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Full text of "Dateline Washington The Story Of National Affairs Journalism In The Life And Times Of The National Press Club"

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Thomas Nast from the Library of Congress 

Dateline : 


Edited by CABELL PHILLIPS and 
Duncan Aikman Homer Joseph Dodge 
William C. Bourne William A. Kinney 







1. An Introductory Note 


2. Prehistory 


3. From Such a Bond 


4. This Is How It Used to Be 


5. The Placid Twenties 


6. "We Interrupt This Program . . ." 


7. Moisture, a Trace 



rSit Today!" 


I ***** 

9. Tradesmen's Entrance 


10. "Just One More, Please" 


11. Handouts 


12. Autocrats of the Breakfast Table 


13. World War II 


14. Passed by Censor 


15. The Diplomatic Correspondent 


16. Every Day Is Election Day 


17. Coverage Today 


18. Journalist and Journalese 


Index 295 


The title of Editor of this book is a euphemism; one of those time- 
honored conventions like dust jackets and Roman numerals that 
publishers adore, but which are a meaningless nuisance to the 
ultimate consumer. 

This book is a truly co-operative effort, and the credit therefor 
belongs to many people to the officers and Board of Governors 
of the National Press Club; to Joseph H. Short Jr., who con- 
ceived the idea in the first place, and the Special Publication 
Committee, which converted it into a plan; to John Sargent of 
Doubleday, who worried it along to fruition; and to Louis G. 
Caldwell and a host of others who contributed advice, sugges- 
tions, and criticism. 

But most particularly the credit should go to the four men 
who shared in full measure with the undersigned the arduous 
job over many long evenings and week ends of actually putting 
the book together. They are DUNCAN AIKMAN, WILLIAM 
KINNEY. Quite literally this book would not have seen the light 
of day without them. 

Howard L. Kany deserves the exclusive credit for assembling 
and editing the photographs used in the text. 

Mrs. Mae Smith and her competent staff in the National Press 
Club office cheerfully performed the rather considerable sec- 
retarial services which the project required. 


Washington, D.C. 
August 1949 




An Introductory Note 

BY ARTHUR KROCK Arthur Krock, a product of Glasgow 

and Louisville, Kentucky, was Wash- 
ington correspondent for the Louisville 
Courier- Journal as far back as 1910. 
He has been chief correspondent and 
news commentator for the New York 
Times since 1927 and is the winner of 
1935 and 1938 Pulitzer prizes for na- 
tional capital reportage. 

"Look at that, Pen' 9 Warrington said. "There she 
is the great engine she never sleeps. She has her 
ambassadors in every quarter of the world her 
couriers upon every road. Her officers march along 
with armies, and her envoys walk into statesmen s 
cabinets. They are ubiquitous. Yonder journal has 
an agent, at this minute, giving bribes in Madrid; 
and another inspecting the price of potatoes in 
Covent Garden. Look! Here comes the Foreign 
Express galloping in. They will be able to give 
news to Downing Street tomorrow: funds will rise 
or fall; fortunes be made or lost; Lord B. will get 
tip and, holding the paper in his hand,, and seeing 
the noble Marquess in his place, will make a great 
speech and and Mr. Doolan will be called away 
from his supper at the Back Kitchen; for he is 
foreign sub-editor, and sees the mail on the news- 
paper sheet before he goes to his own? 

(George Warrington to Arthur Pendennis during a walk in Fleet Street 
from Pendennis by William Makepeace Thackeray, published 1852. ) 

2 An Introductory Note 

Until the third decade of the twentieth century the reporter who 
was sent to Washington to represent his newspaper was almost 
invariably selected from the political staff. The direct route to the 
capital started with an assignment to report local politics, and the 
State House was the next station on the line. Everyone on the 
staff knew that a colleague with this training would fill the first 
vacancy in the Washington Bureau. 

This limit to the area of selection vanished in the early thirties 
when the patchwork of Versailles began to fall apart and the gov- 
ernment of the United States greatly expanded its relation to the 
financial, agricultural, and industrial economy of the nation, auto- 
matically grew vastly in size, and moved inevitably toward a con- 
centration on social welfare problems that was never in the con- 
cept of those who set up the republic. 

With that development the political reporter's monopoly of 
the Washington assignment ended and the age of the reporter- 
specialist in economics, science, foreign affairs, government, his- 
tory, and military principles began. The college graduate who 
had majored in one or more of these subjects or whose culture 
and mental discipline had matured in the general study of the 
liberal arts appeared in the press galleries as the rule and not 
the exception. 

The good political reporter was not supplanted. A good political 
reporter cannot become one without that broad training in the 
collection of news which is the principal foundation of competent 
and responsible journalism. A good political reporter has deep 
knowledge of human behavior, and, since governments are only 
men and women, that knowledge is essential equipment in Wash- 
ington which the specialist often and palpably lacks. But the de- 
pression, the darkening skies abroad, the swift, steady, and huge 
growth of the home government, and the new and technical nature 
of its functions required other kinds of knowledge if the public 
was to be adequately and accurately informed. National-affairs 
journalism came into being with a scale and range that called for 
new and sharper tools of reporting and many more of them. 

April has been a momentous month in the history of the United 
States. The Battle of Lexington was fought, Fort Sumter fell, we 

Arthur Krock 3 

declared war on the Central Powers, Franklin Roosevelt died, and 
Truman became President in that month a few in its long list 
of great events. Hence it seemed appropriate to select at random 
from the years 1913 to 1949 a headline chronicle of the first-page 
news from Washington in a newspaper of record 1 as an index 
to the change in government activities and its reporting that is the 
subject of this book. 

The government of the United States in April, 1913, was a small 
affair, though even in that peaceful era problems of foreign policy 
distracted the attention of a few politicians from the fevered 
struggle in the Republican party that produced the Bull Moose 
split in 1912 and the minority election of Woodrow Wilson as 
President. Events in revolutionary Mexico and a progressive trend 
toward aggression by Japan were first-page news from Washing- 
ton, but domestic matters the new tariff and currency bills domi- 
nated the reportage, and in it was no reflection of the mounting 
European crisis that in a little more than a year exploded into 
World War I and the end of "peace in our time/' 

On the morning of April 2, 1913, these readers were informed 
that William Jennings Bryan, the Secretary of State, would see to 
it that the elevator men of the department worked only an eight- 
hour day, however much the Secretary might be obliged to exceed 
it; that Representative Carter Glass of Virginia would oppose 
bank guarantees in his bill that was to establish the Federal Re- 
serve System; that William F McCombs, who had hoped to be 
Attorney General as a reward for his successful management of 
Woodrow Wilson's campaign for the Presidential nomination and 
the Presidency, would accept the Paris post; and that, so far as the 
Czar of Russia was concerned, he would leave to the United States 
the initiative of negotiating a new commercial treaty in place of 
that which President Taft abrogated in 1911 as a protest against 
Russian treatment of Americans of Jewish faith. 

To report these events, as the text discloses, called for the funda- 
mental qualities of good reporting, as all events do. But to none 
of them was the Washington correspondent of that day required 
to bring the specialized equipment which, as this story of the 

a The New York Times. 

4 An Introductory Note 

headlines progresses, it is obvious he now must do. This field was 
occupied by the editorial page; neither publishers nor readers of 
the press felt the need of the news columns for background and 
news interpretation at the source, and the late Frank H. Simonds 
of the New York Tribune was the only contributor from Wash- 
ington to the daily press who combined spot reporting of foreign 
affairs with deep knowledge of their origins. 

On April 23, 1918, though the United States had been for a year 
a participant in World War I, the only Washington headline on 
page one was this: 


Now note the change as the world and government grow in size 
and the complexities of their problems increase: 

(April 29, 1928) 


200,000 MILES 


(April 12, 1988) 



(April 7, 1949) 

Arthur Krock 5 




Thus by 1928 the Washington reporters who fifteen years before 
were writing of simple political encounters and the perennial dis- 
pute over the tariff were being called on to illuminate the com- 
plicated legal issues raised by the World Court protocols. By 
1938 they were deep in the politics of union labor and the eco- 
nomic disputes over how to conquer the depression and yet retain 
the free-enterprise system. By 1949 their range of required knowl- 
edge had been extended to the intricacies of the Marshall Plan 
for Western European recovery, of the national budget, and of 
Soviet-American relations. And among them a group had devel- 
oped with the capacity to make clear to the casual reader the 
scientific biography of the atom bomb. 

These greater depths and larger horizons of Washington report- 
ing are found throughout the modern newspaper. First-page head- 
lines were cited above to mark their arrival, but it is on the inside 
pages where they are most tangible. There the specialist makes 
his larger and more definite contribution; there are the full-length 
mirrors of the improved and broadened scope of national-affairs 
journalism. The reason is that important things which actually 
happen or are said still dominate the formula of selection for 
page one. 

In reporting the events of government the Washington corre- 
spondents continued to deal as their predecessors had done with 
politics and the human conflicts it evokes and with recurrent 
official scandal. But when this book was projected their field of 
responsibility had long since attained the position of news capital 
of the world. The federal government had long since broken the 
strings of state jurisdiction that for more than a hundred years 
confined the welfare and commerce clauses of the Constitution 
and had in many ways entered the daily routine of every citizen. 

The federal government, which until the income-tax law of 

6 An Introductory Note 

1913 was incarnated for the citizen in the sole person of the mail 
carrier on his route, had become a thousand regulators of his 
existence who called on him every day. News of its activities had 
become his vital fare, and this was the established obligation of the 
press to supply through its reporters in Washington. 

The central government that seemed excessively costly at one 
billion dollars a year was rapidly becoming the forty-two-billion- 
dollar establishment of 1949. 

There are two memoirs by famous editors of the past that help 
to stress the change which is the subject of this chapter and the 
occasion of this book. The Washington news scene they review is 
that of the "Gilded Age," which it was so long. As Washington 
correspondents and employers of Washington correspondents, 
Frank M. O'Brien in his Story of the New Yorfc Sun, and Henry 
Watterson in his Marse Henry: An Autobiography, picture a 
capital to which the news specialist and analyst of the present 
day had not arrived. 

Charles A. Dana's Sun concentrated on Washington news, but 
its historic "beats" all dealt with official scandal: the Credit 
Mobilier, a fiscal company organized to build the Union Pacific 
Railroad in which, it was revealed, senators and representatives 
had accepted stock; the double payments to contractors which, it 
was discovered, the Navy Department was making; the "Whisky 
Ring" by which liquor taxes were avoided (the Sun's Washington 
correspondent who uncovered that signed himself "Sappho"); the 
ring to collect fraudulent war claims with its slogan of "Addition, 
Division, and Silence"; the Post-Trader scandal in the Grant ad- 
ministration; and the theft of the Presidency from Samuel J. 
Tflden, which in its final and "respectable" phase was reported 
"in semi-editorial style," as Dana directed, by a young man just 
arrived from the Middle West, Joseph Pulitzer. 

Now the great stories and "beats" deal with science, economics, 
and projections of the governing function, and the reporters who 
must write comprehendingly of these matters are supplemented 
by specialists of every description posted here, not in the editorial 
rooms of the home office. These range from learned commentators 
whose output is largely informed opinion based on first-hand 

Arthur Krock 7 

inquiry into the facts to the "now it can be told 3 * species whose 
wares are often imaginary revelation of what goes on in secret 

The contrast between reporting the Washington of the "'Gilded 
Age" and the present capital, as presented by O'Brien's memoir, is 
equally to be noted in what Watterson recounted of the ante- 
bellum city. He was on the staff of the Daily States, established in 
the thirties of the last century by John D. Heiss as an advance over 
the propaganda sheets for Federalists, Republicans, and most re- 
cently for the Democrats, whose leader was Andrew Jackson. 

But in one respect modern Washington journalism has a link 
with the Daily States: its editor was a woman, Mrs. June Casneau. 2 
She taught young Watterson the trade he was to help make emi- 
nent. She fixed nicknames on the great to give them a sense of 
proportion (for Winfield Scott "Old Fuss and Feathers"). Senator 
Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri said that she "had more to do 
than anybody with starting and ending the Mexican War." But 
one difference between the reportorial obligation of her day and 
this in Washington is emphasized by Watterson's statement that 
he was permitted simultaneously to enjoy "a sinecure in the De- 
partment of the Interior." 

As the Washington reporter evolved into his modern and enor- 
mously important public relation the National Press Club, too, 
passed through its "ringing grooves of change." But whether its 
abode was an unpretentious set of attic rooms or the fine quarters 
it now occupies the club has been more than his resort of recrea- 
tion and ease. It has never been merely a spectator, but always an 
active element in the progress of American journalism at what has 
become its focal point. It has noticeably exerted its influence on 
this progress and expansion and by it has been influenced. 

Socially and professionally the club for forty years has been at 
the center of the daily lives of a substantial majority of the news- 
paper correspondents in Washington. Its growth in size and 
prestige has not lagged behind theirs. The editor of this book, 
Cabell Phillips, well says that "the bars, lounges, and dining tables 
of the National Press Club have been a kind of alchemist's retort 

2 As was the late Eleanor Patterson of the Washington Times-Herald. 

8 An Introductory Note 

m which thousands of Washington stories have been distilled, 
synthesized, or even induced out of the thin but susceptible air." 
Hence the National Press Club is the genetic begetter and spon- 
sor of this book, conceiving it as a valuable compilation in any 
case, but useful, moreover, and even essential to all newspaper 
workers; and more importantly to public understanding of the 
development of one of the great auxiliaries of the democratic 



BY DUNCAN AIKMAN Duncan Ailonan, a newspaperman of 

wide-ranging assignments in the 
United States and Latin America, has 
made Washington his headquarters 
since 1935. He is the author of The 
All-American Front, a study of inter- 
American problems, 1940, and The 
Turning Stream, a book on the United 
States in transition, 1948. 

In the late spring of 1800 the roads leading south from Philadel- 
phia carried a microscopic trickle of extra traffic. The capital of 
the United States was moving from the first metropolis popula- 
tion 41,220 to a shaggy, unfinished swamp settlement in the 
Potomac Valley called Washington. And exactly one hundred 
and thirty-one people, plus family and servant retinues who came 
along with various misgivings, were moving with it. As of the 
moment the one hundred and thirty-one constituted the entire 
central bureaucracy of the federal government. 

The swamp settlement promptly justified misgivings by treating 
the invaders to a series of heat waves and a housing shortage, 
both not unknown even in the Washington of today. Clerks and 
office underlings shacked up in half -finished boardinghouses, un- 
able for months to send for their families. Secretary of State John 
Marshall ran the republic's foreign affairs for weeks from the 
guest chamber in the home of a hospitable friend. 

Hardly less irksome to the higher public servants, the new 
capital news-wise practically dropped off the map until mid- 
autumn. Miffed at the transfer and concentrating on home-front 
Presidential-year politics, the Philadelphia press sent no corre- 
spondents along with the exodus. In the new "federal district" the 

10 Prehistory 

Alexandria, Virginia, Advertiser and the Georgetown Centinel of 
Liberty turned a fishy cave-dweller eye on the national statesmen, 
treating their comings and goings as minor eighteenth century 
social items. 

Then suddenly more or less out o saddlebags and sloop holds, 
a capital press corps was mobilized. Two Virginia partisans of the 
outgoing John Adams administration moved the Richmond Fed- 
eralist to Georgetown in September and began publishing it as the 
Washington Federalist. A young intellectual protege of Vice-Presi- 
dent and shortly President-elect Thomas Jefferson, Mr. Samuel 
Harrison Smith of Philadelphia, fished his presses out of a ship- 
wreck on a lower Potomac sand bar and by the end of Octo- 
ber was publishing the tri-weekly National Intelligencer, with 
the Universal Gazette for a weekly edition. Before the year's 
end Mr. James Lyon, son of an obstreperous Vermont con- 
gressman recently jailed for violating President Adams's Alien 
and Sedition Act, was in the field with a weekly modestly named 
The Cabinet of the United States. Georgetown's Centinel of 
Liberty overcame cave-dweller introspections and became The 
Museum and Washington and Georgetown Advertiser. 

The country's first statesmen have not been forced to perform 
their labors under clouds of painful obscurity since. 

The capital's first working press, however, had little time to 
dream of organized craft sociabilities or certainly of press clubs. 
Printer's devils doubling in brass for reporters included, it could 
hardly have numbered a dozen members. And, except for young 
Mr. Smith, who had social connections and the lion's share of the 
Jefferson administration's printing contracts, it led for more than 
the first twenty years a strictly unglamorous, not to say drab life. 

Washington population thirty-two hundred in 1800 and thir- 
teen thousand in 1820 was a Bingville, and its early newspapers 
were limited to early Bingville Bugle standards of operating in- 
come. Their hopes of national circulations were promptly frus- 
trated by the pleasant old custom of free "exchanges." Editors of 
hinterland journals at no profit to Washington journalism covered 
their national politics by waiting for the capital press to arrive by 

Duncan Aikman 11 

stage mail, clipping and reprinting its columns with or without 

The federal district's circulation opportunities proved almost 
equally delusive. Close to two thirds of the Washington-Alex- 
andria-Georgetown population of fourteen thousand in 1800 were 
slaves and white illiterates, and reader interests were divided be- 
sides. Georgetown's and Alexandria's cave dwellers were as bored 
with national politics as if the capital had been in Boston or 
Savannah. The swamp settlement's growing cluster of federal 
bureaucrats and transient congressmen were equally bored with 
the local district issues and personalities. 

Under these hazards a national capital's news budgets simply 
added to the working press's headaches without improving the 
wage scales. And from the beginning the news budgets were 

In Washington's very first winter the House of Representatives, 
owing to a tie vote in the Electoral College, spent a week and 
thirty-six ballots electing Thomas Jefferson President, with threats 
of disunion and violent political coup constantly breathing down 
the necks of the lame-duck congressmen. Then the new President 
was off with a legislative program as repulsive to his enemies and 
exciting to his friends as Mr. Roosevelt's later New Deal innova- 
tions. In the middle of it he fought two wars with the Barbary 
States pirates and chose to double the size of the United States 
with the Louisiana Purchase. 

Years of complicated diplomatic wrangles with the European 
belligerents in the Napoleonic Wars followed, ending in the War 
of 1812 and the burning of Washington by the British. In 1819 
the Republic saw its first major business depression and in the 
next year some violent preliminaries to the slavery struggle in the 
debates over the Missouri Compromise. By that time the capital 
press corps had seen practically all the known brands of news 
except airplane and train wrecks, totalitarianism and nuclear 

Yet almost in proportion to these momentous assignments the 
newsmen were underpaid, overworked, and lacking in job se- 
curity. And it seems doubtful if they were much more numerous 

12 Prehistory 

in 1820 than they had been in 1800. None of young Mr. Smith's 
original competitors survived Washington's first ten years, and 
their successors of the early 1820s were hanging doubtfully on 
the vine. 

Even in technical proficiency only one innovation had been 
made. By 1802 Mr. Smith, who knew some pre-Gregg system of 
shorthand, had crashed the House and Senate as a one-man press 
gallery and debate reporter. And when in Mr. Jefferson's second 
term he hired Mr. Joseph Gales Jr. of Raleigh, North Carolina, to 
report the Senate's proceedings for the National Intelligencer., the 
working press's first symbol of social protocol blossomed. Twenty- 
one-year-old Mr. Gales shared Vice-President George Clinton's 

Otherwise early Washington was a journalistic backwash. Phil- 
adelphia's newspapermen in the 1790s had improvised a faintly 
bohemian literary atmosphere around the works of Charles Brock- 
den Brown and a few early novelists, and in the next decade New 
York's group had produced young Mr. Washington Irving's circle 
and the Salmagundi Papers. But none of these excitements could 
be imported to a Potomac swamp by young men who rarely knew 
where their next meal was coming from and who were classified 
by the local gentry, political and otherwise, with the creatures 
that lived in the woodwork. 

Even the corps's own impresarios shrank from identification 
with these grim states of underprivilege. "The best way of getting 
business," wrote the bride of the National Intelligencers editor 
within a few weeks after her arrival in Washington, "is by way 
of being generally known as being connected with the most re- 
spectable people." 

The Smiths were on their way toward becoming bankers. 

And as late as 1835 a pen-pricked United States senator was still 
fulminating against the working press's abysmal lack of human 
dignity. "Miserable slanderers, hanging on to the skirts of litera- 
ture," he decribed them, "earning a miserable pittance by their 
vile and dirty misrepresentations of the proceedings here." 

The generality was only mildly rebutted. But already the press 
corps's fortunes were modestly improving. 

Duncan Aikman 13 

Actually the change had been going on from the time of Ameri- 
ca^ only strictly free-for-all Presidential contest the campaign of 
1824. The struggle lasted two years. There were five candidates. 
The final election was thrown into the House of Representatives. 
And all these excitements peculiarly centered in Washington. All 
the candidates three Cabinet members, John Quincy Adams, 
William H. Crawford, and John C. Calhoun, House Speaker Henry 
Clay, and Tennessee's redoubtable junior senator, General An- 
drew Jackson were the capital's official residents. Washing- 
ton was their politicking, brawling, and propaganda headquarters. 

A rising national reader interest reacted to the situation as to 
a dogfight. Within two years the capital press corps more than 
doubled in size and probably more than tripled its operating 

Adventurous young men drifted into town to satisfy the craving 
of metropolitan and hinterland editors for news slanted to the 
local political passions by writing a new kind of journalistic com- 
munication called "Washington letters." Others arrived to take 
jobs on a new kind of newspaper which suddenly bloomed in the 
backwash the candidate's "personal organ." There were three 
of them by early 1824. From New York, Philadelphia, and Boston 
editors and top reporters came down to survey the scene and its 
tensions, and sometimes stayed on with indefinite assignments. 

At the climax of the battle in the House of Representatives^ 
election of the President in February, 1825, some of the more 
sensitive statesmen complained that the intrigues and spying of 
"hordes" of newspapermen were interfering with the performance 
of their solemn duties. Visiting firemen included, the "hordes" 
may have numbered forty journalists. 

Then at once General Jackson's outcry was raised that Mr. 
Adams' election had been procured by "bargain and corruption," 
so that for all practical purposes the 1828 campaign was launched 
before President Adams could be inaugurated. The "Washing- 
ton letter" specialists dug in and as the decibels of party violence 
mounted found more copy to write and more clients to serve than 
at the peaks of the dogfight. 

It was still anything but a lavish life for the working press, but 

14 Prehistory 

it was moving out of the village-slum classification. In a town 
where board and room at the swank Indian Queen Hotel cost 
thirty-five dollars a month, free whisky and brandy included, the 
young man who disposed of three or four Washington letters a 
week at prices ranging between three and five dollars could 
afford to be prominently in circulation. The beginner with a small- 
time job on a Washington newspaper and a few rustic editors 
willing to pay a dollar apiece for occasional letters could defi- 
nitely hang on. 

With the relative prosperity a certain gusto crept into press 
operations and traces of a corps morale. In 1827 Mr. Russell 
Jarvis of General Jackson's United States Telegraph chose to con- 
sider himself insulted at a White House reception by the Presi- 
dent's son and secretary, John Adams. He retaliated shortly by 
publicly pulling the offender's nose in a Capitol corridor. When 
an angry Presidential message demanded a Congressional investi- 
gation, at once a crew of expert press-corps lobbyists swung into 
action. Mr. Jarvis suffered no specific disciplines. 

Soon, too, a new tone of piquant irreverence at the expense of 
the scene and its actors appeared in copy from Washington. Presi- 
dent Adams's "very name," reported the New York Enquirers 
Mr. James Gordon Bennett in 1828, "would freeze a pair of the 
most juicy Potomac ducks." The airs of rival politicians greeting 
each other at White House receptions suggested "Mephistopheles' 
politeness to Faustus." "On he goes," was the Bennett tribute to 
an Adams leader in the Senate, "creaking and croaking like an 
ungreased cartwheel." "A girl from the West," seen at one of Sec- 
retary of State Clay's Wednesday evening home gatherings, was 
"endeavoring to appear with the most rueful ease in a cantelo 
tightened to suffocation." 

Then General Jackson moved into the White House, and Wash- 
ington's national news importance swelled and widened. Political 
spoilsmen raided a thousand government jobs, and a Cabinet broke 
up over the compromised bride of a War Secretary. A fiery and 
colorful President beat down nullification of the federal laws in 
South Carolina and fought a battle to the death with the Bank 
of the United States and the young republic's first big-money 

Duncan Aikman 15 

interests. Congress seethed with the raucous beginnings o a 
thirty-year struggle between slave and free states. 

With such news marvels to work on the writers of the "Wash- 
ington letters" shortly found that their products were not good 
enough. Editors wanted spot news of what the rambunctious Old 
Hickory administration was up to, and they wanted it ahead of 
their competitors. Within a year or two some of the better-heeled 
large city newspapers were hiring special couriers to get it into 
their offices faster than the oft-delayed mails. By the end of the 
Jackson regime in 1837 the leisurely letter writers were being con- 
verted into recognizable spot-news correspondents. 

Along with this rather basic change in news values a series of 
technological revolutions occurred. By the turn into the 1840s the 
railroads were carrying news dispatches from Washington to 
Philadelphia and New York at frightening speeds of thirty miles 
an hour. Mr. Bennett, now owner of the spectacularly successful 
New York Herald, thought so much of the innovation that in 1841 
he established at the venturesome cost of two hundred dollars 
weekly the first fully-staffed Washington bureau of reporters, 
with a courier service to take their copy to the home office "on the 
cars." His competitors, the New York Sun and Mr. Horace 
Greeley's brand new Tribune, were modestly following the ex- 

The spot-coverage experimenters cut their eye teeth on the 
Tyler administration's long struggle over the annexation of Texas. 
Then, just as Washington became the home-front news center of 
the war with Mexico, the "instantaneous" electric telegraph was 
added to the correspondent's working kit. The couriers vanished 
into technological unemployment. By the time the final debates 
over the slavery and secession issue hit their stride in the mid 
1850s the big news of the capital was crackling out over the wires 
hardly less efficiently than in the 1940s. 

The Washington press corps thrived on all these changes, al- 
though it grew rather more slowly than might have been expected. 
Local staffs included, it is doubtful if it numbered much more 
than fifty in 1860, and only a handful of salaries exceeded one 
thousand dollars. But members of today's National Press Club 

16 Prehistory 

could have recognized its correspondents as authentic fellow 

Definitely, too, the press corps was out of the social woodwork. 
Certainly its star members got around. As a matter of reporting 
routine and informal protocol they had been crashing White 
House receptions and "at home" evenings of Cabinet and Con- 
gressional leaders since the days of the first correspondents. In 
a time before interviews were invented and office visits to the 
great were somewhat discouraged some of the slicker craftsmen 
developed eminent gifts for cultivating the confidences of politi- 
cal hostesses. Beside straight news gathering they used these con- 
nections to keep meticulously abreast of the capital's personal gos- 
sipwho was in gambling, dueling, or woman trouble, and who 
was taken home in his cups last night and when and by whom. 
Now and then to feed the scandal appetites of a nation of pas- 
sionate partisans innuendos or juicy exposures of such matters 
appeared in print. 

Yet in the midst of all these activities no doubt considerably 
because of them the press corps during its growing-pains stages 
developed no organized social life of its own. Probably it felt no 
need of one. 

For Washington was still a small town forty thousand in 1850; 
sixty thousand in 1860 just dreaming of its first horsecars. Hardly 
more than a hundred of its public servants, Congress included, 
counted regularly as important news sources. All of these worked, 
and most of them lived, in what is now the city's downtown ship- 
ping and hotel district. An active reporter by dropping in at a 
few cabinet offices near the White House in the morning, looking 
over the Congressional sessions in the afternoon, cruising the 
Pennsylvania Avenue bars for friendly politicos in the early eve- 
ning, and topping the night off with some statesman's "at home" 
festivities could in a single day see practically everything and 
almost everybody that the entire Washington beat offered. 

Then on a raw April morning in 1861 a news flash came up the 
wire from the South: Fort Sumter was under Confederate bom- 

Duncan Aikman 17 

bardment On the capital press corps's doorstep the biggest news 
story of American history had been deposited. 

Thereafter for several months Washington was a clutter of 
improvisations. In the White House President Lincoln was im- 
provising a war policy. In the near-by Potomac swamps the 
government was improvising an army. The manager of the city's 
five-year-old Associated Press bureau, Mr. William Lawrence 
Gobright, and the energetic Mr. Bennett from New York were 
improvising out of the capital's livelier legmen and a few expert 
political reporters a crew of amateur war correspondents. 

Indeed at the height of the excitements the press corps seems 
to have improvised its first recorded group festivity. A small inner 
circle of members plus a few hedonistic spirits of the incoming 
Lincoln administration organized themselves as the Bold Bucca- 
neers and gave a dinner for Mr. William H. Russell of the London 
Times. Mr. Russell, who six years before more or less had invented 
the art of war correspondence in the Crimea, was in town survey- 
ing the military state of the Union, which he found distinctly 

Late in July he rode out with the native amateurs to a battle 
called Bull Run in Virginia and found it gloomier still. Even the 
amateurs failed to distinguish themselves. Most of them left the 
bloodletting in its early preliminaries and galloped back across 
the Long Bridge from the Confederacy with assurances that a 
crushing Union triumph was won. Finally, when one of Mr. Go- 
bright's more persistent young men arrived in advanced state of 
battle neurosis, but with the full news of Yankee rout and panic, 
the story never left the telegraph office. General Winfield Scott, 
a venerable War of 1812 veteran temporarily in charge of the 
Republic's military effort, had simply seized the wires. 

