleghany County Advocate in the little town of Angelica, New York.
He told me he was a twenty-year~ld printer in a “dinky little print shop” in Beaver Darn, Wisconsin, when he decided to go help in the struggle to make a free state of Kansas. He had worked on the Milwaukee Sentinel where Edmund G. Ross was foreman, and both of them were in the group that set out in covered wagons in 1856. Arriving in Kansas, they went first to Lawrence, then to Topeka (which is an Omaha Indian word meaning “a good place to dig potatoes”), where Ross soon became United States senator, succeeding James H. Lane. Ross voted against the impeachment of President Johnson and brought down upon his head a storm of criticism. The fiery D. R. Anthony, editor of the Leavenworth Times, sent him a telegram saying, “The rope with which Judas Iscariot hanged himself has been lost,. but the pistol with which Jim Lane shot himself is at your disposal.” Ross returned to Kansas and was badly defeated in a race for the governorship. Later, he was appointed governor of New Mexico and at his death was running a small print shop in Albuquerque.
Colonel Ike told me he had slept under the same blanket many times with Jim Lane. Being in such company and being already an ardent abolitionist, it was natural that upon the outbreak of the war he would volunteer. He joined the First Kansas Volunteers and participated in the battle of Wilson’s Creek. He was a member of General McPherson’s bodyguard when the general was killed before Atlanta. In a poem he wrote, “The Old First Kansas Volunteers,” being one of many poems written by him, he mentioned
“Vicksburg’s bloody hill.” He served four years and was appointed major of the regiment in December, 1864, by Governor Thomas Carney of Kansas. At the close of the war, he was breveted lieutenant-colonel by President Johnson.
The colonel never married and never had a home. For forty years, after the close of the Civil War, he was a familiar figure in newspaper offices throughout the United States, with his striking costume. He always wore the little G. A. R. button in the lapel of his coat and invariably carried a gold-headed umbrella.
In his travels, he sometimes edited papers for himself and more often for others, and at times was prominently identified with political campaigns. One of the most noteworthy incidents of his career as a traveling printer was at the time of President Garfield’s death. He had drifted into the office of a small weekly in Southern Indiana one day just before the paper was ready to go to press. Looking over the type for that week’s edition, he noted there was no editorial expression upon the death of the president, and requested time to compose such an editorial. Given the time, he went to the printer’s case and set in type an editorial that was copied by magazines, leading dailies and other journals throughout the United States.
In Richland Center, we went to the office of the Observer, where, it developed, Colonel Busby was no stranger, as he frequently came to the town for the purpose of visiting his sister, and his brother, Sheriff Harry Busby.
I did not tarry long in Richland Center, but kept going toward St. Paul. Colonel Busby continued his travels for another twenty years until in the summer of 1906 he entered a sanitarium in Madison, Wisconsin, where he died October 19 of that year. He is buried in the Richland Center cemetery, his grave being marked only by the simple G.A.R. emblem and the name: Isaac Rawson Busby.
St. Paul’s was a rather smug citizenry, tom between the desire to smack down and at the same time ignore the upstart of a competitor at St. Anthony’s Falls which had taken on the name Minneapolis and bid likely to surpass St. Paul in population. The wealthy and socially elite had colonized in St. Paul and regarded the rival city as an uncouth person in overalls and shirtsleeves. St. Paul was trying to forget, too, its own modest beginning about forty years before, and was encouraging the story that a young priest had founded the city as a log cabin church on the Mendota, later called the Minnesota, and that the young priest had purposefully avoided the ruffian infant of a village called Pig’s Eye with its birch cabins and whisky shops; that half-dozen log huts, chinked with mud, which occupied a commanding bluff of the Mississippi and was occupied by French and half-breeds. Gradually the dignified name of St. Paul was accepted, but Pig’s Eye lingered in the speech of the natives and perhaps in the memory of some of the older citizens.
James M. Goodhue, notable editor of the Pioneer, St. Paul’s first newspaper, was so aggressively for law and order that his brief but brilliant career ended within three years as the result of a shooting and stabbing affair. He wrote: “The eighteenth of April, 1849, was a raw, cloudy day. The steamboat Senator landed at Randall’s warehouse, lower landing. We took our press, types and printing apparatus all ashore. In an office as open as a corn-rick, we picked our type and made ready for the first issue of the Epistle of St. Paul. Our equanimity was somewhat ruffled by the movement of the pigs’ backs under the loose floor.” He also referred to “the two great engines of civilization, the whisky shop and the printing office.” The name Epistle was changed to Pioneer before the first edition was run, and the latter became not only St. Paul’s but Minnesota’s first newspaper.
St. Paul’s first daily had been the Press, founded in 1854 by J. A. Goodrich, who at the time of my visit, was still editor in chief of the Pioneer Press, one of the city’s leading newspapers, the other being the Dispatch.
There was no work on either paper, however, so crossing over the eight miles to Minneapolis, I showed up on the Tribune, the city’s leading newspaper, although quick to argue the point would have been the Journal, established in 1878 by Charles H. Stevens, former Tribune printer.
Thirty-five years before my arrival, Minneapolis had been a village of a dozen shacks near the falls of St. Anthony, whose inhabitants busied themselves with shooting elk and Indians, while farmers in shirtsleeves worked on the site of what later became Hennepin Avenue. In 1872 the towns of Minneapolis and St. Anthony’s Falls consolidated and immediately thereafter began an unparalleled economic expansion, having tripled its population to approximately one hundred and thirty thousand in the six years, 1880–86.
Four factors were contributing to the rapid expansion of Minneapolis—wheat and the milling industry, timber and the lumber industry, the growth of railroads reaching toward the Northwest, and the opening of the Vermillion and Mesabi iron ranges, which was just beginning. All four of these industries would periodically disgorge upon Minneapolis large contingents of woman-hungry workers who would make the city ring with their lusty carousals. When their money was gone, they could be seen by the thousands sitting around Bridge Square with its cheap restaurants, flop joints, penny arcades, pawn shops, and, most of all, its numerous employment agencies which would “ship them out” again.
A. A. “Doc” Ames, affable scion of a worthy pioneer family, was mayor of the town, his brother Fred being chief of police. John Coffee, or “Coffee John,” as he was known from the fact of his keeping a disreputable coffee house, was captain of police. The chief of detectives was Norman W. King, former gambler. To another man was given the task of regularly collecting tribute from the fallen sisterhood. Every month, each madame paid sixty dollars plus five dollars for each of her girls.
Almost from the beginning, the houses of evil resort were tolerated in a district, somewhat vague in its outlines, but operating under the general name of “First Street.” There also were a few scattered resorts in the lower streets north of Hennepin, and on Main Street, fronting the east river bank on each side of Central Avenue.
Minneapolis gambling was controlled by a syndicate known as “the combination,” which had been organized by John Flanagan, soon to retire a rich man, and his associates, Pat Sullivan, Colonel Bill Tanner, Bill Munday, Mike Shelley and Frank Shaw. The outfit ran a number of cheaper gambling places, but its pride was the two fine houses on Nicollet and Hennepin avenues. I had met Shaw in Omaha and saw him again in the big pool room he was running in St. Paul called the Turf Exchange. He was also interested with Sullivan and Flanagan in a gambling place at 205 Nicollet Avenue. I knew one of the dealers there, a printer. Some time after I left town he “threw off” ten thousand dollars to a friend and became just a printer again.
A popular Sunday resort in the Minneapolis of that day was Kegan Lake, west of town, which lay outside of even the slight restrictions that prevailed in the city. The Westphal brewery was there, set in the center of a small park. Near by was a dance hall and a bar and a ring for prize fighting. I was at the lake one Sunday with “Agate” Wallace and after several libations we decided we should see Sioux City. As we already were headed that way, we deemed it unnecessary to go back into Minneapolis to start.
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE The Companionship of Fools
In the summer of ’86, George D. Perkins was coming into his own, in the Sioux City Journal, as one of the leading editors of that part of the country. He also was being looked to for leadership in politics, although he was first of all the editor and any political leadership or preferment was merely secondary to his first and only love—the newspaper.
He had been a printer and with his brother for a while ran a paper at Cedar Falls before establishing the Journal. at Sioux City. In common with most of the greater editors of the period he had a background of meager opportunity and his newspaper success was no simple proposition, based as it was on small capital in a sparsely settled field among people of small means and at a time when patronage was more or less grudgingly given by public spirited citizens on the presumption there was little intrinsic value in advertising.
What George D. Perkins made of himself was even more remarkable than what he made of the newspaper. He became a journalistic stylist whose use of the English language was exact and almost immaculate.
Mr. Perkins was a taskmaster. He was severe in his requirements. He was as intolerant of errors that were chargeable to the compositor or the proofreader as he was of errors of policy or judgment. He remarked one morning that the paper looked as if it had been made up with a scoop shovel. He aspired to make the Journal a newspaper perfect in all its parts, unassailable in its integrity, fair to all men and subservient to none.
“Mush” Allburn, foreman, sometimes was conceded by the Pirates to be “harder than the hinges of hell.” He was a big man, would have been considered tall had it not been for a pronounced stoop, and knew all the cuss words in any printer man’s vocabulary — and how to use them most tellingly. It was essential that IIMush” be stem. No namby-pamby foreman could have controlled for a minute the gang of compositors typical of that time. Contrasted to “Mush” was the gentle, dignified Mrs. Allburn, who presided over the destinies of the only exclusively printers’ boarding house in town, located on the West Side. She was not only mother to her little boy and girl, but she “mothered” hundreds of tourist printers who at one time or another called her boarding house home.
It was not at all uncommon in those days for printers to be transferred to the editorial room to act in some capacity in writing the news instead of putting it into type. There was one such, whose name I can’t recall just now, who was acting as telegraph editor at the time of the Custer massacre on the Little Big Horn. Late one night, a brief, skeletonized telegraph item came through from some obscure point to the west, giving brief details of the massacre. The telegraph editor held in his hand a scoop that would make history and startle the world, but could see no sense in playing up “just another Indian killing,” so he buried the yarn in a five-line paragraph of state news. It was the first inkling anyone had received of the terrible fate of Custer’s command and would have scooped the entire newspaper world, even ahead of the New York Herald and Bismarck Tribune story of the tragic battle, considered the scoop of the decade.
There has been much contention as to where first word of the massacre was received and published. The weight of authority would seem to be in favor of the version that the story was released at Bismarck, Dakota Territory, when Captain Grant Marsh of the steamer Far West arrived there with wounded soldiers from the scene of battle. C. A. Lounsberry, editor of the Tribune at that place, had been official correspondent for the New York Herald and had planned on accompanying Custer, but due to illness in his family was compelled to remain in Bismarck, sending instead one of his reporters, Mark Kellogg, whose stories of the campaign constitute graphic history and who was killed in the battle June 25 at the Little Big Horn. When the Far West landed at Bismarck the night of July 5, Lounsberry was roused and immediately began telegraphing the first full account to the eastern newspapers. In the meantime, “Muggins” Taylor, a scout, had left the Far West and headed toward Bozeman, Montana, nearest telegraph, carrying the news, where he arrived July 5. Salt Lake and Helena newspapers carried a short story without details. on July 6, purporting to come from Taylor. Possibly it was this item the Sioux City editor received.
But the possibilities of first inkling coming from other sources, the Indian system of signalling, for instance, is in the fact that a Cincinnati paper of June 30 carried a small item with an Omaha dateline saying that a big fight had taken place between Indians and soldiers. Its origin in Omaha, so near Sioux City, might indicate, too, that this was the story buried by the Sioux City editor and would indeed have been a scoop if properly played up.
The Soudan was much in the news at that time, the massacre of General Gordon’s British troops being fresh in the minds of newspaper readers. Sioux City had a “Soudan” of its own, a bawdy thoroughfare, lying immediately adjacent to the Journal building, inhabited by a strange mixture of blacks and whites forming the lowest social stratum of the city. The district was characterized by an unusual lack of restraint and the sights that confronted the printers’ eyes sometimes caused a slight cessation in the work of giving to the world the news.
William Napoleon Emerson, who once had been a Chicago printer, but had become a full-fledged Missouri River Pirate, a harum-scarum youth. full of fun, who always laid off on the day the circus parade came to town, was known up and down the river for his gay, irresponsible disposition. He later married a lovely and altogether charming young lady typesetter on the Times and settled down to become a staid and useful citizen. But this was before such an influence had entered his life. One night an exceedingly black, rather buxom madame from the “Soudan” came up into the composing room demanding to know, “Wheh at is dat ol’ man Em’son? He done come down to my place las’ night, all dress’ up lak a railroad man, dispohtin’ hisse’f about an’ makin’ enjoyments foh his body, and dis mawnin’ I done tuhn up wid a pewtah quahtah! Wheh at is dat man?”
“Singing” Jimmie O’Rourke really had a pleasing voice and in his large repertoire “Bridget Donahue” was the favorite. Sometimes, too, he would recite: “Behind the bar McSorlie stood, while his eyes were red with blood, he swore that he never would say a word that could be misconstrued into an apology to O’Reilly.” Maybe there was something about the Journal that brought out the singers. Louis Pritzkow, a pressman for that paper, was said to have written “Take Back Your Gold,” a hit song of the decade, before he joined Primrose & West’s minstrels as a singer.
Those were the days when Pearl Street was assuming a dominance over the “Soudan” as the district of peculiarly-colored lights, being considered less turbulent than its predecessor, but still a place where men broke legs and arms falling down long flights of stairs under peculiar circumstances. The Maple Grove and the Allen are places in the district that come to mind; and “Big Mabel” Moore. the biggest madame in the district, who, when the Peavey Grand theater was built, had a specially constructed seat for her benefit and paid for two tickets in order to enjoy a seat commensurate with her own ample style of architecture. Beer was served in variety theater boxes and there “ere plenty of “come-up-and-see-me-sometime” girls.
The police station, located on Third, between Water and Pearl streets, was near enough to the river to make an at tractive winter home for pack rats as well as sleepers who lacked the price of a night’s lodging and used the floor of the “bull pen” as a convenient dormitory.
The printers played billiards and pool at Jimmy Junk’s, keno at Frank Shaw’s, faro at “Stub” Wilson’s, got their “suds” at Tommy Brennan’s, Re5sique’s or Baptist’s, and eats at “Black Jack’s” or the Chicago House.
The statute books said Iowa was a prohibition state, but the Sioux City saloons were running wide open and the usual concomitants of a wide-open town were in evidence. The statutes forbade gambling of any sort at any time or place in the state. It is noteworthy that following the killing of Ed Hatch by George Trout in Prescott’s gambling den over Jake Uhlmer’s Fourth Street saloon, the local authorities had ordered “no more gambling on Sunday.”
The local Law and Order League, doubtless as a part of the temperance fight then sweeping the country, was inveighing against the moral conditions in Sioux City. A leader in the movement was the Rev. George Channing Haddock, pastor of the First Methodist Church, who had come to the city less than a year before.
On the night of August 3, a misty night as I remember it, I was going into Dan O’Connell’s saloon on Fourth Street and spoke to Jack Ryan, who was standing in the doorway. A few seconds later I heard a shot and ran out of the saloon and around the comer to Jerry Merrill’s livery bam where a crowd already was gathering. Ryan was helping a man out of the gutter who, it developed, was the Reverend Mr. Haddock, who had been shot in the neck by parties unknown. He died just as I arrived. A fireman, who was in front of the fire station across the street, witnessed the shooting and said the fatal shot came from a group of men that scattered immediately.
The preacher that day had been in district court giving testimony in injunction proceedings against saloonkeepers. With another preacher, he had hired a rig from Merrill’s livery barn (which was just south of the Columbia House at Fourth and Water streets) and had been out in search of more evidence with which to combat the liquor dealers. He had come alone to return the rig and upon being advised by the Negro hostler that some men had been in the livery barn looking for him, replied, “I can take care of them, and myself, too.” Those were his last words. Under the dim light of a gas street-lamp he was a few seconds later shot down. The Journal appeared the next morning with the screaming headline, “Assassinated!” and Sioux City immediately became the focal point for the newsgatherers of the nation. Special correspondents began coming in from every part of the country to cover the story, its especial significance having its genesis in the nation-wide struggle between temperance forces and the so-called liquor element. It was generally assumed this element was responsible for the crusader’s murder, although no open threats had been made. A brewery foreman later was arrested and tried twice for the murder, the first trial resulting in a hung jury and the second trial resulting in an acquittal.