The government had improvised a censorship. 

In the autumn and winter things began to shake down. Wash- 
ington was at one and the same time a war front, GHQ for the 
nineteenth century's largest combat armies and the news and 
political capital of a crisis. 

Upon the sleepy old southern village a raw, overcrowded popu- 
lation of a hundred thousand and then of a hundred and forty 

18 Prehistory 

thousand superimposed itself. Soldiers on leave from the Army 
of the Potomac and its ambulant wounded swarmed the streets, 
loafed, and brawled in the barrooms. In stenchful improvised 
hospitals the convalescent and dying bedded. Within less than 
a hundred and fifty miles raged the major fighting of the war s 
eastern theater, and chronically until late 1864 the menace of 
enemy raid or capture hovered. 

At the Capitol and in smoke-filled hotel rooms the new leaders 
who had taken over the government quarreled over the war's 
aims., policies, and scandals as flamboyantly as slavery and anti- 
slavery elements had quarreled in the 1850s. In the White House 
sat a President in the mysteries of sheer personality more colorful 
than Jackson. 

The best and the worst of American journalism flocked to the 
city to report the concentrated news melodrama. Editors and 
established writers of the country's metropolitan press came to 
interpret the scene in ponderous think pieces and editorials. Bril- 
liant young men from hinterland small-time newspapers moved in 
to cover the battles at thirty-five dollars a week and pay-your- 
own expenses. Between campaigns they merged with the Wash- 
ington press corps to cover the national politics and occasionally 
to romanticize the new politicos and generals in charge of the 
Republic's rocking destinies in the rich Victorian corn of early 
human-interest stories. Foppish young men and a very few young 
women, an advance guard for twentieth-century society colum- 
nists, were intermittently on hand to glorify social glamors and 

In effect the Washington wartime beat was serving as a kind 
of shakedown cruise in the techniques of modern journalism. And 
in one department after another of the melodrama's coverage a 
degree of order slowly appeared. 

The lessons of Bull Run sufficiently seasoned th<3 war corre- 
spondents so that in General McClellan's 1862 campaign in Vir- 
ginia most of them stayed on with their battles until they reached 
approximate news climaxes. On the capital's political front the 
working press developed a news nose for war-contract scandals. 
In the winter of 1861-62 their proddings played a part in ousting 

Duncan Aikman 19 

the distinguished graft patron, Secretary of War Simon Cameron, 
from the Lincoln cabinet. 

Soon the more whimsical journalists were sharpening their 
sense of humor on the capital's wartime bawderies. When a dis- 
charged lieutenant colonel was tried and convicted of being co- 
keeper of a bawdy house a full press gallery was present, and the 
Washington Star and National Republican were charged with 
reporting the case with "reprehensible gusto." 

Even the society reporters, no doubt unconsciously, at moments 
developed traces of instructive function. Between gushes repre- 
senting Mrs. Lincoln as a "republican queen ... in the calmest 
repose of her noon of beauty," they made it clear that her extrava- 
gances were compromising the President and that Washington, 
flush with war and real-estate profits, was gallivanting far more 
ostentatiously than the drama going on behind its hospital walls 

But in all the press corps's struggles the toughest bout was with 
censorship. Early in 1862 Lincoln's new Secretary of War, Edwin 
M. Stanton, took the operation in charge and for the next two 
years made General Scott's seizure of the wires during the Bull 
Run nightmare seem like a casual error of judgment. 

Mr. Stanton, a neurotic and dictatorial lawyer-bureaucrat who 
habitually referred to newspapermen as "hounds," staffed his 
censors' bureau with army officers chosen chiefly for their aller- 
gies to news values. Copy both from the army fronts and the 
Washington GHQ was cut to ribbons or to gibberish or held up 
for days merely because it was troublesome for the censors to 
clear their bottlenecks. Newspapers were suspended and barred 
from the mails, editors and reporters were fined, threatened with 
jail sentences, and otherwise disciplined for minor infractions of 
rules which the censors had dreamed up but had not bothered to 

Major news developments were often storaged on the Washing- 
ton front for inexcusable periods. The New York Tribunes Henry 
Villard, back with the first full story of the Union debacle at 
Fredericksburg in December, 1862, was invited to tell it to Presi- 
dent Lincoln, but was barred from the wires until slower reporters 

20 Prehistory 

had scooped him. The AP's Gobright after twenty-four hours of 
argument with the censor was permitted to send the first authenti- 
cated news of Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania on the eve of Gettys- 
burg only as an "it is said" half rumor. 

Eventually, however, these constant suppressions produced in 
the press at large such crops of garbled guesswork and word-of- 
mouth reports of the war operations that Mr. Stanton himself sick- 
ened of his system. In the spring of 1864 he began issuing unex- 
pectedly factual daily communiques and piped down his censors' 
copyreading operations on news that was officially permissible. 
The long and dismal battle had ended in something better than 
a draw. 

Then the southern fronts collapsed, an assassin's pistol cracked 
in Ford's Theater, and the press corps's ordeal of training by 
melodrama ~vas over. 

The armies disbanded, the generals took off their uniforms and 
became politicos, the more celebrated war correspondents became 
editors. But no postwar deflation struck Washington's news fronts. 
The war had expanded circulations, left bigger and more pros- 
perous newspapers in its wake, and immensely sharpened the pub- 
lic's news appetites. Now for several years these were more than 
adequately fed and stimulated by the tantrums, eight-hour-a-day 
oratory, and passional battles of the statesman over southern re- 
construction and the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. 

So in the 1867 Congressional press galleries there were forty- 
nine registered correspondents. A noticeable minority was on bet- 
ter than fumbling terms with prosperity. Salaries were rising in- 
deed toward peaks which for two or three celebrities in the 1870s 
were to pass $12,000. 

In mildly spendthrift atmosphere the impulses which had pro- 
duced 1861's Bold Buccaneers revived. "To secure the advantages 
of organization and for the cultivation of fraternal sentiment" an 
inner press-gallery group in the spring of 1867 organized the 
Washington Correspondents* Club, with the AFs Gobright as 

Its fraternal sentiment apparently was cultivated in a walled 

Duncan Aikman 21 

garden. Barely half the correspondents corps appears to have 
been "elected" to membership, and Washington's local newspaper 
staffs now close to one hundred strong were definitely excluded. 
The situation was made no better by the fact that the club chiefly 
displayed the advantages of organization by projecting a series 
of exclusive annual dinners. 

Not unnaturally, organized upper-echelon sociability produced 
a social cleavage, and the Washington local staffers retaliated. In 
September "quite a number of 'blights of the pencil/ " as the 
aging National Intelligencer coyly described them, held an en- 
thusiastic meeting and formed simply a Press Club. But evidently 
the organizing gesture satisfied. After languidly electing the Na- 
tional Republican's John C. Proctor president the new brotherhood 
died of initial oversights. It failed to establish a meeting head- 
quarters or to collect any dues. Then the Correspondents* Club 
withered away of something like lack of purpose, and the corps 
passed to the next sixteen years without the benefit of any social 
organization at all. 

The fact is that the newsmen's post-Civil War social impulses 
were being satisfied by an informal and dueless institution which 
made club life largely dispensable. The institution was Newspaper 
Row. In the late 1860s and early 1870s, apparently because it gave 
easy access to statesmen relaxing in Willard's Hotel bar and 
parlors, all but a few incurably high-minded correspondents 
moved into an agreeable rookery of old-fashioned offices on lower 
14th Street between Pennsylvania Avenue and F Street 

Here on the site of the present National Press Building a con- 
centrated craft social life developed in an atmosphere of happy 
anarchy. A continuous round of interoffice visitations went on, 
flavored with trades in news tips and background information, 
bottle hospitalities, political arguments, and considerable draw 
and stud poker. In inner conclaves solemn decisions were made 
as to which statesmen were temporarily to be disciplined with 
the silent treatment. In 1872 a plot was hatched there which sent 
a delegation of correspondents to the Republican National Con- 
vention to defeat the renomination of Vice-President Schuyler 
Colfax an early "used to be a newspaperman myself' type of 

22 Prehistory 

politician who had offended by bottling up news o senatorial 
investigation of the Grant era's graft scandals. Newspaper Row's 
prestige was sharply increased by his retirement to the lecture 

From its portals correspondents rushed in packs to hunt down 
embarrassed or otherwise newsworthy statesmen at Willard's. 
They formed more or less constant dining and drinking arrange- 
ments with each other in the neighborhood's less expensive bistros. 
Over the years the quarter developed its peculiar institutions. 
Around the corner on E Street Gerstenberg's German beanery be- 
came "Gerstenberg University/' with rituals of academic gibberish 
to propitiate its two chop-lusting mastiffs and to initiate visiting 
firemen and press-corps novices into the mysterious civilities of 
ordering "steak mit onions. 7> 

Meanwhile the corps's working pressures grew with Newspaper 
Row's sociabilities. With cheaper wire services and larger news- 
papers, the correspondents year after year cultivated more news 
sources for material for fuller and more detailed stories. New 
forms of news presentation were improvised and polished. In 1866 
the Cincinnati Commercial's James B. McCullagh had invented 
the direct quotation interview. In the next decade leading states- 
men occasionally could be seen climbing rickety stairs to the 
Row's principal bureau offices bent on curious negotiations. They 
had learned that for interviews of peculiarly high political voltage 
metropolitan newspapers sometimes would pay as high as one 
hundred dollars. 

From time to time new gadgetry equipment added to the 
working day's complexities. By the early 1880s a very few corps 
neophytes were clattering away at a disturbingly noisy, fast-copy- 
producing mechanism called the typewriter. A year or two more 
and in the more progressive offices bells were ringing and voices 
were shouting into a doubtfully reliable new wall gadget the 
telephone. In the evenings the one at the White House was an- 
swered by President Cleveland personally, and a press corps tra- 
dition has it that once a daring young journalist won a five-dollar 
bet by ringing him up and asking him what the news was. The 
executive answer is not recorded. 

Duncan Aikman 23 

Meantime a second Washington Press Club was launched in 
1883 and automatically it found itself in competition with an ex- 
tremely full life which the press corps already was leading. It did 
clear a few hurdles. It avoided rankling distinctions between 
correspondents and the Washington local press in its membership 
requirements, and in some rooms behind the Baltimore American 
offices at 1410 Pennsylvania Avenue it set up a meeting headquar- 
ters. At the peak of its fellowship it held a moonlight steamer 
excursion on the Potomac probably a benefit. 

But Newspaper Row's happy anarchy had favored the develop- 
ment of egos, and soon the new club was awash with tempera- 
mental troubles. Marplots objected that the Baltimore American's 
Frank Truesdell was at once its chief organizer, its treasurer, and 
in a sense its landlord. Beefs were registered apparently without 
justification that the news confidences of befuddled members now 
and then appeared in the Baltimore American as exclusives. 
Treasurer Truesdell on his part was equally distressed by the 
negligence of fellow members in paying their drink and refresh- 
ment bills and eventually even the rent. By 1887 the club was 
dead of these frictions, leaving its debts and considerable rancor 

Midway in the languid liquidation the first Washington news- 
paper club destined to last was founded the Gridiron in 1885 
with Ben Perley Poore, a Jovianly bearded ancient who had been 
around town since his childhood in the John Quincy Adams ad- 
ministration, for its first president. 

Originally limited to forty members later generously expanded 
to fifty the Gridiron was designed not to meet the press corps's 
mass sociability problem, but to be a kind of Skull and Bones 
of the Washington local campus. Nor did collegiate overtones stop 
there. As the name implies, the Gridiron was also projected as a 
group of Merry Andrews at whose semiannual dinners ruling 
political celebrities and issues would be broiled over lambent 
flames of vaudeville horseplay, a good deal as often happened 
to faculties in the uproarious eighties on senior class "high jinks" 

Over the club's sixty-four years invitations to these frolicking 

24 Prehistory 

fiestas have come to be as hungrily sought after by publishers, 
financiers, statesmen on the make and in retirement, and by simi- 
lar breeds of publicans and sinners as whisky prescriptions were 
during Prohibition. Meanwhile the public relations facilities en- 
joyed by the membership have made the Gridiron possibly the 
best advertised newspapermen's club on the planet. 

Nevertheless its birth did not still the longings of Washington's 
working press at large for a communal social life when a few years 
later a bargain was offered. Early in 1891 the furnishings and 
equipment of a moribund Sports Club, maintained by a few Con- 
gressmen at the apex of Newspaper Row at 14th and E streets were 
for sale at a sacrifice. The statesmen evidently had gone in for 
table and brass-rail sports rather than athletics, and the appoint- 
ments were adequate to the point of stylistic lavishness. A National 
Capital Press Club was formed to take advantage of such an entry 
to swank and splendor, and shortly eighty-five members moved in 
to live the lives of gentlemen of distinction. 

At last all the omens for a happy ship appeared propitious. 
Membership climbed above one hundred, names nationally known 
in journalism gave prestige to the officers' roll, distinguished vis- 
itors sought guest cards and lounging privileges, and the club's 
annual dinners shortly were competing in glamor with the six- 
year-old Gridironers'. Members deserted "Gerstenberg University" 
and Newspaper Row's lesser hash houses to eat delicate dishes 
prepared by their own chef's staff and to drink the artfully ^con- 
cocted mixtures of their own bartenders. 

Such charms of the social atmosphere proved all the more at- 
tractive indeed as it developed that nobody really had to pay for 
them. Being an association of gentlemen by definition, the National 
Capital Press Club extended unlimited credit. At long intervals 
individual members would be posted for non-payment. But either 
the situation was met with a partial remittance, or the account had 
swelled to such appalling proportions for newspaper incomes that 
the victim merely retired to "Gerstenberg University" with his 
dues in default. 

So gradually deficits became an obsession and then a perpetual 
headache. First they appeared in hundreds, then thousands. 

Duncan Aikman 25 

Heroic measures were tried, but with each collection crisis mem- 
bership again fell off. Finally ultimate in salvage operations a 
vast troupe of New York's leading theatrical entertainers came 
down on a free special train for a benefit performance. The seven 
thousand dollars which their efforts netted melted in the 1894 defi- 
cits. The bar, the plate, the silver, and the lush late-Victorian 
furnishings were sold at auction. Organized press-corps social life 
was bankrupt. 

But the anarchy into which it reverted was less happy than be- 
fore the brief era of fellowship and, as an expanding press corps 
overflowed Newspaper Row into office buildings all over the city, 
more diffused. 

In the early 1900s Washington's newsmen were fumbling -for a 
formula; How to organize a newspaper club whose members 
would pay for their fun as they found it. 


From Such a Bond 

BY SCOTT HART Scott Hart, Associate Editor of Chang- 

ing Times magazine, is a veteran of 
the Richmond, Virginia, Times-Dis- 
patch, the Washington Post, Coronet 
and Time (Inc.) staffs. He is the au- 
thor of two novels The Moon Is Wan- 
ing, 1939, and Eight April Days, 1949. 

On a May afternoon in 1908 that section of F Street about seven 
blocks east of the White House was quiet in the sunshine of a 
drowsy Washington spring. Men and women, mostly of career-gov- 
ernment families, moved casually along the sidewalks, pausing 
occasionally to talk or to nod amiably to acquaintances. For Wash- 
ington then was about the size of Louisville or Seattle today, and 
it had that charming community consciousness that makes people 
know each other and enables them certainly on pleasant spring 
days to nod amiably even to strangers. 

To them everything was familiar, secure, and, perhaps, endur- 
ing. They knew their town and so many of the faces. They were 
even inured by now to the disturbances of the automobiles that 
backfired and fouled the air so much, but which in God's good 
time would pass, no doubt, as all unnatural things do. 

Then suddenly a crowd of men surged about the sidewalk in 
front of the jewelry store on the street floor of the three-story 
structure at Number 1205 F Street. They stood talking, laughing, 
and looking up the narrow flight of steps leading to the apart- 
ments above. Soon from somewhere a mound of furniture grew 
as in strange evolution from the concrete. And then they started 
with the burdens up the steps. 

The strollers stared. 

One man, unmistakably the chief of police, heaved at a piano; 

Scott Hart 27 

they sweated up with chairs and tables that plainly came from 
second-hand surroundings. They somehow mounted the stairs 
with an enormous bar. And eventually, as toward the satisfying 
of some mysterious and impending ritual, they carried up a small 
potbellied brown-and-white-plaster Billiken, idolic symbol of 
good luck of the era which, it was said, would smile if the bottoms 
of its feet were tickled. 

So up from a sidewalk of Washington rose the National Press 
Club. Washington newspapermen had tried several times prior 
to 1908 to form a club, but each effort failed because the mem- 
bers blithely took credit and then just as blithely neglected to pay 
their bills. 

These oversights require explanation: It was all due to that 
wisplike something in their natures which in one face made them 
work unconscionable hours for pittances in what amounted to a 
life mission and in the next face made them completely irre- 
sponsible about almost everything else. 

But still they had to have a club somehow. For many of them 
the workday ended at 3 A.M., and there was nowhere to go but to 
bed or a public bar. Many were strangers to anything like family 
life; they had come to Washington for newspaper jobs and holed 
up in hall rooms. They had no money; if totally new to the busi- 
ness they got ten or fifteen dollars a week. The near veterans in 
the upper crust got about thirty dollars. 

Indeed around the time the club was established over the 
store on F Street James M. Thomson, a red-haired better-than- 
average city-side reporter, sidled into the office of Bill Spurgeon, 
the hard, competent managing editor of the Washington Post, and 
mumbled, "Mr. Spurgeon, I make ten dollars a week, and don't 
you think I deserve fifteen dollars?" 

This caused an emotional flexing of Mr. Spurgeon^ mouth; but 
his eyes inclined to the ceiling and faithfully bored through that 
barrier upward to the Almighty for guidance. Then his eyes re- 
turned to earth, and he cried, "No, I really don't think you do/' 
The cerebration could be called brilliant, Thomson later became 
publisher of the New Orleans Item. 

But there was a necessity for a club even beyond the raising of 

28 From Such a Bond 

a place where chronically broke men might congregate and dis- 
port themselves within common limitations of poverty. They had 
to keep in contact with one another professionally. For them news 
was a perpetually threatening river to be watched around the 
clock. And the watchers must watch the watchers to survive. They 
must mingle. 

There were, however, always their own natures to consider in 
anything having to do with business. And it was entirely fortunate 
that some of them understood this and produced the major miracle 
which sent them staggering under the heavy burdens up the 
narrow steps on F Street into a club that would survive. 

This miracle was cemented in a piece of rough talk at the start 
in just five emphatic words: "There will be no credit." 

On that premise a few cityside reporters on a date that should 
have been recorded for posterity watched Graham B. Nichol of 
the Washington Times pull a stub pencil from his pocket and 
scratch ten dollars and his name on a piece of papernot an 
I.O.U., but a check that was good at the bank. That was his sacri- 
fice toward starting a solid club where credit would not be toler- 
ated. The others scratched equal sums in the affirmation of pay 
as you join, pay as you eat, and pay as you drink. 

So they had the archstone idea and garnered three hundred 
dollars to boot. On March 12, 1908, thirty-two newspapermen met 
in the Washington Chamber of Commerce, heard orations on past 
follies by J. Russell Young of the Evening Star and others, and 
concluded they should meet a week later. Progress followed; they 
decided on a name the National Press Cluband selected the 
empty two-story apartments over the F Street jewelry store for a 

Nichol, speaking through a fog of cigarette smoke and against 
the backfiring clatter of rattly automobiles on the early spring 
streets outside, believed the new club could operate on six thou- 
sand dollars a year while having an income of eight thousand 
dollars. If he seems overly optimistic now in the perspectives of 
time it should be remembered that no newspaperman ever knows 
how far money will go. 1 

no? See Chapter VIII. Ed. 

Scott Hart 29 

Anyhow, on March 29, 1908, they met in the Gridiron Room of 
the Willard Hotel and learned that two hundred were willing to 
sign up. A constitution was framed. They would promote social en- 
joyment among the members, would cultivate literary taste, would 
encourage friendly intercourse among newspapermen and those 
with whom they are thrown in contact in the pursuit of their 
vocation, would aid members in distress, would foster tibe ethical 
standards of the profession. 

Once situated above the jewelry store in the apartments with 
the white mantels with the strange naked Billikin with the in- 
scrutable eyes seated on his plaster throne above one mantel, the 
club almost instantly took on an aspect it would never lose: the 
great came swarming in to mix, talk, and unbend with the work- 
ing press. 

The formal housewarming came on May 18. Against the elbows 
of the young men covering the police precincts and the better 
attired and older men covering Congress, who joined after earlier 
hesitation, rubbed British Ambassador, later Viscount Bryce and 
Buffalo Bill Cody, Sir Guy Standing and James K Hackett, the 
great of the stage and the great of government. There weren't 
enough dishes to go around, so they served the food in relays 
while the dishes were washed. Ice tinkled in glasses, and passers- 
by in the street below heard the shafts of singing, smiled, and 
passed along. 

The season changed, the membership grew, and the struggle 
for funds was unending. As the membership enlarged better serv- 
ice naturally was expected. In the midst of financial dilemma the 
club's fiscal balance of eighty dollars was inadvertently lost. But 
the calamity was cushioned by an addition of a kitty to the poker 
game. This at least paid the employees. The great phenomenon 
had come: the eternal poker game which continues twenty-four 
hours a day six days a week in its hurtle into eternity. 

The game was indeed proceeding nicely on that twenty-third 
day of December, 1908, when somebody hollered, "Fire!" Ordi- 
narily when the fireplaces smoked too much a member would 
grab a seltzer bottle and quickly quiet the blaze. But, this being 
near Christmas, all the seltzer on hand was needed. The place, 

30 From Such a Bond 

however, really was on fire. Bill Spurgeon, the president, agreed 
it was. And there was in his voice at all times that tone of author- 
ity which made men believe what he said. 

So they summoned the fire department, which wrecked a beau- 
tiful fireplace and drenched the jeweler below. People who 
flocked to the blaze behind the horse-drawn fire wagon looked 
through the plate-glass windows upon Mr. G. Goldsmith standing 
among his cameo brooches, watch fobs, and engraved ladies' 
lockets an umbrella raised over his head. 

But it wasn't the fire or Mr. Goldsmith that made the members 
move to newer, better quarters in March of 1909. The fire actually 
didn't even break up the poker game. The club simply had got too 
big for the small quarters. It got big because it fulfilled its pur- 
poses. And with the fulfillment of its purpose it became important 
even beyond the usefulness it had for the members. The Great of 
the government, of the stage, of the prize ring, the wrestling ring, 
of science, of education, of literature found it important because 
they could talk freely there with the people who wrote about 
them. And they could unbend completely in the company of men 
who were born with a built-in disregard of such matters. 

Many thought at the time the little ornamental plaster Billiken 
with the oriental eyes brought the good luck. In any case the club 
rented new quarters over Affleck's Drugstore at Fifteenth and F 
streets, hard by the then well-heeled United States Treasury. 

Just then John Hays Hammond, the financier, was looking 
ahead as usual. Reflecting that President William Howard Taft 
would be inaugurated on March 4 with the traditional panoplies 
of parade, he cast about for some overlooking windows to accom- 
modate himself and friends. The rooms already rented by the 
club would be ideal, he considered; and, being a friend of the 
organization, he offered five thousand dollars for use of the win- 
dow space that day. The treasury fattened instantly. 

So on Saturday night, March 20, 1909 more than two weeks 
after the new President's formal inaugural parade a noisy pro- 
cession moved west along F Street, a block north of Pennsylvania 
Avenue, the thoroughfare of historic parades. Two of the national 
capital's tallest, finest policemen stepped at the head of the line 

Scott Hart 81 

to the music of a Neapolitan band. Behind them came tall, slim 
James Preston, thirty-five years superintendent of the Senate 
Press Gallery, Henry Sweinhart, better known as representative o 
Havas News Agency, Mike Flynn, now executive editor and one 
of the heirs of the Washington Times-Herald, Earl Godwin, now 
a leading commentator, and some five others walking in a clump, 
carrying torches. And in the swaying torchlight the potbellied 
Billiken's slant eyes beamed down from its lofty perch on a high- 
lifted platform. 

Behind all this strung out a frayed tatter of marchers, about 
one hundred newspapermen all told. Farther back weaved other 
newspapermen carrying the piano stool and much miscellaneous 
impedimenta. Some, incapable of extreme physical exertion, bore 
only packs of playing cards. Others lugged pictures from the walls 
at 1205 F Street, and some carried handfuls of poker chips. 

Late office workers looked down from their windows. Motorists 
stopped their panting cars, unloosing upon the narrow street the 
choked-off fumes of gasoline. Suddenly from the frayed line 
somebody started singing "Around Her Neck She Wore a Yellow 
Ribbon'* and the song in raucous jerks, discords, and yells swept 
along Jo the rear where Otto CarmichaeFs automobile panted 
forward full of club equipment that no one chose to tote. They 
were moving everything, including the beer steins, mugs, tables, 
chairs, and phonograph records. And with the movement went 
the convinced notion that at last they had a club rooted in solid 
principles of operation. 

A wild cheering party broke loose in the new quarters over Mr. 
Affleck's head. People frequenting this hitherto serene corner of 
the nation's capital looked upward to the second floor where the 
screams of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" leaped out. And 
they wondered who were the men who rushed up the steep 
narrow steps in such haste to join the uproar. 

An anonymous reporter from the Post rushed in, looked around, 
and listened. He heard Louis H. Coolidge, Assistant Secretary of 
the Treasury across the street, rhapsodize on his new neighbors. 
Congressmen Nicholas Lotigworth of Ohio, Gilbert M. Hitchcock 
(later senator) of Nebraska, and Dr. Harvey Wiley, father of the 

32 From Such a Bond 

pure-food laws, spoke in acclaim. Governor George Wilbur Peck 
of Wisconsin, who produced the original of FecKs Bad Boy, spoke 

The reporter from the Post rushed to his office and banged out 
a story under the headline "LITTLE FAT GOD MOVES." The new 
quarters, the story said, "admittedly take rank with any in the 
United States for character, individuality, camaraderie and crea- 
ture comforts/' It was, the story said, "a club solely and exclusively 
for newspapermen." 

There was newspaper atmosphere. The club occupied two ante- 
bellum buildings. Its two floors on different levels were connected 
by three steps. Some of the walls were decorated with varnished 
newspaper mats from many cities. On others hung the beginnings 
of the country's finest display of original cartoons, including 
Frederic J. Raskin's collection. There were the piano and the bar, 
the beer steins and the omnipresent Billiken beaming his benev- 

And always there was the financial pinch, a distress which 
seemed to flow from the personal condition of most members even 
into their organization itself. The management reached for every 
available dollar. Indeed about this time Raiaf Bey, Counselor of 
the Turkish Embassy, called one night at the Associated Press 
office to inquire into reports of a political disturbance in his home- 
land. Upon being informed he asked of Clarence G. Marshall, the 
deskman that night, where a quick drink might be had. Marshall, 
a charter member of the club, invited him up. The Turk was 
charmed by the surroundings, and Marshall got him a ten-day 
visitor's card. 

Later the management phoned Marshall. "What about Bey? ?> 
he was asked. "His card has expired, but he is still hanging 
around." Marshall asked if he was spending any money. "He is 
pouring it out," the manager said. Forthwith they elected Bey an 
associate member because of his intense interest in journalism. 

But, within the club's reason for being, something, too, was 
occuring. This was nothing less than solid talk. It took place gen- 
erally in the wee hours of the night when the morning-paper 
gang ambled in with the damp editions of the new day under 

Scott Hart 33 

their arms. They chewed over the stories of the day before and 
found a better reach for the stories of the upcoming day. 

And the people who made the news came more and more as 
time passed to the clubhouse and talked more freely than they 
would anywhere else. Youthful heavyweight Jim Jeffries took the 
floor and said he would whip the champ Jack Johnson. Dr. Cook 
described his Arctic adventures. Admiral Peary came and told 
how he really discovered the Pole. Walter Wellman told why he 
did not get there in his airship. Sir Ernest Shackleton told of his 
probings toward the other Pole. And there came Frank Gotch and 
Dr. Roller, the day's best wrestlers; Bat Masterson and Seth Bui- 
lard, the Wild West sheriffs, and ex-President Theodore Roose- 

In the gray cold of January 31, 1910, President Taft puffed up 
the steep steps wearing a sweater over his vest, his greatcoat left 
behind in the White House three blocks away. He liked the club 
and might be called the father of the idea for a building owned by 
the organization. He advanced the thought at the next New 
Year's Eve celebration during a quiet moment when he could get 
a word in. 

Sarah Bernhardt chose the club as the proper place to deliver 
her farewell speech to America. She was, however, unable to 
negotiate the steep steps with her artificial leg and was carried up 
by Charley Keyser and Ernie Walker in the presence of the dis- 
turbed French Ambassador. 

The Great Names continued coming. The annual Hobby Night 
brought such as Uncle Joe Cannon and Champ Clark, famous 
speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives; composer Victor 
Herbert; Willis Moore, the weather prophet, and pedagogic 
Woodrow Wilson, then Governor of New Jersey. Later when 
Wilson became President he retained his fondness for the club 
mostly because he could completely relax there. He told the mem- 
bers frankly one night just how he felt about himself. He must 
indeed be some kind of a fraud, he declared, if he had made 
people think him a cold and removed person. He liked to escape 
being President now and then. "If I were free I would come not 
infrequently to these rooms/* he said. 

34 From Such a Bond 

Indeed the National Press Club by this time had really settled 
down to living, in the second of the four homes it was to know. 
Now from the yellowing records and from the dimming memories 
of men who walked and worked and cursed and sang through 
those times come the images: 

There were innumerable spelling bees, the toughest, perhaps, 
when fourteen newspapermen met fourteen statesmen with Sec- 
retary of Agriculture David H. Houston calling the words. They 
contested mightily, spelled their way through a conventional 
spelling book, and then were confronted with words taken from 
an obscure Holmes Speller which had been used thirty years 
before in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The statesmen won 
when Rep. Frank B. Willis of Ohio (afterward senator and prom- 
inent candidate for the G.O.P. Presidential nomination) spelled 
"hydrocephalus." The program, held in the auditorium of the 
Willard Hotel, was climaxed with the showing of movies of the 
newspapermen's children romping on the White House lawn. 

There were innumerable debates. They argued before dis- 
tinguished assemblages "Whether Whiskers or Baldheads Are 
the Greater Detriment to Mankind" and "Whether Bow Legs or 
Knock Knees Are the Greater Menace to Navigation." And all 
the while as the slow days passed through the peaceful years the 
piano throbbed above the druggist's head and the poker-chip 
piles rose and declined in the hard and at times not so quiet talk 
at the green-topped tables. They sang of the Old Mill Stream 
and except for the rumblings in the Balkans the world lay as quiet 
as that stream off beyond their windows. 

Already the club had become an institution. It was an institu- 
tion that most newspapermen of the capital felt they had to join. 
Some of the more aloof Capitol Hill correspondents had shied off - 
at first. But the Big Names they daily courted, the men who gave 
them the news had long ago swarmed on the clubhouse at every 
invitation. The club could no longer be ignored by anybody in the 
business. And within the club's employ many magnificent charac- 
ters developed. 

There was Mac, the waiter. He stood six foot four in height 
and never forgot a name or face. He had been Stonewall Jack- 

Scott Hart 85 

son's boy and never abandoned the general, it was told, except at 
Bull Run. With Samuel J. Tilden he went around the world, and 
at eighty-six, with his knack for names and faces unimpaired, he 
was attired in a blue uniform with gold braid and posted in a 
chair at the door. 

It became clear in 1913 that the clubhouse could accommodate 
only two thirds of the membership at best. And always there 
were the out-of-town members, the non-residents who drifted to 
Washington and used the facilities. So moving day came again on 
March 6, 1914. They moved one block up Fifteenth Street to the 
top floor of the Riggs Building, now called the Albee Building. 

Here was more space all told; they had better cardrooms, a 
better taproom; and on the walls went the newspaper mats and 
the enlarging collection of cartoons. The potbellied Billiken they 
ensconced on a mantel and in the thin sunlight of early March 
went up to inspect the roof garden, a part of the club's appoint- 
ments. Then on March 20 ? 1914, with the Billiken beaming ap- 
proval from his slant eyes, they threw a resounding housewarming 
party and settled down to living again. 

Into this living came Ladies* Nights. The members had dis- 
covered that their wives had to get attention or they would kick 
about the money that went into dues, so the women became wel- 
come within specified hours. They had a memorable minstrel 
show in 1915 which featured sixty-seven actors and didn't break 
up until 1:45 A.M. Held in Polfs Theatre, the seats sold out two 
weeks in advance and sweetened the always panting treasury. 
Years passed. 

The Great Names kept coming in, their laurels still fresh oa 
their brows: ex-President Theodore Roosevelt; Edward, them 
Prince of Wales; the Lost Battalion; President Warren G. Har- 
ding; Marshal Foch; the Oberammergau Players; the irrepressible 
song writer Irving Berlin; that master of martial music, John 
Philip Sousa; the noted Broadway producer, Charles K Harris; 
the Crown Prince of Sweden; the first non-stop Atlantic solo 
pilot, Charles A. Lindbergh names that are remembered today 
and other names that seemed great at the moment, but somehow 
passed away. 

36 From Such a Bond 

And always they talked into ears that were bent. The club 
slowly was evolving from a performing role into a listening role. 

But as the seat of startling incident its character could never 
change. The first photograph by wire was Carter Field's, flashed 
from cardroom to lounge. The first in radio involved an elaborate 
hookup with the Naval Air Station to receive a message from the 
Detroit News. President Harding, a member of the club, was 
present. He cocked an ear to the receiver. All that sounded were 
subdued clicks and buzzes until suddenly a wrathful voice poured 
forth in full volume into the straining ears, "The Goddamned 
thing won't work/* 

Always they had hoped to have a building of their own. Indeed 
in the early years above Mr. Goldsmith's jewelry store that en- 
during instrument of American procedure, a committee, had been 
named to scout the possibilities. But the best of committees can't 
do much on behalf of an empty pocket. 

So in January, 1925, when Henry L. Sweinhart became presi- 
dent a first act was to appoint a special building committee. This 
was an act with something sounder at its core than simple hope. 
At the core was faith, fixed in the knowledge that the club as an 
institution had kept faith with its reason for being. It had become 
in twelve years everything it had to be to last. It was a place first 
where newspapermen could linger comfortably among their kind; 
it was an environment to which men who made news found 
pleasure in coming and in talking made more news; and lastly 
nobody even thought of asking for credit any more. But there was 
even this greater thing: the club was liked by certain men who 
knew how on occasion to shake a few millions from the banks. 2 

When the present fourteen-story building finally rose above 
the capital's squat structures at Fourteenth and F streets in 1927 
some of the original 200 members stood around and recalled 
how they had gone across the street to the Willard Hotel in 1908 
and started the club. They talked about the days over Mr. Gold- 
smith's head and of the fire and the parade and of the strange 

2 Another chapter relates how the present National Press Building was 
financed and describes its appointments. 

Scott Hart 37 

plaster Billiken with the inscrutable eyes. They wondered what 
had become of the thing during the moving to the new clubhouse 
and why anybody had brought it into the old place to begin with. 
For the Billiken would eternally be like themselves, a little charm- 
ing if one tickled his feet enough, but forever impossible to under- 

In March, 1948, the twentieth anniversary in the new building, 
they looked around for the two hundred first members. The forty- 
five hundred or more members of the organization wanted to 
honor them at a Founders' Day event. Of them all only thirty- 
seven showed up. Some of the two hundred had gone high in the 
business, some had quit it altogether, and some were dead and 
some were sick. 

The members packed the place. The thirty-seven were lined up - 
to be greeted by the President of the United States, this time 
Harry S. Truman. Already in other years they had shaken the 
hands of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow 
Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, 
and Franklin D. Roosevelt, to say nothing of the countless other 
celebrities who had visited the club. 

The President handed to the thirty-seven engraved silver cards 
of life membership in the National Press Club. He said kind 
words, shook their hands, then ambled across the room and 
propped a foot on the brass rail of the bar. It was just the way 
the thirty-seven had meant from the beginning for any President 
of the United States, or any other member or guest, to act in 
their house. 


This Is How It Used to Be 

BY BASCOM N. TIMMONS Bascom N. Timmons began working 

for newspapers in his native Texas in 
1906. His connections with Washing- 
ton, where he now operates a bureau 
for twelve or more southern and south- 
western newspapers, date from 1912. 
He is a frequent contributor to na- 
tional magazines. 

The two veteran Washington correspondents sat in Losekam's F 
Street Restaurant and talked deep into that hot July night in 1912. 
The heat and humidity wilted down the high starched collars of 
each. I hung on to their every word. 

Both correspondents were eminent writing men by the stand- 
ards of those days or o today. How well they or their writing 
were known to the general public I do not know. By-lines were 
the exception in the year before the century entered its teens. 
But to newspapermen and federal officials they were men of high 
honor, of clear and incisive minds who in this city of partisan- 
ship and personalities wrote with fairness and had won great 
respect. They were, perhaps, a little inclined to live in the past. 

If, argued one, the calm Civil War major had finished out his 
second term as the twenty-fifth President of the United States, the 
theatrical Spanish-American War colonel would have been polit- 
ically broken as presiding officer of the Senate just as Tom Platt 
and Matt Quay had planned it. Joseph G. Cannon of Illinois or 
Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana would surely have been nomi- 
nated and elected President in 1904 and by now be completing an 
orthodox eight Republican years in the White House. There hav- 
ing been no seven years of T. R. and four years of Taft, there 

Bascom N. Timmons 39 

would have been no Republican-Bull Moose, Taft-Roosevelt 
schism and Wilson wouldn't have a look-in this year. 

If, observed the other, Wilson did win, the States* rights south- 
erners would dominate his administration and would bring a halt 
to centralization of government in Washington. The importance 
of Washington as a news center would certainly recede. 

The conversation of the two veteran newsmen was interrupted 
from time to time. Men important in public life dined at Lose- 
kam's. Immaculate Senator Frank B. Brandagee of Connecticut 
answered a call on the wall telephone, stopped to say that Vice- 
President James S. Sherman, recently renominated at Chicago, 
had been stricken with a serious and probably fatal illness and 
would take little if any part in the campaign. It was private in- 
formation, and he requested it be treated as such. 

The two pillars of the correspondents* corps resumed their 
discussions. Even if centralization was not halted Washington 
could not look forward to any era as stirring as the last fifteen 

What a panorama. Take the dramatic story of the sinking of 
the Maine. Its news coverage out of Washington had been tre- 
mendous. The New York Sun alone had taken one hundred and 
twenty-five thousand words by wire and telephone from Washing- 
ton in a single day. There had been the victory of Dewey in 
Manila Bay and the Sunday-night news break on it from the 
White House. Then Dewe/s triumphant return. Then there had 
been the shock of the assassination of the beloved McKmley. 

The days and events of which they talked were far away to me. 
McKinley had been dead for more than a decade. That seemed 
a long, long time longer than I now regard the thirty-seven years 
that have passed since 1912. 

I paid the check. I assumed it was protocol to do so. At least 
neither of the great men demurred. They had eaten heartily. I 
considered it my good fortune to have had opportunity to listen 
to their words of wisdom. Established newspapermen such as 
these were helpful to the newcomer after he arrived, but they 
didn't exactly roll out any welcoming carpet. There was already a 

40 This Is Hoto It Used to Be 

question on ceremonial days of how to apportion the eighty-three 
Senate gallery seats among more than one hundred and seventy- 
five accredited correspondents. 

The prediction that Wilson's election would result in diminish- 
ing the federal bureaucracy which that year was costing the 
stupendous sum of almost seven hundred million dollars per year 
was disconcerting to an aspiring new Washington correspondent 
who had dreams of making two or three newspaper connections 
and parlaying the income into a livelihood. 

But at least I had arrived in time to see the glorious dying 
embers of an era. Washington newspapermen could not complain 
of lack of activity in 1912. They were to cover the Republican con- 
vention at Chicago and see the Bull Moose breakaway, then the 
bitter Woodrow Wilson-Champ Clark deadlock at the Baltimore 
Democratic convention and finally to stand again at Armageddon 
with T. R. in Chicago. 

They were also to be assigned to the trains and headquarters 
in which an ex-President, a President, and a President-to-be 
fought it out; see an election which ended sixteen years of Re- 
publican rule, bringing in a Democratic President with lopsided 
majorities in both branches of Congress. 

Some of us were in Milwaukee when John Shrank wounded 
Theodore Roosevelt. There was the unprecedented death of a 
major-party vice-presidential nominee on election eve and the 
substitution of Nicholas Murray Butler for the dead James S. 
Sherman as Taf t's running mate. On Capitol Hill the Clapp Senate 
Investigating Committee dug into the shenanigans of Presidential 
campaigns past and present. J. Pierpont Morgan, silk-hatted, and 
the last witness I remember at a Congressional investigation with 
such headgear, came to face Samuel Untermeyer before the Pujo 
"Money Trust" investigation. He was a growling, surly individual 
to newspapermen who tried to interview him, compared with his 
affable scion J. P. Morgan before the Pecora Committee and with 
a midget on his lap twenty years later. 

To cover the great news events occurring in this dynamic news 
center in the antiquity of 1912 was a larger, better-paid group of 
writing men than were assigned to any other writing task on the 

Bascom N. Timmons 41 

face of the earth. From the few vacancies there were in jobs they 
must have been turning in satisfactory performances. Most every 
young man who expected to make a career of journalism in those 
fabled days wanted to go to Washington. 

Government was beginning to change rapidly in the second 
decade of the century. Most of the senators then sitting had been 
elected by legislatures, but thereafter would be chosen by direct 
vote. On the way was the income-tax amendment, which was 
fated to have a profound effect on the form of the national gov- 
ernment and its activities. Woman suffrage and prohibition 
amendments were being fiercely agitated. 

The last session of Congress for the Taft administration wound 
up snarled in a filibuster over prohibition and labor legislation. At 
the height of the Congressional talkathon Mr. Taft chose the 
National Press Club as the place to sing his felicitous swan song. 

On the blustery afternoon of March 4 Governor Woodrow 
Wilson rode down Pennsylvania Avenue with President Taft in 
a horse-drawn carriage and at 1:35 took the oath as President. 
Then followed the longest, most colorful inaugural parade that 
had ever before or since gone up that historic paradeway. Nine 
hours after the Essex cavalry troop cantered by as the escort to 
President Wilson the last unit of paraders swung into the avenue 
from which daylight long had faded and on which blazed festoons 
of red, white, and blue lights. In another week Congress's wheels 
were grinding out the first of the far-reaching New Freedom 
legislative program. 

The metes and bounds of Washington's news-producing area in 
1912 differed little from those of 1949. In 1865 Lorenzo R. 
Crounse established what was to become newspaper row. In its 
great days in the seventies, eighties, and nineties it was a row of 
two-story frame and brick buildings extending from the south side 
of the Ebbitt Hotel, present site of the National Pf ess Building, 
down Fourteenth Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1907 the last 
incandescent light blinked out in a dingy correspondent's office 
along Newspaper Row. It became a street of small shops. Exactly 
twenty years later the majority of newspaper offices again as- 
sembled under the roof of the National Press Building. 

42 This Is How It Used to Be 

All during this twenty-year interim, however, the offices of 
most Washington correspondents continued to hug Fourteenth 
Street. The red-brick Wyatt Building at F and Fourteenth streets 
(where Garfinckefs now stands) came close to being the news- 
writing center of the capital. The National Press Club in its early 
days, with all the brave way it employed the "National" in its 
name, was pretty much of a local newspaperman's club rather 
than a club for out-of-town correspondents which it eventually 
became. Moreover, the ground floor of the Wyatt Building also 
housed the Western Union offices. The majority of newsmen 
stayed close to the click of the Morse sender. 

Other correspondents had offices in the Washington Post, 
Colorado, Hibbs, Southern, Evans, Home Life, Corcoran, District 
National, and 1410 Pennsylvania Avenue buildings. The new 
Munsey Building on E Street boasted the offices of two press as- 
sociationsthe United Press and the double-named Hearst Na- 
tional News Association #nd International News Service. Only the 
Associated Press in the Star Building on Eleventh Street was 
somewhat removed from the Fourteenth Street environment. 

When I came to Washington there were, according to reports 
I heard, at least twenty correspondents making as much as one 
hundred dollars per week. Later I was inclined to believe the 
figure exaggerated. There may have been twelve, not twenty. 

Most people said the late John Callan O'Laughlin of the Chi- 
cago Tribune was the highest-salaried Washington correspondent. 
He reputedly drew twelve thousand dollars per year. The Tribune 
then and for at least thirty years thereafter had the reputation of 
paying its bureau chief the most lavish Washington salary of any 
newspaper. O'Laughlin's assistant was a bright young newspaper- 
man, Arthur Sears Henning, said to be drawing sixty-five hundred 
dollars per year. Later he was to be bureau chief at a salary 
many times larger than O'Laughlin had received. 

Ranking next to O'Laughlin in emoluments was Harry L, Dun- 
lap, successor to Samuel G. Blythe as chief of the New York 
World Bureau. Blythe, who had become author of the Saturday 
Evening Post feature 'Who's Who and Why," was undoubtedly 
the highest-paid writing man in Washington. 

Bascom N. Timmons 43 

Other high-ranking newspapermen who were well paid accord- 
ing to the standards of the day included Oscar King Davis, New 
York Times; Eltinge Fowler, New York Morning Sun; Robert H. 
Patchin, New York Herald; George Griswold Hill, New York 
Tribune; Sumner N. Curtis, Chicago Record Herald; Louis 
Garthe, Baltimore American; David S. Barry, Providence Journal; 
William E. Brigham, Boston Evening Transcript; and Colonel 
Henry Hall of the Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraphy and there 
were several more. 

I had no anticipation of any quick leap (if I leaped at all) into 
their gaudy pay brackets, but fifty or sixty dollar a week salaries 
seemed common enough for me to aspire to one, and this ap- 
peared adequate for any living-scale desires I had at the time. 
Incidentally it was some years before I attained such a well-paid 

But the appalling income-tax collector had not arrived on the 
scene. Your take-home pay was your entire salary. No deductions 
at all. The only thing withheld from the newspaper employee was 
an occasional day off and some years an entire vacation period. 
Guy Mason of the New York World and later a District of Colum- 
bia Commissioner said he worked seven years without a vacation 
and stopped counting the days off he lost. 

A working week was a minimum of six days, and a day was 
from twelve to fourteen hours. There was no weekday off, unless 
the reporter had worked the previous Sunday or would work the 
following one. Mason, a good digger and writer, received forty- 
five dollars per week for most of the time he was with the World. 
Up to and including World War I sixty dollars was an average 
salary in a Washington newspaper bureau. Press associations had 
a lower scale. 

For many years the biggest newspapers were served by only 
one or two correspondents at a time. Anything more than a two- 
man capital staff was the exception. Adolph Ochs of the New 
York Times authorized the first four-man bureau for the national 

It came about this way. In 1910 the enactment of the Payne- 
Aldrich tariff bill and the fight against "Cannonism" split the 

44 This Is How It Used to Be 

Republican party and gave the House of Representatives to the 
Democrats. Champ Clark moved into the Speaker's chair in suc- 
cession to Joseph Gurney Cannon. With the Democrats in House 
control and Theodore Roosevelt giving evidence that he wanted 
his third cup of coffee, Ochs felt that the stirrings along the Poto- 
mac had increased interest in Washington news. He told Oscar 
King Davis, his capital bureau chief, he thought the Times should 
"get up more steam" in Washington. With that end in view Ochs 
was willing to fire the bureau's financial boiler to the extent of an 
additional thirty-five dollars per week. 

Davis looked around and found a likely prospect in Hal Smith 
of the Baltimore Sun staff. For the sum fixed by Mr. Ochs, Smith 
in 1911 joined Davis, W. Sinkler Manning, and J. A. Truesdell to 
make the first four-man newspaper bureau in Washington. But the 
Times" primacy was short-lived. Truesdell departed, and the 
Times was again down to three men. The New York Morning Sun, 
which was also listed as a press association in those days, for a 
time took ascendency. 

Any numerical comparison of the Congressional press gallery 
in pre-World War I with that of 1949 is misleading and reflects 
a larger increase than actually took place in the Washington news 
corps. Formerly it was the custom to list in the Congressional 
Directory only men who regularly covered legislative matters. 
Men like Bill Price of the Washington Star, who had reported the 
White House news since the Cleveland administration, were 
barred from Congressional Gallery listing. So were many normally 
assigned to executive departments, and they were forced to form 
their own organizations to obtain working credentials. 

This uneven situation invoked many an earnest discussion in 
the humble homes of the unlisted. In the bosom of the family the 
little woman cried out against the discrimination. In the printed 
lists of the Congressional Directory they were stars and asterisks. 
The stars designated the correspondents with wives. The asterisks 
revealed those that had not only wives, but unmarried daughters. 
If by chance the White House, a cabinet officer, or an embassy 
wished to invite a newspaperman to a social event his marital 
status could be found in the Directory. 

Bascom N. Timmons 45 

Under pressure that the Directory list all bona fide national- 
news-covering reporters the long-standing restrictions were re- 
moved and Congressional gallery membership became the basic 
accreditation in Washington. Under the rules applicable at the 
time of listing the Associated Press had nine men entitled to ad- 
mission in 1913 and ninety in 1949. The United Press jumped from 
eight to fifty-eight. The International News Service listed four 
persons in 1912 and forty in 1949. 

Formerly no Washington-published newspaper listed more than 
three men. In 1949 they listed not only their national-news- 
covering reporters, but also their society editors, news editors, 
managing editors, and in some cases their publishers some of 
whom never go near the Capitol for news-gathering purposes. 
Yet, allowing for relaxed listing requirements, the increase has 
been large. 

In 1912 the Congressional press galleries had only one hundred 
seventy-eight men and one woman, As the nineteen forties bowed 
out there were three galleries-press, radio, and periodicalwith 
1,014 members. Twice as many men and women were privileged 
to look down from the accommodation for these three agencies as 
there are senators and representatives on the floor, and now 
as always their tenure is a little more secure than that of the 

The feminine invasion of the news corps has been an important 
development. The one woman member of the press gallery in 1912 
was Mrs. George C. Richards. She came into the gallery in the 
way many women later came into Congress. When her husband 
died she took over the New England newspapers he had repre- 
sented. Later she was joined by Mrs. Cora Rigby of the Christian 
Science Monitor. But even World War I added only two or three 
women to the press gallery. The years just before and during 
World War II saw the biggest feminine accretion, and in 1949 
there were one hundred and forty-six women accredited in press, 
radio, and periodical galleries. 

The fact that there are six hundred fewer newspapers in the 
United States than there were a quarter of a century ago has had 
some violent repercussions. Sixteen New York newspapers in the 

46 This Is How It Used to Be 

gallery had been reduced to nine. Seven Philadelphia Bureaus 
came down to three. Chicago decreased from seven to five, Pitts- 
burgh from seven to three, Brooklyn from three to none, Balti- 
more and St. Louis each from five to three. But the biggest 
reduction in Boston was not due to newspaper consolidations or 
suspensions. In 1912 and almost up to the time of World War I 
seven Boston newspapers were represented in the press gallery. 
In 1949 not a Boston newspaper had a full-time exclusively em- 
ployed Washington correspondent, except the Christian Science 
Monitor, which is essentially a national newspaper. 

Such newspapers as the New York Morning World, Morning 
Sun, Press, Globe, Mail, and Staats-Zeitung disappeared, the 
Tribune and the Herald consolidated. In Philadelphia the North 
American, Public Ledger, Evening Public Ledger, Record, and 
Press have gone. In Chicago the Record Herald, Inter-Ocean, and 
Post have long since ceased existence. 

The 1912 gallery list reflected the meager news interest this 
nation had in the world or the world had in it. Only Arthur 
Willert of the London Times and Dr. George Barthelme of the 
Cologne Gazette served foreign newspapers on a full-time basis. 
A. Maurice Lowe represented the London Post on a part-time 
arrangement and also was correspondent for a Boston newspaper. 
Three British press associations Exchange Telegraph, Reuter's 
Telegram Company, and Central News, Ltd., London, all were 
represented, but one or two of them were on a part-time basis. 

Special correspondents in most cases had to dig up Sunday 
stories. Sometimes they experted on foreign affairs. The foreign 
embassies, nearly all of which were in short walking distance 
from the newspaper offices, furnished what would now be called 
"background." The most affable of all the diplomats before the 
nation entered World War I was Count J. H. von Bernstorff of 
Germany. Not only would von Bernstorff give you "background," 
but as the perfect host he wouldn't think of letting you leave 
without your taking home a bottle of wine, a box of cigars, or 
some German edible. The offering of presents by a news source 
is always embarrassing. But one just couldn't hurt the Count by 

Bascom N. Timmons 47 

declining. Later it was very apparent there had been a reason for 
Bernstorff's good-fellow methods. 

The Right Honorable James Bryce of Great Britain was not so 
accessible as Bernstorff, but sometimes you could make an en- 
gagement with him in the stately and dignified brick embassy at 
N and Connecticut. Bryce knew America about as well as he did 
Britain, but was always eager to learn more, and he had a way of 
interviewing the reporter instead of being interviewed. His suc- 
cesor, Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, was not available at all. Ambassador 
J. J. Jusserand of France was very friendly. Dr. Constantine Theo- 
dore Dumba of Austria-Hungary, George Bakmeteff of Czarist 
Russia, and Chang Yin Tang of China were often absent from 
their posts. Viscount Sutimi Chinda of Japan was always in Wash- 
ington and always ready to see newspapermen. 

The Senate gallery was and probably still is the favorite gather- 
ing place of the special correspondent Senators were the chief 
source of state news. They advise and consent to federal appoint- 
ments within their states. A senator on a taxing or appropriation 
committee might give a friendly correspondent a break on an 
important news story long before the big bureaus or press as- 
sociations had wind of it. He would let the same correspondent 
read his mail. The senator would go to the White House on an 
important state matter and reveal the result to the reporter. 

We did not look on the Senate merely as another legislative 
body. Rather it was the symbol of the union of the forty-eight 
states. The conception of it in the days when most of its members 
had been elected by legislatures and for some years after was 
that aside from legislating its function was conference and nego- 
tiation between forty-eight sovereignties. 

The Senate was the place of the exciting episode. Here the 
great floor shows were put on. Here were the Roots, Lodges, 
Borahs, John Sharp WiUiamses, and Pat Harrisons, the viking 
Knute Nelson, Jim Reed, the waspish Caraway, the tart sallies of 
the blind Gore, and here was Tom Walsh of Montana, the keeper 
of the Senate's conscience. In the gallery also presided Jim Pres- 
ton, who was of more assistance to the correspondent in covering 
Washington than the later day trinity the handout, the black 

48 This Is How It Used to Be 

sheet, and the tickerwith maybe even the press conference 

Members of the House, too, furnished news. It had its colorful 
figures Cannon., Clark, Cockran, Longworth, Garner, and Finis 
Garrett. But the House rules preclude great debate. There is 
never much decorum. In my memory there has been only one 
great speech in the House a speech made on the floor and 
printed in the Record exactly as made. That was the speech of 
Bourke Cockran in opposition to the Fordney-McCumber tariff 
bill in 1921. 

When Congress adjourned, the executive departments, ignored 
during the Congressional session, got a frontal attack. None of 
them had press sections, so the chief clerks were responsible for 
giving out news. It was easy enough to see a cabinet official if the 
importance of one's news quest warranted a personal talk. There 
were two hardy perennials. They were: statements by Admiral 
Dewey on the neglect of the Navy and by General Nelson A. Miles 
on the weakness of our Army. 

His efforts to cover his field as thoroughly as possible were in 
part responsible for the burgeoning of that supposedly horrendous 
handmaiden of the tired Washington correspondent the hand- 
out. It perhaps was responsible, too, for that other individual- 
enterprise opiate the black sheet. 

The first reference to the handout I remember was under a 
slightly different namethe "give-out." It occurred in the last days 
of the Taft administration. I was asked to hustle to the State 
Department for a "give-out" on the Mexican situation by Secre- 
tary of State Philander C. Knox. President Madero had been 
assassinated, and war with our sister republic to the south threat- 
ened. The battleships Vermont, Georgia, and Nebraska were off 
Vera Cruz. 

At the State Department Chief Clerk William McNeir handed 
out a typewritten statement that had been prepared by Secretary 
Knox, Secretary of War Stimson, and Secretary of Navy Meyer. 
Later Secretary Knox and Assistant Secretary of State Alvey A. 
Adee came out and submitted to such questions as the newspaper- 
men wished to ask. 

Bascom N. Timmons 49 

William P. Spurgeon, who gave me the State Department 
assignment, was an Englishman, and I took it for granted that the 
designation "give-out" was the British equivalent to our "state- 
ment" or "release." I do not remember hearing it called that again. 
Under the name <c handout" and in mimeographed form this type 
of belles lettres still litters our desks and feeds our wastebaskets. 
But that is the subject for a chapter. 

Angus McSween, correspondent for the Philadelphia North 
American, was the progenitor of "black-sheeting" as moderns 
know it. The cradle was the Wyatt Building. It was originally 
called "piece trading" and was most extensively engaged in by 
McSween's poker-playing cronies. To McSween any story, article, 
or other news effort was a "piece." With most correspondents for 
single newspapers expected to furnish a weekly Sunday "piece" 
by mail on national matters the need for copy and the exigencies 
of the McSween poker table fitted perfectly. 

The bartered commodity might be a story of a political situation 
in one correspondent's section of the country which with certain 
additional information or adjustment could be made of interest 
to other sections of the nation. If the Senate balance between the 
parties was narrow, a doubtful Senatorial race in any state was of 
nationwide importance. The black sheet, nee carbon copy, flour- 
ished especially in steamy, news-barren summer weather. 