While the country was being scoured for the murderers there were many who thought it prudent, for business and other reasons, to refrain from taking sides in the controversy raging between the prohibitionists and the liquor element. Not so George D. Perkins of the Journal. He announced his stand in the matter with a withering editorial captioned, “He who would make friends with whisky must seek the companionship of fools.” Indignation meetings were held in various parts of the city with Mr. Perkins taking a leading part. Citizens who passively had watched the growth of lawlessness had a revulsion of feeling and believed the city needed a clean-up. The Law and Order League was spurred to even more zealous efforts and soon the saloonkeepers, gamblers, prostitutes and their men began leaving the city in droves. They set up a town of their own called Stanton across the Missouri River from the foot of Nebraska Street and adjoining the town of Covington.
These two little Nebraska towns immediately attained the reputation of being the most wicked cities in the United States. This center of illegitimate entertainment was reached by ferry boats at first. Sometimes persons eagerly bent on iniquity were known to go across in row boats, paying two-bits and risking their lives for this service. I nearly got drowned that way myself once, making the trip with “Singing” Jimmie O’Rourke. And after making the rounds, I remember standing on the Nebraska shore, looking for a means of getting back to Iowa, and O’Rourke singing:
Ol’ Moses stood on de Red Sea shore,
Smote de water wid a two-by-four.
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR “Ret” Clarkson and the Regency
Des Moines, in the fall of 1886, was a city of perhaps thirty thousand, sprawling along both sides of the Des Moines River, its chief pride being the new state capitol, located on the east side, in which the legislature had met for the first time two years before. If the city had anything else to be proud of, I didn’t notice it.
I considered my arrival at just before dark as being opportune. I did not go into the yards, of course, and as soon as it was dark I headed for tithe avenue.” To my surprise I was set upon by a trio of plug uglies, at least one of whom was armed with brass knuckles. I had done nothing to give them offense and presumed it was a robbery, although nothing was said by my assailants as to that. I was putting up what I thought to be a pretty good fight, but probably would have lost against such odds, when suddenly one of the men gave a warning cry and the three of them ran between two buildings and disappeared. Two men without uniforms but with police stars agleam, were approaching. I was no more anxious to meet with officers of the law than were my attackers, so I also did a fadeout.
I might have accounted for the unprovoked assault as being due to the fact that at the time it occurred I was in close proximity to the red-light district of the city. This district was tough and covered a considerable area extending from the railroad tracks all the way down to the Coon River where that stream joined the Des Moines. The whole area, with its muddy, dusty streets, its saloons, bawdy houses and noisome alleys, was called “Whitechapel.” Incidentally, the keepers of the places paid licenses regularly and were not molested by the police.
The two plains-clothes policemen who had broken up the fight in which I had been an unwilling participant were known as “specials,” a large number of them having been hired to augment the regular police force in an endeavor to break the reign of terror caused by the hoodlumism that held Des Moines in its grip. The better class of citizens hardly dared go upon the streets after dark for fear of being set upon, beaten and even robbed by some of the many gangs of thugs that roamed the city. The specials were chosen with an eye to their toughness, but for all of this special quality they were not able effectively to cope with the situation and it was pretty generally conceded that the roughs had taken the city.
Des Moines, and the whole state for that matter, was supposed to be under the prohibition law, but there were innumerable holes-in-the-wall and blind pigs where one might arrange to slake a thirst. Some of these places were raided almost daily, but without any apparent effect.
I passed up, temporarily at least, the printers’ boarding houses at Third and Walnut and Fifth and Grand in favor of a less expensive place known to the fraternity as “the Delles.” This was an island in the Des Moines River at the foot of Grand Avenue and could be reached by a series of stepping stones. I think it had at some time been a part of the land of a family named DeB that lived in a large two-story house on the river’s edge, which might account for the name given the place by the floaters, as there was nothing that was reminiscent of the famous beautiful scenery of Wisconsin called the Delles. It was necessary to syndicate with the other inhabitants of the island, to which I could not reasonably object as I had very little to put into the syndicate. I was declared in on the mulligan, the chief item of food.
Along the street nearest the river’s edge, facing “the Delles,” there was an extensive coal yard owned and conducted by a man who represented every journeyman printer’s dream-come-true. Gerritt Van Ginkle had been a sub printer upon whom fortune had smiled. He first had his own paper at Pella, Iowa, the Gazette. Then, for a while, he became a tourist printer, working in Chicago and other places, winding up in Des Moines, where he worked on the Register and the Leader. He had found it necessary to do what numberless other subs have done since, get a piece of suburban property in order to raise at least a part of his living and avoid paying rent in the city. One day while digging in his garden, he had come upon signs of coal, which led to the opening of mines and to wealth. When I arrived in Des Moines, he was employing a large force of men and already was considered a wealthy eccentric. I didn’t believe him to be eccentric, but only that his poverty had been so recent that perhaps he hadn’t learned to conduct himself along the lines which the public generally expects wealthy men to follow. The two six-story buildings in Des Moines were pointed to with awe. It might have been an eccentricity or simply the prank of a nouveau riche, but Van Ginkle built a nine-story building and charged an admission of twenty-five cents to those who cared to ascend to the roof to view Des Moines and its environs from that giddy height. He already was dabbling in electric traction and became a millionaire traction magnate before his untimely death a few years later when he was killed, if I remember rightly, by being run over by a hand-car.
After a few days of dulce far niente on “the Delles,” it became necessary to do something about the depleted state of the syndicate’s exchequer. We went into conference and discussed all possibilities excepting only those having to do with work, but the situation was not remedied. Finally it was decided that I, being only a gay cat, would have to go to the Register and show up for work. To which plan I agreed, but with reluctance.
The Register, at Fourth and Court, was owned by James S. “Ret” Clarkson and his brother, Dick Clarkson. “Ret” Clarkson had, as the old saying goes, been “born and raised in a country print shop.” At the time of his birth his father was running the American in Brookville, Indiana, so that it was only natural that “Ret” should begin to learn the art of typesetting while standing on a platform of type boxes, a preliminary maneuver essential to making the juvenile and diminutive typesetter “type high.”
He had come to Des Moines at the close of the Civil War and had taken cases on the Register, where his ability was so apparent that he soon was made foreman of the composing room. Having received a practical education at the printer’s case, he was able to write articles for the newspaper on which he worked, using the nom de plume of “Ret.” The significance of the word, if it were a word, no one has ever been able to explain to me. For a while he was local correspondent of the Chicago Tribune, but after three years as foreman he was called downstairs and offered the editorship of the paper. On probation, true enough, but history has shown how admirably he measured up to the task.
It was not unusual, in those days, for a journeyman printer to become a successful editor. It seemed the Register was especially prolific in turning printers into editors. Another printer who came downstairs at the same time with Clarkson was AI Swalm, who successfully made the jump from the composing room to the desk of city editor. He married the society editor of the paper and the two of them went to Oskaloosa, where their Herald became one of the most widely quoted newspapers in the state. This was followed by a brilliant career in the United States consular service, a career that ended only with Swalm’s death in Bermuda.
A big, lubbery boy who had been put to feeding a job press was transferred to the composing room, where, after several years, he was called downstairs to take the city editorship left vacant by Swalm. This young man was “Lafe” Young, who later for a number of years conducted a powerful weekly at Atlantic, Iowa, before returning to Des Moines and a place as one of the foremost editors of the Middle West.
A tall, slender, red-haired fellow was pointed out to me as the foreman of the Register composing room. This was by way of being a pleasant surprise, for Harry Uetz carried a union card and was a square man—in contrast to the rat foreman who had been in charge for a number of years until his personal delinquencies were found out by Dick Clarkson, who summarily discharged him. He had been drinking too much, had absented himself from the composing room too often for long stretches and was thought to have been spending too much of his time in the maison de joie of Jeanette Allen, one of Whitechapel’s beautiful sirens. At any rate, there was general rejoicing among the union printers on the paper when he was given the air.
That first night, I am inclined to think, the boys worked the hook so it would fall to my lot to get a take of “Ret” Clarkson’s ‘editorial copy, the most execrable stuff to be called handwriting I had ever come across, and I thought in my travels I had put some pretty mean chirography into type. Cautiously I turned the copy like a pinwheel in slow motion, trying to find some vulnerable spot in the hieroglyphics that would at least give me a clue as to where to begin. But it remained only henscratching. It began to look as if I would have to let the foreman tum out my light —a humiliation that I had not met with as yet in all my travels. I began to swear, softly, using plain old Missouri cuss words; then more audibly, using the technique of the river men that I had learned in my home town. Soon I was cussing right out loud, using some of the stoutest of tramp-printer profanity.
John Fogarty, a young printer about my own age, carne over and said he had some experience in reading the Retsonian writing. Slowly he read the editorial through for me and if ever there took place a feat of mnemonics it took place there, because when I proceeded to set the editorial I was putting into type not what my eyes told me, but the words of Fogarty to the best of my ability to remember them. It was a successful operation, for “Ret” sent up a note of congratulations enclosing a one-dollar bill. I had to get Fogarty to read the note for me! I noticed that at the end of the shift the copy was thrown into a wastebasket. I eagerly seized it and the next day compared it with the printed message so that in the future I would be able to. recognize at least some of the idiosyncrasies of his copy should I catch another editorial. Fogarty told me he had mastered the Retsonian style in much the same way after having been helped initially by big John Holland.
Whatever his lack may have been in the way of handwriting, “Ret” was a natural-born editor, his political editorials especially being given force and directness by his virile mind. He was of a nervous temperament and paced his office like a lion when writing editorials. He had a heavy mustache and shaggy eyebrows that seemed to be accentuated by his florid face. He was sturdily built, not tall, and his short, bulldog neck hinted at the tenacity of his character, a trait that gave positiveness and aggressiveness to his editorials. There was a personal yet nevertheless partisan touch in all his writings that gave them the undeniable Retsonian imprint. He was genial and companionable, but not to say talkative. He was a strong-willed man, a very good man to have as a friend, but a hard hater.
These were all qualities that not only set him out as a successful editor, but made of him a political leader of more than average astuteness.
His first major victory in the political field had come in 1873 when he had successfully backed the candidacy of William B. Allison for the United States senate. This had made him the leader of the Republican party in Iowa. This meant, too, that his editorials in the Register spoke for the party in that state. He had been a strong partisan of James G. Blaine and when the “Plumed Knight” failed of election in 1884 the Register had been so reluctant to post the bulletins of defeat that a mob threatened to burn the building.
His political machine in Iowa was known as the regency. Through the defeat of Blaine, he had lost the naming of Iowa postmasters, but for all other sorts of political preferment, he was still the man to see. He had a large following among the country editors of the state. Clarkson, one of the big four in whose hands rested the destiny of the Republican party in the United States, already was grooming Allison for the presidency in 1888, so that it might have been truthfully said he had risen from typesetter to president maker in twenty years. The Allison movement, however, was fated to be scuttled by Chauncey M. Depew in a moment of sweet revenge on the “Iowa crowd.” But that is another story.
CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE In the Days of the Session
Having finished a stretch on the Globe at Council Bluffs, I proceeded to take a ride on the twelve-mile dummy line that connected the Bluffs with Omaha. I was just one jump ahead of Charles H. “Kid” Lohman and John A. “Jack” Karns. The realization that I had not paid “Mother” Welles before leaving Omaha five years before now caused me some little perturbation. I realized that, until the score was settled there would be no welcome for me on the door mat at the “Saints’ Rest.” However, there was one other place of refuge left. There was a place on Capital, between Ninth and Tenth, which the boys called lithe Session.” It was the basement of an old building that had been partly razed by fire and made an ideal place in which to “carry the banner.” Here, undisturbed by minions of the law, we could cook up a mulligan or if there were funds, send a gay cat to the comer saloon for a can of beer.
T. Jeff McGovern was generally recognized as the head man at lithe Session” and he had as first lieutenant a hard boiled printer named McGillicuddy. The place was run on the syndical theory. Coin of the realm, no matter by whom possessed, was for all practical purposes part of a common jack pot. When, in the opinion of Skipper McGovern, there was danger of the common treasury running too low, someone, usually a gay cat, was ordered to go to work a day or night on one of the papers in order to replenish the fund.
T. Jeff McGovern was a remarkable man. From a good family, he was well read, well educated, and an orator of ability, the brother of a bishop, and had, I am inclined to believe, been educated for the priesthood. I never learned what it was that caused him to abandon a career to live in a hole in the ground with a group of bums. He apparently had become a typical printer of his day with all the print shop superstitions and habits, a tramp printer by trade and a hard drinker by practice. Nevertheless, through all the West, that clan of hard-bitten roving printers commonly referred to as the Missouri River Pirates, granted him his meed of respect and regarded him as leader.
On this trip to Omaha, I found Edward Rosewater facing a foe more worthy of his steel. The so-called better element had decided that the city needed a vigorous newspaper to oppose the Bee, which not only was fighting monopolies, but was said to have the backing of underworld elements. So, United States Senator Hitchcock, of an old and wealthy family—as such things went in Omaha at that time—put the World into the field under the direction of his son, Gilbert M. Hitchcock. Referring to the Bee, the new paper said:
The cock of the walk finds himself unable to cope with the newcomer, turns tail, and hurrying around the bam, pitches into two still older roosters which long years ago ceased to dispute his supremacy.
On the face of it, there appeared to be a grain of truth in what the young Hitchcock was saying, as Rosewater seemed to be avoiding a fight with the World. It is quite possible, too, that he had his hands entirely too full with one of the “old roosters” which was showing a lot of light. This was the Republican, being edited by O. H. Rothacker, whom I had known in Denver and who in the interim had been editor of a newspaper in Louisville. He was a son-in-law of Sterling P. Rounds, part owner of the Republican. Rosewater had denounced him as a deadbeat and a drunkard. He replied in some very choice specimens of picric journalism:
The editor of the Bee is a nasty little liar who turns the stomach of decency … The corrupt little scoundrel sold out the Knights of Labor in Nebraska when he arranged to exempt the railroads from taxation … He is a moral impertinence, and he never had a character … This little scoundrel, whose physical smallness fits his moral abbreviation, is without a single instinct that belongs to a decent man with Self-respect, moral assertion and personal courage. He is a concentration of everything that a reputable person should not be. To spit in his face would be flattery.
As a Parthian shot Rothacker referred to Rosewater as “this collar button and suspender refugee from European government.”
Despite anything which his esteemed contemporaries might say to the contrary, Rosewater was not of the type that would run away from a fight, either through the columns of his newspaper or in actual physical combat. This was evidenced once when Rosewater had referred to a certain Negro gambler’s place as a “den.” The Negro demanded to know what Rosewater meant by calling his place a den. The editor said by “den” he meant the same thing Webster meant in his dictionary where it is defined as: “A low haunt; vile resort; as a den of thieves.” The Negro beat Rosewater with brass knuckles and was sent to the penitentiary.
The editor of the Bee fought back at Rothacker with such picric shots as:
The infamous scoundrels and monopoly cohorts who prostitute the respectable profession of journalism in the state of Nebraska continue in their base and disreputable practices of slandering and traducing the editor of this paper … The palpable aim of such an idiotic and unheard of law (Snell’s criminal libel law) is to gag the press in the interest of public thieves and political shysters. It places a club in the hands of rogues and deprives the public of the palladium of their liberty-a fearless and untrammeled press … Procurers and henchmen at the capital … state thieves, barnacles and blatherskites.
Shortly after this, I was standing in the front of Festner’s print shop on Farnham Street when I saw the little editor coming across the street and then was startled to see the long-legged Rothacker bearing down upon him from the rear. Just as Rosewater reached the walk, Rothacker called and then seemed to rise and fly toward the Bee editor and struck him on the cheek. Bystanders separated them, while Rosewater claimed to have been struck with a billy. The police judge discharged Rothacker and Rosewater proclaimed to high heaven there was no justice.
Casper Yost had sold his interest in the Republican the year before, the buyer being Sterling P. Rounds, who had resigned as public printer in the Government Printing Office in Washington. He was well known, too, to all printers on account of his little magazine, The Printer’s Cabinet. When he was twelve, he had begun, in 1840, an apprenticeship on the American at Kenosha, Wisconsin. At sixteen he was a foreman in Madison, and at eighteen was an editorial compositor on the Sentinel at Milwaukee under General Rufus King. In 1851, he entered the printing business in Chicago, but sold out to the founders of the Times. Then, in 1856, he organized the Rounds Type and Press Company and began publication of the Cabinet, an authority on printing. When Mrs. O’leary’s cow kicked over the lantern, the Rounds establishment was out of the path of the great fire, and he was able to furnish material and presses to print the Tribune, Times, Post and Journal after the fire.