The piece of Washington coverage which saw the exchange of 
black sheets at its zenith was the League of Nations ratification 
fight in the Senate at the end of the Wilson administration. The 
result was not altogether creditable to the carbon-copy exchang- 
ers. The beneficiaries were the League opponents who planned 
and fed the black-sheeters a series of statements which blanketed 
the efforts of the treaty proponents. 

Senator George H. Moses of New Hampshire plotted the 
strategy of stealing headlines. There was a continuous flow of 
material to the black-sheeters. Moses regimented the League 
opponents 7 statements and often ghosted them. Let Senator Gil- 
bert M. Hitchcock of Nebraska, leader of the ratificationists, make 
a day-long exposition for his cause, and Moses was ready with a 
statement of strategy fathered by Jim Reed, Borah, Johnson, or 

50 This Is How It Used to Be 

Brandagee. It would be sufficiently hot to take the headlines away 
from Hitchcock from coast to coast. 

Black-sheeting, co-operation, the pooling of efforts, fill-ins, tips 
and leads have been continuous around the National Press Club 
for years. It has been a part of the process that has added strength 
and force to Washington coverage. 

White House coverage has undergone perhaps the greatest 
change of all Washington news functions. I attended only one 
press conference in the Taft administration. The questions were 
not submitted in advance as they later came to be in the terms of 
other Republican Presidents. It was not prolific in news, although 
Gus J. Karger of the Cincinnati Times Star and the President's 
confidant tried to make it so. 

The special correspondent's method of getting White House 
news then was something like this: White House rules were spe- 
cific. The Cabinet met on Tuesdays and Fridays from eleven 
o'clock in the morning until one o'clock in the afternoon. On those 
days no other appointments were made. Senators and representa- 
tives having constituents whom they desired to present to the 
President were received from 10 to 10:30 in the morning four 
days per week. No appointments were required for this. From ten- 
thirty o'clock to noon on these same days senators and representa- 
tives, regardless of their political affiliations, having business to 
transact were received by the President. Congressional appoint- 
ments required no advance arrangements, and the White House 
asked that members telephone for engagements so that a time 
schedule for the period might be prepared and no member of 
Congress kept waiting for long to see the President. Important 
visitors having business with the President were admitted be- 
tween twelve and one o'clock by appointments previously fixed. 

From the standpoint of Congressional public relations it was 
perhaps the best arrangement any recent White House occupant 
has had. And from the viewpoint of the special correspondent it 
had its good points. He could make it a point to be at the White 
House during the Congressional period. If he had a question he 
wished to have the President answer he could have a senator or 
representative ask it and bring him the reply. Although it re- 

Bascom N. Timmons 51 

quired discreet handling, it was a fine arrangement for the special 
correspondent. He could get an exclusive answer instead of one 
thrown out on the public domain for everyone's use as happened 
in the mob press conferences of later Presidents. 

While at the White House during the Congressional period the 
reporter could examine the distinguished visitor's schedule. If 
there was a name on it that attracted him he could wait until the 
noon hour and interrogate the visitor as he came out from his 
visit with the President. 

On important afternoon queries from his newspaper it was 
usually possible for a correspondent to have Charles D. Hilles, the 
President's secretary, obtain the information sought. 

A tiny pressroom on the east side of the Executive Office en- 
trance was barely large enough for the use of the Washington 
Star's huge Bill Price, its continuous occupant, with enough left 
to provide chess-game room for Matt Tighe of Hearst's New 
York Journal and a White House aide. Press quarters were moved 
across the corridor and enlarged after the Executive Office fire in 
the Hoover administration. They were enlarged again in the 
Roosevelt administration and equipped for conditions brought 
about by White House ascendency as a news center. 

The White House news-conference machinery as it exists today 
is essentially as it was established by Woodrow Wilson. The 
modifications made by Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover were all 
thrown out by Franldin D. Roosevelt, who re-instated the Wilson 
system. It was continued by President Truman. 

Wilson's conception of his press conferences was that he would 
answer questions much as interrogations are answered in the 
British House of Commons. His ideal was to make it the highest 
interpellative device. 

To the first mass press conference ever held by a President of 
the United States open to all accredited members of the press 
gallery trooped enough newspapermen to pack the President's 
office to the doors. His audience cheered lustily when Mr. Wilson 
told of his hope for close and cordial relations with the press and 
promised "full and free discussion of all large questions of the 

52 This Is How It Used to Be 

President Wilson fulfilled his part of the bargain. Obviously 
he found the questions of the older and mature members of the 
corps stimulating and answered them with zest. Fearful that he 
might be accused of using the conferences as a sounding board, 
he volunteered little information other than that called for in 
reply to questions. 

The Wilson conferences were the most dignified of all. He 
treated newspapermen with respect and deference. Personal and 
trivial questions irked him, especially the frequent queries about 
wedding rumors on his daughters Margaret, Eleanor, and Jessie. 
The conferences became sporadic as time went on. There were 
few White House conferences after the sinking of the Lusitania; 
none during the progress of World War I. 

His last press conference when he returned from the peace con- 
ference at Versailles was perhaps the most dramatic of all White 
House meetings between Presidents and the press. 

Warren G. Harding was himself a newspaperman and prided 
himself on the fact. His conferences started auspiciously and 
eventually bogged down. For eight or nine months they were very 
fruitful to newspapermen. Harding alternated the time of his 
conferences, one morning and one afternoon so as to give every- 
one an even break. The thing most newspapermen who attended 
these White House press conferences in the days of "normalcy" 
remember was Harding's irritability at the morning conferences 
and his affability at the afternoon ones. 

Mr. Harding had his mind on local angles and was a good news 
source for the special correspondent. Often at the end of a press 
session he would catch sight of a newsman he knew, beckon him 
to tell him he had better be on the lookout for the imminent ap- 
pointment of a federal judge or some other matter of state 

Sometimes Harding would say to his newspaper visitor, "Now 
Fve told you something, tell me something. Is there any scandal 
around town?" 

Unfortunately it turned out there was a lot of it. 

Harding, handsomest of Presidents, would arise with great 
pomposity at the beginning of his conferences as if intent on mak- 

Bascom N. Timmons 53 

ing a world-shaking announcement. Only once did he live up to 
that promise. On that occasion his famous wrong answer as to 
whether the Four-Power Pacific Pact guaranteed the protection 
of the main Japanese Islands brought an end to the give and take 
of questions and answers between President and press corps. 

Mr. Harding's answer, had it stood, would have meant that the 
United States, Great Britain, and France guaranteed the perpetu- 
ation of the Japanese Empire. After the State Department straight- 
ened that boner out Harding announced a policy of answering 
only questions submitted to him in writing before the beginning 
of a press conference. Oral questions could be asked, however, in 
amplification or development of submitted ones. 

I can only give my own impressions and views of the White 
House press conferences. Every one of the seven Presidents in 
my time has had some bright, newsy press conferences. But for 
the most part such conferences have been rather dreary, desultory 
affairs. I would say that from a news standpoint the most valuable 
were the first three years of Franklin D. Roosevelf s first term, 
the first two years of Woodrow Wilson's, and the first eight or nine 
months of Warren G. Harding's. 

Roosevelt and Coolidge employed them to the best advantage 
to themselves and both were accused of using the press, Roose- 
velt among other things to make himself appear almost as a 
personal Santa Glaus to great elements of the voters; Coolidge of 
disseminating popularity-making trivia. Whatever the merits of 
the charges, their technique was different. Roosevelt at the out- 
set openly courted the newspapermen. Coolidge always gave the 
appearance of being as reserved and as little disposed to in- 
gratiate himself with the press as Wilson had been. Coolidge of 
all the Presidents finished his term with his press relations better 
at the end than at the beginning. 

Hoover had a bad press from the first. The New Deal of Roose- 
velt like the New Freedom of Wilson was blacked out by war. In 
the end the Roosevelt press conferences were as unsatisfactory 
as those of Wilson. 

Most press conferences are for the majority of newspapermen 
a waste of time. Unless it is his specific assignment or he has a 

54 This Is How It Used to Be 

question he wants to ask and have answered it is not worth the 
time consumed getting to the White House nor the discomfort 
he goes through after he gets there. If the attendance was on the 
basis of expected specific information perhaps not over seventy- 
five men and women would go to each conference. Many of them 
go purely for rotary, sight-seeing, or gregarious reasons. 

It seems to me there should be a better way than for men and 
women to crowd into the President's office in a mob scene and 
start firing questions at the nation's chief executive. Both Roose- 
velt and Truman answered questions they did not understand in 
the confused situation in which they were asked. Perhaps even 
the ill-fated Harding did not exactly catch the question on which 
he made his historical boner. 

There have been in the memory of many still active Washing- 
ton correspondents four peak and two near-peak news-producing 
periods. They were: (1) the beginning of the Wilson administra- 
tion and the New Freedom legislative program; (2) World War 
I and the year following; (3) the beginning of the Roosevelt ad- 
ministration and the New Deal; (4) World War II and the year 

The lesser periods were the Harding administration at the out- 
set and the depression which came in the Hoover administration. 
The Washington news corps met the challenge in each case. Of 
all the tests perhaps the hardest was World War I. World War II 
was a vaster and more devastating one many times over, lasted 
longer, and had a greater expenditure in life and treasure, but in 
a sense it was a repeat performance. No radio was present to give 
information in World War I. The newspapers alone carried it. 
Men and women waited outside newspaper offices for news. This 
was especially true when the casualty lists began to come in. 
Newspapers made all the regular editions, and extras whirled 
from the presses. There were around two hundred and twenty-five 
correspondents when this nation first went to war with the Im- 
perial German Government. The departments did not have pub- 
licity men to assist us. At the White House there was no helpful 
Steve Early. Joseph P. Tumulty was the lone White House 
Secretary. He was as obliging as he could be, but he had his hands 

Bascom N. Timmons 55 

full in other directions. The Creel Committee on Public Informa- 
tion was set up, but it took time to get going. 

For my money the month of April, 1917, was the all-time big 
news month in Washington. It began on tense April 2. The day 
that was to see Woodrow Wilson ask for a declaration of war 
began with a fist fight. The winner of the fisticuffs was slight 
seventy-year-old Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, and it marked 
positively the first time in his life that the Boston Brahman had 
engaged in the manly art of self-defense. He was defending him- 
self against an annoying pacifist in a Senate corridor. The pacifist 
went down for the count. Lodge, proud of the efficacy of his 
hitherto unsuspected muscles, went to the Senate chamber to 
receive congratulations. The pacifists besieged Vice-President 
Marshall's office and were thrown out They filled Speaker Clark's 
office. Hundreds streamed through the corridors of Senate and 
House office buildings seeking to talk to senators and representa- 

At nightfall the pacifists had been cleared off the Capitol 
grounds. Troops of the Second Cavalry guarded every approach. 
Secret Service, policemen, and armed Post-Office Inspectors 
guarded the inside of the Capitol building. Wilson came to the 
Capitol guarded by another cavalry detachment 

Vice-President Marshall led ninety senators into the House 
chamber, nearly every senator wearing or carrying a small Ameri- 
can flag. Chief Justice White and members of the Supreme Court 
and the envoys of foreign nations sat in a group on the House 
floor. Galleries were packed. The President got a five-minute 
ovation before he could start his speech. 

The big hands of Chief Justice White started most of the 
rounds of applause which punctuated the speech. The President 
never even paused at the end of his punch line: "The world must 
be made safe for democracy." Only Senator John Sharp Williams 
of Mississippi seemed to realize its import, and he began the long- 
delayed applause. 

At 3:12 A.M. on April 6 the House voted three hundred and 
seventy-three to fifty for the resolution Wilson had asked. One 

50 This Is How It Used to Be 

of the fifty was Representative Claude Kitchin of North Carolina, 
Wilson's Democratic floor leader. 

Another was Miss Jeannette Rankin of Montana, first woman 
member of Congress, who voted against the declaration with the 
tearful statement, "I want to stand by my country, but I cannot 
vote for war." 

The Senate voted war with only six negative votes: Lane of 
Oregon, Stone of Missouri, and Vardaman of Mississippi, Demo- 
crats; Gronna of North Dakota, LaFollette of Wisconsin, and 
Norris of Nebraska, Republicans. 

Feeling ran high against the opposing senators. Physical vio- 
lence was threatened against them. Norris, Stone, and LaFollette 
were hanged in effigy. News was breaking at the White House, on 
Capitol Hill, and at the State, War, Navy, Justice, and Labor 
departments. While Congress passed war measure after war 
measure, executive departments issued regulations. Big war 
agencies came into being. Herbert Hoover was appointed to head 
the War Food Board. There were measures to raise and equip an 
Army by tremendous bond issues in a country which had only a 
half billion debt and knew nothing about government-bond sell- 

Dramatic incidents piled one upon the other. William Jennings 
Bryan, who had broken with Wilson over war measures, offered 
to enlist as a private. Theodore Roosevelt, who wanted to be a 
general, offered to raise a division of volunteers. In the House 
Wilson suffered the defection of the most highly placed Demo- 
cratic member when Speaker Champ Clark left the dais to op- 
pose the conscription of soldiers. 

In the midst of talk about a coalition government Colonel 
Roosevelt came back to the White House he had occupied for 
seven turbulent years and spent forty-five minutes with Woodrow 
Wilson, the man he had so bitterly reviled. His visit was supposed 
to have been a secret, but when the doughty Colonel drove up on 
the morning of April 10 accompanied by his daughter, Mrs. 
Nicholas Longworth, fifty newspapermen had learned the secret 
and were waiting. Half of them Roosevelt knew and warmly 
greeted. He issued a brief statement as he left 

Bascom N. Timmons 57 

That afternoon at the Longworth home Roosevelt held court 
like an emperor. Secretary of War Baker called on him; so also 
did the military committee of both House and Senate. From the 
embassies came Spring-Rice of Great Britain, J. Jules Jusserand 
of France, and Arne Sata of Japan. But the Colonel did not take 
his division. Instead, John J. Pershing was to go over with an 
expeditionary force, and two million Americans crossed on the 
bridge of ships to fight in the trenches of France. 

But up to near the end of April the word had been that we 
would send no expeditionary force, that we would merely furnish 
the tools and our Allies would do the job. Bomb explosions and 
sabotage shook the country. In the first encounter of the war 
the American ship Mongolia sank a submarine. 

On April 22 the aristocratic Arthur J. Balfour landed from a 
ship which had zigzagged through the submarine zone. His safe 
landing was announced Saturday. Early Sunday crowds began 
to gather around the Union Station. By midafternoon when he 
arrived tens of thousands of people were lining Union Station 
Plaza and stretched up Massachusetts Avenue. 

Balfour, whose career extended back to the days of Disraeli, 
had occupied all the great positions in his native land. His first 
press conference was one of the great occasions of the war. Sev- 
enty-five newspapermen went through a line of woman-suffrage 
pickets and crowded into the huge reception room of the Mc- 
Veagh mansion (later the Mexican Embassy). Very tall, with 
silvery gray hair and drooping mustache, Balfour was charming 
and courteous. He was the only man I have ever seen who I 
thought could state a case better than Winston Churchill. We 
were pretty sure as we left the press conference after he had given 
us a verbal photograph that the United States would send men 
to Europe. 

On April 25, Rene Viviani, Vice-Premier of France, and Mar- 
shal Joffre came, arriving aboard the Presidential yacht May- 
flower at the Navy Yard. Joffre was still the great hero of the war 
and had been since his taxicab army stopped the German advance 
at the Marne. Two hundred thousand men and women waited 
along Pennsylvania Avenue. Big sturdy Joffre, wearing his red 

58 This Is How It Used to Be 

hat and a great military coat of grenadier blue, got a hero's greet- 
ing as he stood like a statue on the deck of the Mayflower. 

Viviani received the press first in the library of the Henry White 
mansion. He spoke no English, but in eloquent French he told of 
France's plight. Then came the press interview with Joffre. The 
big heavy-mustached marshal of France whispered to an aide. 
The aide spoke. 

"Marshall Joffre.," he told us, "wishes to shake hands with all 
those who have done him the honor to come here/' 

One by one we marched by, and Joffre let no one go his way 
until he understood each man's name and called him by that 

Then Joffre told us, "France is bled white.'* We left the drawing 
room of the White mansion convinced we had rather fight than 
write that war. One by one we went into uniforms from private to 
colonel. To many of us what happened in Washington coverage 
was mere hearsay. 

Then there were the peace celebrations, the phony one on the 
false report and the good one on the authentic armistice of No- 
vember 11, 1918, and we returned to war's aftermath, to normalcy, 
the wonderful twenties, the depression, and another world war. 

There have been many changes in Washington coverage in my 
time here as there have been in all phases of newspaper making. 
Salaries and working conditions have improved greatly. Two 
world wars and the threat of another have put a more interna- 
tional tinge on its news report. The advent of the income-tax 
constitutional amendment making it possible for the central 
government to collect and spend or redistribute the income of 
the nation has wrought far-reaching domestic changes. But the 
Washington newspaper corps had forty years ago and still has 
these component parts: 

(1) The big newspaper which makes a primary news report 
out of Washington. There are not more than a half-dozen of these 
even now. 

(2) The newspaper with a single correspondent or a two-or- 
three-man bureau. The correspondent in the one-or-two-man bu- 
reau continues to be what he always was, both a political reporter 

Bascom N. Timmons 59 

and a specialist in the type of economic coverage of most vital 
interest to the area of his newspaper's circulation. 

(3) The press association. More than half of the newspaper- 
reading public of the United States is served by newspapers not 
represented by special Washington correspondents, getting only 
the output of the press associations from the national capital. 

Washington news coverage has never been haphazard. It has 
always had an intelligent body of newspaper writers. The history 
of this nation has been one of crisis, catastrophe, and change. 
Selected men were sent to the seat of the nation's government to 
record, chronicle, and interpret these events. These newspaper 
writers have kept pace with the times, making whatever adjust- 
ments necessary and living up to the traditions of the Washington 

The formula for success for a Washington correspondent is 
about as it has always been. He must be a man of alert mind. He 
must have courage, fairness, dignity, self-reliance, industry, integ- 
rity, and intelligence. When he writes he must have the authority 
of accurate information. Good legs and large acquaintanceship 
are helpful. 

Washington has never been a city of brilliant newspaper 
bohemians. It has had its great raconteurs like William Green 
Sterrett, Alfred Henry Lewis, Perry Heath, and Samuel G. Blythe. 
All of them were serious men when it came to the business of 
reporting the news. Reliability and accuracy have always been 
stressed here. Newspapermen have taken the nation's institutions 
and their responsibility to the reading public seriously. 

No Washington correspondent in his news-writing capacity has 
ever written his name in slashing letters across the sky. Most of 
them have been contemptuous of fame, aspiring to be only com- 
petent workmen. Generally where they have won national fame it 
has been within their own profession and not with the newspaper- 
reading public. They work largely in anonymity. 

The by-line came into general use only in the last quarter of a 
century, making many of them well known in the area of their 
newspaper's primary circulation. The primary circulation of all 
newspapers in the United States is regionalized. We have no 

60 This Is How It Used to Be 

national newspaper. The standard-sized newspaper in the nation 
with the largest circulation has less than a million out of a total 
daily newspaper circulation of fifty-six million* 

I have worked along with perhaps three thousand newspaper- 
men in Washington. There has been great inequality of talent 
between them, of course. But most of them who stayed long were 
men of fine ability. I have bright memories of assignments covered 
with many of them. 

To mention a few of them: Dick Oulahan was the Beau Sabreur 
of them all. Theodore Tiller was without a peer in writing the 
light story. I have admired the pictorial vividness of a fast-written 
story by George R. Holmes and the steady, effective-production 
working habits of Arthur Krock. They are types. The stature of 
some of those who have passed along increases in retrospect. Ad- 
miration for those still here increases with better acquaintance. 

Through the teens, twenties, thirties, forties, at the threshold 
of the fifties of this century there have been few pauses for the 
Washington correspondent. There was one which lasted rather 
interruptedly through the four-year-long Indian summer of Coo- 
Hdge's elective term. That was when the country thought it was 
doing all right for itself and wanted nothing out of Washington 
except new Coolidge anecdotes. 

Whether the next generation of Washington correspondents 
will see two world wars and an eleven-year depression such as 
marked the last three years of Herbert Hoover's and the first 
two terms of Franklin D. Roosevelfs administration is to be 

But the young men who come along to the press gallery will be 
able to keep themselves passably well occupied with new and in- 
teresting things. They will always be appalled at the number of 
scrubs playing on the government's first team. They will meet 
some nice people, some able public servants, and some humbugs, 
and perhaps the humbugs will be more charming than the able 
men. Undoubtedly like my able newspaper companions on my 
first night in Washington they will be sure that die period they 
are covering is the most interesting in American history. 


The Placid Twenties 

BY FLETCHER KNEBEL Fletcher Knebel, born in Dayton, Ohio, 

has been a correspondent of the Cleve- 
land Plain Dealer in Washington since 
1937. He was a lieutenant in U.S. 
Naval antisubmarine aircraft service 
during World War II. He has con- 
tributed to Reader's Digest, Esquire, 
and Pic magazines. 

A smile creased the handsome face, radiating camaraderie and 

The speaker in black tie and boiled shirt had just come from a 
reception. Puddler Jim Davis, the Secretary of Labor, had assured 
him in advance no speech was required, but, once there, they'd 
called on him, and, well, he couldn't refuse. Now here he was 
again on his feet. It reminded him of his father's warning: 

" Warren/ he used to tell me, 'it's a good thing you weren't 
born a girl. With your inability to say no you'd be in a family way 
all the time;" 

Laughter crackled from the crowd of newspapermen gathered 
in the dining room of the cozy National Press Club, then tucked 
away on the top floor of the Albee Building, just a block from the 
White House. 

Warren Gamaliel Harding, first and only newspaperman Presi- 
dent of the United States, was out with the boys. The date was 
March 4, 1922, and he had just cut a cake commemorating the 
first anniversary of his inauguration. 

Thus opened Washington's shimmering twenties, an era of al- 
ternating peace and scandal between the close of World War I 
and the close of the stock market in the '29 crash. 

Few who heard Warren Har ding's apt appraisal of himself 

62 The Placid Twenties 

that night glimpsed its portent: Jesse Smith's suicide and 
Edward L. Doheny's little black bag, graft in Teapot Dome 
and boodle in the Veterans' Bureau, quick cash and fast living in 
the "little green house" on K Street, missing records at a bank in 
Washington Court House, Ohio, and a maze of Senate investiga- 
tions and court trials. 

Yet few who heard the remark ever forgot it. Newspapermen 
possess an enormous capacity for self-flagellation, and the older 
correspondents today quote the Harding story word for word, 
wryly acknowledging a great story missed until a Senate commit- 
tee spread it on the public record. 

The twenties . . . 

Those sweet, daffy days beyond recall, when a Washington re- 
porter covered politics and/or crime without tortures of doubt as 
to his knowledge of nuclear physics, the situation in Iran, or the 
thought processes of the President's Council of Economic Ad- 
visers . . . 

That blissful epoch before Newspaper Guild cards and Social 
Security numbers when the only economic disputes among Wash- 
ington newsmen concerned a five-cent cup of coffee and a nickel 
slice of pie at the Press Club . . . 

That decade of plentiful newsprint, when a correspondent 
could write his heart out, five columns a night, over the rivulet 
of black gold from Elk Hills to Albert B. Fall's New Mexico 
ranch . . . 

When the succulent investigations of the Ohio plunder boys 
were interspersed with lengthy periods of journalistic torpor, en- 
livened only by Calvin Coolidge's comments on the chrysanthe- 
mum show and Andy Mellon's decisions to cut taxes again. 

There were, of course, great Washington stories in the happy 
interregnum between war and depression. 

The burial of the Unknown Soldier, the disarmament confer- 
ence, the Harding scandals, the Lindbergh visit, the historic 
funeral of secret Senate sessions, and the continuing maneuvers 
of the Republican insurgents all provided the training ground for 
a host of able young reporters whose names later became pass- 
ports to fame. 

Fletcher Knebel 63 

Yet between these Washington outbursts on page one the corps 
of correspondents delighted in prolonged snoozes, long since 
driven into the legendary past by successive hammer strokes of 
depression, Roosevelt, the New Deal, World War II, the cold war, 
and the Fair Deal of Battery D's intrepid captain. 

There were periods, particularly during the second Coolidge 
administration, when Washington newspaper bureaus went for 
days on end without squeezing their stories forward of the pages 
inhabited by the truss ads and liver-pill lures. 

Managing editors, not yet accustomed to sending embryo eco- 
nomics professors and journalistic Buck Rogerses to cover Wash- 
ington, feasted greedy eyes elsewhere to enlighten readers of the 
dizzy decade. 

They preferred Peaches Browning and her "daddy," the 
York real-estate man; the Hall-Mills murder case and the 
Woman; Charles A. Lindbergh's solo flight to glory across 
Atlantic; Babe Ruth and his mighty baseball club; grease-smeared! 
Trudy Ederle breasting the 'icy English Channel; Gangster Al 
Capone and the spatter of hoodlum blood crimsoning a Chicago 
St. Valentine's Day; and above all that glorious, ever rocketing 
stock market with its promise of every charwoman a Cinderella. 

Even most of the vivid political spectacles occurred outside 
Washington. The capital correspondents trekked to San Francisco 
for the exciting forty-four-ballot nomination of James M. Cox by 
the Democrats, to Chicago for fulfillment of U.S. Attorney Gen- 
eral Harry M. Daugherty's "smoke-filled room" promise of Warren 
Harding's selection by the G.O.P., and to Madison Square Garden 
in 1924 for four weeks of delirious Democratic mayhem which 
ended in limp anticlimax on the one hundred and third ballot with 
the nomination of that nice colorless lawyer, John W, Davis. 

The Scopes monkey trial, covered by so many Washington re- 
porters, took place in sweaty Dayton, Tenn., while the most 
famous of political statements in the twenties Coolidge's "I do 
not choose to run for President in 1928" was handed to corre- 
spondents at Rapid City in the faraway Black Hills of South 

Washington luckily did have its hot flashes which dampened the 

64 The Placid Twenties 

sweatband of many a young reporter's fretful crown. The decade, 
for instance, produced such newsmen as Paul Y. Anderson, the 
brilliant, erratic St. Louis Post-Dispatch correspondent who won 
a Pulitzer Prize, then took his own life in an emotional whirlpool 
a decade later. 

It made Thomas L. Stokes, the columnist and Pulitzer Prize 
winner who tilts hopefully on the side of the little guy, then a 
United Press reporter covering the White House; Charles G. Ross, 
then chief of the Post-Dispatch bureau, now the sad-eyed and 
gentle press apostle of President Truman; Stephen T. Early, then, 
of the Associated Press, later the shrewd press adviser to Franklin 
D. Roosevelt and still later Undersecretary of Defense under 
Secretary Louis Johnson; David Lawrence, the columnar pundit 
and successful publisher; Charles Michelson, then head of the 
New York World bureau, later the Democratic publicity ghost 
who haunted Herbert Hoover; Roy A. Roberts of the Kansas City 
Star, now boss of that lucrative employee-owned property and a 
weighty factor in high Republican" counsels; Mark Sullivan, re- 
porter turned columnist, historian, and athlete in the Hoover 
"medicine-ball Cabinet"; and the late Raymond Clapper, prince 
of temperate commentary. 

Despite holdovers from its war boom, Washington retained 
much of its old small-town atmosphere. The city's population in- 
creased gradually from 437,000 persons in 1920 to 486,000 by the 
end of the decade. The press corps, still small enough for a news- 
paperman to know every other reporter in town, numbered two 
hundred and fifteen correspondents for daily newspapers in 1920 
and grew to three hundred and forty-seven reporters by 1929. 

Monarch of the corps throughout the decade was the late 
Richard V. Oulahan, elegant, cane-carrying chief of the New York 
Times bureau. There were better reporters and better writers in 
town, but few could match his daily average of sound, penetrating 

Washington correspondents of the twenties were primarily po- 
litical reporters in the Oulahan fashion. The concept of the District 
of Columbia as the economic capital of the world was yet unborn. 
Harding and Coolidge permitted the reins of financial power to 

Fletcher Knebel 65 

remain in Wall Street, and the average political writei thought 
government pump priming referred to a later afternoon slug o 
the real stuff in House Speaker Nicholas Longworth's office. 

The formal press conference had become standard practice at 
the White House, but this journalistic mass-production technique 
had yet to intrigue whole battalions of cabinet officers, agency 
heads, and lobbyists. 

Reporters still walked Washington's magnificent distances. Sala- 
ries were low. Newspaper bureau chiefs averaged seven thousand 
dollars a year in contrast to today's fifteen thousand dollars and 
up. Expense accounts were scrawny. In addition scores of re- 
porters for strings of small-city dailies made their living by pump- 
ing local items into the hinterland. This required a sizeable 
amount of reportorial ability and an enormous expenditure of leg 

Epitome of the "item grabber" was the beloved Louis Ludlow, 
who pounded Pennsylvania Avenue and the corridors of Capitol 
Hill like a man possessed. His head bulged with so many local 
paragraphs that his friends feared it would some day fly apart. 
Indeed it practically did, for he ran for Congress as a Democrat 
from Indianapolis and eventually served a lengthy sentence in 
that institution. 

The scope of his task can be imagined when it is realized that 
in 1924 he covered the capital for the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio 
State Journal, Denver Post, Louisville Evening Post, Savannah 
Press and Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel, no less. According to the 
Apocrypha of the day, Ludlow once rushed out to cover a local 
traffic accident because it occurred on Indiana Avenue. 

Once elected a vice-president of the Press Club to enhance his 
chances of a nervous breakdown, Ludlow rewarded his constitu- 
ents by making a two-hour speech. He became president a few 
weeks later, replacing Alfred H. Kirchhofer, correspondent of the 
Buffalo Evening News, who returned to Buffalo as managing 

The government-information man, the bureau press-agent, and 
the mimeographed handout now spangling Washington from 
Foggy Bottom to the Pentagon, were then in their infancy. Bold 

66 The Placid Twenties 

beginnings, it is true., were made in the Commerce Department, 
where disciples of Herbert Hoover sought to proselytize the 

Relations between press and White House jogged along on a 
consistently pleasant platitudinous plateau during the twenties, 
but none could claim an overabundance of news from 1600 Penn- 
sylvania Avenue. 

Washington reporters covering Harding's 1920 "front porch" 
campaign in Marion, Ohio, found him exceedingly co-operative. 
Daily he visited the press shack erected in a neighboring back 
yard. Lighting a cigarette, he opened the question period with 
an affable, "Shoot!" 

After election he established twice-a-week press conferences 
on a permanent basis, permitting a free volley of questions, limited 
only by the sensible rule that he not be quoted directly. 

This type of conference, forerunner of the volcanic press ses- 
sions of Franklin D. Roosevelt, might have gone on indefinitely 
had not Harding given the wrong off-the-cuff answer at the time 
of the World Disarmament Conference. 

A reporter asked whether the Four Power Treaty on Pacific 
Islands applied to Japan. Harding said yes. The correct answer, it 
quickly appeared, was 180 degrees away. 

When the news exploded on startled diplomats Secretary of 
State Charles Evans Hughes, his famous chin whiskers bristling 
to port and starboard, bore down on the White House from the 
State Department gingerbread pile across the street. Harding, 
defying all Presidential precedent, admitted his error, and the 
negotiators added a paragraph in the treaty just to make sure. 

As a result, however, the White House required correspondents 
henceforth to submit questions in writing. Harding continued to 
answer most questions frankly, ducking only those of obviously 
delicate nature. All in all, despite his henchmen's efforts to lug 
off everything but the capitol dome, Harding elevated the Presi- 
dential press conference to a new level of informative discussion, 
a distinct gain for the public. 

The same could not be said for Calvin Coolidge, the frozen 
myth from Vermont. Coolidge started off well enough by extend- 

Fletcher Knebel 67 

ing the press conferences with approximately the same rules ex- 
isting when Harding died. He saw the newspapermen twice a 
week, once for afternoon papers and once for the AM's. 

There was a major difference. Coolidge seldom said anything. 
The former Massachusetts governor, riding the crest of a pros- 
perity wave, felt the less said by him the better. He harbored the 
definite theory that government should be returned to the hearth- 
stone. Thus he was content to let the ship of state drift in the 
horse latitudes without daily bulletins on the condition of crew 
and cargo. 

As he busied himself keeping cool with Coolidge the President 
habitually riffled through the stack of written questions at press 
conferences, turning aside inquiries on federal policy and person- 
nel. Finally his eyes would light on a non-political topic far 
removed from what might be termed current events. He would 
then deliver what amounted to a discourse. 

One day he flipped past fifty or more questions to concentrate 
on the subject of the chrysanthemum show then being held in 
the city. He discussed the flower from stem to pistil and took his 
stand irrevocably on the side of the bloom. Another time he came 
out in favor of fishing in the Tidal Basin and once replied to a 
query about a debunking biography of George Washington by 
turning toward the window. "The monument* s still standing, isn't 
it?" he asked. 

If the White House news spring ran dry during the twenties, the 
rest of "downtown" Washington, or the executive departments, 
provided little more than a trickle. In the long Congressional 
vacations when government officials fled soggy Washington for 
mountain and beach news-thirsty reporters sought out such for- 
gotten pools as the Bureau of Standards, Patent Office, and even 
the Smithsonian Institution. 

The one valuable source of news downtown throughout this 
period was Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, then free of 
the layer of frost in which the depression later encased him. 
Hoover chatted freely with reporters, laughed easily, and tried to 
provide helpful hints on stories. 

The best Washington news, however, bubbled from the foun- 

68 The Placid Twenties 

tain of the U.S. Senate. "We never covered Washington in the 
twenties/* recalls Raymond P. Brandt, now chief correspondent of 
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We covered the Senate. You wasted 
your time downtown." 

The Republican insurgents, or the men dubbed the "sons of the 
wild jackass" by Senator George H. Moses of New Hampshire, 
carried on a running fight with the G.O.P. organization, ambush- 
ing the status quo, sniping at the gods of capitalism, and generally 
providing the nation a preview of the vast economic battles of 
the thirties. 

From the Senate sprang the investigations of the Harding cess- 
pool by Montana senators Thomas J. Walsh and Burton K. 
Wheeler. In the Senate rebellious farmers first sowed the seeds 
of discontent. It was the Senate which made the political news. 
The Old Guard Senate cabal nominated Harding. The Senate 
irreconcilables wrecked the League of Nations. The Senate jousted 
with Coolidge nominations for high office, and the Senate's secret 
sessions provoked one of the great battles between the press and 
the legislative branch of the government. 

Such men as George W. Norris of Nebraska, William E. Borah 
of Idaho, Bob LaFollette (the elder) of Wisconsin, James Couzens 
of Michigan, and Hiram W. Johnson of California played the 
press's game. They whispered to reporters. They tipped a story 
here, another there. 

Many of them talked freely to Paul Mallon, then of the United 
Press, the day he set out to compile a complete Senate roll call 
on the secret vote to confirm Roy O. West as Secretary of the 
Interior in 1928. Publication of the roll call, bannered by many 
newspapers, brought roars of rage from Senate conservatives. 
Senator David A. Reed, a Pennsylvania Republican power, in- 
vestigated the case, denounced the press, and threatened to ban- 
ish Mallon from the gallery. 

On the next secret vote newsmen retaliated by pooling their 
efforts to get the complete man-by-man tabulation again. In the 
end the press triumphed, and secret sessions of the Senate, cus- 
tomary on treaties and nominations since the days of George 
Washington, passed from the American scene. 

Fletcher Knebel 69 

Senate investigations saw a high degree of co-operation between 
lawmakers and reporters, who spent their nights dreaming up 
new questions on which to impale reluctant witnesses. Wheeler 
never forgot a correspondent's question. When a note was passed 
to him during a hearing he shoved it casually under a stack of 
papers, but usually retrieved it at the most embarrassing moment 
for the gentleman before him. 

With Washington dominating the front pages only sporadically, 
it was but natural that Pulitzer Prizes did not shower on capital 
correspondents during the twenties. In ten years only three found 
their way to Washington newsmen. The judges crowned Louis 
Seibold, yesteryear's ace of the New York Wor Id, for his exclusive 
interview with President Wilson in June, 1920, after the G. O. P. 
nomination of Harding. The fact that Wilson invited Seibold to 
the White House dimmed the luster of this feat somewhat, al- 
though it could be argued that a newsman had to possess superior 
talents to merit the invitation in the first place. 

Another Pulitzer Prize came to Washington for A.P. newsman 
Kirke L. Simpson's moving story of the ceremonies surrounding 
the burial of the Unknown Soldier. Hundreds of reporters, Tom 
Stokes recalls, tried to write literature that day. Simpson suc- 
ceeded. Those who run across Simpson's story in yellowing jour- 
nalism textbooks should remember that it was written with the 
dead line demons of a thousand newspapers yowling at his elbow. 
The poet's freedom to recollect emotion in tranquility was not 
for Kirke. 

Then near the close of the decade the Pulitzer judges honored 
Paul Anderson for pestering senators until they launched a sec- 
ond investigation of the $2,770,000 in missing Liberty bonds which 
the Continental Trading Co., Ltd. had set aside for Teapot Dome 

History will never reclaim the full story of those Harding scan- 
dals, but bits and pieces keep turning up as time goes by. When 
former Attorney General Daugherty declined to reveal the reason 
for destroyed bank records at Washington Court House, Ohio, he 
tossed a sensation into the trial by intimating that his confidential 
connections with the dead Harding forced him to seal his lips. His 

70 The Placid Twenties 

attorney, going even further, declared that Daugherty would be 
commended, rather than condemned if "the real reason for de- 
stroying the ledger sheets'* were known. 

Roy Roberts, then Washington correspondent of the Kansas 
City Star., hurried to his friend Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas. 
Did he know off the record the reason for the mysterious bank 
account? For once an answer left the irrepressible Roberts bug- 

"By God, Roy," moaned Curtis, shuddering over the Grand Old 
Party's grand old predicament, "it has something to do with an 
illegitimate baby." 

Throughout this juicy period the National Press Club remained 
the second home of the newspapermen who alternately yawned 
with boredom and scampered like cubs on the police beat after 
new details of the fallen mighty. 

Prohibition had turned America into a land of hypocrisy. The 
Press Club, strangely enough, reacted with relative f orthrightness. 
The famous club bar closed at the law's appointed hour after a 
mammoth wake and never reopened until Repeal. 

A number of reporters cached bottles in club lockers, but the 
club never became the scene of the bathtub-gin orgies which ran 
up the furniture-repair bills of other similar institutions. As a mat- 
ter of fact, while newspapermen drink with the rest of wayward 
mankind, the only writers who satisfy the typical Hollywood por- 
trait are those on the way to becoming former newspapermen. By 
and large during the period Washington correspondents confined 
their drinking to purlieus removed from the Press Club. 

The wet and dry issue, of course, figured in the annual Press 
Club elections when newspapermen strove to emulate the bold 
machine operations of the Vares, Penroses, and Pendergasts. The 
elections occasionally turned on the Gridiron Club issue. The 
Gridiron Club, which limits membership to fifty Washington 
newspapermen and which lampoons the politicians at semiannual 
dinners, had been accused of seeking to control Press Club elec- 
tions. While Gridiron members swore that Press Club politics had 
never been mentioned inside the sanctum, the rest of the press 
corps remained politely cynical. Several Gridiron members turn- 

Fletcher Knebel 71 

bled to defeat when seeking Press Club office during the twenties 
because of their affiliation. 

Until the club moved to its present quarters in late 1927 it 
occupied a suite of informal rooms on the eighth floor of the Albee 
Building at 15th and G streets across from the Treasury. The 
lower floors were devoted to the Keith Theatre. 

Woodrow Wilson, a lover of vaudeville, often attended the Keith 
shows even after he left the White House. He became a familiar 
figure to Press Club members entering the building of an evening. 
His car would pull up to the curb, where friends would help the 
frail, broken man of Versailles to the side entrance on G Street 
beyond the prying eyes of curious crowds. 

On scores of nights famous vaudeville teams of the era played 
a midnight tour at the Press Club, while visiting Broadway stars 
frequently dropped in for a few hours of fun and frolic. 

Press Club memories dwell on the night that Victor Herbert 
played his own magic melodies on a borrowed cello. It was shortly 
before the master's death in 1924. A troupe of musicians and the- 
atrical people had come to Washington under the wing of Gene 
Buck in the formative days of ASCAP (American Society of Com- 
posers and Publishers) to testify on radio problems before a Con- 
gressional committee. 

Invited to the Press Club, the artists spun into an evening of 
song and patter. Herbert, who loved such informal nights, wanted 
to play, but lacked the wherewithal. A correspondent suddenly 
appeared with a cello. 

Herbert grimaced as he tentatively drew a bow across the 

"Where'd you get this?" he asked. 

"From the orchestra down at Keith's." 

"Why, whoever plays this ought to be ashamed of himself," said 

Unashamed to use the instrument himself, the beloved com- 
poser brought forth song after song that he had written into the 
hearts of his countrymen. 

The two U.S. Presidents of the decade frequently visited the 
club in response to invitations. Once Coolidge attended a cere- 

72 The Placid Twenties 

mony in connection with the presentation o a Harding picture to 
the club. George F. Authier, correspondent of the Minneapolis 
Tribune and by avocation a Press Club boss, acted as master of 
ceremonies. Said ceremonies grew a bit monotonous. Authier 
leaned over to whisper to the honored guest. 

"Say," he said, "this thing is dragging. Don't you think we ought 
to pep it up a bit?" 

"Suits me/' quoth Coolidge, dropping his pearl of wisdom for 
the evening. 

Harding holds the somewhat dubious title of being the only 
President of the United States to enter the Ptess Club unexpected 
and unheralded. 

A group of correspondents who covered the front-porch cam- 
paign organized a loose outfit know as the "Order of the Elephant, 
Local 1, Marion, Ohio." During the Disarmament Conference they 
held a reunion at the Press Club, dedicating the evening to a 
game of hearts at a nickel a point, game and stakes enshrined 
during the 1920 summer evenings in Marion. 

Among them were Ray Clapper; George R. Holmes of the In- 
ternational News Service; Samuel W. Bell, then of the Philadel- 
phia Public Ledger; Byron Price of the AP ? now Assistant 
Secretary General of the United Nations; Edwin C. Hill, now a 
radio commentator; and Charley Michelson. 

Several days before the meeting Walker S. Buel of the Cleve- 
land Plain Dealer dropped behind after a White House press con- 
ference to inform President Harding. 

"We re going to relight the altar fires," said Buel. 

"Say, Td like to come," said Harding, fingering a calendar. 

Buel, chalking up the remark as one of those things Presidents 
say and don't mean, promptly forgot it. 

On the night of the celebration the hearts game had a full head 
of steam in the Flemish Room of the Press Club when a wide- 
eyed boy attendant popped into the room. 

"The President of the United States is out at the desk," he 
mumbled between gasps, "and he wants to know where the game 

Escorted to the little room past some astonished diners, Harding 

Fletcher Knebel 73 

quickly shucked his coat and proceeded to dump the unwanted 
queen of spades on Sam Bell with a regularity that had that little 
worthy muttering to himself. Harding won $1.60 and almost con- 
tributed to death by heart seizure of Robert Wood, the Negro 
waiter who had been ministering lavishly to the President's wants. 
He gave the sum to Robert. 

"God bless you, Mr. President/' said Robert, who forthwith 
framed the dollar bill and hung it in his living room at home. 

The hearts players at one point suggested delicately that it 
might be best to break up the game early out of deference to 
the guest from the White House. 

"Not on my account," said Harding, divesting himself of an- 
other heart, "Mrs. Harding!! think I'm sick if I get home before 

In the early twenties the public official who most enjoyed Press 
Club life was Representative Joseph G. Cannon of Illinois, former 
Speaker of the House in the days when the rebels railed against 
the rulings of "Czar * Cannon. 

"Uncle Joe" habitually ate breakfast at the club and reappeared 
after the House quit work for the day to play dominoes and dine 
with his newspaper cronies. It was at the feet of Cannon that 
Charley Michelson learned dominoes, a game he played until 
his death in 1948. 

Tragedy struck the Press Club January 28, 1922, when two 
newspapermen were killed in the Knickerbocker Theatre disaster. 
The roof, weakened by a heavy snowfall, collapsed, crushing 
ninety-eight persons to death. Louis W. Strayer of the Pittsburgh 
Dispatch and Chauncey C. Brainerd of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle 
together with Mrs. Brainerd lost their lives that night. 

For the most part, though, life meandered along serenely for 
Press Club members, concerned as they were with such perennial 
problems as the poor quality of club food, wives calling the desk 
at inopportune times in the poker game, and whether to charge 
ten cents for a piece of pie. 

The only ideological skirmish of note occurred late in the 
decade when a journalist wandering in Italy suggested during an 
interview with Mussolini that II Duce would make a fine member 

74 The Placid Twenties 

of the National Press Club. The Fascist boss's newspaper back- 
ground, it was pointed out, qualified him for membership. 

The late J. Fred Essary, august chief of the Baltimore Sun 
bureau and then President of the Press Club, cottoned to the idea, 
and the Board of Governors duly approved Benito. 

Under the rules of the club the name of a prospective member 
had to be posted. Unless a petition from ten objecting brethren 
was filed the gentleman automatically earned the right to pay 

Unfortunately for II Duce the posting of his name promptly 
provoked such a petition of protest. Unfortunately for President 
Essary he already had cabled Mussolini the glad tidings of his 
approval by the board. 

When the Essary administration announced that Mussolini was 
not after all a member teacups trembled along Embassy Row. 
The Italian diplomats put the Press Club on the boycott list, and 
the usual international reverberations ensued. 

It was about this time that correspondents covering the newly 
elected President, Herbert Hoover, found themselves at Palo Alto, 
California, with a suddenly announced Hoover trip to South 
America. They wired home for formal clothes to impress the 
Latin dignitaries. Robert S. Allen, the mercurial redhead then 
writing for the Christian Science Monitor in pre-"Meny-Go- 
Round" column days, telegraphed his housekeeper to send his 
dinner jacket. She complied exactly, sending the jacket without 

It was also about this time that Secretary of the Treasury An- 
drew W. Mellon, a timid man of many dollars, attended a club 
function to make a speech. Frightened by the magnitude of the 
chore, he slipped into a spoonerism. He called it ^the Pless Grub." 

Sometimes a fellow wonders how the joint ever survived the 


"We Interrupt This Program . . ." 

BY THEODORE F. KOOP Theodore F. Koop served the Associ- 

ated Press in the Middle West, New 
York, and Washington from 1928-41. 
During World War II he was assistant 
director of the Office of Censorship and 
is author of a book on its problems, 
Weapon of Silence. He was later a 
member of the editorial staff of the 
National Geographic Magazine and is 
now director of Washington news and 
public affairs for the Columbia Broad- 
casting System. 

The reception which greeted radio broadcasting, that newest 
communications infant, when it was placed on the doorstep of 
Washington journalism not long after the close of World War I 
was extremely cold. Its swaddling clothes bore no identification 
marks so that the newspaper corps could not begin to estimate its 
place on the journalistic family tree, and father naturally reached 
for his shotgun. 

It should scarcely occasion surprise, of course, that the National 
Press Club did not immediately gather radio news to its bosom. 
For one thing the infant's cries were as feeble as the crystal sets 
from which they emanated. They were so feeble in fact that the 
powerful Richmond Times-Dispatch only a hundred miles away 
across the Potomac in Virginiarelinquished after a six-months' 
trial in 1922 one of the first three "telephone licenses" granted to 
operate a radio station in the South because there was "no future 
in radio." For another there was no little concern among the capi- 
tal press corps that the infant might develop into a Frankenstein's 
monster a monster which in the metaphor of one aroused re- 
porter, "might eat the newspaperman out of house and home." 

76 "We Interrupt This Program . . ." 

Whatever the underlying reason for the lethargy, it took the 
National Press Club a quarter of a century before it gave unquali- 
fied official recognition to the new medium. During that period 
radio newsmen constituted the underprivileged class among the 
club's membership. In return for regularly paid dues and other 
less tangible support of club activities they were denied the right 
to vote or to hold office. 

For a while this social inequality was among the least of the 
broadcasters' worries; they had plenty of more urgent barriers to 
overcome in the field of news gathering. Among Washington 
officials the men who make news skepticism prevailed, and well 
it might. How could they foresee radio's future in the field of 
entertainment, much less in the field of news and public service? 
The most enthusiastic boosters acknowledged broadcasting was 
a screwball business. 

Americans who clustered intent on the outpouring of horn- 
shaped loud-speakers were not overly critical of what they heard. 
Distance or "DX" was the magic word; the farther a signal was 
picked up, the louder the boasts of a dial-twirling set owner. The 
highest accolade a broadcasting station could receive was a tele- 
gram from an awestruck listener: "Program coming in fine.'" This 
was like praising a newspaper for its typography, no matter what 
its columns contained. 

So it was natural that the first "fan" telegram to a President of 
the United States after a broadcast speech referred not to the 
content of his address, but to its successful transmission halfway 
across the continent. 

"We heard you as plainly as if you had been in our living room," 
read this historic salute. It was sent to President Warren G. 
Harding by Senator William M. Calder of New York in the sum- 
mer of 1923. The senator, comfortable in his Long Island home, 
had tuned in on a St. Louis speech made by the President during 
his ill-fated trip to the Pacific Northwest. 1 

1 When Senator Clarence G. Dill of Washington made the first broadcast 
from a train speeding between the national capital and Baltimore playwright 
Channing Pollock sent him a telegram reading, "Congratulations on your 
moving address." 

Theodore F. Koop 77 

Samuel F. B. Morse could scarcely have been more pleased over 
the dispatch of his famous "What hath God wrought" than was 
Harding over this message. Earl Godwin, veteran member of the 
National Press Club, happened to be in the President's private 
car, and Harding showed him the telegram. Whether or not this 
incident caused Godwin to realize that radio was here to stay, 
he later became a news broadcaster. At that time, however, he 
had been doing public-relations work for the Bell Telephone Com- 
pany, and his first assignment had been to arrange for a newly 
invented gadget called an amplifier at Harding's inaugural cere- 
monies on March 4, 1921. 

There are historians who date the decadence of oratory from 
the advent of the public-address system, an adjunct of radio. One 
undisputed result was its ease on Presidential and other lar- 
ynxes. But when the amplifier was made available for the in- 
auguration it required six months to convince the Congressional 
committee in charge that the device was not a publicity stunt. 
Finally Herbert Hoover gave assurances that no trick was in- 
volved, and, Godwin recalls, it even took persuasion from Har- 
ding himself, who had been a director of a small Ohio telephone 

The amplification was successful, and Harding's voice boomed 
across the Capitol Plaza to many more people than otherwise 
could have heard his words. Again at the-funeral of the Unknown 
Soldier the amplifier was installed. To be sure, it was far from 
perfect, and the installation required weeks of tinkering. But 
Harding himself was thoroughly satisfied, and when his special 
train left for the West in 1923 a loud-speaker was connected to 
the rear platform. It was first used at Martinsburg, West Virginia. 

Thus Washington reporters accompanying the President re- 
ceived a glimpse into techniques that ten and twenty years later 
were to create far-reaching changes in news operations. They 
were watching- and hearing the government and the people get- 
ting closer together. They were of two minds about this new 
medium: one moment they brushed it off as a passing fad; again, 
they feared that it might eventually endanger their own profes- 
sions, their own jobs. 

7 "We Interrupt This Program . . " 

Yet the shadow of the future lay over the capital even before 
Harding's transcontinental journey. Strangely enough this appari- 
tion hovered not over the White House nor the halls of Congress, 
but over the Department of Agriculture. And if it seemed to 
assume a shape vaguely resembling a tall, lean man in a stovepipe 
hat its observers could be excused for exclaiming, "Why, it's the 
shadow of Abraham Lincoln!" 

For in 1862 Lincoln had signed a bill creating the Agriculture 
Department and directing it "to acquire and to diffuse among the 
people of the United States useful information on subjects con- 
nected with agriculture in the most general and comprehensive 
sense of the word." Nearly sixty years later Department officials 
were still taking those instructions literally. They listened to the 
radio, found it good, and decided that here was yet another way 
to diffuse agricultural information. 

And so in a city where newspapermen were wont to write 
chiefly about the involvements of politics the first news prepared 
for radio transmission consisted of farm and market reports. 
Through the beep beep beep of wireless signals those prosaic 
dispatches went out over WWV, the Bureau of Standards short- 
wave station, beginning on December 15, 1920. Five months later 
the initial voice broadcast of market news was made over KDKA, 
the pioneer Pittsburgh station whose call letters were familiar to 

These reports produced a highly practical effect: they stand- 
ardized prices from farm to market and from one community to 
another. They ended economic isolation for the individual farmer. 
They also convinced the Department of Agriculture of the influ- 
ence of the microphone, and the Department resolved to press its 
initial advantage. Long before its neighbors in Washington offi- 
cialdom had awakened to the possibilities of the new medium (as 
radio often was called well into its maturity), the Department 
began to write radio scripts and circulate them to broadcasting 

So well was the material received that the National Broadcast- 
ing Company in 1928 two years after its organization asked the 
Department to participate in its National Farm and Home Hour. 

Theodore F. Koop 79 

This was a popular program, and its producers, seeking to broaden 
its scope, decided to include a few minutes of general news items. 
The idea was ambitious. Although KDKA had broadcast returns 
in the 1920 Harding-Cox Presidential election, radio stations sub- 
sequently had given only spasmodic treatment to news reports. 
The obvious reason was that they had no steady source of news. 
Newspaper publishers, like their Washington correspondents, had 
become uneasy over the competition of an industry which could 
take its listeners directly to the scene of big news and could carry 
information far more rapidly than newsboys. Until 1925 the 
Associated Press, for example, refused to permit the broadcast of 
any of its dispatches. Then its directors opened the door very nar- 
rowly and very timidly by authorizing radio use of news of tran- 
scendent importance. 

If the National Farm and Home Hour wanted news that was 
less than transcendent it must find it elsewhere than from press 
associations or newspapers. The producers turned to David Law- 
rence, publisher of the United States Daily, a Washington journal 
which specialized in reporting governmental activities. Lawrence 
was more interested in radio than were many editors; he and 
Frederick William Wile were among the earliest political com- 
mentators* For seven years Lawrence conducted a program on 
NBC on government affairs. Wile delivered over the Columbia 
Broadcasting System a weekly fifteen-minute review under the 
mouth-filling tide, The Political Situation in Washington Tonight. 

Lawrence agreed to an exchange of news. He went further. 
Because it was evident even in those experimental days that an 
announcer could not impart the understanding and authority of 
a reporter, he offered one of his own reporters, H. R. Baukhage, 
to read the news on the air. Here was the exact combination NBC 
was seeking: Baukhage had been an actor before he progressed 
if that is the word to a reporter. He went on the show, and 
Baukhage Talking became a familiar self -introduction year after 

On the basis of radio precedent the Farm and Home Hour news 
should have been flattered by unblushing imitators, but competing 
newscasts did not immediately arise. Even if other David Law- 

SO "We Interrupt This Program . . " 

rences bad appeared with stacks of carefully processed news items 
more than one radio executive would have waved away the bene- 
factors. Radio was an exciting enterprise, and news often was 
dull! How many listeners would follow a report on tariff legisla- 
tion when they could be enjoying the tunes of the Cliquot Club 

Instead of newscasts emphasis was placed on "special events." 
Here was news in the raw. With the magic words 4i We take you 
now to . . ." the radio audience could move to ringside seats at 
a prize fight or a political convention. In fact the public interest 
for those on-the-scene programs stemmed from broadcasts of the 
1924 Democratic National Convention in New York, where ballot 
after ballot developed dramatic suspense. "Alabama casts twenty- 
four votes for Oscar W. Underwood'' became a chant nationally 
known and as persistent as that of the tobacco auctioneer two 
decades later. 

Month by month networks and individual stations intensified 
their competition for "special events" scoops. Never had William 
Randolph Hearst and his rival New York publishers in the 1890s 
battled more fiercely for news beats. Enthusiasm once led a crew 
from WJSV, then the CBS station in Washington, to take a row- 
boat down the Potomac River to cover a Negro baptism. The 
broadcast was hailed as an important achievement. 

This slap-dash excitement often centered around the White 
House. Top of the ladder for a radio man was designation as 
"Presidential announcer." For the first Presidential speeches from 
the White House the NBC announcer who held this coveted title 
moved his microphone into the same room. This was intimacy 
indeed! CBS, coming into the picture two years later, had to leave 
its microphone in the corridor outside; the announcer peeked 
through the doorway for his cue. This distinction aroused the ire 
of the CBS Washington executives, who demanded a place at the 
Presidential table. The White House complied, but in the close 
quarters tie NBC and CBS announcers virtually talked into each 
other's microphones. The radio audience heard only gibberish, 
and the networks agreed to retreat to prepared positions a little 
farther apart. 

Theodore F. Koop 81 

Keen competition bred suspicion. In the midst of a speech by 
Calvin Coolidge NBC's lines failed. Was it sabotage? The likelier 
answer was that radio equipment still lacked perfection. It was not 
equipment failure, however, that caused the networks to lose a 
speech by Herbert Hoover. About to address the signers of the 
Kellogg-Briand Pact in the East Room of the White House, the 
President was asked by photographers to stand for some pictures. 
In their bustling way they cleared the table of microphones, 
flashed their bulbs, and were gone. Mr. Hoover immediately 
started reading his manuscript without waiting for the mikes to 
be replaced. (This was the luckless President whom announcer 
Harry Von Zell once introduced on the air as "Hoobert Heever.") 