Omaha was still enjoying the boom times that had characterized it on my previous visit. A notable addition to the gambling establishments of the city was that of a quartet of gamblers locally known as the “Big Four.” They were Charles White, who, I am of the impression, was a Council Bluffs gambler; Charles D. Bibbins from Chicago; H. B. Kennedy, who had drifted up from Missouri; and Jack Morrison from Texas. They had a two-story establishment on Douglas Street known as lithe Diamond.” They had a most sumptuous and ornate bar on the first floor and in the rear were pool tables and horse race betting. On the second floor were faro, roulette, hazard and stud poker.
Another innovation in the life of Omaha was a group of religious zealots who styled themselves the Salvation Army. The little band of a dozen or more was made up mostly of women and all wore, if not uniforms, clothing that at least gave a hint of the military. Just before darkness descended, this group would appear on the street with great fanfare and flourish and proceed to march to the street comer which they had chosen for that evening as the place to save souls and take up cash collections.
There was widespread sentiment against this new sect or organization. Only recently there had been rioting at their meetings in the South—in Georgia and South Carolina, I believe. So it was no surprise when Officer Pulaski pulled the whole outfit, officers and all, and took them to police headquarters, being followed all the way by a crowd of jeering hoodlums. At the station, the women were put in a cell with a prostitute who echoed their prayers with hurrahs and glories for the devil. The whole place remained in an uproar until next morning. The World protested the arrest of the Army and especially the incarceration with members of the underworld. This seemed to put the o. k. on them, for they were released. and so far as I know, not molested again.
“Gig” Martin had been attracted by the fracas, and we went down to the notorious Beelone house on Dodge Street where we imbibed several portions of “Milwaukee ginger ale.” We talked of “Gig” having lost his leg in the Kansas City train accident, but he was rather proud of his new wooden limb. Nevertheless, we became very sorry for each other and decided to end it all by drowning in the Missouri River. As we started out, we noticed it was raining, so, to avoid getting wet, we went back into the Beelone. Here Martin gave it as his opinion that Omaha had been given its name by an Irishman. The Indian tribe had originally been the Mahas, he said, but an Irishman who came to live with them and became a leader among them was not satisfied with the name so rechristened them the O’Mahas. Finally “Gig” precipitated a riot by some cutting reference to the lack of pulchritude and general decrepitude of the so-called “girls” who were there to entertain us. The harridans screamed, cursed and fought and were joined by their men. Every inmate must have had at least two boy friends, the way they kept popping out of unexpected places. “Gig’s” late misfortune made him master of the situation. He quickly unstrapped his wooden leg and swung it about his head. I gave him plenty of help with what I.considered two good fists, but he easily was the star of the show and laid out the pimps in windrows. When the men had been vanquished, “Gig” fastened on his leg again and we walked out amid a volley of almost unbelievable blasphemy from the “girls.”
We went to lithe Session” to report and here I learned to my dismay that it was my time to go to work. I went to the Bee composing room to see if a touch would be possible in the case of Frank “Sadie McGuire” Kennedy or “Junc” Whalen. Here I found Walter Peel, Billy Wulfmeier, and Ross Rowley, but recently come in from Iowa. Also, I found work, but worst of all, I myself was found by the long drink of water whose name I have forgotten who acted as errand boy for “Mother” Welles. What he had to tell me, however, was in the nature of a pleasant surprise. He said she had heard I was in town and that although I owed her money from the last time, I needn’t live in a hole in the ground, but was welcome at the “Saints’ Rest”—provided, of course, I made arrangements to take care of arrearages. It meant taking a chance on facing a kangaroo court for deserting “the Session,” but I took it and left Omaha shortly after that, all square with “Mother” Welles.
She was a pretty good scout, at that. with a lot of compassion for the drifters. She would not let a situation holder light in her boarding house. I never saw her again, but heard the boys made up a purse a few years later and sent her to visit the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
As I have mentioned before, all monies belonging to denizens of “the Session” were supposed to be put into a common treasury, to be expended for the benefit of all. So, I was a little surprised, being in the postoffice, to see McGovern slip three dollar bills into an envelope and address it to himself. It was a precaution to avoid being rolled that night by his comrades. It also was a violation of the code for which I might have had him up before a kangaroo court, but I decided upon a more strategic course in teaching him a lesson in loyalty. Early next morning, as soon as the general delivery window was open and before T. Jeff had thought of stirring about, I went with “Kid Glove Willie” Black and another printer, presented myself at the window and asked for any mail addressed to T. Jeff McGovern. What a swell breakfast we had!
“Kid Glove Willie” had learned by some subterranean means of obtaining information, commonly referred to as “the grapevine,” that Senator Hearst was going to waste some of the Homestake gold by putting his son into the newspaper business in San Francisco. It occurred to us that some of the gold being thus showered down might as well find a resting place in our pockets. So, resolutely, the two of us set our faces toward the Pacific Coast.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX On the Milk and Honey Route
Crawling out from under a freight train in the Union Pacific yards in Ogden, we approached the old frame depot which also served the narrow-gauge lines of the Utah Northern, the Utah Central, and the Rio Grande Western. About the first person who saw us was old Bill Brown, the Mormon Chief of Police. He looked us over good, but gave us no instructions. The old frame depot was located on the banks of the Weber River, about two blocks west of the present line structure.
We proceeded up Fourteenth Street and stopped for a drink at Barney Tibbal’s and around the corner to Madden Brothers on Washington where we had another. Here we were directed to the Daily Standard, which was just up the hill at 425 Twenty-fourth Street on the east side of Canal Alley, where the Weber irrigation canal wound through the business part of the city. Canal Alley has since become Ogden Avenue. The Standard was a Mormon paper, with Frank J. Cannon and his half-brother, John Q. Cannon, as editors. They were the sons of George Q. Cannon, who had been delegate to congress from the Territory of Utah. Frank Cannon later became a United States senator from Utah and, with Senator Teller of Colorado led the silver Republicans out of the Republican national convention in St. Louis and endorsed William Jennings Bryan for president.
Ogden was a city of about ten thousand, but an incipient boom was beginning, which broke out in full swing the following year.
David R. Gill was foreman of the Standard, also acting in the capacity of father of the chapel. He consulted with the other printers, Joe Adams and his brother, Bill, known as “Farmer” Adams, and Charley Abernathy. They decided we could work and set us to cleaning up the dead stone and distributing some brevier type. Gill asked if we could toot a horn, but as we didn’t play the small towns much we had overlooked acquiring that valuable bit of learning. Printers on weekly papers usually were required to play some instrument in the town band. Gill admitted that his interest was because he was leader of the Ogden City brass band. As a token of their hospitality, or mayhap only from custom, one of the printers called in “Cyclops,” the one-eyed copy boy, and dropping ten cents into a tin bucket directed the boy to rush the growler. He soon returned from Orson Riser’s Washington Avenue joint and we enjoyed the foaming libations.
After a couple of hours we had the type cleaned up and Gill gave us a half dollar each and told us to go get breakfast. He said we could get a good meal at Leo the Chinaman’s for thirty-five cents and save fifteen cents for coffee and sinkers in the morning. He said as for sleeping, just to go along the other side of the canal until we came to a plank which crossed over to the back door of the press room. Watch the plank, he told us, and report to Joe Chatelain. Which we did. And there is no place more conducive to sound, restful slumber than a pile of waste paper next the boiler, when one is lulled by the clatter of the presses.
Two of the printers laid off and put us on for a three-day stretch and we stuck type for fifty cents a thousand. When we cashed in, we had money enough to rent a room at the Morley Hotel on Twenty-fifth and decided that that night we would have a look-see at the Electric Alley girls, all fifty-four of whom were protegees of Belle London, and lived in cribs at the rear of the upstairs rooming house which she kept above the saloon of her husband.
Going down the street, we met Jack Murphy, who had but recently come up from Kansas City. “In Kansas City,” he told us, “I set G. A. R. annual reports until I was blue in the face. Then I head west, lose eighteen bucks in a poker game at Cheyenne, eat my last meal at Rock Springs and light in Ogden, and what do you think? I dropped into Kennedy & Pulver’s, thinking to make a touch, and Charles S. Pulver asked me to go to work; handed me four bits and told me to come back after I had had something to eat. When I got back I says, ‘Bring on your copy!’ Which they did, and I’m a bob-tailed son of a bow-legged scorpion if it wasn’t more G. A. R. proceedings! Why in hell didn’t the rebels win the war, anyhow?”
In his disgust he started for Butte and we headed for Salt Lake City.
Tramps in those days called the road between Ogden and Salt Lake City “the milk and honey route” because of the extreme hospitality of the Mormon people who had settled in that country. Uncle Sam at that time had Utah over his knee on account of polygamy and nearly a hundred of the leading men of the territory were in the penitentiary at Salt Lake City for that offense. New arrests for polygamy and unlawful cohabitation were being made almost daily by the United States marshals, and the citizens were looking with suspicion on all strangers within the gates. However, we could offer no complaints on the way they treated us, and I told “Kid Glove” that when people, as a whole people, could struggle across the boggy land of Iowa and then walk behind a push cart from Omaha over the unbroken prairies of Nebraska and Wyoming to Salt Lake Valley, there must have been some sort of good in them.
Salt Lake City had the Herald, a morning paper, and Mormon; the Tribune, also a morning paper, but gentile; and the Deseret Evening News, official organ of the Mormon Church, and nonunion. Some of the boys tried to organize the place while I was there, but the bishop heard of it and said, ”I’ll be your union.” And that was that.
The first issue of the Deseret News was printed June 15, 1850, on a small wrought-iron affair known as a Ramage hand press, which had been purchased three years before in Philadelphia by William W. Phelps, who had been sent from Winter Quarters on the Missouri River for that purpose. The press had been conveyed across the plains by the first Mormons going to the Salt Lake Valley. Willard Richards was editor, Horace K. Whitney set the type, Thomas Bullock read the proof, and the press was worked by none other than Brigham H. Young himself. The first home of the News was in a small adobe building located about where the east wall of the Hotel Utah now stands. This tiny building later was used as a mint and the first twenty-dollar gold pieces ever coined were made there. At the time of my visit, Charles W. Penrose, formerly editor of the Junction at Ogden, was editor-in-chief.
The roadsters all worked on the Tribune, a four-page blanket sheet, set in nonpareil. It was nine columns wide, thirteen ems and the columns were twenty-five or twenty-seven inches long. There were nine cases on it, not counting girls, and not long after, when it was turned into a stereotyped paper and thirty-six cases given out, every tramp printer within a thousand miles got a situation.
In addition to the nine regular cases held by men, there were eleven girl typesetters, two of whom were daughters of Colonel Nelson, one of the proprietors. We frequently saw girl typesetters in the West, especially on the weekly papers. These girls were always treated with the greatest respect by the tramp printers. The girl typesetters were becoming accepted in the trade. But a few decades before that much agitation had resulted from their having been introduced as strikebreakers in New York. Horace Greeley, a former president of the typographical union of that city, took up the cudgels in behalf of the women as follows: “If you find yourselves troubled with too strong a competition from female workers, just prove yourselves worthy to be their husbands; provide good homes and earn the means of living comfortable, and we’ll warrant them never to annoy you thereafter by insisting on spending their days at the printing office setting type. But waxing theologic and pious, you tell us of the sphere of action God designed woman to occupy—of her ‘purity’ and of the ‘immorality and vice’ she must inevitably sink into should she be admitted to the composing room to set type beside you. We feel the force of these suggestions. We admit the bad company into which unregulated typesetting would sometimes throw her—but did it ever occur to you that this is her lookout rather than yours? It is perfectly fair of you to apprise her beforehand of the moral atmosphere to which promiscuous typesetting will expose her, but when you virtually say she shan’t set type because if she did your society and conversation would corrupt her you carry the joke a little too far.”
It was a custom in the print shops of the West to keep a record book wherein itinerant printers might write their names, whence they hailed and whither bound. So far as tramp printers were concerned, it was a better method than that universally used by tramps in general, the writing of similar information on water tanks and other conspicuous places along railway rights of way. The printers, of course, used both methods, the one supplementing the other. I always wrote my name in the books, and just ahead of me at the Salt Lake Tribune were two names that interested me. One of these was “Sag” Coughlan of Iowa, who derived the nickname from a fondness for drinking Sagwa Indian Remedy, a popular substitute for drinking whisky in prohibition areas. The other printer was from Cameron, Missouri, but a short distance from my home. He was James Emmett “Red” King, just beginning a meteoric career as a tramp printer. He was of an eminent family in Cameron, his father being Dr. J. F. King, one of the founders of that town in 1855. His brother, Erstine E. King, was a printer, but not so spectacularly on the move as was “Red.” Before his death a decade later, “Red” had worked in every important city of the United States, South and Central America, Alaska, and Canada. Among the effects he left was a cigar box full of union cards and working permits that had been issued him in the various cities in which he had worked. Ever since my cub days in Missouri I had done some writing for the newspapers and was able to keep my hand in, and I had hoped, improve a little by writing for papers as I went along. These efforts usually were the better appreciated in the smaller towns. As a matter of fact, I had something of a secret ambition to become a newspaper writer. So King and I had a little more in common than just being brother printers, both from towns in Western Missouri. He was a proficient writer as well as a first-class job printer, one of the best rule benders in the West. A favorite signature to many of his stories in his newspaper sketches was K. K. K., which stood for Karnisher Kanard King, though why he chose this title I never knew. At about the time of the Spanish-American War he joined some sort of expedition organized in Kansas City, for the purpose, I am told, of putting down a rebellion in the West Indies. This would have been in keeping with his adventurous spirit. Whatever the motive of the expedition, King contracted some tropical fever, and through some instinct which seems to operate in such cases, found his way back to the home of his father in Cameron. Three days later he died and was buried in the little McDaniel Cemetery near the home of his youth. I have noted this homing instinct in other wanderers.
Few of the traveling typos tried to get work on the Herald, and if they did succeed, they had to take store orders for part of their pay. A store order was a dreg on the market to a class of men that boasted, individually, “When my coat is buttoned, my trunk is packed.” Most of the roadsters scorned to carry a “turkey,” which is to say a small bag in which to carry their extra clothing and personal belongings. So, when they were compelled to take an order on the store, they usually sought something they could put on and wear away, this usually taking the form of a woolen shirt of gaudy hue. Printers in the West came to recognize these shirts and would hail a fellow traveler with, III see you are wearing a Herald Mormon shirt.” Ordinarily, most of them wore what were called “thousand-mile shirts,” a garment of black sateen.
The foreman of the Herald kept a grinning skull sitting on his desk, but I never learned the true story, if there were a story, that lay behind the grisly memento. However, there was a story circulated about “Zulu” Grove, a tramp printer from Des Moines who derived the nickname from the fact his hair stuck through the top of the old black hat he always wore. His full name was Oliver Hazard Perry Grove, and he was said to have been a great-great-grandson of the admiral of Lake Erie fame. A newcomer asked him as to the story of the skull, and he soberly replied, “Oh, that was a sub who showed up here until he starved to death.”
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN Up the Barbary Coast
Roadsters many times had admonished me to keep away from the Examiner office in San Francisco, with the added information that Jack Bryant, the foreman then, was a regular so-and-so sonofagun to work for. However, I found him to be the opposite. As the Examiner was the only card office in the city at that time, I asked his permission to place my name on the sub list. He looked me over and asked, (lean you print on a morning paper?” In those days, the work on morning papers was considered much more difficult, and we often made a joke of saying what few evening papers there were could be manned by female typesetters and old men. I assured Bryant I could print, and he added my name to the sub list, making twenty-two subs for nineteen situations. I was promptly hired by one of the caseholders.
Type was short, and the chapel phat man, who knew the speed of every compositor, would place on a galley each man’s share of type and put it on his case for distribution. My case was empty and I was allotted about four thousand ems, including both nonpareil and minion. I had been setting about eleven thousand ems a night of brevier, so figured my allotment of type for distribution was not sufficient and that I would have some trouble in borrowing sorts. The type was badly bottled, due to constant pounding on the stone because the stereotyping process had caused it to stick together. The management had tried to sort up the cases instead of buying a new dress, and had put in so many new sorts that the old type would not show in the proofs—and the proofreaders marked all the letters that did not show. This led to some proofs that looked like the map of China, and also accounted for an average string of four thousand to seven thousand ems.
When lunch time came, Bryant fixed me up for supper at a restaurant. The regulars ate in the composing room, all those patronizing the same boarding house bringing their lunch in a hamper and eating together around the stone. Sometimes the subs would be invited to help clear away the debris. I remember seeing a sign in one composing room which read: “Regulars should not leave any lunch in their buckets. Paste is good enough for subs.”