By the time Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted his "fireside chats" 
the delivery of a Presidential speech had become a major produc- 
tion. The Oval Room of the White House was filled with cabinet 
members, Presidential aides, friends, and newsreel and still pho- 
tographers. Left in the open, announcers would have been tram- 
pled. To give them a modicum of quiet four velvet booths were 
installed. In the front curtains were patched isinglass panels 
through which the announcers could peer at the assemblage. Be- 
fore each speech they bantered with the President over a peren- 
nial question: would he finish "on the nose"? He watched the time 
carefully and cut his manuscript if necessary while he was read- 
ing. Invariably when he had completed his speech he would hold 
up his watch and exclaim in triumph, "Well, I made it!" 

While radio's "special events" producers were leaping from one 
peak of excitement to another newscasters were plodding slowly 
uphill. For years most news programs originating in Washington 
remained spasmodic and were made by newspaper correspond- 
ents. The networks dragooned the reporters into the studio by 
flashing as much as fifty dollars before their startled eyes. Often 
their scripts were carbon copies of stories filed to their own papers. 

But even fat fees did not interest all the press corps. On the 
1932 day when United States troops battled bonus marchers on 
the capital's streets Wells (Ted) Church, CBS special-events di- 
rector in Washington, pleaded with one reporter after another to 
describe the scene over the network. Finally he reported to New 

82 "We Interrupt This Program . , .** 

York headquarters that he could find no one to do the job. His 
New York boss was inspired. "Why don't you do it yourself?" he 
asked, and to his own amazement Church took to the airwaves. 
NBC finally prevailed upon Oliver Owen Kuhn, managing editor 
of the Washington Star, to make a similar report to its listeners. 

Gradually the networks and individual stations developed their 
own newsmen, garnering most of them from reportorial ranks. 
These newscasters soon found they had to give up the writing 
habits of a journalistic lifetime. The polished prose of a who- 
what-when-where-and-often-why lead sentence produced a con- 
glomeration of syllables that left the reporter breathless. The 
broadcasters learned to tell stories chronologically instead of in 
the traditional inverted pyramid style demanded by city editors. 
Surprisingly they found this new way of writing was the natural 
way; it was easy to write, easy to read aloud, and easy to hear. 
Why had no one thought of it before? 

The networks set up rudimentary Washington newsrooms, 
comparable in a sense to the city rooms of newspapers, but at the 
outset with scarcely the same standards or methods. Newscasters 
were not subjected to rigid copyreading; they were regarded as 
"talent," and it was a case of every man for himself rather than 
a co-ordinated enterprise. One Washington correspondent, in- 
vited to appear on a radio news program, was chided afterward 
because his copy was not completely accurate. "What does it mat- 
ter on radio?" he asked. 

All this time the opposition of newspaper publishers to radio 
news was growing. The simmering situation reached the boiling 
point in the election of 1932, when the three press associations- 
Associated Press, United Press, and International News Service- 
made available their returns for broadcast use. Newspaper objec- 
tions were so violent that the AP thereafter stopped all service 
to the networks; its only concession to radio news was that AP 
papers owning radio stations could broadcast AP stories for an 
additional fee. The UP and INS took their cue from the AP action, 
and radio again had to rely entirely on its own reporters. 

The Columbia Broadcasting System decided to turn an obstacle 
into an opportunity by organizing its own news service to com- 

Theodore F. Koop 83 

pete with the press associations. In the fall of 1933 it set up 
bureaus in the principal American cities. For the opening day CBS 
was anxious to obtain an exclusive story that would immediately 
establish its prestige and competitive strength. The New York 
office came up with a suggestion: an interview with Senator Wil- 
liam E. Borah, the powerful Republican foreign affairs leader, on 
the burning question of recognition of Russia. But Borah was at 
home in Idaho. In a long-distance telephone conversation CBS 
explained its wishes frankly. Borah acceded to the request, and 
a few hours later dictated an exclusive statement. CBS was jubi- 
lant, and after it had broadcast Borah's words it gave them to 
the press with no little satisfaction. The early jubilation was 
multiplied a thousandfold when the New York Times used the 
statement on page one with CBS credit No longer was radio 
news a stepchild. 

This CBS offensive in the press-radio war, plus overtures from 
NBC, helped bring about fresh discussions between network 
executives and the press associations. No longer, the networks 
argued, could the news services ignore radio. Finally a compro- 
mise was reached, and an organization called the Press-Radio 
Bureau came into being in March 1934. To this bureau the three 
press associations sent all their dispatches without charge. Editors 
in New York processed this news for radio use, charging off the 
cost of operation to the networks. The service was hedged with 
restrictions: the program could not be sponsored, and only two 
newscasts a day would be provided, one for use after 9:30 A.M. 
and the other after 9 P.M. so as not to compete with morning and 
afternoon papers. In addition transcendental that familiar word 
again news would be furnished promptly. If the networks were 
not entirely happy with this arrangement, neither were the news- 
papers. Whatever the faults of the compromise as viewed from 
either side, it did have the definite result of putting newscasts on 
the air on regular schedules. And their widespread use caused 
the public to become more and more conscious of radio as a 
news source. 

A year later UP and INS were ready to offer their wire reports 
for sale directly to radio stations. Transradio Press, a newly formed 

84 "We Interrupt This Program . . .* 

service, also was available to broadcasters. Washington stations 
promptly took advantage of these facilities, which provided them 
with world news as well as detailed coverage of the capital. NBC 
expanded its newsroom to an extent almost beyond belief; it put 
two editors on duty and regularly sent an office boy to the Na- 
tional Press Building for UP ticker copy. Announcers, though, 
read most of this press-association news; newsmen who were do- 
ing regular or occasional broadcasts devoted their time to report- 
ing or commenting on events which they themselves had covered. 

In making the rounds of Washington the radio reporters still 
encountered a cool reception not only from newspaper corre- 
spondents, but also from government officials. To a congressman 
or a federal department head a newscast was ephemeral Unless 
he happened to hear it himself he never was quite sure what it said 
about him, whereas a newspaper produced tangible clippings. The 
networks often sent limousines to bring officials to the studios 
when they were broadcasting a speech or taking part in a forum 
lest they ignore the appointment. 

Even the Supreme Court shied away from acting on an early 
case involving government regulation of radio. Chief Justice Wil- 
liam Howard Taft told a friend, "When I come to interpret the 
law on radio I shaU feel that I am dealing with the occult I want 
to put it off just as long as possible/* The Court decided that it 
had no jurisdiction in the pending issue. 

The greatest handicap to radio newsmen was the fact that they 
were barred from the Senate and House press galleries. They were 
outsiders, with no facilities at the Capitol to expedite their work. 
No credentials gave them legitimate standing in their craft. They 
had to compete with sightseers for public gallery seats. Officially 
at least they had no access to the press tables at committee hear- 
ings. They had to take a chance on finding an unoccupied tele- 
phone booth when they had a hot bulletin. 

Fulton Lewis Jr., a Mutual commentator who had entered radio 
with a weekly hunting and fishing program over WB.C, decided 
to test the ban. He formally applied for membership in the press 
galleries, and with equal formality his application was rejected. 
Here on a local scale developed the same battle which had been 

Theodore F. Koop 5 

fought out nationally between the networks and the newspapers 
controlling the press associations. 

Determined to win equality for himself and his colleagues, 
Lewis started a campaign for entirely separate radio galleries in 
the Senate and House. If broadcasters could not play in the news- 
papermen's yard, they would build a separate yard for themselves. 
Lewis persuaded Senators Guy Gillette of Iowa and Warren Bar- 
bour of New Jersey and Representative John J. Dempsey of New 
Mexico to introduce resolutions to establish titie galleries. Such a 
grave issue required hearings. The Standing Committee of Cor- 
respondents, reciting the long and honorable history of the press 
galleries, testified that they were overcrowded. The Senate and 
the House made everyone happy by voting separate radio galleries 
in April 1939-exactly a hundred years after the Senate first had set 
aside a few gallery seats for newspapermen. 

The House immediately designated a small room on the gallery 
floor, and Robert M. Menaugh was installed as superintendent. 
This momentous event naturally called for special ceremonies, and 
on May 20 dedicatory exercises took place with oratorical flour- 
ishes. The gaiety was marred only when Representative Joseph W. 
Martin Jr. of Massachusetts, the Republican leader, lost a fine 
Panama hat. Once the formalities were over the guests trooped 
down to the "Board of Education Room" of the Democratic lead- 
ership to toast the correspondents' victory. Within two hours 
Baukhage made the first broadcast from the new quarters. 

Twenty-six radio reporters were given accreditation cards, and 
they formed the Congressional Radio Correspondents Association. 
The organization undertook a dual function: supervision of the 
radio galleries under Congressional authority and promotion of 
. the radio-news fraternity. The latter included protection of the 
correspondents' "rights and privileges" and maintenance of high 
reportorial standards. Fulton Lewis Jr. became the first president 
in appreciation of his leadership in establishing the galleries. Serv- 
ing with him on the executive committee were William R. Mc- 
Andrew, Fred W. Morrison, and Albert L. Warner. And the patron 
saints, of course, were Senators Gillette and Barbour and Repre- 
sentative Dempsey. 

SQ "We Interrupt This Program . . .** 

The gallery opened in the nick of time for a gala event the 
visit to Washington of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of 
Great Britain in June 1939. Fortified by his new credentials, a 
broadcaster from each network was permitted in the rotunda on 
the day Their Majesties visited the Capitol. But of equal or even 
greater importance was the fact that wives of radio correspondents 
rated equally with the wives of newspapermen and were given 
tickets for seats on the Capitol Plaza. What did it matter if the 
National Press Club still snubbed the radio newsmen? 

Behind the fanfare of the royal visit could be heard the drums 
of war. The Senate radio gallery was barely ready for the special 
session of Congress called by President Roosevelt in September 
following the German invasion of Poland. The formal opening was 
delayed until February 15, 1940, when Baukhage again made the 
initial broadcast. D. Harold McGrath was appointed superin- 

Congressional approval clothed the radiomen in new garments 
of respectability. No longer could they be treated as country 
cousins whose gaucheries might prove slightly embarrassing. Offi- 
cials in downtown government departments, always alert to the 
mood of Congress, backslapped the broadcasters and warmly in- 
vited them to "come in anytime." Several departments, notably 
State, War, and Navy, installed special branches in their public- 
relations offices to handle technical radio problems. By common 
consent press conferences came to be called "news conferences" or 
"press-radio conferences." 

Coincidentally with this newly found fellowship war in Europe 
was giving radio tremendous importance as a news medium. The 
German bombers and panzer units moved too rapidly for lino- 
types and printing presses. Supplementing direct broadcasts from 
European capitals were dispatches from the sixty-word-a-minute 
tickers of the press associations, for the Press-Radio Bureau had 
quietly dissolved in 1938, and now even the Associated Press was 
selling its report directly to broadcasting stations. From Washing- 
ton fully staffed news departments of the networks were telling of 
the bases-for-destroyers trade, the Lend-Lease program, the draft, 
and the frantic industrial expansion. 

Theodore F. Koop 87 

Then on December 7, 1941, radio spoke calmly. "The White 
House has announced that Japanese planes have attacked Pearl 
Harbor.'* The announcers* voices were tense but restrained. From 
their homes, from the football game at Griffith Stadium broad- 
casters dashed to their studios that bleak winter afternoon. Hour 
after hour they brought to the microphone bulletins from the 
White House, the State Department, Congress, the Army, and the 

On that "day of infamy" twenty-one years after the Harding- 
Cox election returns had signalized its birthradio news cast off 
its adolescence. No longer did its voice break with uncertainty or 
emotion; it spoke firmly, confidently. Years of experimentation, of 
trial and error had brought results. 

For Washington radio reporters the war days became crowded 
days. The number of news programs increased. News conferences 
of government officials on and off the record multiplied. Staffs 
were short; many a broadcaster was drafted or went overseas as 
a war correspondent. The news from the home front was far from 
glamorous, yet it was vital Like their colleagues of the press the 
radio newsmen won and held the confidence of military leaders. 
And through the voluntary censorship they kept the military 
secrets entrusted to them. 

Tension built up to June 1944, when Allied invasion of Europe 
was expected momentarily. Radio correspondents paced Pentagon 
offices nervously during the early hours of June 6, but on the 
official announcement they were by-passed. The Army Signal 
Corps had set up a special circuit from London to network head- 
quarters in New York, and over this circuit at 3:82 A.M. came the 
quiet voice of Colonel R. Ernest Dupuy, SHAEF public relations 
officer well known to Washington newsmen: 

Under the command of General Eisenhower, Allied naval forces, sup- 
ported by strong air forces, began landing Allied armies this morning 
on the northern coast of France. 

For the next fourteen months the crescendo of news kept rising 
to the distant accompaniment of bombs and shells. President 
Roosevelt died, and Washington broadcasters stayed in their 

gg "We Interrupt This Program . . " 

studios for long hours reading his biography, chronicling tributes 
from sorrowing officials, reporting the solemn swearing-in of 
Harry S Truman. They stood on Constitution Avenue during the 
funeral procession, and their voices broke as the caisson creaked 
along, the staccato clatter of the horses' hoofs echoing into the 

V-E Day arrived, and in jubilant tones the broadcasters read 
President Truman's victory proclamation and speculated on the 
early conquest of Japan. The first atomic bomb was dropped on 
Hiroshima, and they reported the incident in matter-of-fact man- 
ner, with little initial comprehension of its awful potentialities. 
One commentator devoted a minute to the atomic bomb and ten 
minutes to the death of Senator Hiram Johnson of California. The 
isolationist senator was within his realm of understanding; as yet 
the atomic bomb was not. 

When Japan s surrender was in sight the networks parked their 
mobile units in front of the White House, ready to flash the end 
of hostilities. President Truman made the announcement on Au- 
gust 14, 1945, and the radio reporters rushed pell-mell from his 
office, almost too breathless to speak the eagerly awaited words to 
a listening nation. 

Then back to the routine of peace. News programs were pared 
in number, but the public was too thoroughly conditioned to get- 
ting news from the radio, and schedules could not be cut too 
sharply. Wire and tape recorders-and later recorded telephone 
conversations opened a new field of on-the-scene reporting. 
Events which proved too lengthy or otherwise unsuitable for a 
direct pickup could be recorded, edited, and played on the air, at 
a convenient time. 

This new technique operated with particular success during 
the stormy Senate committee hearings on the Howard Hughes 
war-plane contracts in August 1947. Thousands of Americans who 
could not have turned from daytime work to hear "live" broad- 
casts of the sessions listened avidly to condensed versions at night. 
Again radio used this method of reporting the hearings of the 
House Un-American Activities Committee in August 1948, when 
Alger Hiss confronted Whittaker Chambers, who had accused 

Theodore F. Koop 89 

him of turning over classified State Department documents to a 
Communist group in prewar Washington. 

So far did postwar news activities return to the normal give- 
and-take of politics that Washington correspondents could con- 
cern themselves with the status of radio newsmen in the Na- 
tional Press Club. Their consciences were twinging a bit over the 
realization that they had kept these men in the ranks of second- 
class citizens for a quarter of a century. Active membership was 
proposed. Members who once would have pounded the bar in 
vehement opposition were silent; they conceded that these inter- 
lopers handled news. 

But the Press Club constitution proved almost as difficult to 
amend as the Constitution of the United States. Twice the sug- 
gested amendment was brought to a vote, once at an annual 
meeting and once by mail ballot. On both occasions the proposi- 
tion lost through inertia. There simply was not sufficient interest 
to obtain the necessary quorum. 

In a liberal mood the Press Club nestors decided to give radio 
one more chance. A special meeting was called in May 1948. 
Every member on the premises was corralled, and in the club 
library the official emancipation ceremonies took place. The 
parliamentary proceedings were painless. The proposed amend- 
ment was read, a voice vote was taken, and it was all over. The 
club constitution was changed to give active membership to 
"those whose principal work involves the gathering, writing., or 
editing of news for dissemination by radio, television or fac- 

The precise phraseology had occasioned no little preliminary 
debate. On the one hand the club wanted to make certain that 
only bona fide newsmen, not announcers or entertainers, were 
admitted. On the other hand what might the future hold in re- 
gard to television and facsimile transmission of news? The club 
did not want to be caught napping a second time. 

In 1949, a decade after Congress established separate radio 
galleries, news broadcasters could look around and find that most 
doors in the capital were as wide open to them as to their brothers 
of the press. Membership in the Radio Correspondents Associa- 

90 "We Interrupt This Program . . " 

tion had grown sixfold from the original twenty-six to one hun- 
dred and fifty-three. The six seats first set aside for these men 
and women in the House and Senate had trebled. The four nation- 
wide networks-American Broadcasting Company, Columbia 
Broadcasting System, Mutual Broadcasting System, and National 
Broadcasting Company were operating Washington newsrooms 
equivalent in size and procedure to those of the New York Times 
and the New York Herald Tribune bureaus. They maintained 
news editors who made assignments and edited copy. They cov- 
ered the major stories, and at the White House and on Presiden- 
tial trains their correspondents were as familiar figures as the 
press-association reporters. The four Washington stations allied 
with the networks carried close to a hundred thousand words of 
news a day, not to mention interviews, forums, and other special- 
events programs involving government officials. 

In addition to the networks thirteen independent stations were 
broadcasting in Washington and its suburbs. Representing these 
and individual out-of-town stations were nearly half of the ac- 
credited radio newsmen. Correspondents for the out-of-town sta- 
tions emulated their opposite numbers of the press by interview- 
ing the senators and representatives from their states, handling 
other news with home-town angles, and presenting their own 
commentaries on the Washington scene. The only difference was 
in technique; where the newspaper writers sent their copy by 
telegraph or mail, the radio reporters for the most part recorded 
their material and air expressed the "platters" to their stations. 

This constantly increasing group testified not only to the de- 
velopment of radio news, but also to the unparalleled importance 
of Washington as a world news center. Washington originations 
constituted the bulk of the networks' domestic news programs; 
such varied commentators, analysts, and newscasters as Elmer 
Davis, Albert L. Warner and Drew Pearson of ABC, Eric Sevareid 
and Joseph C. Harsch of CBS, and Bill Henry of Mutual, and 
Richard Harkness and Morgan Beatty of NBC made their head- 
quarters in the capital. And their New York colleagues found it 
desirable to make frequent visits to the banks of the Potomac in 
order to keep abreast of national and international events. 

Theodore F. Koop 91 

Edging its way into the forefront of journalistic attention was 
the glamorous offshoot of the radio industry: television. Washing- 
ton newspapermen and radiomen alike found they could take tele- 
vision or leave it alone until the telecasting of the 1948 political 
conventions enthralled them. Many a newspaper reporter at the 
Philadelphia assemblages quickly learned he could do as good a 
joband certainly a pleasanter one by sitting before a television 
screen in an air-conditioned room than by squirming on a hard 
bench in the sweltering convention hall. 

And the radio reporters who appeared before the television 
cameras thoroughly enjoyed the experience. They liked the in- 
formality of the programs; there was not the driving necessity of 
speaking every moment lest "dead air" cause listeners to spin the 
dial. They might not admit it, but they also liked the theatrical 
quality of the shows, for underneath his Journalistic exterior there 
is a little of the ham actor in every radioman. Only one require- 
ment caused a little grumbling: the truly photogenic newsman 
had to be freshly shaved just before going into the studio. 

Insistence on good grooming created an anticlimax for Presi- 
dent Truman's first television appearance at the White House. The 
President sat, a trifle stiffly, behind a desk. The cameras were fo- 
cused, the papers were carefully arranged for his speech opening 
the Luckman food-conservation drive. But Mr. Truman's bow tie 
chose that moment to dip at a sharp angle. Bryson Rash of the 
American Broadcasting Company leaned across the desk to adjust 
it. He was fast, but not quite fast enough, for at that instant the 
show went on the air. The television audience saw not the Presi- 
dent of the United States, but a complete rear view of perfection- 
ist Rash. 

Six months after the Philadelphia conventions President Tru- 
man's inauguration brought Washington its first big television 
spectacle. The capital's four television stations pooled their opera- 
tions. Cameras focused sharply on the Chief Executive as he took 
the oath of office and delivered his inaugural address. Then they 
swept the length of Pennsylvania Avenue as West Point cadets, 
Annapolis midshipmen, and beautiful girls in state floats paraded 

92 "We Interrupt This Program . . ." 

past spectators not lucky enough to have television sets in their 
own or neighbors* homes. 

By inauguration time the Washington stations were gingerly 
experimenting with local news programs; NBC was showing a 
daily newsreel prepared by its own staff. As in the early days of 
radio, however, "special events" held the principal interest. A 
completely successful formula for presenting straight news on the 
television screen had not yet been found. A single newscaster 
reading or ad-libbing the news provided little attraction, but a 
reporter interviewing two or three senators could be viewable 
as well as listenable. 

Thus was the news wheel turning from newspapers to radio 
from radio to television. Just as Washington correspondents in the 
1920s had worried over the upstart loud-speakers, uneasy news 
broadcasters now were pondering the effect of television on "old- 
fashioned' 7 radio. Would the cameras supplant unseen newscasts? 
Would reporters be selected for their telegenic features? 

In the benign smiles of the older newspapermen many broad- 
casters believed they had found the answer to their questions. 
Radio had not put newspapers out of business. On the contrary 
the two media had come to complement each other and to in- 
crease the public desire and demand for news. Having done so 
once, the lion and the lamb again could lie down together. 


Moisture, a Trace 

BY HOMER JOSEPH DODGE Homer Joseph Dodge was born in 

Cleveland, Ohio. Because of family 
connections with the White House, his 
acquaintance with the Washington 
scene virtually began on the lap of 
President William MeKinley. He has 
been a Washington newspaperman and 
public-relations counsel since 1910, is 
a former editor of Bankers 9 Informa- 
tion Service, and a founder of Editorial 
Research Reports. He is the author of 
Pursuit of a Whisper and It Depends 
on the Wind. He is now Washington 
correspondent of the Committee for 
Constitutional Government. 

To save grain and perhaps to season the lawmakers who had 
adopted the Eighteenth Amendment the Congress enacted war- 
time prohibition, which became effective in the District of Colum- 
bia and on other federal reservations at midnight June 30, 1919. 
This was more than six months before the Prohibition Amendment 
itself came into force on January 16, 1920, inundating the United 
States with the miscellaneous wetness of bathtub gin, right-off- 
the-boat scotch, and all those' other benefits which, half a genera- 
tion later, the victims of Repeal were to learn to long for. 

The bar of the National Press Club in those days was one of 
the smallest, coziest, and on the night of June SO the most crowded 
in the world. It was not an unusual experience to have the little 
bar two tables with embracing high-backed benches facing the 
two-or-three-yard-long mahogany itself well populated. During 
World War I men of all the world frequented it. Turbanned 
Indian rubbed elbows with kilted Scots Highlander and blue- 

Q4 Moisture, a Trace 

Housed French officers courteously jostled the gorgeously garbed 
Bersaglieri, while more drab soldiers of English and American 
regiments lent contrast. Now and then even a civilian could be 
descried against the rigadoon of color. 

On the Day of Judgment the club placed on sale its cellar, 
which was not mean. At first case goods moved at cost; as the 
hours passed it became apparent that the club would be left in 
illegal possession of ardent and spirituous liquors. Quite early, 
beer was free on tap. With supply and dead line converging, 
prices of champagnes and fine brandies, old wines and proud 
whiskies dwindled steadily toward midnight, when on the dirging 
stroke all that was left was set out on the tables of the main din- 
ing room, the Flemish Room, and the lounge for the having of 
anyone with desire and strength to grasp them. Thus wartime 
prohibition came to the National Press Club! 

It had been widely predicted that the National Press Club 
would persist as a pool of refreshment in a weary land despite 
what President Calvin Coolidge later was cautiously to call the 
Prohibitory Law. It had been enviously felt that the press would 
bring to bear its blackmail influences upon the enforcement 
powers and so save its members harmless from invasion of their 
private rights. The reverse proved true. Well aware of what had 
been expected, the club drew fanatically away from danger of 
the imputation and became for a dreary time probably the driest 
club, press or otherwise, in America! 

The Board passed strict ordinances in support of the law. For 
a period not even set-ups could be provided for members bring- 
ing their own liquor into the club, a practice itself forbidden. In 
no time at all bootlegging started among waiters, and several 
were discharged summarily by the chairman of the House Com- 
mittee. The Board of Governors disciplined members for infrac- 
tions of rules designed to uphold the high standard of purity 
which had been decreed. 

The club quarters then were in the structure which had 
changed its pleasant and historic and dignified name from the 
Riggs Building to the Albee Building, and in that edifice were 

Homer Joseph Dodge 95 

nfany newspaper offices. Across G Street stood the old Home Life 
Building, filled almost from top to bottom with newspaper cor- 
respondents* offices. Down Fourteenth was the National Metro- 
politan Bank Building, similarly occupied, while within a city 
block's range in three directions were yet other like warrens. No 
statistician ever has been sufficiently inspired even to estimate the 
volume of strong waters which in those days could be found in 
those almost uniformly hospitable quarters! Against the lapping 
of this ever rising tide from outside its peculiar walls the club 
could not indefinitely stand firm. Liquor crept into the precincts, 
either borne by members or floating them in on its own ardent 
flooding seepage, disturbing, comforting! 

That incidents, memorable as half-forgotten perfume, should 
occur was as inevitable as a process of fermentation. Every 
member cherishes some tale of wassail. One which might be re- 
garded as being invested (at this late date) with a measure of 
historic interest had to do with the visit to the club of Edward, 
Prince of Wales. It was no state secret that His Royal Highness 
had a nice taste in scotch whisky. 

Now in those days the club was favored with the services of a 
steward who in his own field assuredly was as skillful as any 
veteran Washington correspondent in his. This young steward's 
field was wide and included access to the real stuff. He was com- 
missioned to procure at the charges of the club a case of scotch. 
At what hour he achieved delivery in his own custody can be 
gauged only by use of his own person as a sort of hour glass. But 
it is certain that by evening when the Prince was due to arrive his 
mood was lightsome, unwearied, and enthusiastic. He felt a per- 
sonal interest in the event; indeed as the moments sped it is prob- 
able that he began to feel that the Prince was his own particular 

So it was with no slight degree of impatience that he watched 
the formal round of introductions by the President of the club 
(Mr. Earl Godwin, newsman later turned radio commentator) 
of members to the Prince. As the members passed through the 
receiving line, some rapidly, some pausing to chat, the steward's 
impatience mounted. At length he could bear it no longer. Slip- 

QQ Moisture, a Trace 

ping between the President and Edward, he delivered what he 
intended to be a sly nudge, but which actually was a tremendous 
jolt of the elbow in His Royal Highnesses ribs which nearly bore 
him down while he invited in a hissing whisper like a noon steam 
whistle, "Have a little drink, Prince?" 
There are so many stories. 


With acres of kings' palaces at his disposal, Napoleon I se- 
lected for his office one of the smallest rooms he could find. From 
the Small Cabinet of the Tuileries he ruled Europe. Some kindred 
impulse may or may not have prompted a certain few members 
of the National Press Club in choosing as their crowded, spas- 
modic meeting place the smallest room in the club quarters. The 
architects had planned it for use as a one-chair barbershop. Per- 
haps because the bowl for running water which had been in- 
stalled provided a convenient place to keep cakes of cracked ice, 
it was deemed ideal. Also it had a certain scornful aloofness from 
the more stuffily spacious splendors of the wider reaches of the 

An interior group of the Press Club, the Turf Club had no 
fixed membership. Not more than ten persons could occupy the 
small cabinet with ease and comfort; oftentimes from twenty to 
thirty occupied It with joy! The membership was presumed to be 
drawn solely from members of the parent club, but there was no 
snobbish rule against the introduction of guests if they proved to 
be of the right kidney. 

Compartments in the tier of metal lockers were held by pre- 
scription by some individuals, conjointly by others. There was 
room for casual storage on top of the lockers. Indeed so deep was 
the general feeling of good will toward men that few of the 
lockers were kept locked and those but capriciously, when the 
keyholders thought of the gesture. The assortment of Mason jars, 
of Dykeman-orange-juice gallon jars, of conventionally shaped 
bottles bearing labels having little save a reminiscent connection 
with the contents, and almost every other sort of container save 

Homer Joseph Dodge 97 

baskets or Wedgwood fruit dishes crowded the shelves of these 
lockers, doubtless originally designed for a golf or tennis club 
locker room. These containers held curiously grouped molecules 
of matter of a strength and fortitude far surpassing the strength 
and fortitude displayed at Olympic Games! 

The Turf Room or, as it was alternately called, the Paddock, 
was in the new quarters in the National Press Building. Why 
that name was chosen is not known. The frequenters exhibited no 
unusual enthusiasm for either turf or paddock. Rarely was there 
any betting or gambling, so often the room was too crowded. Oh, 
occasionally when the numbers thinned out there might be a few 
hands at cards. The pleasant, faintly vicious sound of falling dice 
was not unknown. But for the most part the time was spent in 
deep and incredibly miscellaneous discussion. 

Meals could be served in the Paddock and were. There was one 
table, rather too large for the room, with on one side of it a long 
oaken bench which had sentimentally been fetched from the little 
bar of the old club and on the other a number of broken-down 
chairs. Stuffing crept quietly but steadily from the upholstery of 
all these pieces. No matter. The shabby Paddock was to many a 
member what the torn rag doll is to the child who has but studied 
neglect for daintier creations. 

The Turf Club had no officers; no minutes were kept. But that 
narrow space knew many of the leading spirits of Washington 
journalism. Among members as well as guests were distinguished 
legislators, holders of high office, jurists. Many a man whose name 
meant much in the world was known to point a wee finger at the 
ceiling! A political party was formed there; that is, a Press Club 
political party. It was tinged with liberalism and persuaded that 
the unco guid and the rigidly righteous should not rule the Press 
Club. On one historic election day this Turf Club Party bore one 
of its number triumphantly to victory as President of the entire 

But today the Turf Club's Paddock houses the machinery of 
an air-conditioning unit which vies in temperament with the old 
members. Whiles it has been a broom closet in the days since 
Repeal befell, whiles a lumber room. The tinkling of ice in 

gg Moisture, a Trace 

glasses with tall sides no longer is heard, no longer of afternoons 
and evenings the strains of uninhibited singing. That is all gone 
today gone with the wind and russet apples! Ah me! 


Mike was a noble Genoese who unquestionably would have 
looked as much at home on a gun deck at Lepanto, with the Span- 
ish Armada or with that great Admiral of the Ocean Sea, Colum- 
bus himself, as he did in his small restaurant down on old Ohio 
Avenue behind the District Building. Tall, broad and, swart, with 
flashing eyes, wide-sweeping mustaches, and a deep, tranquil, 
musical voice, Mike was a man and also a hero-worshiper. The 
City Hall and police reporters whose pressroom was in the Dis- 
trict Building were the first to find Mike and his restaurant and 
to learn of his hero-worship. Mike's little Italian restaurant served 
meals which were equally grateful to the young reporter's palate 
and to his meager purse. He could do things to a steak, to meat 
balls and spaghetti, and with salads that were a challenge to 
Brillat-Savaiin. Then there was always red wine and other things. 
And all for well, a man could almost give a dinner party for a 

The Glutton was as much of a lure as the food, so curiously pre- 
pared in real olive oil. He was a vast Italian whose calling, save 
that of eating, was a trifle vague. Daily he spent hours at Mike's, 
and daily he was gazed upon with intense admiration by the other 
Italians who frequented the place. And by the reporters. It would 
be idle to list the viands The Glutton regularly consumed. But the 
time came when he learned that the feast was ended and the 
lamps expiring. He was forbidden to eat anything but salad and 
perhaps a little wine for his stomach's sake, as St. Paul allows. 

In those days the buildings stood well back from the willow- 
shaded Ohio Avenue. For hours The Glutton would rest in a 
huge chair placed for him on the grass plot in the shade, awaiting 
the salad hour. For he concluded that he would have but one 
meal a day. It was served about dusk. Mike had what must at 
some time have served as a huge punch bowl. In it he would mix 

Homer Joseph Dodge 99 

The Glutton's salad. An equal portion would have been adequate 
to serve all the other guests! With an effort singlehanded, but 
sometimes with help, Mike would place the vast bowl before 
The Glutton. There is some difference of opinion as to whether 
it took five or ten minutes for The Glutton to consume the entire 
bowl. The change of diet came too late, and The Glutton did 
not last many months thereafter, but he had served to introduce 
the press to Mike and Mike to the press. 

Due in part at least to the increased patronage attracted by 
The Glutton, Mike felt important enough to move to a slightly 
more pretentious place uptown. Even more newspapermen 
patronized his restaurant then, and indeed it began to take on 
the character of a newspaper headquarters. Then followed the 
idea of creating a newspaper club from this nucleus. For a while 
it was established in an old house on the west side of Eleventh 
Street with front and back entrances and then removed to its 
pleasantest domicile across the street. In a shabby old building 
next to the firehouse perfect quarters were found. One wound 
through corridors and went up and down short steps as in Bleak 
House and then tapped cabalistically on a door. It must be re- 
membered that this was all in the days when one said he knew 
Charlie Duckworth. 

There was an actual club. It was the Washington Newspaper 
Club. Dues were intermittently paid, and officers were elected. 
But, unlike so many press clubs, it had no operative problems 
whatever. Mike held what probably should be termed a con- 
cession. He brought with him John of Turin, a sort of partner, and 
then there was The Cook. He never was known by any other 
designation. Later they brought Dante from overseas, a Tuscan 
god of a youth whose manly beauty would drive a sculptor or 
painter mad. All, save perhaps Dante, were cooks and all were 
waiters. And all on occasion sat at the tables with the members 
of the Washington Newspaper Club. 

As you entered through the labyrinthine passage there was a 
longish room the walls of which had been most fantastically 
decorated by murals the work of some newspaper artist who had 
found an outlet. The murals were brilliant and vaguely suggestive 

200 Moisture, a Trace 

of struggle among Picasso, Rivera, Michelangelo and an outdoor 
sign painter. No one could deny them character! 

Beyond that through a narrow door was what doubtless had 
been long aforetime a kitchen. In both rooms were tables large 
and small which could if need be be pulled together. In the back 
room was a fireplace of generous size, and here, too, the crawling 
murals were found, albeit obscured by smoke. No hours obtained 
in this club. If the Italians felt like it and several members were 
there it remained open around the clock. At a word, even a ges- 
ture, one could quickly obtain a meal. If it were rudely served, if 
the variety were narrow, yet not another restaurant in town 
could surpass its quality. 

But most curious of all was the beverage which became as a 
very nectar. It would be thankless to call it beer; perhaps inac- 
curate to call it mead; it was not ale in the accepted term, nor 
could any wine ever grown meet its anonymous challenge. There 
was a legend that in the adjoining small room used as the kitchen 
there stood a huge barrel into which the Italians tossed anything 
for which there was no instant culinary demand, tossed it there 
to undergo some mysterious process of fermentation, generation, 
and regeneration. It is not recalled that there was any lagering 
season, any definite period of aging, any exact period of any kind. 
It was in its own recondite way what the French pot an feu is. 

From this barrel tall glasses larger than the usual barroom 
beer glasses were filled and served. The nectar was of a savor 
all its own; it was beyond any conventional identification. 
Captious newcomers had been known to make some passing as- 
persions about the bouquet, but any such idle prejudice was short- 
lived. After all what could one expect from such a barrel so placed 
and so used! True, one could obtain gin and whisky there, and 
the daintier souls would cling to those known mild beverages. But 
the strong characters of the Washington Newspaper Club would 
not have foregone Mike's drink for the richest cellars in all the 
world! They knew strength, they knew character, they knew that 
a grail of Mike's repugnant, heartsome, subtle drink was a pass- 
port to the inner meaning of life! 

Early in its career the Washington Newspaper Club was raided 

Homer Joseph Dodge 101 

as a speakeasy. It was not known what became of the raiders. 
There are remote harness beats in the suburbs. The press of 
Washington and other cities, half Washington officialdom, some 
of its best society stood aghast at such a breach of all the 
decencies. It did not happen again. 

There was scant ceremony. Men and -later women ate at 
such tables as pleased them. There were small, intimate groups 
of two or less. For example, there was an arranger of orchestral 
scores who dined and drank as a rule with himself and his music, 
and on the sheets of many dulcet chamber-music compositions 
when they appeared on musicians* stands were smears of gravy 
or liquor. There were larger groups, and sometimes tables would 
be drawn together and many would foregather for deep converse 
on comparative religion, the trend of literature, political maneu- 
vers, reminiscences of sporting eventsindoor and out and the 
state of the world! Public men, writersboth men and women- 
actors, grave jurists, artists, and always a sprinkling of crusaders 
for this cause or that people whose names made news, people 
who lived news were the guests or members of this extraor- 
dinary club. 

At any time, of course, but especially of cold winter nights 
there would be singing around the roaring fire in the back room, 
enriched by the fine swelling voices of the Italians. The chairs 
were hard, the tables bare of napery, the china and tableware 
something less than elegant, but it is probable that the Washing- 
ton Newspaper Club knew many of the keenest, ablest, wittiest 
minds in the country along with a proper leavening of others of 
lesser note. 

It came to an end as all good things, it seems, must The first 
downward step was forced when the landlord determined to 
remodel his building, chiefly to make room for shops, beauty 
parlors, dentists' offices, and the like. The club found krger 
quarters across the alley, larger and far, far different. The new 
quarters were in comparison splendid. With splendor the club 
lost its character; the bright new clubrooms lacked something 
which the lousy roach-ridden old joint had to bestow: they had 
no benison to offer. Table cloths and napkins were introduced, 

202 Moisture, a Trace 

and something in the nature of parties were given. (In the old 
place parties gave themselves.) The final ignominy came when 
with Repeal the Washington Newspaper Club formally took out 
a liquor license! Inevitably it faded away. Like lago, its occupa- 
tion was gone! 


It is an honored custom that when some tall lad has spent a 
bitter night at the cards, not favored by God, stripped of his last 
quarter, and feeling as though beaten with rods, some kindly 
bartender shall perform anew and without charge the miracle of 
Cana and turn destitution into a momentary harmonious wine 
of well-being. Always without charge and with compassion. Such 
a heartening episode occurred one morning in 1938 in the tap- 
room of the National Press Club. There lies no safety of mind in 
analyzing the motive of a casual informer, but it is enough to 
report that such a one did run to the President of the club (Mr. 
Harold Brayman, then of the Philadelphia Ledger) and say that 
the club bartender was giving away drinks! 

Summarily the bartender was suspended one week without pay! 

Now George Miller had tended bar in the Press Club taproom 
for some years. It was known that his varicose-veined legs had 
come near to failing him in the club's service (long hours of 
standing behind the mahogany is not a light task), and his peren- 
nial geniality and kindliness were held in high esteem. 

So when the customers began to drift in the suffering brother 
had been there when the bar first opened there was question 
concerning George. Another bartender stood somewhat diffi- 
dently in his place. Aled Davies of the Gannett papers was about 
the first, and then publicist Sam Jones sound men both. They 
learned the story and began to brood. As others Frank Healey 
(attorney and ex-miner), Harvey Jacob (then counsel for the 
club), Ralph Collins (New York Sun and Washington Times) 
came in, their brooding bore fruit in a determination to take up 
a collection by way of protest to pay George's salary during the 
week of his suspension. As a member would enter the taproom he 

Homer Joseph Dodge 108 

would be accosted and the case stated. Without exception the 
newcomer made his contribution, anything from a quarter to a 

It would be difficult to give proper credit for the burgeoning 
of the full-blown idea which sprang from this seedling. Mayhap it 
was the spontaneous inspiration of several, but almost imper- 
ceptibly the benefit collection turned into that profound political 
weapon, the bar strike. To those of deeper feelings there seemed 
something almost shameful about buying from a bar which re- 
jected the respected canon of a free dirink to him in dire need of 
succor! Some noble soul descended to the liquor store in the 
lobby and brought back a quart of sound liquor. Almost im- 
mediately, this was augmented by other contributions. Quietly 
these offerings were , placed upon the tablesnot the bar in the 
taproom. Drinks were offered freely to any member who entered. 

If some member did not instantly recognize the lengthen- 
ing line seated at the tables and turned to the bar to buy himself 
a drink he was hailed and invited to partake. Of course the 
phenomenon was explained. Always the newcomer took the rebels* 
drink in preference to buying at the bar and usually contributed 
to the fund. In a short time enough cash had been collected to 
more than make up George Miller's weekly salary, but something 
had been started not susceptible of easy control. 

By this time the stock of liquor on the tables was extensive and 
miscellaneous. Scotch, bourbon, rye, Irish and bottled beer in 
tubs of ice were there in straggling array. In those days the late 
Charles Stewart of Central Press was accustomed to enter the 
taproom every fifteen minutes for a glass of port. Mr. Stewart 
did his writing upstairs in the club writing room and steadfastly 
declined to take a bottle of port and a glass there because, as he 
explained, he might drink too much. But chronometers were set 
by the regularity of his fifteen-minute-interval appearances in the 
taproom. So even a bottle of port was provided for him. 

Either for his health or some other recondite purpose colum- 
nist Heywood Broun was not drinking at the moment, but when he 
entered and heard what was forward he instantly joined the long 
bench of strikers and contributed to the store in addition to 

104 Moisture, a Trace 

whiskies, gins, and the like a vast metal tub of ice from which 
peeped containers of buttermilk and tomato juice. He took for 
the text of his column that day the Press Club bar strike. 

As the day wore on a few orders came in from the cardroom 
and from the ladies* dining room, orders from persons who had 
not learned of the epochal event under the same roof. Those 
orders ceased when the occupants of those rooms were apprised. 

The day passed, and the evening. There were, of course, relays 
of members occupying the long benches and chairs of the tap- 
room and also, and in spite of utter absence of occupation there 
were relays of bartenders. There is a legend that Jack Madden 
read Anthony Adverse during his tricks at the bar. 

About the second day the Board of Governors met in special 
session and sent an emissary to the strikers in the taproom. They 
were notified that they were suspended. Names were taken. Mem- 
bers rushed to give their names. They sat, they and their suc- 
cessors. Hour of day and hour of night passed with never a need 
for a quorum call. Throughout Sunday the strike continued. The 
new week began. The board had been in session almost as con- 
tinuously as the strikers, save that they lacked the endless supply 
of reliefs the members could depend upon. 

Now it must be remembered that the National Press Club is a 
concern with heavy operating expenses. It is the consistent claim 
of the House Committee that it costs the club about fifty cents 
every time a member sits down at a table for a meal, so heavy 
is the overhead, and that there is a staggering annual deficit in 
the restaurant department. That deficit regularly is made up at 
the bar. But there were no bar receipts. That is, none to mention. 
The records show that, compared with the hundreds of dollars 
ordinarily dependable, the club had taken in some eight dollars 
and twenty-five cents over a period of days and nights, and that 
only by mistake. 

In desperation the board sent a special emissary, one of its 
members, to treat with the recalcitrants. He was Mr. Clifford 
Prevost (afterwards president of the Club). The Board asked 
what was demanded. A committee was hastily formed of the 
leading malcontents and a sort of ultimatum drawn; that is, ulti- 

Homer Joseph Dodge 105 

matum in the sense that unless the demands were granted the 
strike would continue indefinitely. (There's fighting blood in the 
National Press Club!) The ultimatum demanded, first, instant 
reinstatement of George Miller with full pay; second, withdrawal 
of the suspensions passed on the strikers; and, third, creation of 
a bar committee which in future should have sole disciplinary 
jurisdiction in the taproom. 

Well, there was running back and forth by the emissary, with 
the board seeking to modify the demands. But there was no flag- 
ging. The strikers sat firm. Not one cent went into the bar till. 
At length the Board of Governors capitulated and granted tie 

Enough liquor remained on the tables to stock almost any bar. 
Byacclaim it was turned over to the club. In addition to his club 
pay George received about two extra weeks' equivalent from 
the pool collected and reappeared at his post, his legs momen- 
tarily rested. Jack Madden almost finished Gone With The Wind. 

Several Boards of Governors have served since then, but mem- 
bers of that august body to this day will turn pale at the mere 
whisper of "bar strike!" 


". . . And Here We Sit Today!' 

BY HUGH MORROW Hugh Morrow is an associate editor of 

the Saturday Evening Post stationed 
in Washington, where he was formerly 
correspondent of the Philadelphia In- 

The National Press Building in Washington is a 125,000-ton 
monument to the fantastic finances of the twenties. It was at the 
outset created out of a dream, a dollar, a bottle of bootleg scotch 
whisky, and a Press Club member's pledge that never again 
would he sing "Annie Laurie" in his off-key baritone. At least he 
promised that he would never sing it again in the presence of a 
real-estate broker who exacted the pledge because he was fond 
of the tune. 

The building was started with high hopes, wild risk-taking on 
the part of a handful of club members, and with the support of 
the Press Club. That support, however, was far from undivided. 
In fact important segments of the American press and their Wash- 
ington correspondents vigorously opposed the project. News- 
papermen, they argued, had no business dabbling in real estate 
and particularly not in the promotion of Washington's largest 
private office building. They were overruled, and the building 
stands today as a solid and stable institution. Yet its history in 
its earlier years is one of travail. The Press Building was financed 
on a shoestring, refinanced, went bankrupt, and was reorganized 
in the nine-year period from 1925 to 1934. By 1946, however, many 
of the nation's largest insurance companies were competing for 
the privilege of refinancing the building again. 

Since December 29, 1927, the building has provided the club 
with its main quarters at a rental of one dollar a year under 

Hugh Morrow 107 

a ninety-nine-year lease. These quarters cover about two thirds 
of the thirteenth floor and all of the fourteenth. Addition of busi- 
ness offices and the East Lounge, plus an annual contribution to 
real-estate taxes which the club agreed to at the time of the re- 
organization in 1935 have increased the annual cost for quarters 
to $9,763, but this is scarcely twelve per cent of what it would 
normally cost the club to rent all the space it occupies. Out of the 
building deal the club got almost $90,000 worth of free furnishings 
and equipment, plus a majority of the common stock of the 
separate corporation which operates the building. Ownership of 
the stock makes the National Press Club potentially one of the 
richest clubs in the world. 

For all this the club as such invested not one cent. But scores 
of individual Press Club members gave their time, their energy, 
their ingenuity, their influence, and where they had it, and once 
even where they didn'ttheir money. 

Nothing could be more tangible than the building thus created 
and later "saved ?> for the Press Club. The structure rises fourteen 
stories above 14th and F streets Northwest, the busiest corner in 
Washington. It provides space for 1,001 offices, of which ap- 
proximately two hundred and forty are occupied by news cor- 
respondents; for eleven shops, a basement cafeteria, and a theater 
seating 3,480 persons in addition to the club's quarters. Random 
statistics indicate the building's size: two miles of corridors, five 
miles of electrical wiring, a massive rectangular structure of terra 
cotta, brick, steel, and concrete extending two hundred and sev- 
enty feet on F Street and one hundred and fifty feet on 14th 
Street and covering nearly an acre of ground. 

Architecturally the building is more functional than distin- 
guished, with faintly Italianate overtones. One construction en- 
gineer referred to its styling as "early Balaban and Katz." 

If the building is very real today, it seemed very unreal in the 
mid twenties when a club member named James William Bryan 
first made the obviously preposterous suggestion that the club 
could solve the housing problem it then faced by erecting a ten- 
million-dollar office building. For about six months in 1908 the 
infant Press Club had occupied a second-floor flat over an F 

108 " ^d Here We Sit Today!" 

Street jewelry store; before the year ended it took over two floors 
at 15th and F streets over a drugstore; in 1914 it moved to the 
top floor of the Albee Building. Now in 1924 the Albee Building 
management was asking the club to move on because the space 
was desired for other tenants. The club membership was tired 
of moving and had become determined in the American tradition 
to own its own home. Henry L. Sweinhart, Washington corre- 
spondent of Havas, the French news agency, was elected president 
of the club that year on a "building program" platform. Nothing 
concrete had been done, however. 

Bryan had been a newspaperman, printer, and publisher and 
a member of the club since coming to Washington in 1912. Most 
of all, however, he was a promoter. He had raised money to build 
Flora Macdonald College in Red Springs, North Carolina, the 
Woman's National Foundation in Washington, the Croatan (hunt- 
ing and shooting) Club in Virginia, and the lavish Congressional 
Country Club near Washington. At the moment he was looking 
for a new project to undertake. 

There was then the juxtaposition of two facts: the club needed 
new quarters, and club member Bryan, the promoter, was looking 
for something new to promote. Bryan started on his own. He had 
begun work on a "Memorial to Motherhood," but the women con- 
cerned with the project fought among -themselves and motherhood 
had to go unmemorialized, at least insofar as this particular 
scheme was concerned. A planetarium as a memorial to Woodrow 
Wilson next engaged his attention, but personal difficulties among 
the sponsors again proved insuperable. Finally Bryan decided 
upon promoting the largest private office building in Washington, 
to be called the National Press Building and to be dedicated to 
the Press Club. 

First Bryan turned loose a staff of eighteen gentlemen thor- 
oughly experienced in the promotions of the twenties. They found 
that there was every reason to expect, Bryan says, that a building 
such as he envisioned could be rented. At that time the southeast 
comer of 14th and F streets on which the Press Building now stands 
was dominated by the old Ebbitt Hotel, a rococo, six-story relic 
of Civil War days. Part of the building blocked an alleyway. Next 

Hugh Morrow 109 

to it on F Street was the tiny, two-and-one-half-story building in 
which Aaron Burr had his law office at the time he killed Alex- 
ander Hamilton in one of the most celebrated duels in all history. 
Next adjoining on F Street was the Hooe Building, a Victorian 
monstrosity with a cast-iron front. 

Bryan discovered that the land was controlled by the Storm- 
feltz-Loveley Co. of Detroit, acting as trustees. Although the 
names of the partners in this real-estate firm were not invented 
by Dickens, they were indicative of their personalities. Harry A. 
Stormfeltz, Bryan recalls, was hard-boiled and irascible. Bryan 
dealt with Edward A. Loveley. They met in a room at the Com- 
modore Hotel in New York. Loveley had broken a toe on the golf 
course and sat with the injured foot propped on a pillow. Bryan 
appeared with a bottle of scotch. The conversation went on for 
some time, interspersed with singing o "Annie Laurie" and other 
songs. Bryan learned that Loveley was at odds with his partner 
and was willing to grant an option on the land to forestall other 
plans under consideration by Stormfeltz. 

"We had just worked down to about label level/* Bryan recalls, 
"when Loveley turned to me and said, < A11 right, I'll give you the 
option. Do you have a dollar?* I said I did, so we called for a 
public stenographer, and she typed up the agreement* 

"Oh yes," Loveley added, "there is one more stipulation. You 
must promise that youll never sing 'Annie Laurie' again in my 

Bryan, who loves to sing particularly "Annie Laurie** gulped. 
But a deal was a deal. "I promise/* he said with resignation. 

The dollar was, of course, merely a gesture, for the option re- 
quired a payment of $2,850,000 for the land itself in thirty days, 
with a thirty-day extension. It was obvious to Bryan that Loveley 
did not expect the terms of the option to be met. Loveley had 
reasons of his own for granting the option, but Bryan meant 

Bryan went out and found builders interested in the proposition, 
who in turn found bankers willing to underwrite the sale of first 
and second mortgage bonds, totaling $6,250,000. The builders 
agreed to provide $450,000 on a third mortgage. He even started 

110 ". . . And Here We Sit Today!" 

negotiations with Famous Players-Lasky, the theater chain, for 
renting the proposed theater and obtained preliminary architect's 
sketches and estimates. The plan at that time was to erect an 
eleven-story building, for, according to a law designed to prevent 
private construction from dominating government buildings in 
Washington, that was about>as high as a building ought to go. 

It was August of 1925. Bryan came back from New York with 
his package of dreams and requested a meeting of the Press Club 
membership. Bryan had a proposed contract including twenty-two 
typewritten pages of requirements which the club would have to 
meet if the deal was to go through. A Club committee submitted 
the contract to Colonel William J. (Wild Bill) Donovan, then 
assistant to the United States Attorney General. Donovan said it 
was a good contract if the club could do the many things re- 
quired of it. Most important of all, Bryan had obtained the sup- 
port of John Hays Hammond, the famous mining engineer and 
then one of the richest men in the world, and John Joy Edson, 
chairman of the board of the Washington Loan and Trust Com- 

Later in the month the membership meeting was held. Mem- 
bers' reactions ranged from open hostility to delighted incredulity. 
The club had to organize a separate corporation for the building, 
because clubs as such could not under District of Columbia laws 
hold real estate beyond their own needs plus $25,000. The corpo- 
ration would have to sell $650,000 in preferred stock. It would 
have to obtain a theater lease of at least $175,000 a year plus an 
agreement that the theater people would spend a minimum of 
$200,000 in decorating the theater and would put up another 
$200,000 as security for rent. It would further have to obtain 
leases for the rest of the building other than the stores. 

Richard V. Oulahan, chief of the Washington bureau of the 
New York Times, led the opposition. Oulahan, now deceased, was 
one of the most respected correspondents in the capital. Bascom 
N. Timmons, representing a long string of Texas and other news- 
papers and who subsequently became a key figure in saving the 
building for the club, followed Oulahan's lead, and so did many 
others. In days to come the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit News, 

Hugh Morrow 111 

the Providence Journal, and other major papers were to express 
their disapproval editorially. But a majority of the club members 
present favored the idea. They named a subcommittee composed 
of Messrs. Hammond, Edson, Sweinhart, and Bryan to carry on 
further negotiations. 

Bryan went back to Loveley and demonstrated that the club 
really meant business. Harvey D. Jacob, a former special assistant 
to the Attorney General and an associate member of the club, 
was called upon for legal advice and recommended that some- 
thing more substantial in the way of an option be obtained. 
Subsequently under date of September 4, 1925, upon assignment 
by Bryan of his personally held option on the land and for a 
consideration of $50,000 payable to Stormfeltz and Loveley in 
three installments the option was taken over in the name of the 

First there was the problem of raising the initial payment of 
$12,500 on the option. The club did not have that land of money. 
Bryan executed a demand note in that amount at the District 
National Bank, where he was told that the money could be bor- 
rowed if a dozen Press Club members acted as co-signers. These 
men, eventually totaling thirteen, have become known in the club 
annals as The Signers, honored in retrospect almost equally with 
the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Each obligated 
himself personally for $1,050 of the note; some may have had 
that much in the bank, some might have been able to raise that 
much if sued, some, it can safely be presumed, were not within 
hailing distance of that much money. 

The fact that two bank presidents were signers number twelve 
and thirteen and that a bank cashier was signer number eight in 
no way diminishes the personal risk these men were willing to 
undertake to make a dream come true, for such substantial signa- 
tures were obtained in a last-minute gesture of desperation. Har- 
vey Jacob was the first of the co-signers. Next came Harold J. 
Pack, an attorney, now deceased; then Thomas R. Shipp, reporter 
and advertising man; Club President Sweinhart; Homer J. Dodge, 
then editor of the Banker/ Information Service and, as Bryan 
and many others recall, "a tower of strength" in making the 

112 ". . . And Here We Sit Today!" 

building a reality; Charles S. Hayden of the Nashville Banner; 
Frank P. Morgan, now deceased, Washington representative of 
August P. Bekaont, the great financier and race-horse fancier; 
C. J. Gockeler, cashier of the bank which loaned the money; 
Edward E, Britton, of the Raleigh News and Observer; Frank 
B. Lord, former newspaperman and vice-chairman of the U.S. 
Shipping Board; Frank Morse, financier and broker; Edson and 
Robert Harper, president of the bank which made the loan. 

It was a severe strain upon the banking laws for the president 
and cashier of the District National Bank, which made the loan, 
also to act as co-signers, but, the statute of limitations having 
run, the incident is worth mentioning as an illustration of the 
weird events which produced the Press Building and as an indica- 
tion of the times. The club was having a terrible problem in find- 
ing all The Signers. Finally Harper, the bank president, was 
asked whether he and the cashier wouldn't help to fill out the list, 
and they dubiously consented. The note was dated September 3, 

A month later another $12,500 was due. John Hays Hammond 
came to the rescue. He put up the money himself. In the interim 
the Press Club had been negotiating with the Fox Film Corpora- 
tion, a motion-picture-producing company shortly to go into the 
film-distributing business as the Fox Theatre Corporation. Wil- 
liam Fox, president, wanted to make the theater in the Press 
Building the first of a new theater chain. Famous Players-Lasky 
(Paramount) had been in the deal first and out and possibly in 
again. A theater lease acceptable to the bankers was vital to the 
whole project, since the theater operators, whoever they were, 
would be the most important tenants of the building. 

Edson, Sweinhart, Bryan, and Jacob went to New York on 
October 6 and conferred at the Hotel Belmont with Hammond 
and a vast assortment of lawyers, prospective architects, and 
theater representatives. The whole transaction was emerging from 
a dream world into reality, and the all-important Messrs. Ham- 
mond and Edson wanted a real showdowncould the project 
succeed or couldn't it? If it could, fine; if not they would with- 
draw their support and let it die. Famous Players had tentatively 

Hugh Morrow 113 

agreed to make their lease subordinate to the mortgages as de- 
manded by the bankers; now they opposed this notion. Fox, ham- 
mering on the back door, was then brought in, and a tentative 
lease was agreed to, including a $500,000 advance on a fourth 
mortgage on the building. This was considered quite a victory 
for the Press Club, because it was thus relieved of much of the 
responsibility of selling the original $650,000 issue of preferred 
stock, which was not going well. It was suggested that the final 
papers be signed the next day. Edson and Hammond would not 
agree. They would not go to bed, they said, until a tentative agree- 
ment was signed, and if it were not the deal was off. 

Bryan, Sweinhart, Jacob, and a bankers' lawyer went to the 
Ambassador Hotel to the rooms of A. C. Blumenthal, Fox's busi- 
ness representative. The wrangling went on for hours. The room, 
according to the index of files in the possession of Harvey Jacob, 
was "flooded with scotch whisky and noisy people." Finally at 
three o'clock in the morning Jacob sat down before a portable 
typewriter and pecked out an agreement. Blumenthal signed it, 
and the word was triumphantly conveyed to Edson and Hammond 
at the Belmont. They insisted, however, that Fox also sign the 
agreement. Fox was at his home in New Jersey, but he came over 
to the Ambassador and attached his signature. Charlie Chaplin, 
the great comedian, was visiting Blumenthal at the time. His 
presence was demanded, interrupting a conversation with a beau- 
tiful young woman receiving instruction in the cinema art. Several 
of the principals wanted Chaplin's autograph; in addition he 
witnessed William Fox's signature on the tentative agreement. 
Chaplin signed in green ink almost illegibly. 