The typographical union was dormant at that time in San Francisco, but the Examiner was recognized as a “card” office, work being confined to those showing a union card. A good compositor could earn about three dollars a night. At the union room down on Clay Street the “weary” would loiter, waiting for a call. It was a job office district. If there was a stick or two of composition one of the gang was called in, cashing in as soon as the type was set. It was a convenient arrangement for both the printer and the office, but long since frowned upon by the typographical union.
George Hearst, from Missouri, a schoolteacher if my memory serves me, had gone to California and made an immense fortune in mining ventures. He had acquired the Examiner, which had been established in 1865, to further his political aspirations, particularly with reference to a seat in the United States senate. It was, of course, a Democratic paper, and at that time was under the managing editorship of Clarence Greathouse, better known as a genial gentleman and clever politician than as a newspaperman. Afterward he was consul general to Korea before that kingdom was swallowed up by the ever-greedy Japan.
One of the features of the paper was a column entitled “Prattle,” edited by that strange journalist, Ambrose Bierce, whose incisive style has served as a model for half a century. He was a master of biting and bitter irony and satire. While his writing, such as “Black Beetles in Amber,” had a glittering fascination, there was no warmth in its coruscations. He went to Mexico in 1916 to join Villa, the Mexican rebel, and was never heard from again.
There was some smiling done when the rich and powerful George Hearst turned the Examiner over to his son, William Randolph Hearst, twenty-four years old and just home from Harvard. Those who were optimistic gave the boy as much as six months with his new plaything before the “old man” would tighten up the pursestrings and make other arrangements for the newspaper. How the wiseacres were fooled by this young man. Instead of failing in the business or tiring of his newspaper venture, he put the Examiner on a sound basis and began the most meteoric career of any newspaper publisher in the history of journalism. He built a journalistic empire and was the most admired, feared, hated, cursed and courted man in America.
Also from Missouri,.was M. H. de Young of the Chronicle. Going to San Francisco as a tiny boy, he had seen the place grow from a cluster of houses to a great seaport and commercial center. He and his career were closely identified with the progress of the city, but his activities, social and political, were nation-wide. In 1864, while still boys in their teens, he and his brother, Charley, had started a little paper in the room above the typographical. union on Clay Street. With a few eases of old type and a hand press they had started publication of the Chronicle, scarcely more than a theater program, and intended to carry the news of the city’s life that centered about the theaters. It soon began to carry other news items and developed rapidly into a real newspaper. Long before that, however, its editorial page was of considerable public interest. The paper, like the city, grew beyond, the theater and became The Morning Chronicle, a Republican paper. At the time of my visit, “Mike” de Young, at thirty-eight, already was recognized as one of the leading men of the Pacific Slope.
The paper quickly outgrew its first quarters in “printers’ row” on Clay Street and had a building constructed for its especial use at Kearney and Bush streets. Even this had been outgrown at the time of my visit and the paper had moved to quarters on Montgomery, near Clay.
The first Sunday editor of the, paper was George F. Weeks, who had started out as a compositor, a swift one. He had gone from the case to the proofroom, a path followed also by Frank Bailey Millard, well known as a writer.
The Chronicle had achieved an excellent reputation as a training school. The long list of those who had received their training, in whole or in part, on the paper, would include: Frank M. Pixlee, of the Argonaut; F. D. Verdenal, the Stock Exchange; George Hamlin Fitch, book reviewer; Frank J. Cannon, later United States senator from Utah and editorial writer for the Rocky Mountain News; Franklin K. Lane, later secretary of the interior; Edward W. (Ned) Townsend of “Chimmie” Fadden fame, later a congressman from New Jersey; Charles Warner Stoddard, Prentice Mulford, George Alfred Townsend, Alexander Del Mar, and Joaquin Miller, mad poet of the Sierras, whose “fist” was the despair of all typesetters. Mark Twain had a desk on the paper in its earlier days. This probably was at about the time when two other typesetters, Bret Harte and Henry George, were working at their trade in that city.
Other San Francisco papers at the time of my visit were the Alta California, owned by James H. Fair; the Stock Exchange, the Bulletin and the Call; the latter having been organized by a group of printers who operated it only for a short time.
San Francisco has been described as “an eccentric, boisterous and devil-may-care town” where the citizens spend their time “between lynchings, fires, faro games, filibustering, whisky guzzling and harlotry,” but George Sterling, the sad poet, referred to it as “passionate, wayward, brave.” We had to take lynchings and fires as they came, but for the the other four items listed there was always the Barbary Coast. The heart of the coast was the one short block on Pacific Street, between Kearney and Montgomery. There the fat and bawdy dance hall girls, with their short dresses of lavender and pink, placed no restrictions on their hospitality — save, of course, the price, which was nominal. Sailors, soldiers, miners and lumberjacks were their particular prey and if they couldn’t wangle the bank rolls with bad whisky, they used knockout drops.
The coast boasted such flamboyant dives as Cowboy Mag’s, Diamond Flossie’s and the Moulin Rouge, with its panels depicting a faun dancing with a nude young girl. Inside were pictures 9f ladies in gold frames, all the ladies together not having on enough clothing to dust the frames. Also on that hurdy-gurdy bacchanalian way of wickedness was a temple of life and color called the Tivoli, which, however, never achieved the eminence enjoyed by the gaudy and ungodly Hippodrome, or lithe Hip” as it was affectionately known. in the days of its splendor. The coast, America’s bawdiest, hell-roaringest, “wickedest spot,” with its old Concert Hall, known as the Cascade with George “Red” Kelly as proprietor; the Midway, the United States, the Montana, the Comstock, the Camp Fire, the O. K., the Red Dragon, and the Criterion. Pacific was lithe terrific street,” with Mother Smith’s Happy Valley, the Thalia, the Garden City, the Bear, Lou Purcell’s Negro dance hall, the Rialto, Shanghai Red’s and Spider Kelly’s. A close rival of the coast for the attention of pleasure seekers was Chinatown, its main street being Grant Avenue. In its heyday it was said to have had two thousand prostitutes. St. Mary’s Alley was perhaps the lowest of low, with the Kanakas and Negroes. Then there were the bagnios in Sullivan, Bartlett and Spofford alleys. The “South of Market” district included Pauper Alley, Bull Run, Rag-pickers’ Alley, Cooper’s Alley, a hangout for thieves, and Murderers’ Alley, most sinister of all.
The upper tenderloin of the city was on Mason Street, above Eddy. It was here, in the Bucket of Blood, that I got to drinking with Ed Hull and Frank Wandress. The latter was spinning a tramp printer’s windy:
“Made it to Las Vegas. Four situations and seven subs. We could make about two dollars and a half a night. The boys had rented an adobe of three rooms, containing three beds, which my partner, ‘Pinky’ Schuman, dubbed ‘the Brown Hotel,’ with board at two-fifty a week. A regular would work a day and put on a sub; and again a sub until all had earned the price of board, and then the regular would again take his sit. If it so happened that one did not work he did not have to pay board for that week. Eleven men and three beds; those who came last took to the floor. I was there two weeks and worked two days. Those who didn’t work had to cook and wash the dishes. Los Angeles had a population of about fifteen thousand, equally divided among whites, Chinese and Mexicans. No typographical union there. ‘Pinky’ and I went over to show up at the Times, which had eleven cases, composed of very slow pickup printers. The paper was set in brevier with all legal notices in nonpareil. The latter were being sold to one compositor at a premium of ten per cent. We could average about twenty-six dollars a week on brevier at forty cents a thousand. We worked there about six weeks. One day I took on a few too many and demanded that the paper be leaded. They offered to compromise by leading all local news. But hell’s bells and panther tracks! ‘Pinky’ and I had too much money as it was. We bought steerage tickets to San Francisco. It was just before the Chinese exclusion act went into effect and there were about a thousand Chinamen on that boat and there were several other boats in the harbor, all loaded with Chinamen and all quarantined. I can smell ’em yet!”
Leaving the saloon, we went our separate ways. The way of Ed Hull took him down to the vicinity of the wharf, where he was promptly shanghaied and put aboard a ship bound for Liverpool. When he arrived in that seaport he as promptly deserted and shipped back to America to spend the rest of his life in the humdrum atmosphere of a small print shop in the state of Iowa. Wandress went toward the east, and I, in company of “Thin Space” Jones, started for Portland and the northwest country.
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT Through the Roaring Land
Printers had a blase way of saying things and viewing events, that might have been partly due to their disposition and partly due to their printing office experience. I don’t believe they ever became so blase, however, that they failed to get a thrill out of meeting someone from home. Nelson W. Durham of the Portland Oregonian editorial force wasn’t from my home town, but had learned the printer’s trade on the Atchison County Journal in Missouri, so near my home that I considered him a next-door neighbor. He fixed me up for food and lodging.
Not much help along this line was required, however, as I soon caught on at the Oregonian, then the leading newspaper of the Northwest under the competent guidance of Harvey W. Scott. It had been established as a weekly in 1850 by Thomas J. Dryer, the first issues having been printed on a press that had been built by Adam Ramage in Philadelphia used in Mexico for the printing of pronunciamentos until 1834, then moved to Monterey, California, for a similar service. In 1846 it was moved to San Francisco for printing the Star and later the Alta California. In 1852, it was taken to Olympia, where it was used to print the Columbian, the first newspaper in the present state of Washington. Then it was used for the first newspaper in Seattle, next saw service in Alaska, after which it was brought back to Seattle, where it now reposes in the state museum at the University of Washington.
Printers were in the first wagon trains to reach the Oregon country and no doubt tested the copper linings of their stomachs in 1842 with some of the”blue ruin” sold by Portland’s first bootlegger. As early as 1853 they had organized a typographical society in Portland, but it was thirty years later when the charter was granted Multnomah Typographical Union, which held its meetings over a fire engine house on First Street.
Portland was undergoing a tremendous boom. The Northern Pacific had come in four years before and the city’s population of twenty-five thousand had tripled. The Knights of Labor were strong in Portland and under the leadership of James Sovereign had given the new rival, the American Federation of Labor, a beating. This, despite the fact the energetic little Samuel Gompers visited the city twice that year to assist the members of his new organization. The strength of the Knights of Lab or lay largely in their sympathy with the anti-Chinese feeling then so prevalent. Sylvester Pennoyer took over a pro-Chinese meeting in Portland, turned it into an anti-Chinese meeting and was elected governor. The Mitchell political machine was in the saddle and the Reverend Wallace was inveighing against the immorality of the town, while “Peter the Poet,” an itinerant typesetter who composed his poetry as he set the type from the case, referred to Portland as “this wicked river town.”
Well, Peter was on the right track, what with the district north of Burnside, the Bowery of Portland, dominating politics not only in the city, but in the state. The sailors’ boarding houses in the North End were the key to the political machine, and the husky, florid-faced Jim Turk was king in that bailiwick, ably assisted by other boarding house keepers such as Billy Smith, Larry Sullivan, Bunco Kelly, the White brothers, and Jack and Pete Grant. This same ring began to branch out into the establishment and control of gambling dens, many of which were around Third and Burnside. An outstanding gambling and drinking place was that of Emil Weber on First Avenue, a hell hole of activities then and for another two years until Sandy Olds, a habitue of the joint, met Weber in broad daylight in front of the place and shot him down. At Bob Smith’s Monte Carlo there would be any kind of gambling you could name. For amusement there would be the Tivoli, playing cornic operas, and the Casino, fitted with a bar and tables and playing cheap melodrama. The Museum, with its Rabelaisian objects of art; and Fritz’s and Blazier’s, variety theaters, which had bars and gambling tables and girls who took turns on the stage and working the boxes, while suckers were stuck a dollar a bottle for beer.
A waterfront headquarters for sailors, longshoremen and dock hands as well as riffraff in general was the Boss saloon at the east end of Glisan Street. Erickson’s, on Burnside, was the most widely known saloon in the Pacific Northwest, with its mahogany bar six hundred and seventy-four feet long. Hoboes, loggers, seafaring men and others could be found drinking and talking in Erickson’s at all times.
Portland’s Chinatown had a population of ten thousand celestials and they had their own shades and degrees of vice and dissipation. But I never mixed in there. The ladies north of Burnside, on either side of Fourth, who invitingly leaned from their windows, were interesting enough.
Moving on up to Seattle, I found the Post-Intelligencer had been acquired by Leigh S. J. Hunt, a go-getter from Iowa, who had bought new type and proceeded to make the paper hum. He had succeeded Clarence W. Bagby, manager of the paper since the year before when a group of citizens bought the interest of Thomas W. Prosch, who, at a comparatively early age had decided to retire from business to devote his time to educational activities and historical research. Prosch had been postmaster just a short time before his retirement and was a leading citizen. His copy, as editor-publisher of the Post-Intelligencer, was a delight to the printers—something unusual in one who himself had been trained as a typesetter. For he had learned typesetting and worked at the trade in the various newspapers that had been owned by his father, Charles Prosch, a Pennsylvania printer, who as a young man had come to the Sound country. After several unsuccessful starts of newspapers, the elder Prosch had a proprietary interest in the Post-Intelligencer, but lacked the business ability to make a go of it and had been forced to the wall. Whereupon, his son, Thomas W., took over and made of it one of the best newspapers in America. The father went to work sticking type in the composing room of his son’s paper, and it was my pleasure to work with him and I found Charlie Prosch a genial fellow to work with, showing no bitterness at the whirligig of fortune that had reversed the positions of father and son.
The Intelligencer had been established in 1867 by S. L. Maxwell, a printer from San Francisco, who paid three hundred dollars for the equipment. In 1881 it was merged with the Post. The Gazette, forerunner of the latter paper, first issued from a room in the Gem saloon.
Colonel George C. Lyon had left the editorial staff of the Post-Intelligencer to become editor and half-owner of the Times, established less than a year before by the businessmen of Seattle to oppose the Call, which they felt had been too radical in the Chinese troubles of 1885, when civil war had come to Seattle over the question of excluding the Chinese from the city. Businessmen generally had favored retention of the Chinese, while the laboring class insisted that they should go. Though two years had passed, there still was much bitterness over the Chinese issue.
Seattle was booming, but the view up Main Street was anything but inviting. Wooden houses and buildings sprawled all over its steep hills and more were being built as fast as carpenters could do the work. In a few years the city’s population went from thirty-five hundred to twenty thousand and immediately after the big fire two years later leaped to forty thousand. It was the good old times for the lumber industry in the state of Washington. The industry, in some of its phases, seemed to touch everyone who lived in the city.
Connected with the early day lumber industry was Henry Yesler, a Baltimorean, who came when the little town was but a year old, seeking a site for a steam sawmill. All of the waterfront sites were taken, so Yesler’s claim had to be far up on top of the hill, but to keep him interested a waterfront site was given him for his sawmill and a wide thoroughfare, known as a skid road, was provided, connecting the mill with his timber land. Later the road was built up and named Yesler Way in honor of the man from Baltimore, but then a pioneer of another type entered the picture to change the tenor of the thoroughfare’s way and render doubtful the honor intended to have been bestowed. This was Joseph Pennell from the Barbary Coast in San Francisco, who built a place on the beach near Yesler’s mill and took his pick of the Indian girls, from which the place was known as a “squaw dance house.” As the saloons and houses of prostitution continued to spread along the Yesler Way it became the stamping grounds of lumbermen on pleasure bent, from whistle punks to hook-tenders, loggers to high-riggers, and they all continued to call it “the skid road.” The whole district centering about the foot of the skid road was called Whitechapel, and many were the dark whisperings as to what went on within its noisome confines, of such things as bodies of murdered men slipped through trap-doors to feed the fishes of the water below. I don’t know whether there was any truth in these darksome tales. I only know I trod every foot of Whitechapel many times, day and night, and I never was used for fish food.
A number of the tough or red-light districts of American cities were called Whitechapel. This was because Whitechapel, in the East End of London, had at that time completely eclipsed the Seven Dials as a thugs’ paradise, and stood alone, without a rival in the world, as a hotbed of sin, misery and squalor. Petticoat Lane, in the heart of Whitechapel, was a place where murderers, thieves, prize fighters, scarlet women and robbers held high carnival.
The Theater Comique in Seattle, a variety house in the basement of a saloon on Washington Street was of the “box” type, having a stage and a row of boxes around the sides connected with the bar at the rear. The women of the place were known as box rustlers. The Bijou was a burlesque theater in the district next the skid road known as the “Lava Beds.” Other theaters were the Chinese Theater, the Maison Dore, Yesler Hall, and Squire’s Opera House.
With a slim young gay cat, “Reddy” Reed, I started out through the roaring land, as that country of immense pine forests was called because of the incessant roaring of the wind in the trees. Our objective was the new Couer d’Alene mining district in the Sawtooth Range, with Spokane Falls being incidental. We never got to Couer d’Alene.
The Spokane of those days was known as lithe road to hell,” because of its low moral tone. Prospectors and settlers and gold from the Couer d’Alene were pouring into town and Spokane Falls, with its unpaved streets and dust, its stage coaches, covered wagons, pack wagons, and strings of pack horses, was beginning to roar as the capital of the gold country.
I stayed at the California House, at Trent and Howard, at one time the leading hotel of the Falls. Another guest there was “Dutch” Jake Goetz, who owned a part of the Bunker Hill mine and was proprietor of the Couer d’Alene variety theater, which had first opened in a tent with girls circulating among the customers at the bar and on the dance floor. Rivals of the Couer d’Alene were the Comique, Joy’s opera house and the Globe. Goetz later opened a gambling house where a thousand men could play faro simultaneously.
According to tradition, the Spokane Chronicle was born of a dispute over the final e in Spokane. Francis H. Cook’s paper, the Times, spelled it Spokan. Cook had learned the printer’s trade in Ohio, afterwards traveling as a journeyman printer all over the United States, among other papers working on the New York Tribune and the Burlington Hawk-Eye. While foreman of the Olympia Courier, he became interested in the Inland Empire and established Spokane Falls’s first newspaper in 1879 when the town had a population of only seventy-five. He had shipped his plant from Tacoma. via the Columbia and Snake rivers. After three years he sold the paper and made an immense fortune in real estate.
Frank M. Dallam, who had shipped the plant for the Review from San Francisco in 1883, had just disposed of his interest in that paper to Horace T. Brown and H. W. Greenberg, a pioneer printer of Spokane Falls.
One of the best known places for the cashing in of strings was the Old Crow, an ·all-night saloon. It had its own checks and had an arrangement with all three chapels. Cashing my string at the Old Crow, I had a few drinks with Billy O’Keefe, after which we headed out for Butte, Montana.
CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE Perch of the Devil
Butte was a copper camp. The mines were right 1m in town and running twenty-four hours a day. There was no vegetation in or near the town, as it was killed by the deadly air, thick with fumes of sulphur, arsenic and smoke from roasting the ores, and from the stacks of the smelters. On a windless day, when the smoke was held down by the clouds, it was necessary to burn lamps at midday to pierce the gloom of the mirk.
The town rested against the foot of and covered the slope of a steep, rocky hill, overlooking a bare butte, from which it derived its name, while Silver Bow Creek ran through the semicircular flat below. Its geographical situation, combined with its moral characteristics, caused the town to be called “the perch of the devil.” Perched on its rocky ledges and crowded into its narrow gulches were the unpainted, smoke-blackened cabins and hovels of the miners, desolate appearing indeed. There was nothing soft or winning about Butte. This city of mines, smelteries and steep hills was ugly as home-made sin.
Virginia City, Nevada, had collapsed when Butte was discovered to be rich in silver ore. Miners from the Comstock lode flocked in, along with businessmen, gamblers, dance-hall girls, and all the motley rabble of a mining camp. Butte became a city when its first railroad was completed, the richest and most populous town north of Salt Lake City and between St. Paul and Portland.
When Billy O’Keefe and I arrived in Butte after two nights of sleeping in boxcars, we looked like something left over from a rummage sale. Being hungry, but devoid of coin of the realm, I went to the Inter-Mountain, where Frank Bonnington, an old friend, was foreman. He handed me a ten dollar gold piece and told me to show up for work the next morning. Throughout the West the only medium of exchange was coin, gold or silver, currency being virtually unknown. With the unexpected largesse, I obtained a bath, a shave, and a good meal, arranged for a room at a big hotel called “the ship” (it had a name, but I have forgotten it), and was ready to go down on Main Street for a libation or two at the saloon run by a brother of “Mush” Mullins, traveling printer, who hailed from Butte. Whisky was two drinks for two bits. There was no money smaller than a quarter, the bartender giving me a brass check good for the second drink.
In the Mullins saloon, I met “Big Griff” and “Little Griff,” a pair of wandering typos I had met before. Their name was Griffin, but I never learned whether they were relatives. They were inseparable companions. “Big Griff” again drifted into Butte a few years later, after the Anaconda Standard had been started, and settled down for life. That was the trouble with Butte. It took the wanderlust out of one. I have known of more than one man destined far beyond Butte who got off the train to look the town over for a few minutes and spent the rest of a lifetime in what Berton Braley called “An ugly town, a raw town, a hard-fighting, hard-living, hard-drinking town, but also a gay, careless, and tonic town composed of personalities and individuals.”
The Inter-Mountain was owned by A. J. Davis, who twenty years before, had arrived penniless from Iowa. But as banker, real estate and mining operator, his wealth had grown until with his five million dollars he was considered the richest man in Butte. The immense wealth of Clark, Daly and Heinze came just a little later. Not long after this, the newspaper was taken over and built up as a Republican organ by Lee Mantle, a man of parts, handsome, shrewd, democratic and popular.
For some reason the saloon upstairs found it necessary to run its beer pipes through a corner of the Inter-Mountain composing room. Some inventive printer devised a plug for the pipe, so that, unknown to the proprietor of the saloon, we always had beer on tap. This was an arrangement even better than that enjoyed by Harry Paul of the Miner job shop, who had a hole in the floor and passed his bucket down to the bartender for filling and refilling. We didn’t have to cross any bartender’s palm with silver.
The Miner was acquired two years later by William A. Clark, or “Soda Biscuit,” as we called him. In the early days of the Civil War, Clark, who had been a schoolteacher in Missouri, was running a small store in Nevada. The rush to the Comstock lode was on at Virginia City. He did not have sufficient capital to lay in a big supply of food for the stampeders, but he bought all the baking soda he could get in San Francisco, reasoning that everybody would want baking soda for their flapjacks and biscuits. He cleaned up big. He first went to Butte in 1872. By the time of my visit he was growing rich and had moved in from Deer Lodge to a mansion he had had built in Butte and spent most of his time in that city, being interested in a bank, a street railway, a reduction plant and several mines. Marcus Daly had come up in 1876 to represent a Salt Lake City firm and for a while the two were thick as thieves, a friendship that was coming to an end at the time of my visit. When Clark took over the Miner, Daly started the Standard, a morning paper, at Anaconda, about eighteen miles away, and sent afternoon editions of hIS paper over to Butte on ore trains, thus obtaining a voice in public affairs in general and against the Miner in particular. This was the beginning of what has been called the war of the copper kings, in which everyone in Butte took sides, the Irish miners backing Daly, while Clark found his following among the Cornishmen or Cousin Jacks as they were called.
Billy Whiteside had a job on the Miner setting scare heads. Like many another roadster, he had often felt the urge to travel in style. So when it happened that both he and Johnny Neary, an itinerant typographer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had saved up a stake, they bought a horse and buckboard and set out for the Pacific Coast. But their funds gave out, compelling them to sell their outfit and finish the journey via side-door Pullmans.
There were more kinds of people, more character types, in Butte than in any city of its size in the world. Miners, professional men and merchants, sharpers, tough hombres and women of easy virtue were there, and any hour of the day or night the streets were crowded by the red-shirted miners, ranchmen, trappers, tourists, businessmen, Chinamen, and even Indians.
The veriest beginning of Butte had been less than a quarter of a century before, when two miners, curious as to some elk antlers that appeared to have been used for digging, deepened the hole with their shovels and found gold. This brought the first rush of miners and fortune seekers. But the gold boom died and the town was deserted and all but forgotten, when it was discovered that some of its ugly hills were rich in silver, which, with the coming of the railroad, set Butte firmly on its feet. When I arrived the silver boom was fading, but the important discovery had been made that the Anaconda was virtually a: solid mountain of copper.
Horace Greeley had an indirect part in the naming of this “richest hill on earth.” During the Civil War, his paper, the New York Tribune, had said McClellan’s army would crush the enemy “like a giant anaconda.” The phrase stuck in the mind of the miner who discovered rich ore in the mountain and he called his mine the Anaconda.
The raw copper camp was “good copy” for the eastern newspapers, some of them saying that “Butte was simply an outpost of hell where men lived by the systematic robbery of people enticed into the camp by paid-for accounts of the fabulous riches of its mines; that the murders were of such frequent occurrence that the few women and children there looked with indifference upon crime of every kind, and often joined the men in its commission,” while other papers printed such inspired stuff as “Every businessman and miner in Butte is a walking arsenal, carrying a brace of pistols in his belt and a bowie knife in his right boot; men, women, Negroes, Chinamen and Indians nightly gather around the gaming tables with which the dissolute, hilarious camp abounds.”
Most of which was poppycock. Butte was raw, raucus and rowdy, a man’s town, and, being a rich and rising frontier mining camp, it had-the natural appurtenances thereof such as occasional crime, dance halls, gambling houses and a red-light district equal to any in the country. The saloons, gambling halls, eating places, and bagnios were open twenty-four hours a day.
Butte was open and above-board in its enjoyment of wickedness, immorality and coarse jesting. Faro and roulette tables were by windows in plain view. King & Lowrie’s was a leading saloon and gambling place. It was in this establishment, a few years earlier, there had occurred the famous battle between “Bodie Joe” Rowells and “Lean Joe” Campbell. Several gambling dives were concealed behind the weird-fronted stores of China Alley.
In the “hurdy gurdy” houses of the town, there would be a bar for drinking and a barrier beyond which sat the “hurdy gurdies” as the women were called. A dollar in gold admitted one to their presence and a dance—and what was spent after that was limited only by the gentleman’s conscience and the size of his bank roll.
The rude entertainment of the Casino and the Comique was typical of frontier towns and mining camp theaters. The Comique had rows of screened boxes above the floor of the theater, with entrance by a stairway leading from the alley. Those not chary of their reputations walked boldly in to the main floor of the theater. Girls rustled the boxes, where men bought drinks for them and stuffed their red stockings with percentage tickets and complacently pinched the legs of female entertainers circulating among the tables.
The saloons of the town were many and varied, running from the White Elephant and the huge Atlantic Bar with its fifteen bartenders serving as many as twelve thousand glasses of beer on a Saturday night, down to Dublin Dan’s at Porphryry and Main, which catered to the hobo trade and always kept a huge pot of stew boiling on the big pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room and where sleeping on the floor was permitted. One whole block of saloons on North Main was called the Dardanelles. Then there was the Clipper Shades, one of America’s most famous saloons, at Wyoming and Park, in the heart of the red-light district, run by J. W. Kenney and Pete Hanson, the latter being known as “King of Galena Street.”
Galena Street was the line in Butte. The elite there would have been those rococo parlor houses run by such ladies of high hearts and low morals as Lou Harpell, Mabel Loy, Belle Rhodes and Molly Demurska. Molly was a popular madame who ran an honest house with beautiful girls. She married the town marshal, Jack Jolly, in a public ceremony. Jolly was shot by the noted “Soapy” Smith while on the way to the Klondike.
On the north side of Galena Street were the cheaply constructed saloons, music halls and gambling joints which gave the street the name of the wildest and most wide-open district in America. Here was the home of the Casino, combination dance hall, saloon, prize-fight arena, theater, and brothel, wherein were employed a hundred girls. On this street, too, were such characters as Carmen and “Nigger Liz,” oldtime girls, veterans of the mining camps of Virginia City and Bannack. Along the south side of the street were the one-room cribs, each displaying the name of the fair charmer within, such as French Emma, Jew Jess, and Mexican Maria.
Then, too, there was the “Stockade,” an immense rookery of assorted vice, with French ladies predominating. Here, the gentlemen strolled along the inside balconies, comparing the pulchritude, or lack of it, or other qualities of the females inviting them to enter the small apartments. I woke up one morning in durance vile. Possibly I had been drinking again. Soon the turnkey slipped me a half-pint, compliments of Mr. Mullins—a life-saver if ever there was one (may his soul rest in peace). I divvied with the turnkey, who opined the police judge wouldn’t want to be bothered with trying plain drunks. I soon was out of the clink and on my way to the East.
CHAPTER THIRTY Oh, the E-i-ree Is Rising!
Every printer who traveled in those days was the owner of an extensive repertoire of poems or pieces that could be recited on various occasions (and usually were), and ballads that could be sung when the boys in the back room were getting on with their drinking. One bit of such a ballad was a variant of the old Erie Canal ballad:
Oh, the E-i-ree is rising,
The gin is getting low;
I don’t think we’ll get a drink
Till we get to Buffalo.
Someone would be sure to come forward with a version of a nostalgic poem eulogizing the virtues of the old-fashioned privy and attribute the poem to a certain gentle writer of bucolic verse whose name was a household word in America. This might be followed by Eugene Field’s
“When Willie Wets the Bed,” which somehow would recall “Runt, the Piddler of His Age.” An orator would give an imitation of a backwoods statesman declaring that the name of Arkansas should never be changed—”never, by God, sir; never!” When it came time for another song, that might be “The Little Old Red Drawers That Maggie Wore.” Then one would recite the woes of a tramp that began “Down the Lehigh Valley” and ended with an avowal of vengeance against the runt that had stolen his woman. Some tramp from the West Coast would sing that mournful folk ballad of the bums, “The Girl With the Blue Velvet Band.” Then we would be told in song that there once was a man named Willie the Weeper, who made his living as a chimney sweeper. Next would be described in verse that titanic, sanguinary battle between Abdullah Boul Boul Ameer and I van Petrofsky Skevar. So it went, and if perchance memories faltered, there would be a searching of vest pockets to bring out printed bits of other Rabelaisian literature for the delectation of the company.
I had put a lot of distance between me and Butte, and was foregathered with a group of knights of the silent messengers of thought in a Bates Street saloon near the waterfront in Detroit. There were, besides myself, Bill Lukens, “the Terror of the Lakes,” Andy Hughes, “Circus” Baldwin, who had traveled a season or two with a circus, and others whose names escape my memory. Andy was big enough to fight a bear with a broomstick, had a drooping yellow mustache and had an impediment in his speech. He told of working for a small-town publisher in Ohio who hired another printer and let Andy go with the excuse, “He can talk better than you.” To which Andy retorted, “What the hell you want for fifteen dollars a week—oratory?”
The Detroit Free Press, located near by, was a brilliant and powerful spokesman for liberal Democracy in America and was then the oldest newspaper in the city. When the Gazette had burned in 1830, the Democratic party sought a stronger organ and the plant of a Pontiac paper was bought and moved to Detroit as the Democratic Free Press and Michigan Intelligencer, being the forerunner of the Detroit Free Press.
Even the Gazette had not been Detroit’s first newspaper, for as early as 1809, Father Gabriel Richard, an energetic priest, brought the first printing press to the territory and became the first editor of the Michigan Essay or Impartial Observor. One of the early editors of the Free Press had been John H. Harman, a compositor, who later became sole owner, selling the paper to Wilbur F. Story, also a printer, who some time later sold to William E. Quimby and his associates and went to Chicago where he established the Times.
The Free Press was then under Quimby at the peak of its power. Perhaps the most noted writer on the paper’s editorial force at the time was Charles B. Lewis, whose humorous sketches were eagerly read in the farthest corners of America, printed over the pseudonym of M. Quad, from which assumed title it was no surprise to learn that he had risen from printer’s devil to become in turn journeyman printer, reporter, country editor, legislative reporter and columnist. Every week he told of the bumbling activities of one Bowser and his family-an early day George Bungle.
In Detroit, politics were controlled by the public utilities and the saloon element, working hand in hand. Locally, the difference between a Democratic and a Republican administration was that between Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. The utilities furnished the money for the campaigns and the lawless gangs of the city furnished the brawn. Each tiniest precinct of the city was parceled off and controlled by caucuses held in the back room of some saloon. Each ward had its boss and at the city conventions, plug uglies attended in great numbers, well schooled in how to keep the so-called better class from expressing itself. The sinister thing from the viewpoint of a democracy was that back of the money of the utilities and the brawn of the gangsters was the brains furnished by the aristocratic dwellers along Woodward Avenue, known as the “mansion control” of Detroit—and a tight control it was, too.
I found similar conditions prevailing in Cleveland, where Silas Merchant, a contractor, was boss of both parties and the town was controlled by little ward bosses, while pre-primaries were held in barns and saloons.
Mark Hanna, as Marcus Alonzo Hanna was popularly known, had a conspective viewpoint of politics, and even then, perhaps, was considering the possibilities of William McKinley, Canton lawyer, who a few years later he put in the White House. Hanna, not long before, had disposed of the Herald, which he had owned with a group of associates. That paper had its roots deep in the history of Cleveland, having made its appearance only a year after the city’s first newspaper, the Cleveland Gazette and Commercial Register, had made its bow in 1818. It was traditional that some printer on one of those early new?papers was responsible for the present spelling of the city’s name, the city having been founded by and named in honor of Moses Cleaveland. The printer, it was said, threw away the a in order to fit a headline. Gross libel! Just the city room, as usual, trying to shift the blame!
The Herald mailing list and good will had been taken over by the Leader, a morning newspaper, and combined with its afternoon paper, the News. The Leader stood at the head of the Republican press in Northern Ohio, and its former venerable editor, Edwin Cowles, through his paper, was largely responsible for the calling of the first Republican convention, held at Pittsburgh. He had been a member of the original firm owning the Leader, Medill, Cowles & Co., the leading partner being Joseph Medill, who went to Chicago where for years he controlled the destiny of the Tribune.
Its Democratic rival, also a morning paper, was the Plain Dealer, a worthy political and journalistic antagonist. When the Leader bought the Herald good will, the Plain Dealer bought its plant on Bank Street and the paper’s morning edition then was being published from that plant.
The Leader was published on lower Superior Street, having a side entrance for the printers on Long Street. The retail district of the city then was virtually confined to lower Superior Street, between the Square and the river, though there was a tendency even then toward the east. The Superior Street viaduct was new, connecting the two sides of the Cuyahoga, the west side being reached by street cars winding down South Water Street hill, over a small bridge and around to Detroit Street hill.
The city’s “white way” was on Ontario Street, between the Square and the city market. Here there were half a dozen music halls where whole families would sit about the tables drinking beer and sour wine. The Germans, Bohemians and Irish crowded these places of evenings and on Sundays. For dancing, there was Garrett’s Hall on the Square and Weisgerber’s Hall on Prospect. Frank M. Drew’s Dime Museum was on lower Superior, where one might view the snake charmers, fat ladies, living skeletons and headhunters, to say nothing of the variety acts on the small stage at the rear. The Theatre Comique was on Frankfort Street, between Bank and Water streets, run by “old Monty,” a Frenchman whose real name was Montpellier. Here the charm of the female form divine was exhibited through black stockings almost up to the girls’ knees and the place was considered a lure to corrupt the youth of the city!
Hard by the museum was the plant of the Press, which had been founded ten years before by Edward W. Scripps and John S. Sweeney, cousins, and which was by way of becoming a journalistic success. I remember Scripps as a strapping big man who always wore a “cowboy” hat.
Cleveland was the stomping ground of the three Lewis brothers, newspapermen. I have had many a chuckle over Alfred Henry Lewis’s “Wolfville Nights,” in which the oldtimer usually prefaced his stories with “It was in the morning, about half-past second-drink time.”
Charles Farrar Brown, journeyman printer from Maine, had left Waterford when he was thirteen, to follow the life of a roving printer. At twenty he was in Tiffin, Ohio, where he set type on the Seneca Advertiser and was described as a “gawky, green-looking fellow.” From there he went to set type on the Commercial at Toledo, where he was given a job as market editor and in a similar capacity was lured to the Plain Dealer in Cleveland. But his mind was not on markets. He wrote letters, full of a homely philosophy, to the paper and signed them “Artemus Ward.” Before long, Artemus Ward, the humorist, was famous, while none knew Charlie Brown, the market reporter.
In John Sitterly’s little restaurant where the morning newspapermen foregathered, I fell to talking with George Washington Lutes, a tramp printer from the Central West, and we decided to move on up as far as Erie.
I showed up on the Erie Dispatch, where Sylvester E. McDannel was foreman, a swell fellow to work for, but replaced in a few days by another foreman, a noted rat. There was some talk of walking out, but nothing came of it. The Dispatch had absorbed the Gazette, which had been a weekly and Sunday paper, and on which Horace Greeley had worked as a lad. He had lived some sixteen miles southwest of Erie, but Editor Sterrett had induced him to come into town and live at the editor’s home. Greeley was paid “fourteen dollars a month and find.” There was a frame and cases in the Dispatch composing room said to have been the ones on which Greeley worked and I was given the honor of setting type at Greeley’s old frame. Incidentally, the frame is said to be still doing service in one of Erie’s job printing plants.
In a few days the printers struck in Erie, on both the Morning Dispatch and Evening Herald, because the offices had refused to allow them to measure the Mercantile Appraiser’s List, which was set up in the Dispatch composing room as a job and then published in both newspapers as an advertisement. The printers had been on piece scale and, according to their contract, the fat take should have been theirs to measure. The papers were compelled to merge as the Dispatch-Herald. Eight of the striking printers launched the Erie Daily Times, each putting in twenty-five dollars.
I helped out with the new paper in a way I was beginning to like more and more, that is by writing instead of setting type. I also helped the boys in another way. The city had three breweries: Conrad’s, Fred Kohler’s and Jackson Kohler’s. When the striking printers got the Times started, Conrad’s sent out a keg of beer as a good will offering. I phoned the Jackson Kohler brewery and thanked them for “the keg of beer they had sent out.” They thought perhaps there had been some mistake and I agreed, saying I would call the Fred Kohler brewery and thank them. In a few minutes a quarter-keg of beer came out from Jackson’s and then it was a simple matter to put on the reverse English and get another keg from Fred Kohler’s brewery.
We drank long and hearty and in the course of the drinking repeated many of the poems, recitations and songs that I mentioned as of the Bates Street saloon in Detroit. While the party was at its height, George Washington Lutes and I decided to set out for Pittsburgh, the while we sang lustily, the last verse of the Erie Canal ballad:
Oh, Sallie’s in a whorehouse,
And all the crew’s in jail;
And I’m the only son of a bitch
That’s left to tell the tale!
CHAPTER THlRTY-ONE Happy Hunting Ground
Mushrooming of the steel business in Pittsburgh during the Civil War and for the two decades following had resulted in an expansion for the city and multiplicity of daily newspapers. With never less than seven rival dailies in the field, it could well have been described as the tramp printers’ happy hunting ground.
The Nestor of these publications was the Gazette, a morning paper of Republican persuasion. It was owned by the Oliver family, its history going back to that July day in 1786, when its first issue was printed on a hand press in a log house on Water Street near Ferry by two young Easterners, John Scull and Joseph Hall. Scull succeeded in sailing this newspaper craft through unbiased waters until 1800, when John Israel, a young Hebrew who had been conducting a newspaper in Washington, established the Tree of Liberty and precipitated a newspaper rivalry that has been maintained, through various ownerships, to this day. Five years later, Ephraim Pentland, a twenty-year-old printer who had been with the Philadelphia Aurora, came and established the Commonwealth, which, through various changes had become the Post at the time of my visit.
Three newspapers in such a small city might have seemed overcrowding, but the thriving little city was never livelier than at the turn of the century, when it was known as “a young hell, a second Sodom,” and the “frontier of depravity.” The papers were filled with items about people heading for that great West beyond Pittsburgh, people who wanted to know about new or better routes or any improvement in the methods of transportation and to read the news of the brawls and wild fights of the river men, the wild, red-shirted keel-boat men of the Ohio River.
All business was located near “the Point,” which was where the confluence of the Monongahela and Alleghany rivers formed the Ohio River and here amid the profusion of Lombardy poplars, locusts, and weeping willows, the citizens took their ease in front of James Tustin’s Sign of the Ark, the Whale and the Monkey, the Green Tree, the White Horse, or the Harp and Crown.
When I arrived in Pittsburgh, Philip Menges was foreman of the Chronicle-Telegraph, a paper which Oliver S. Hershman had formed in 1884 by a merger of the old Chronicle with the Telegraph, a sheet of comparatively recent birth. Here I found “Pop” Thompson setting type, his stovepipe hat at his side and a big cigar in his mouth; and the Rollins brothers, Tom and Charlie, also were there. Tom handed me his rule and I went to work.
A Negro named Hill was to be hanged one morning at nine o’clock. The Chronicle-Telegraph prepared for an extra, had it made up and printed several thousand copies, but held it for release. It contained a full account of what the Negro said on the scaffold just before the trap was sprung. Some newsboys got to the stack of papers and stole several hundred copies which sold like hot cakes. While the papers were being sold a reprieve came from the governor in Harrisburg. Then did the opposition paper, the Leader, have fun!
Occasionally I was able to get passes to the Academy of Music on Liberty Avenue, the manager, Harry Williams, being a good sort. Among the attractions at the Academy was Lillian Russell, daughter of Charles E. Leonard, a printer who had learned his trade in Michigan and then gone West, establishing the Herald at Clinton, Iowa, in which city Helen Louise Leonard was born, later to become famous as “the airy, fairy Lillian.” At the time of which I write, Mr. Leonard was running a job printing plant in Chicago. Alex P. Moore, who was a political writer for the Chronicle-Telegraph, had a case on Lillian and married her a number of years later. In the meantime he had gone to the Press as political writer and had bought the Leader, in 1905, I think.
Speaking of the Academy of Music, reminds me of some other places of amusement such as the Pittsburgh Opera House on Fifth Avenue, the principal theater of the city; and the Duquesne, the Bijou, the Park, the Cyclorama, the Harris Museum and the Eden Musee.
A favorite spot for drinking was the German club in Diamond Alley, known as the Waffel Canesen, which was open only in the evenings and on Sundays. It was on the second floor of a building between Smithfield Street and Strawberry Alley, a few doors above the Dispatch office. This was considered a good place to go and have a good time, combining as it did the pleasures of a dance hall and an excellent bar in the rear of the room.
Falling in with Johnny Flannigan, a printer on the Dispatch, I accompanied him to the boarding house for printers run by his sister, Bid Flannigan, at 207 Third Avenue. It was one of those prosaic, run-together, threestory brick houses. Miss Flannigan boasted that she had never lost a cent by trusting the printerrman—that on occasions they would depart owing a bill, but that sooner or later the money carne through the mails squaring the accounts.
Dean of the boarders at Miss Flannigan’s was “Senator” Murray. He was older than the rest of us and we all held silence when he spoke. None of us rushed ahead of him when meal time was announced. He had one leg off just above the knee. He was a periodic drinker who never indulged during his time on the wagon, and even talked at times against the evils of rum. The “Senator” had a good cork leg and also a peg leg in reserve. For the cork leg was not only useful as a means of locomotion, but was a sheet anchor in times of need. When he had toppled off the wagon, spent all his money and all he could borrow or wheedle from his associates, he would strap on the peg leg and take the cork one to “Uncle’s.” It was during one of these final struggles that the “Senator” was in a printers’ hangout on Smithfield Street where he fell asleep at a table. Some of the brethren, seeing that he slumbered with peg leg extended, sought to give him a surprise, something in the way of a forerunner of the “hot foot.” Obtaining a saw, they deleted about two inches from the bottom of the peg leg. When the “Senator” awakened and found himself badly listing to larboard, he used up all the printers’ cuss-words in maledictions on his tormentors.
One day ”Tug” Wilson blew into town and looked up his friend Wilse Shannon, who was subbing on the Chronicle-Telegraph along with me. The three of us decided to get a free drink and went into the saloon of Matt Weiss on Smithfield Street, a printers’ hangout. After a bit, Wilse pretended to faint, while “Tug” and I rubbed his hands and called loudly for whisky—which was brought. Later we tried the trick in Piette’s saloon on Fifth Avenue. This time it was “Tug’s” tum to faint, but when we went into our act, the bartender emptied the scrub bucket over him!
Sometimes I went up to Jacob’s rooms on Fourth Avenue to buy hay for the ponies. I also did some of my loafing at Wilbert’s saloon on the South Side hill, another printers’ rendezvous. Charlie Penn, who worked on the Dispatch, a genial soul and teller of funny stories, would be there. He stayed at a printers’ boarding house run by a Mrs. Ritchey up near Ross Street, and induced me to come up there to board. It was only another step until he had me showing up on the Dispatch.
This was a morning paper, independent Republican in politics. At this time George Dabney was on the desk and Alex McWilliams was the skipper. The latter, however, continued to keep in his hand at the make-up job. On the staff was Robert Simpson, who had worked as a typesetter on the Oil City Derrick in the oil boom days of the early seventies. Erasmus or “Ras” Wilson, as he was called, was running a column, “The Quiet Observer,” but returning to the Gazette, his first love, shortly after that. About a year before my arrival in Pittsburgh, he had encouraged a little country girl, Elizabeth Seaman, to become a newspaper woman and already she had made good, having gone to New York to work and achieved world-wide fame as “Nellie Bly,” a name derived from one of Stephen Foster’s songs.
Maybe it was something about working on a morning newspaper that caused those printers to kick up their heels. Sometimes we would go to Daisy Moore’s place on First Avenue. Then again it would be Sally Welche’s or Lean Smackers, both on Second Avenue, or Mother Davis’s house on Third Avenue or some of the dives along Water Street. If it wasn’t old Mrs. Becker’s speakeasy on Second Avenue, it might be the “Blackberry Patch” on the same thoroughfare. In an expansive mood we might visit the notorious Point Bridge in the old South Side; the Ferry Street district, or even the “Yellow Row” out in Soho, deriving its name from the color of its paint—a hangout for crooks and low women, not a safe place to visit. To complete the list, we might take in Robinson Street and, River Avenue in Allegheny.
In summer, Pittsburgh society went to Chautauqua, Saratoga, Atlantic City, Conneaut Lakes, Cresson, Ligonier, Cambridgetown and Saegerstown. But when we Pittsburgh printers went camping, we went up to Mt. Clements and camped on the farm of old man Vanderbush, a Belgian who could hardly speak English. Once when • I had gone up with George Dabney, Tom Dycus, Hughey Turner, and Eddie Stohr, we spent a little time fishing and at times had a ten-cent-limit poker game. The old Belgian watched the game and tried to figure it out. He caught on to some extent, but as the saying is, a little learning is a dangerous thing, for when he saw Tom Dycus pass a pat hand to get a back raise, he said, “Why , Tom, you damn fool, you got a flush!” Showing great restraint, Tom merely kicked the table over.
The Pittsburgh Times was founded by Robert P. Nevin and later acquired by Chri-stopher Lyman Magee, under whose management it became Pit~sburgh’s leading morning newspaper. “Chris” Magee was a political power in Pittsburgh before he was old enough to vote. This was partly due to his having been of an old family of the city, partly due to his lovable and magnetic personality; but doubtless most of all attributable to the political skill and executive ability which he possessed to an unusual degree. He had associated with him in bringing the Republican machine of Pittsburgh to a remarkable perfection, William Flinn, a dynamic, forceful, even ruthless, political leader, endowed nevertheless with foresight and intelligence. In the year before, the machine had made certain changes in the city government that gave complete controho Magee and Flinn. They had a working agreement with Matthew S. Quay, political boss of the state, but some time later when they had a falling out with him a real political battle was on. The Gazette backed tlle state leader and in its editorials referred to the Magee faction as “the ring” and “one of the most corrupt political machines that ever ruled a municipality.”
Sometimes we would take a hack and go out to old Gus Stitzer’s place on the old Evergreen Road, near Allegheny. We could hire a carriage, two horses and a driver, all night for five dollars. Sometimes we would see a carriage stuck in the mud up to the hubs while the driver of a second carriage would unhitch to pull it out.
Farther out on the same road, was Rube Coppress’s cockpit, where men carne from all surrounding towns. Cocking mains were fought there and I saw thousands of dollars change hands. I saw there such old cockers as Johnny Walls, Dutch Billy, Joe Welzer, Pat Norton, old man Rice, Frank Cassel and Jim Crow. The latter would say, “I’ll bet a dollar and let the sawdust hold the stakes!”
There was a bar in one end of the establishment, at which we could, between fights, get a bit of lunch and beer or a shot of liquor. There was also a big chuck-a-luck game in progress, no limit. The Barber brothers were the proprietors of both the bar and the chuck-a-luck game.
The heaviest betting I saw was when Max Leslie, a Pittsburgh politician, was backing Rube Coppress in a main against Johnny Williams in which twenty-one cocks were used. Leslie stood there and took all bets on his paper until Rube won eleven straight fights and the main. I happened to be on Rube to the finish and won thirty bucks. One of the Barber brothers backed Williams that night to the tune of four hundred dollars on a single fight and lost.
As I was leaving, I decided to give the chuck-a-luck a whirl. I put my thirty fish on the ace and up carne three lovely aces! I collected ninety dollars and kept on going, my next important stop being the City of Washington.
CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO Down the Avenue of Nations
Washington, in the late eighties, was a rather quiet, easy moving place that might have been compared, so far as activity was concerned, to a present-day fairly active county-seat town. The number of office holders was not overly large and the streets were never crowded, except it might be a gala day. It was not an unusual thing to see blanket Indians wending their way down Pennsylvania Avenue on their way to see the great white father.
In Washington, it was but natural for me to gravitate to Tip Hoy’s rendezvous for itinerant printers near Nineteenth Street and the Avenue. Tip Hoy and his second-class hotel were known far and wide among the fraternity. There was a bar and pool tables in connection with the establishment. Tip was a square rigged fellow who never permitted an indigent member of the craft to go uncared for. It was inevitable that his place would become un-official headquarters for the active spirits, especially those convivially inclined.
Most of the wandering printers, when in Washington, showed up on the Post, a morning paper, at the time being run by Frank Hatton, who had left the Chicago field since my visit in that city. This was not too far from “newspaper row,” the popular designation for Fourteenth Street, between F and Pennsylvania. That neighborhood around the Tenth Street plaza of the Avenue, the printers called their own. Even now, in front of the old Post building, there stands the monument of Benjamin Franklin, printer.
The linotypes had come to Washington and were installed on the Post and its controlled afternoon paper, the Critic. Perhaps I should say the linotypes had come back to Washington, for it seems to be a bit of obscure history that the clockmaker, Mergenthaler, did much of his early tinkering on that machine in Washington before moving to a shop in Baltimore. The “machine question” as it was called, which had been agitating the local union, was solved immediately and practically by John B. Dickman, the young man who just had been elected president of the local union. A contract was signed providing for the training of eight printers, four by day and four by night. They were to receive thirty cents an hour during a three-month training period, after which their wages as journeymen linotype operators were to be the subject of further conferences. It was a wise move, for Washington never had trouble over the coming of the machine.
A popular rendezvous for Post printers and others was the dairy lunch room in the Post building which had been opened by Frank Ward. This was in a long, narrow room, across the far end of which a bar had been built. The one-arm chairs, a decided novelty then, were placed down the sides of the room, in the center of which was a long table, and from the Post was gathered the exchanges from all parts of the country, which were placed on the table for use of the customers. At the counter were served hot coffee, milk, cold sandwiches, cake and pie. Everything was clean as could be and the place did a wonderful business, being, I understand the first of its kind ever established. The place had two Edison phonographs which played from cylinders. One put the earpieces on, dropped a nickel in the slot and received entertainment of a sort. Later Ward opened a cafeteria farther down the Avenue and built up a sizable fortune. He became interested in racing and owned a horse named for himself. Then, I have heard, he killed a man during a race-track altercation, was sent to prison and wound up broke.
Another popular eating place on the Avenue was Harvey’s, and it became quite the habit, following payday, to “make” that restaurant and enjoy steamed oysters, a delicacy served nowhere else. As the price was around fifty or seventy-five cents we could buy oysters only shortly after payday. Later, as funds ran lower, we printers would repair to a can house just off the Avenue where we could get a large size dish of raws for ten cents, including catsup and crackers.
Gambling was not flaunted in Washington. Such gambling as there was, was not open. There was a faro game down in Alexandria where we sometimes played. Sometimes we went to Baltimore.
A sort of picnic ground down the river was Marshall Hall, where those so inclined would go to soothe tinkling nerves and jaded spirits. This was rated a very respectable place and was reached by way of a packet boat that ran between it and the city. There was a pavilion for dancing and the usual run of amusement devices. It was a delightful place in which to foregather to consume vast quantities of beer and sandwiches of various sorts.
Just outside the District, on Maryland soil, as I remember, was the Boundary, a place somewhat resembling the midway of a county fair. It had sprung up to accommodate the bookies when the city had put a ban on horse race gambling. There were a number of beer dispensaries and several stands selling gadgets of several kinds, . and of course the bookie shops, where one could lay a little bet. I went into a pool room where the names of the horses and the odds were posted on a board. The name of Fairy Queen intrigued me and I laid my roll, which was not extensive, on the counter to say she would win. She must be running yet. Oh, well, she was not the first fairy queen to separate me from my bank roll.
Anyway, I figured I was no worse off than Mickey Sullivan of New England and Harry Humble of Iowa, typesetters and inseparable companions, both full of the race horse fever, who had made a few run-of-the-mill bets, but decided to save up their money and bet on Proctor Knott, the wonder horse. They would eschew all bad company and work without ceasing, omit frivolities and husband their dough for the time when Proctor Knott would face the barrier. The scenes of merriment knew them no more and when there came the gladsome call of spring and the vernal breezes beckoned and the ubiquitous goat announced that bock beer was on tap, they remained firm in their resolve. It was not until the day before the big race that Sullivan and Humble paused in front of Con Horrigan’s thirst emporium, considered the friendly goat in the window announcing “bock beer on tap,” and decided that just one little beer wouldn’t do a bit of harm. They had no money to bet on Proctor Knott and that year the son of a gun won in a walk.
A popular place was Kernan’s Theater, a variety house just off the Avenue. Once in this place, I saw the original Jack Dempsey (the Nonpareil) in an exhibition bout. The Eden Musee was an amusement parlor where the freaks sat on a raised platform. One of the freaks was Winnie Johnson, a ponderous colored woman. Having had a few drinks, I was in this place with another printer, who had an inquisitive turn of mind and doubted the authenticity of her embonpoint. He furtively stuck a pin in Winnie’s leg—and my, what an uproar there was!
That vast triangle of wickedness lying between the Mall and the Avenue, running from Tenth to Fifteenth, known as “Hooker’s Division,” or “the Division,” derived its name from General Joe Hooker, whose soldiers bivouacked in that area during the Civil War. When the soldiers moved away, the girls who had flocked there to entertain them were left to form a section of the city as well recognized as Capitol Hill itself and which became one of the most notorious red-light districts in America. Its bawdy houses flourished without any apparent restrictions until the district was abolished by the Webb-Kenyon act of 1913. The site now is covered by federal buildings.
The glory that “had been Swampdoodle’s was flown, its most noted thoroughfare, Cabbage Alley, had vanished, and the Tiber, the stream that once overflowed the early Irish of Swampdoodle, was controlled. The once turbulent section had become a quiet residential district where the clock on St. Aloysius toned out the time of day in chiming the quarters, the halves and the hours. The Government Printing Office was located in this district, near a ball park which is the site of the present Union Station. The GPO was considered so far out “from town that printers employed there seldom met the newspaper printers from downtown. Harvey Ellis, a member of the typographical union, operated a cigar store on H Street just above the GPO, which was a gathering place for the night force.
In the preceding winter, “Dad” McGinley and Ollie Wharton blew into Washington, where Wharton became too ill to work. All winter long and through the spring, “Dad” had led a staid and sober life, putting aside foolish or wasteful habits, the while he buckled to his typesetting on the Record, and with his money saw to it that Wharton was cared for. Not one word of complaint had “Dad” uttered, but when the local boys raised the money to send Wharton to a health resort, “Dad’s” reaction was natural. One afternoon while the gang was sitting outside Ellis’s cigar store, a cab was seen coming down H Street in rather a hurry. “Dad” McGinley, bedecked in the jehu’s regalia, was driving, and the jehu, fully plastered, was reclining inside. After a minute or two of chaffering with the gang, “Dad” drove on, still head man of the cab.
It was at Ellis’s that I met, one afternoon, a young member of the union who persisted in talking of the beauties and merits of Kokomo, Indiana. To say that he was full of his subject was putting it mildly. He had joined the Washington local only a year or two before and had not yet really embarked upon that career that for forty years was to carry him into every print shop in the country, and where preaching, as he did, the gospel of Kokomo, he was to earn the title of “Kokomo” Phillips. Among other highlights of that long career was the time he slept with a bear and the time he woke up in a boxcar with two circus elephants as fellow passengers. He became a celebrity and at one time or another virtually every big city newspaper in the country has carried a feature story about him. The reason, perhaps, that he was then in Washington, was his sister, Miss Mary Phillips, an uncommonly beautiful and gifted woman, who was for forty years a confidential clerk in one of the government departments in that city.
William R. Phillips, which was “Kokomo’s” real name, was born in Kokomo at the old Phillips homestead, a picturesque property still remembered by oldtime residents. He was the youngest son of T. C. Phillips, who owned and edited the Kokomo Tribune from 1856 to 1878 and made the paper of tremendous power in that section for the Union cause during the Civil War. The elder Phillips was an outstanding figure among Indiana newspapermen for a long period thereafter. Following his graduation from Kokomo High School in 1878, William entered the Tribune office. When his father died a year later, the business passed to three sons, one of whom died within a short time. “Kokomo” and his brother, Albert F., carried on the work until 1885, when the paper passed into other hands. The brother went to Salt Lake City, where he became the dean of editorial writers in that city. “Kokomo” took to the road, and the city of his birth saw him thereafter only at infrequent intervals.
Schooled in reporting, his preference was for the mechanical end of a newspaper office and it was as compositor and proofreader he occupied himself through all the years that followed. He roamed the country over, finding employment always in newspaper offices, working on all kinds of sheets, from the big metropolitan dailies to obscure country weeklies. But always was the urge to travel on.
There were long periods, frequently of months and occasionally of years, that he would be entirely out of touch with his family, who would not know whether he were living or dead. Once he was reported dead in an eastern city and the body ordered forwarded to Kokomo, but word came that it was the body of another man. Later, when he came to town, “Kokomo” was amused by the story, but said it was his desire that, when he died, no matter how remote the place of his passing, his body be brought back to Kokomo and laid to rest among his people. Restless and wayward and wasted as many of his years were, through them all the thread of attachment for the old town held true. When “Kokomo” died in Tulsa, Oklahoma, March 10, 1928, the secretary of that union notified the secretary of the Kokomo union and the place that had been reserved in Crown Point was prepared. It was the spot toward which his heart turned in al his adventurings. There the wanderer of the family was laid to final rest
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE Land of Chapter Endings
Leaving Washington in company with “Dad” McGinley, I was on my way to New York City, ultimate goal of all roadsters. We found it necessary to ride the rods, but were doing a very good job of it and were optimistic about reaching the big city in a few hours. It was cold under those boxcars and our fingers and hands were almost numb, but we continued to hang on as mile by mile we got nearer our destination. Perhaps it was this numbness from the cold that caused what happened next; of course, no one in this world will ever know for sure how it happened, but “Dad” suddenly relaxed his grip and fell, grabbed wildly for some sort of support, and the next instant was underneath the wheels of the train, being ground to pieces. Cold and numb as I was, I scarcely could realize, for a second, what had happened and couldn’t have been of the least help, even had I been alert and in full possession of my faculties. I became deathly sick and was vomiting all over myself, but was compelled to hold on for dear life to avoid suffering the same fate that had overtaken “Dad.”
Arriving in New York, I had to be well fortified before showing up at the World, my nerves were so shaky.
This paper had been taken over only the year before by Joseph Pulitzer, who had grown greatly in stature since I was a gay cat in St. Louis. Already he had lost a hundred thousand dollars, a considerable loss for a newspaper in those days, but he was not backing away from the fight by any means. He had brought Cockerill to New York to be managing editor of the paper and they were showing the other newspaper publishers of the country how, by the use of sensationalism, a popular daily with the largest circulation in the country could be built upon what might have been called the ruins of an old, run-down paper. And in doing it, they dealt a death-blow to the old newspaper axiom that morning papers offered the greatest possibilities in the newspaper field.
I don’t believe I had ever seen so many typesetters at work in one room. The World employed two hundred and ten compositors and was equipped with forty makeup tables. I wondered then, as I have often wondered since, when detaching myself from the busy whirl of a composing room’s activities, how amazed and bewildered the casual visitor must be at what he sees and hears in such a place-a place in some respects resembling a boiler factory at high tide. There is bustle and clatter and what appears to be confusion all about. One group of workers may be sitting or standing, engaged in conversation and certainly doing no work. What can the foreman be think ing of? Why doesn’t he reprimand them? Because they’re probably late-stay printers on their lunch-hour. Others walk unhurriedly about their tasks, while others go on a dead run. True, these latter are more likely to be employed on the reportorial side than they are to be composing- room employees. But the confusion is more apparent than real. As a matter of fact, every piece of copy is sized up and shaped for the amount of space it eventually is to occupy in the day’s paper before it is sent to the composing room. Arriving there it is cut into takes, each one numbered, and routed through the linotype machines to the assembly dump, where the story is re-assembled according to the numbers of the takes, a proof taken, and given to the proofreaders. Whatever errors have been found and marked, are corrected on the correction bank and the type is transferred to the forms, the particular page already having been designated. The columns of type are manipulated by the deft hands of the make-up man, who, as he finishes the page, “twists her tail,” and starts the page of type toward the stereotyping room. Throughout the operation, there has been absolute system and discipline, from managing editor down to galley boy, a vast system of inter-related activities, the key to all of it being the foreman of the composing room, sitting on a dais, somnolent in appearance yet keenly alert for any disturbance in the routine of “getting out the sheet.”
In New York I found, everything went on the hook; ads, stocks and all. There were no cuts in those days, as I remember. Sometimes brass rule and type diagrams were used to show the location of streets and buildings in connection with a fire story. “Diagram” King, on the New York Herald, set a diagram backward. He turned it upside down on the stone, pulled out the rules and the type, put them in again and lo! his diagram printed right. He got the name of “Diagram” right there.
About a year before my arrival, Amos Jay Cummings had been made managing editor of the New York Sun. He once had been an oldtime printer of the wandering variety, going from state to state before joining Walker’s filibusterers. That enterprise having had an unhappy ending, he returned to the status of tramp printer. After fighting through the Civil War, he again became a roving printer until taking up with Greeley on the Tribune. He was proud of his membership in the International Typographical Union and as a member of Congress could be depended upon to be for it and similar organizations. He was a newspaper genius, and perhaps because he had been a printer himself, he believed compositors made good editors and had such former printers on his staff as John B. Wood, night editor; William Young, city editor; Samuel Homan, night city editor, and Amos B. Stillman, telegraph editor. Cummings had such a disregard for the feelings of advertisers that often, when a good piece of news came in late, he would throw out advertising to make room for it. He had a terrible temper and his sulphurous vocabulary had caused Greeley to ask him to leave the Tribune. Greeley himself, as is well known, had been a printer, and had set type in several other cities beside New York, before he started the Tribune, being the equivalent of a tramp printer for twelve years before he became an editor. He once wrote, “A printer’s case is a better education than a high school or a college.”
The Sun building was at Nassau and Spruce streets, a five-story building, including the mansard roof, under which the printers toiled. It had been built in 1811 for the group of politicians known collectively as Tammany Hall. Chester S. Lord had come to the Sun as a reporter under Cummings. Before professional schools had been organized to teach journalism, the Sun had come to be regarded as a kind of school of journalism for young college graduates and became known as “the newspaperman’s newspaper.” This attitude toward young college men stemmed back to Dana himself who had written that a university education would not be detrimental to a young man entering the newspaper field, “provided he learns to understand what they want, and gets the knack of putting things attractively.” But Dana didn’t say what it would be necessary to do in case the young man lacked that quality which it was generally agreed Dana himself possessed, “the indefinable newspaper instinct that knows when a tom-cat fight on the steps of the city hall is more important than a crisis in the Balkans.”
The Sun had been founded in 1832 by Benjamin H. Day to promote business for his job printing shop, never dreaming what an establishment the paper itself would become. It was in those early days there was developed the custom of the “call back” for printers. The docking of ships with the news from Europe would be the signal for feverish activity in the newspaper office, but as none could foretell just when the ships would dock, it would have been expensive for the publishers to have kept the printers on “standing time.” So the typesetters, who were required to live near the place of their employment, would be permitted to go home. If, or rather when, they were called back to work upon the arrival of a ship, they would be given a small extra compensation for the “call back.”
When there was work and I was in the chips, there were so many places to go and so much to see in New York that I could hardly do more now than name them. Perhaps the liveliest resort in Gotham was Billy McGlory’s on Hester. Then there was the high-toned Cremorne beer garden with its “fifty beautiful lady cashiers” on West Thirty-second; the Atlantic Garden, with its band of female minstrels; the Flag of Our Union on James; the Sultan Divan on Chatham Square; the Haymarket and the Buckingham Palace. Sixth Avenue, from Fourteenth to Thirty fifth, was the rendezvous of the frail sirens. Some of the enterprising bagnios had pictures of their girls on the outside of the buildings instead of the usual word-of-window advertising. The House of All Nations claimed to have girls from any country you could name. That was a lot of eye wash for such suckers as chose to believe it.
When work wasn’t so plentiful and the income was down, I would stay closer to the Bowery section, that land of chapter endings, with its cheap lodging houses, oyster saloons, dime museums, pawn shops, cheap clothing stores, lottery shops and shooting galleries, a district abounding in sporting men, crooks, gamblers, sailors, tramps and bar flies. In this district were the Old Wooden Rocker, the Old Basket, the Five Points Mission, Joe McGurk’s Suicide Hall, and the flophouse run by “Greasy Jack”—and the Slide, and the Brighton, and the Alhambra. The Bowery was a picturesque though unprincipled thoroughfare— fascinating, rowdy and dangerous. In this crowded, wretched and immoral section, abandoned and homeless women were in and out of the concert halls, saloons and barrel houses. Below Fourteenth Street, assaults on citizens, and even on the uniformed policemen, were rather common occurrences.
As work got scarcer and I found myself unable to get by, I resorted to Russell’s basement restaurant, located in the roughest part of the old Bowery—a nightly hangout for all those looking for a cheap place to flop. Its motley array of boarders seemed to come from all walks of life, some being well dressed while others appeared to have sunk to the lowest levels of the social scale and as if they might be the possessors of all the vermin in town. All one had to do to steep in Russell’s was to go in after ten o’clock at night, spend a nickel for coffee and doughnuts and sleep in his chair until a later comer wanted a place to sit and eat. This’ process would continue until all the chairs were filled. Then we would lay all over the floor, under the tables, behind the cashier’s desk, or sit up against the wall. At five o’clock in the morning, the cry would be “all out!” Becoming disheartened at the way things were progressing, or rather, failing to progress, I decided t6 make my way out of toWn. I was thoroughly disheartened, but still seeking greener pastures.
Leaving a freight train at a little village in Connecticut, I sought the local newspaper office, and finding the door open, I went in and made a bed of old newspapers. Next morning the devil of the shop awakened me as he came to start his fire and sweep out, before going back home for his breakfast. The editor came in a little later, gave me breakfast money, and soon I was back helping the printer with the work of the shop. He was glad to see me, while the editor and the devil listened to my talk of places I had been. I believe the boy was the most appreciative of my listeners. After supper that night he returned to the shop and we talked a long while—or rather I talked, while he listened attentively. I told him of how I had learned the printer’s trade in a shop overlooking the Missouri River, of the carefree existence of the Missouri River Pirates, of the death of Jesse James, of the flood in Deadwood, the exciting things in Leadville, the Kentucky Derby, exotic New Orleans. I talked knowingly of Nelson and McCullagh, of Rosewater, Gene Field, Henry Watterson and Henry Grady and of governors and senators that I had known. There was talk of the outlaws of the West, exciting and dangerous rides on freight trains, gambling, drinking bouts, the Barbary Coast and the Puget Sound country. Here and there a fast woman may have crept into the conversation. Suddenly I realized that, save for a few changes in names and scenes, my tale was essentially that told me years before in old Missouri. I no longer was the open-mouthed apprentice drinking in the words of the worldly-wise and traveled printer. I was the worldlywise and traveled printer! I had gone full circle, and the realization of my boyhood dream was ashes in my mouth.
It was snowing gently outside as I turned up my coat collar and skulked toward the water tank where I knew a freight train would slow up on its way to Boston.
CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR They Come No More—
When I arrived in Boston, the decade was drawing m to its close, a period which had witnessed a revolution in the editing and printing of newspapers. It was the turning point, not only for newspapers, but for the world in general. Up to then, all the activities of men had been a part of the older, slow-going age. But now we were verging upon the mechanical age. Machines were in use on several of the country’s newspapers, demonstrating that type could be set mechanically, even though it wasn’t being done as we had visualized it. No fearful and wonderful mechanism with myriad antennae was seated on the tall stool of the printer, picking up the types and assembling them in the composing sticks. As a matter of fact, there was no type, as we knew type, connected with it. Matrices ran down channels and were assembled to cast a whole line of type at one time. They called it the linotype. For the old hand peggers, whose forte had been the setting of “straight matter” on daily newspapers, it spelled finis. It meant more pages, more advertising, larger circulations, and the ascendancy of evening newspapers. For the oldtime tramp printer, this, too, spelled finis.
In writing of Boston, Walt Whitman mentioned, “That subtle something which effuses behind the whirl of animation, study, business, a happy and joyous public spirit—makes one think of the glints we get of the jolly old Greek cities.” Boston certainly had a “subtle something” possessed by no other city I had known.
Narrow, winding Washington Street, one of the most picturesque and most crowded thoroughfares in the world, was known as “newspaper row.” The sidewalks were narrow and jammed; the street was full of vehicles. Williams Court and Court Avenue, two quaint pedestrian alleys, led to Court Square, back of the City Hall, winding around by the hidden main entrance of Young’s Hotel. One side of the Herald was on Williams Court, and the stairs to the composing room being there, the little court was given the name of “Pi Alley” because of the printers dumping pi from their pockets into the alley. The Bell-in-Hand, with a sign depicting the same, was a renowned drinking place in “Pi Alley,” serving its beer in pewter mugs with glass bottoms. This place’s fame was augmented by its serving of delicious little pork pies. Another well known hangout for the printers was Fitzgerald’s on “newspaper row” at the corner of Water Street, its specialty being baked beans. Here I ran across “Give-a-Damn” Rogers and “Circus” Baldwin, who were catching some work on the Transcript.
The Transcript was an open office, but employed nearly all union printers. The management simply would not sign a contract. John D. Whitcomb, foreman of the composing room, had been for more than forty years with the paper, which was a first-class daily, staid in its way and catering to the old Yankee tradition. Its founder, Henry Worthington Dutton, learned the printer’s trade on the Eagle, a Federalist weekly, at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. When he became a journeyman, he walked to Boston and started setting type in the office of his cousin. Later he started a little shop of his own which grew into the Transcript. As early as 1831 this paper was in sympathy with the movement to shorten working hours, saying eleven hours a day was too much. It advocated the ten-hour day and even mentioned the (revolutionary!) eight-hour day.
I went around with “Give-a-Damn” and “Circus” to show up on the Herald, as they were tired of the Transcript. The Herald published afternoon and morning editions. Type for the afternoon edition was set by the night force when the men came on at one o’clock in the afternoon to fill their cases. It was the custom to work straight through on Saturdays until the last take on the Sunday paper had been set. At the supper hour and again at the lunch hour a caterer brought food to the composing room, arrayed it on long tables, and the men paid cash for what they chose. This was a regular feature also of the lunch hour during the week. On those long Saturday-Sunday stretches in the Herald office I was able to earn eight or nine dollars, which was sufficient to keep me going for a week.
The stocks and big ads were sold to the highest bidders. A printer setting the stocks would pay fifty per cent of his string to the chapel for the privilege. This was cut up into strips of one thousand ems each and passed around as “blood” to the caseholders in rotation. A sub working for a regular got the “blood.”
There was a “general galley” for the convenience of the printers and the “dumping galley,” where the compositors emptied their takes when completed. There was a paste room where the compositors pasted up their takes. The composing room was lighted at night over the makeup and stone by gas jets suspended from the ceiling. The galleys and job stands were lighted by wall brackets. The compositors’ stands were lighted by gas supplied by risers from the floor.
Bill Quinn, foreman of the Herald composing room, was a down homer, or herrin choker, as those printers were called who came into Boston a few years before, following a lockout at Halifax. One of these printers happened to mention to me that he was from the island. In my ignorance, I asked what island. “‘What island?’ ” he roared; “what a hell of a question! Prince Edward Island, of course. What the hell other island is there?”
One block through from “newspaper row” was Tremont, which bordered the historic Boston Commons, along the edge of which some familiar sights would be the telescope man, the peddlers and fakers and itinerant musicians. Tramps and farmers, tired shoppers and scholarly looking gentlemen rested upon the benches when the weather was not too inclement. I don’t know whether large gatherings on the Commons would have been permitted by the authorities, but I observed a small group and heard a familiar voice exhorting its members. Drawing closer, I learned these were printer subs who thought they were not getting the amount of work they should, and were holding a backcapping session in the open air precincts of the historic Commons to devise ways and means of bettering their conditions. The leader was “Square Man” Rice, a tramp printer from the West. For that matter, they all were “square men,” as the expression was used in those days. Just where the expression originated, I do not know, but believe it is quite ancient. A square man then was what in this day and age would be designated as a radical. In those days, when signed agreements with the employers were few and far between, and the International Typographical Union had virtually no disciplinary powers, it happened at times that the disgruntled element in a chapel might take things into its own hands and maybe go as far as to order a cessation of work. This was known as a “square man walkout,” and was something akin to a sitdown strike of the present day. In every chapel of any size there were always those who were dissatisfied because of real or fancied grievances, and as like generally seeks like, these birds of a feather would find themselves together. The itinerant printer in many instances was to be found in this grouping. In union affairs the square man was ever to be found advocating measures calculated to grieve the conservatives, and perhaps they did fill a place in keeping the organization in progressive channels. If anything ever came of this meeting on the Commons I never heard of it.
One night I was in “Shauneen” Daley’s saloon on School Street, just opposite the city hall, drinking rum and gum with Ollie Hicks, “Give-a-Damn” Rogers and “Circus” Baldwin, when an apparition floated through the door. It was “Cincy” Jones, who had bloomed out in sartorial splendor since I had seen him at the time of the Cincinnati riots, and he looked more prominent than a red Indian cigar sign with a gold tomahawk. “Why, you damned old space-stealer,” I yelled, “come in here and let a fellow get a good look at you.” “Ah,” he replied, “it is as good as the gold to see you again.” That had always been his favorite saying. But old “Cincy,” the old Missouri River Pirate, all dressed up like a matinee idol—well, times were changing for sure.
While we drank our rum and gum and talked shop and admired the hefty nudes above “Shauneen’s” bar, we happened to mention Benjamin Franklin, the first tramp printer. I expressed the opinion that he had always been proud of the title of printer, but that he had never amounted to anything until he got beyond setting type. It might have been the rum and gum talking, but I asserted I would quit typesetting before the machines took my job away from me. They might be able to invent a machine that could assemble matrices and thus supplant the man whose work had been the assembling of the types, but I didn’t believe they could ever invent a machine to write the story as had to be done before it was given to the linotype. We had been lulled by the fatuous belief that no machine could ever do our work, but discovered we had been living in a fool’s paradise. But I was positive there could be produced no mechanical means of describing an accident, a fire, or a murder. Besides, for a long time I had had an inner urge to become a newspaper writer. If ever I intended to answer that call, this would be the propitious time. Hicks said I might learn to run one of the new machines, but I told him I was a typesetter, not a piano player, and further that they were not going to put a pot of hot lead on my shoulder and let type run down my sleeve. I would throw my stick and rule in the channel, I told them, and forthwith started out. They followed, making a little procession of it, and we saluted Ben Franklin as we passed his statue in Milk Street. Arriving at the channel, I threw the implements of my trade as far out into the water as I could, at the same time saying, “I hereby solemnly renounce typesetting as a means of gaining a livelihood, and pledge upon my honor never again to touch type.”
“And that,” grinned “Cincy,” as we turned back to “Shauneen’s” and our rum and gum, “is as good as the gold.”
The play is done; the curtain drops,
Slow falling to the prompter’s bell:
A moment yet the actor stops,
And looks around to say farewell.
—William Makepeace Thackeray.
The story of the tramp printer now is become as a tale that is told and has passed into legend. Once in their myriad numbers they covered this country, as they would have described their travels, from coast to coast and from the lakes to the gulf. But now they come no more to their accustomed haunts and one of the most picturesque and interesting characters in the annals of America’s folk history has vanished from the scene. The most romantic page in the history of American journalism has been written by these flitting troubadors, who came with a story in lieu of a song, stayed their little day or two and vanished into the mists, individually, even as now their entire tribe has vanished, save in the mists of memory. Only in the amber glow of a past beginning to take on the mellow tints of memory can we move back the curtains to. behold those wanderers of yesteryear with their cheerfulness, good humor and good fellowship, and pay tribute to the tradition of their earthy, human qualities. We must look in vain, who now with the advent of gentle spring days and mounting nostalgia seek the corning of the gypsies, the horsetraders, the small road shows, the medicine men and herb doctors, and that most infallible sign of returning spring, the tramp printer.
Essentially poets at heart, theirs was a puckish attitude toward life and its responsibilities. Shrewd they were and hank in their appraisal of men, yet they had in their makeup a little of the child, artless and whimsical; something of the philosopher, disillusioned and made cynical by their experiences; careless alike of their manner of living and the manner of their dying, they were gentle stoics and tender cynics to the end. That vast and vagulous army is no more. Those carefree vagabonds are vanished from their old haunts, while the paths they wandered now are trod only in the dreams of old men’s retrospection. All of them, save for a thin, gray remnant, have gone beyond the horizon to find there their island-valley of Avilion, “where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow, fair with orchard lawns and bowery hollows crowned with summer sea.” They come no more.
The author, several years a field representative of the International Typographical Union, has leaned heavily upon his wide acquaintance in that organization, particularly upon the older members, for much of the material that went into the making of this book. Old newspaper files and old magazine files have been consulted in such number as to make it neither practicable nor profitable to attempt to list them here. The same is true of regional and municipal histories and historical society reports, and only in a lesser degree of books. However, a representative bibliography is given here, for the benefit of those who would read further along similar lines.
“The Boston Herald and Its History,” Edwin A. Perry. Boston, 1878.
‘The Boston Transcript,” Joseph Edgar Chamberlin. Houghton-Mifflin, 1930.
“Copper Camp,” Federal Writers Project. 1943.
“Detroit, Dynamic City,” Arthur Pound. Appleton-Century, 1940.
“The Detroit News,” Lee A. White. The Franklin Press, Detroit, 1918.
“The Evening Post, a Century of Journalism,” Allan Nevins, New York, 1922.
“Fabulous New Orleans,” Lyle Saxon. Appleton-Century, 1939.
“Fifty Years a Journalist,” Melville E. Stone. Doubleday, New York, 1921.
“Fifty Years of Cleveland,” Charles E. Kennedy. The WeidenthaI Company, Cleveland, c 1925.
“Five Cities,” George Ross Leighton. Harper, 1939.
“For Gold and Glory,” Farmer.
“Forty Years in Newspaperdom,” Milton A. McRae. New York, 1924.
“Forty Years of It,” Brand Whitlock. D. Appleton & Company, 1914.
“Gem of the Prairie,” Herbert Asbury. Knopf, 1940.
“Handset Reminiscences,” Jared Benedict Graham. Century Printing Company, Salt Lake City, 1915.
“History of Journalism in the United States,” George H. Payne, New York, 1920.
“History of the Kentucky Derby,” John Lawrence O’Connor. Rider Press, New York, c 1921.
“I Remember! I Remember!” Cyrenus Cole. State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City, 1936.
“John Newman Edwards,” Mrs. Mary Virginia Edwards, Kansas City, 1889.
“Journalism in California,” John P. Young. Chronicle Publishing Company, San Francisco, 1915.
“Knocking Around the Rockies,” Ernest Ingersoll. Harper, 1883.
“Little Adventures in Newspaperdom,” Fred W. Alsopp. ParkeHarper Company, Little Rock, 1922.
“Minneapolis Journal: the Story of An Institutional Newspaper.” C. A. Mitchell Printing Company, Minneapolis, 1899.
“The Newspaper and the Historian,” Lucy M. Salmon, Oxford University Press, 1923.
“One Hundred Years of the St. Louis Republic,” Walter Barlow Stevens. St. Louis Republic, 1908.
“Olden Times in Colorado,” Carlyle Channing Davis. Phillips Publishing Company, Los Angeles, 1916.
“Personal Memories,” Edward Deering Mansfield. R. Clarke & Company, Cincinnati, 1879.
“Personal Reminiscences of Thirty-five Years of Journalism,” Franc Bangs Wilkie. F. J. Schulte & Company, Chicago, 1891.
“The Plain Dealer,” Archie E. Shaw. Knopf, 1942.
“Plain People,” E. W. Howe. Dodd-Mead, 1929.
“Westward: The Romance of the American Frontier.” Edward Douglas Branch. Appleton-Century, 1930.
“Recollections of a Half Century,” Col. Alexander K. McClure. Salem Press Company, Salem, Mass., 1902.
“The Roaring Land,” Archie Binns. McBride, 1942.
“The Story of the Sun,” Frank M. O’Brien. Doran, 1918.
“The Tabors: A Footnote of Western History,” Lewis Cass Gandy. Press of the Pioneers, 1934.
“Taming of the Frontier,” Duncan Aikman. Minton, Balch & Company, New York, 1925.
“These Shifting Scenes,” Charles Edward Russell. George H. Doran. 1914.
“The Tramp Printer,” Ben Hur Lampman. Binfords & Mort, Portland, Ore., 1934.