The triumphant negotiators returned to Washington to explain 
to the Press Club what they had accomplished. The task had 
required the better part of two or three days. The sessions at the 
Belmont and the Ambassador were in fact only two of many such 
hectic meetings. The deal was off every evening and on again 
the next morning. Press Club members sat like spectators at a 
championship tennis match trying to follow the ball. 

Through all this ulcer-raising agony the one tangible asset the 
Press Club had was the option on the land, which Bryan had first 

*. . . And Here We Sit Today!" 

obtained in his own name for one dollar and other considerations 
and later assigned to the club which had to raise $50,000 to make 
the option good. It was in this period, Bryan recalls, that Blumen- 
thal at one point offered Bryan personally $500,000 for the option. 
Harvey Jacob remembers an occasion on which Blumenthal said, 
"Why don't you fellows get out of this; we'll give the club $800,- 
000 for your option." Blumenthal's own recollection is that he said 
at one point that certainly the option was worth half a million 
dollars and that the Fox interests subsequently raised the offer to 
about $750,000. Whatever the precise situation may have been, it 
seems clear that the option was a negotiable asset worth hundreds 
of thousands of dollars. Debate arose within the club as to 
whether the option shouldn't be sold so the club could purchase 
more modest quarters. 

The Chaplin-witnessed agreement ran to only three pages, but 
the formal printed lease based upon that agreement totaled thirty- 
two book-size pages. After it was all printed Fox decided he 
wanted to make several changes. Sweinhart, Bryan, and Jacob 
went to the home of Saul Rogers, Fox's attorney, and walked into 
a psychological stunt worthy of Mark Twain. Rogers figured that 
the longer people were kept waiting the more amenable they 
would be to his proposals. He was operating a player piano when 
the Press Club representatives arrived. He told them to go on 
upstairs to his study, where they would find refreshments. As 
for Rogers, he kept on operating the piano in the living room 
for at least an hour while the committee pleasurably awaited his 
arrival in the study. 

Rogers's psychology might have been effective, but he made 
one error. He had neglected to put Fox's copy of the lease out 
of sight. There in plain view on a desk in the study was Fox's 
signature on the lease he wanted to change. It was obvious that 
Fox was willing to accept the lease as printed, but had instructed 
Rogers to obtain the changes if possible. Finally after the player 
piano had tinkled mechanically through such classics of the times 
as "Brown Eyes, Why Are You Blue?" and "Oceana RolF Rogers 
strode confidently up the stairs. Instantly he spotted the signed 
lease on his desk, snatched it up, and tossed it into a drawer, 

Hugh Morrow 115 

while the Press Club delegates tactfully averted their gaze. The 
argument went on until five o'clock the next morning, but the 
Press Club representatives well aware that they had the upper 
hand would not budge. The lease was finally agreed to as printed. 

Then came November 4, 1925, and the final $25,000 was due 
on the option. Certain New York bankers involved in the mort- 
gage financing had promised to advance that amount, but when 
it came due they were dissatisfied with the progress of negotia- 
tions and backed down. Panic spread among The Signers. The 
Fox interests were asked for a loan, and it was at this point that 
the offers for the option, ranging into six figures, were made. 
Finally Mr. Hammond was approached. He raised unshirted hell 
because the bankers' promises had not been obtained in writing. 
He declaimed at length on the naivete of newspapermen involved 
in high finance. Then he advanced the $25,000 himself, with 
Sweinhart, Jacob, and Bryan co-signing a note for that amount. 

Just to make the situation more complicated and wearing there 
was a serious question about the title to the land because of that 
alleyway which for no explainable reason had been obliterated 
when the Ebbitt Hotel was built over it. The District of Columbia 
Commissioners held that if the Ebbitt was torn down the alley 
would have to be reopened. Citizens* associations in the District 
became aroused, but listened sympathetically to an impassioned 
speech by Bryan. It was obviously undesirable, to put it mildly, 
to run an alley through the middle of the proposed theater. Finally 
with the aid of Dan O'Connell, then on the city desk of the 
Washington Times, a compromise was reached whereby the alley 
would jog around the building if a back corner of the structure 
was lopped off to provide turn-around space for trucks. 

To top it all off it was discovered in November that the building 
would cost more than anticipated in August, and the basic fi- 
nancing had to be renegotiated. It was finally agreed that the 
first and second mortgages would total $6,600,000 instead of 
$6,250,000, and that the building corporation would sell $200,000 
worth of preferred stock. There remained the third mortgage of 
$450,000, held by the builders, and Fox loaned $500,000 on a 
fourth mortgage. The deal was finally closed on December 22. 

116 ". . . And Here We Sit Today!" 

The first and second mortgage bonds went on the market, a very 
favorable one, in December and were subscribed three times 
over within ten days. Everyone concerned heaved a sigh of relief 
but little did they know of the troubles which lay ahead. 

Under the original plans for an eleven-story building the Press 
Club's quarters were to be located on the seventh floor. Demoli- 
tion of the old buildings on the site began January 6, 1926, and 
after a few crises over the removal of tenants from the old build- 
ings the club's building committee could watch the work pro- 
gressing satisfactorily from temporary offices in the Westory 
Building, across F Street from the site. 

In the meantime, however, club members had been engaged 
in a bit of genteel lobbying to obtain a special Act of Congress 
which would permit construction of a fourteen-story building. 
The idea was to give the club larger quarters than could have 
been provided on the seventh floor and also to increase the build- 
ing's potential income by releasing the seventh-floor space for 
commercial rentals, as well as to provide additional rental space 
on the extra floors. 

This stirred up another hornets' nest. Opponents of the scheme 
said the club was suffering delusions of grandeur that it wanted 
to build "a skyscraper," and by Washington standards it is not 
altogether unreasonable to consider a fourteen-story building a 
skyscraper. Adverse editorials were written, and Senator William 
H. King of Utah even conducted a one-man filibuster against the 
bill. But Senator Royal S. Copeland of New York and Represent- 
ative Thomas L. Blanton of Texas led the fight for the bill, 
pushed it through after a stiff battle, and the bill became law 
April 16, 1926. The club could go ahead with its "skyscraper." 
Now there was the little problem of raising the additional money 
needed for the extra stories. 

At this point the building had four mortgages on it and con- 
sisted of a great hole in the earth in which the tides rose and fell 
daily, Washington is a sea-level town, and every time the tide 
rose in the Potomac the water would rise in the excavation and 
minor landslides would follow, slowing the excavators. Even 
today that tidewater is a problem; thirty to fifty gallons of water 

Hugh Morrow 117 

are pumped from sump wells in the subbasement of the building 
every minute. 

But arrangements had been made to have President Coolidge 
lay the cornerstone on April 8 and the President of the United 
States waits for neither time nor tide. 

The ceremony was held on schedule, and it started inaus- 
piciously. A Metropolitan Opera diva imported especially for 
the occasion started singing the "Star Spangled Banner/' but the 
Marine Band played "America/' After a dozen bars the band made 
a quick switch, however. This musical contretemps and the ora- 
tory which followed went out over a nationwide radio hookup. 
Newsreel and still cameramen duly recorded the great event. 
Every Washington correspondent and a visiting delegation of 
Latin- American journalists were in the crowd which packed 14th 
Street from Pennsylvania Avenue to F Street. 

President Coolidge in a hard, high collar, cutaway coat, and 
striped pants scooped up mortar with a golden trowel and laid 
the cornerstone. There were certain peculiarities about this cere- 
mony, however. The cornerstone was not the cornerstone which 
appears in the building today. Nor was it laid at the building 
line, for the simple reason that if it had been it would have 
fallen into eight feet of water the tide was up at the moment. 
Instead it was placed on a temporary brick wall built on the side- 
walk for the purposes of the ceremonial. Furthermore the heavy 
copper box containing the usual mementos which are placed 
inside cornerstones was kept in a safe for several months after 
the ceremony before it could be placed inside the real corner- 
stone. Nevertheless the club membership rejoiced at the event 
the dream was becoming a reality. 

The sale of preferred stock at one hundred dollars par value 
with seven per cent cumulative dividends got under way. Con- 
stantly as building progressed there was a need for more money. 
Then high-pressure salesmen went to work. Club members per- 
suaded friends to invest. Newspapers bought $121,000's worth, 
and individual newspapermen $78,600. Secretary of the Treasury 
Andrew W. Mellon invested $50,000; Mr. Hammond contributed 
$52,700; Edson bought $14,000's worth; and Otto Kahn, the New 

118 *. . . And Here We Sit Today!" 

York financier, $25,000. The Washington Evening Star tossed 
$25,000 into the kitty, the Los Angeles Times $10,000, McGraw-Hill 
$15,000, the National Geographic $25,000. The great bulk of the 
total sale of $1,232,700 in preferred stock, however, was made to the 
general public. It was the era when "everybody'' played the market. 

The builders meanwhile had finally solved the problem of the 
rising tides, and the first tenants, a law firm, moved into the build- 
ing on August 25, 1927. Occupancy in those days was not an un- 
mixed blessing. The elevators were not yet operating, and some 
of the early newspaper occupants, such as the men working for 
McGraw-Hill and the Baltimore Sun, recall walking up twelve 
flights of stairs to their offices. Many of the early occupants did 
their own painting and installation of electrical fixtures and parti- 
tions, subtracting the expense from their rent payments. The 
building was still short of money. 

This was such a chronic condition in those days that at one 
point, despite passage of the bill permitting a fourteen-story build- 
ing, there was serious doubt that it would be anything more than 
an eleven-story building after all Stock sales were not going well 
and the builders, naturally enough, wanted cash on the line 
before adding the three extra stories including the Press Club 
quarters. Harvey Jacob and the long-suffering John Hays Ham- 
mond stepped into the breach. Jacob arranged loans totaling 
$260,000 from two Washington banks, and Hammond personally 
loaned another $50,000. These loans, f antasticaUy negotiated with 
no more security than the fact that it was hoped that enough stock 
would be sold to cover them, assured completion of the building 
and the Press Club quarters as they stand today. Later the same 
year, because completion of the building had been delayed and 
anticipated income was not forthcoming, there was a slight matter 
of raising another $300,000 to meet interest on mortgage bonds. 
Jacob went to work again and borrowed the money from the 
builders themselves and from the Fox Theatre interests. The age 
of miracles at least financial ones was not past. 

The Fox Theatre, now known as the Capitol, was opened on 
September 19, 1927, with the President, his Cabinet, the diplo- 
matic corps, and a long list of other distinguished guests in at- 

Hugh Morrow 119 

tendance. Louis Ludlow, of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, then 
president of the Press Club and later to be a congressman, wrote 
a panegyric appropriate to that occasion. "If the scroll of time 
could be rolled backward three and one-half centuries and the 
boy Shakespeare could emerge from beneath the horizontal slab 
at Trinity Cathedral, whose inscription forever forbids meddle- 
some interference with his bones, how he would be thrilled if he 
could behold what we see tonight!" Ludlow wrote. And at year's 
end the club members marched in a procession bearing trophies 
of Presidential junkets from the old quarters in the Albee Build- 
ing to the vastly larger and more elegant quarters in the Press 

For the first seven years the building operated in the red. In 
1928, the first full year, it was necessary to refinance the four 
mortgages totaling $7,550,000 into two mortgages totaling $8,450,- 
000 plus $200,000 in unsecured notes. No dividends were paid 
on the preferred stock, nor have any been paid to this day. The 
building was 85.5 per cent rented in 1928, but only because of 
a windfall from the government. The Bureau of Internal Revenue 
needed 'space while its present Washington headquarters build- 
ing was under construction, and it took over four hundred and 
twenty-five offices in the Press Building. Four stores and the 
cafeteria were vacant all year, and two other stores were not 
occupied until the latter part of 1928. The situation was some- 
what better in 1929, but the Bureau of Internal Revenue moved 
out in mid 1930, and the arrival of the Federal Radio Commission 
by no means made up the loss. Preferred stockholders were 
screaming, and the bondholders began to evidence a vast disquiet 
over the situation. 

Bascom Timmons was elected president of the Press Club in 
December of 1931, and it looked at the time as though he was 
about to head a club without a home. Why shouldn't the club pay 
rent? Why should it have received $90,000 worth of free fur- 
nishings? Why should it stay in the building at all? It was true, 
of course, that the club had entered into the whole proposition 
with the highest of hopes and in the spirit of the boom times 
leading up to the debacle of late 1929. Virtually no one foresaw 

120 ". And Here We Sit Today!" 

the onset of the worst depression in American history. Even the 
stock-market crash was regarded as a temporary thing. Wasn't 
prosperity just around the corner? 

But hard questions faced the club, and answers were neces- 
sary. In January of 1932 on the same night he was inaugurated 
as president of the club Timmons met in the Baltimore Sun office 
in the Press Building with J. Fred Essary of the Sun, who had 
just succeeded Hammond as president of the National Press 
Building Corporation, and with. Jesse H. Jones, an old friend 
from Texas, whom President Hoover had brought to Washing- 
ton to serve on the board of the newly created Reconstruction 
Finance Corporation. Essary showed Jones the balance sheet and 
told him it would be impossible to meet the interest on the 
second mortgage bonds in April. Jones ran a banker's eye over the 
situation, advised Timmons and Essary to hire a lawyer, and told 
them to be looking forward to the possibility of a receivership 
which would save the equity of every investor in the building. 

The building went into receivership on October 17, 1932. Law- 
rence B. Campbell, general manager of the building, was appointed 
as receiver at his regular salary, which had already been "cut from 
$6,500 a year to $5,000, in line with salary cuts which had reached 
even the lowliest porter. Under laws then existing the only solu- 
tion seemed to be foreclosure of the mortgage. "Don't let them 
do that, Timmons/* President Hoover advised. "First mortgage 
bondholders have been pretty ruthless. They have been foreclos- 
ing buildings right and left, getting property in many cases far in 
excess of the mortgage liability. This has spread misery all over 
the country." 

Timmons and Essary went to work. There were endless con- 
ferences with bankers, "protective committees" of bondholders and 
representatives of the preferred stockholders. In addition to Tim- 
mons and Essary, Paul Wooton of McGraw-Hill, Carter Field of 
the New York Herald Tribune, Edgar Markham of the St. Paul 
Dispatch, O. M. Kile of the Kile Syndicate, Raymond P. Brandt 
of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and George W. Stimpson, then 
editor of the Pathfinder threw themselves into the fray. Timmons, 
however, was the enfant terrible of this group, for he could lose 

Hugh Morrow 121 

his temper more artistically than anyone else. Fists were waved 
under astonished bankers' noses, and on one occasion Timmons 
growled, "The bonded debt of this building is less than half of 
its value. We got as much usable money from the preferred stock 
purchasers as we did from the mortgage holders. The good faith 
of the Press Club is at stake. 

"If under the circumstances you bondholders foreclose your 
mortgage I shall do my best to see that every newspaper tenant 
moves out of the building, and., furthermore, I shall personally 
chisel off the name National Press Building." 

At the same time the newspapermen's lobby was functioning 
again. President Hoover agreed that a law permitting corporate 
reorganization rather than mortgage foreclosure was needed 
badly, but was able to get nothing more from Congress than a law 
providing this relief for railroads. By October of 1932 it was 
obvious that Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York was 
about to be elected President. Timmons and Eugene S. (Red) 
Leggett of the Detroit Free Press went to work on candidate 
Roosevelt aboard the campaign train. Roosevelt was sympathetic. 
Immediately after his election he was guest of honor at a Press 
Club dinner. Brandt sat on one side of him, Timmons on the 
other. Again the question of a new bankruptcy law was raised. 
Roosevelt said he would see what he could do. 

Even so, despite a Congressional honeymoon of die early New 
Deal, it was not until 1934 that section 77-B, the corporate reor- 
ganization section, was adopted amending the bankruptcy laws. 
Club members obtained the House-Senate conference report, and 
lawyers started drawing the petition. Brandt, Stimpson, and 
Kirke L. Simpson of the Associated Press kept a death watch at 
the White House. The instant it was announced that President 
Roosevelt had signed 77-B into law word was flashed to Timmons. 
Fifteen minutes later Timmons was hammering on the door of 
the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. It 
was by all odds the first petition under the famous 77-B clause 
which saved thousands of other buildings and corporations all 
over the country from ruin, 

In point of time it took longer to reorganize the building than 

122 ". . . And Here We Sit Today!" 

it did to build it. Again the Press Club's special position came into 
question. What had the club contributed to the building? Always 
the answer was that it held the option for the land, negotiated by 
Jim Bryan and for which offers as high as $800,000 had been 
made. Press Club members, most notably Bryan, had promoted 
the project Finally a plan of reorganization was approved by the 
court. Campbell was named trustee on June 9, 1934, and the re- 
organization became effective January 1, 1935. 

Under the reorganization plan holders of mortgage bonds and 
preferred stock waived nearly $1,500,000 in interest and accumu- 
lated dividends and new mortgage bonds were issued at reduced 
rates of interest. First mortgage bondholders in exchange for 
waiving eight and one half months' interest amounting to $239,- 
755.10 received one share of preferred stock and one share of 
common stock in the Press Building Corporation for each one 
thousand dollars of mortgage bonds held. This reduced the status 
of the Press Club from sole holder of common stock to holder of 
approximately eighty-five per cent of the common stock. Preferred 
stock, with an original par value of one hundred dollars per share, 
seven per cent cumulative dividends, was reissued at two shares 
for each original share held, with dividends at two dollars and 
fifty cents per share per year, non-cumulative. Like most of the big 
buildings in the country the Press Building went through the 
wringer, and a lot of people lost money. Unlike many reorganiza- 
tions, however, the Press Building's trial by fire did not enrich any 
sharpshooters. Campbell, with the aid of Walter M. Bastian, at- 
torney for the receivers, and of other club members, handled the 
whole thing. Representative Adolph J. Sabath of Illinois, chairman 
of a select committee of the House of Representatives investigat- 
ing real-estate bondholders' reorganizations, cited the Press Build- 
ing as an outstanding example of a low-cost reorganization in 
which the equity of junior security holders was preserved. 

Ever since the reorganization the building has made money in 
amounts ranging from $120,000 to $226,000 per year. It was 94.3 
per cent rented in 1935, 99.08 per cent rented in 1936, 99.69 per 
cent rented in 1937, 99.36 per cent rented in 1938, 100 per 
cent rented in 1939, and 99.41 per cent rented in 1940. Ever since 

Hugh Morrow 123 

then it has been 100 per cent rented, with a steadily growing 
waiting list, particularly on the part of present tenants who wish 
to expand. 

With such a favorable picture it was small wonder that the 
building corporation had no difficulty in refinancing in 1946. The 
mortgage and note indebtedness of 1935 had been reduced by 
approximately $2,300,000 or on an average of about $200,000 a 
year. The bondholders were paid off in f ull, and the Equitable Life 
Assurance Society took over the mortgage at reduced interest. Ad- 
ditional funds needed to complete the deal were obtained from 
local banks on unsecured notes. The building had come full circle 
from wildcat scheme to solid and completely desirable invest- 

From the beginning the Press Club's common stock, the only 
voting stock in the corporation, has been administered by a trus- 
teeship. This was done on the insistence of the original bankers, 
for organizations such as clubs are frowned upon in banking 
circles when it comes to controlling a corporation. The trustees 
name the directors of the building corporation, who name the 
officers, who name the executive committee which controls build- 
ing policy. Thus through the trustees the club controls the build- 
ing today. Even at 1949 market values the club's common stock in 
the building corporation is worth in the neighborhood of $360,000. 

It is impossible in 1949 to predict the eventual situation, but, 
assuming continuance of a reasonable level of prosperity, there 
is every indication that by 1955 or 1956 the mortgage may be 
sufficiently reduced so that the interminably deferred dividends 
on the preferred stock may start to be paid. Eventually that stock 
can be called in at fifty dollars a share. After the preferred stock 
there is an obligation of $300,000 for non-interest-bearing deben- 
tures which were issued to Bryan as the promoter of the building. 
And after that the club will own the building except for the 15 
per cent of the common-stock shares issued in the reorganization. 
At the close of 1950 the trusteeship controlling the club's common 
stock will terminate. By then the club must decide whether to 
continue the trusteeship or take control of the stock itself. 

Years ago, when the building was first getting under way, Press 

124 ". . . And Here We Sit Today!" 

Club members used to talk seriously of what the club would do 
with its profits from the building. A country club? Journalism 
scholarships? A fund to aid old and indigent newspapermen? The 
ideas considered in those days were no more fantastic than the 
circumstances which produced the building. And, like the seem- 
ingly fanciful dream which built the National Press Building, 
these dreams, too, may someday come true. 


Tradesmen's Entrance 


Homer Joseph Dodge See Chapter 7. 

The business press is far older than the general news press. News 
of battles and the rise and fall of kingdoms was intermittent; 
producers of goods and the merchants who distributed them 
were in need of a steadier stream of intelligence. 

Herodotus communicated trade news, and so did other early 
travelers, but the founding of a business and industrial press in 
anything like the modern sense must be attributed to the House of 
Fugger. Johann Fugger, originally a weaver, died at Augsburg 
in 1409, but not until after he had founded a house of merchants 
the members of which became bankers to kings, and themselves 
princes. The vast success of the House of Fugger which flourished 
throughout the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries has 
been ascribed to the trade news service which it established. 

Neues Zeitungen (News Tidings) was the business letter which 
the Fuggers devised. It became a daily issue. First covering only 
the German provinces, it was extended until it had correspondents 
as distant as China in one direction and as the Spanish, English, 
and French colonies of America in the other. Foreign letters were 
translated into various languages and redistributed to the Fugger 
branches. In addition to news of production and of markets and 
news of political events as they did or might affect trade the 
Neues Zeitungen reported upon the activities of the Fuggers* 

It was not until a century and more later that a comparable 
phenomenon took place in England. Sir Thomas Gresham had 
been born in Norfolk in 1519. He became a merchant at an early 
age and at Antwerp heard of the business methods of the Fuggers. 

Tradesmen's Entrance 

Antwerp perhaps even more than Venice was a clearing house o 
business news of the known world. Returning to England, he 
established a news service in candid imitation of the Fugger sys- 
tem. His widely distributed corps of correspondents was scattered 
over the chief trading places of Europe. By courier, by fast sailing 
ship he received the latest intelligence in the world of trade. Be- 
side building his own tremendous fortune he made the fortunes 
of thousands of others. He was responsible for the building of the 
Royal Exchange, itself not only a bourse, but a news clearing 
house. Because of the knowledge he gained through his business 
news service, he was able to lay down Gresham's Law, which dic- 
tates that cheap money always drives sound money into hiding. 

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw the establish- 
ment of regular trade journals such as SelFs magazine on Hus- 
bandry and Trade and Lloyds News. By the mid nineteenth 
century every important British industry and trade had its journal. 
Today the textile industry alone has thirty-five trade publications, 
the engineering professions forty-seven, shipping sixteen, with 
other branches of trade and industry amply represented. 


The American business press, as apart from other early Ameri- 
can publications, began with the New York Prices Current, which, 
founded in 1795, continued until 1920. Prior periodicals carried 
trade and market news, as collectors' files attest, but the Prices 
Current must be regarded as the forerunner of a branch of news- 
paper publishing which has reached a higher development here 
today than in any other country. According to Julien Elfenbein, 
probably the foremost authority on the subject, more than thirty 
industrial and trade publications came into existence between 
1795 and the Civil War, some of which survive. They were de- 
voted to iron, steel, coach building, leather, and many other 
industries. One of the most notable of all American technical 
journals was the Scientific American, founded in 1845 by Rufus 
Porter, a shoemaker's apprentice and house painter who had a 
turn for invention. He invented a camera, a washing machine, a 

Homer Joseph Dodge 127 

corn sheller, and, if you please, a flying ship, among other things! 
Orson Desaix Munn bought the paper in 1846, and his grandson 
of the same name is the present publisher. The office of the 
Scientific American knew such visitors (usually seeking publicity) 
as Elias Howe, A. B. Wilson, Samuel F. B. Morse, Captain John 
Ericsson, Dr. R. J. Catling, Thomas A. Edison, Samuel P. Lang- 
ley, Peter Cooper Hewitt, and many another, men whose names 
are closely woven into the fabric of American industrial history. 

There were less famous but doubtless equally valuable journals. 
There was the Butchers and Packers Gazette, founded in 1808. 
The Railway Age had its beginning in 1856, the Prices Current 
Grain Reporter in 1844, the Iron Age in 1855. After the Civil War 
there was a full flowering of the business press, and scores of 
papers were founded, some to become great, some to go under or 
merge with others. The late nineteenth century saw the birth of 
the important publishing firms which now share in the domination 
of the business-press field. It is a curious fact that several of the 
men destined to become leaders in business journalism came from 
far other walks. E. A. Simmons of Simmons-Boardman had been 
a counter jumper in a Brooklyn department store, James H. 
McGraw was a school teacher, and John A. Hill was a fireman 
on the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. Soldiers, sailors, me- 
chanics, college professors, grocery salesmen, and even poets and 
novelists have drifted into the trade-paper arena. On the other 
hand John Thompson, who founded Thompsons Bank Note and 
Commercial Reporter in 1836, also founded the Chase National 

Business publications include a wide variety of papers. There is 
the general business paper such as the Journal of Commerce, 
founded in 1827, and a whole list of classified categories extend- 
ing to the house organ. Poor Richards Almanack was the first 
American house organ, issued by Benjamin Franklin to advertise 
his print shop. Others, such as Duns Review, Harper's, Scribnefs, 
and Colliers have evolved into something else. When George P. 
Rowell first issued the American Newspaper Directory in 1869 he 
listed fifty-six publications under the headings Commerce, Fi- 
nance, and Mechanics in other words the business press of the 

228 Tradesmen's Entrance 

day. The first edition of N. W. Ayer & Son s American Newspaper 
Annual published in 1880, listed six hundred and sixty-nine pub- 
lications of the sort, but included some which Rowell had perhaps 
purposely omitted. For example, the Ayer listing has one hundred 
and ten fashion magazines alone and thirty-two devoted to music. 
The Standard Rate and Data Service, most comprehensive of all 
such lists, now gives approximately nineteen hundred publica- 
tions of the industrial trade, technical, and specialized press. 

Proud of the tradition of Samuel Harrison Smith, Murat Hal- 
stead, and Ben Perley Poore, the Washington correspondents of 
the turn of the century were somewhat inclined to think of the 
business press as the deck is inclined to think of the engine room, 
the city room of the business office. At the time of the founding 
of the National Press Club there were but three members of the 
Capitol press galleries who could be classed as belonging to the 
business press. But their status was not pure, because their daily 
papers also reported more general news. These three were Walter 
E. Clark of the New Jork Commercial, John Boyle of the Wall 
Street Journal, and H. Parker Willis of the New York Journal of 
Commerce, afterwards to be known as one of the authors of the 
Federal Reserve Act, Secretary of the first Federal Reserve Board, 
President of the Philippine National Bank, and occupant of the 
chair of banking at Columbia University. The first member of the 
galleries to appear as representative of an industrial paper alone 
was Charles E. Kern of the Oil City Derrick By 1920 we find the 
galleries further enriched by the membership of Lynne M. Lamm 
of Chicago Daily Hide and Leather, A. E. Heiss of the Traffic 
World, and John C. Atchison of the Daily News Record. 

World War I altered the standing of the business press at 
Washington and indeed throughout tie country. It was the first 
war in which industry had been intensively organized, in which 
control had been imposed, in which there had been definition and 
allocation of essential materials, and in short in which full recog- 
nition was given to the importance of industrial mobilization. 
Bernard Baruch, as chairman of the War Industries Board, had 
established the "Acid to Zinc" committees; Herbert Hoover was 

Homer Joseph Dodge 129 

Food Administrator; a War Trade Board, a Capital Issues Com- 
mittee, a War Finance Administration had been created. Foreign 
purchasing missions sat at Washington. A Robinson, Crusoe ap- 
pearing on the scene uninitiated as to background would have 
gained the impression that Washington was an industrial rather 
than a political and military capital; that if a war was being 
waged it was being waged with almost anything but traditional 
arms. And the Washington correspondents of the business press 
were the war correspondents of that era. Their numbers increased 
amazingly. Entire news bureaus were opened at the national cap- 
ital almost overnight The business press had come into its own! 

It was Herbert Hoover who, as Secretary of Commerce, prob- 
ably did more than any other government official to bring the 
business press into its fullest national usefulness aside from its 
peculiar sphere. An engineer, he understood the technical prob- 
lems of industry and especially the relation of industry to the 
government. For nearly a decade Mr. Hoover presided at a 
monthly dinner attended by the Washington correspondents of 
the trade press and many of their editors and publishers who 
came to the capital for these occasions. Mr. Hoover realized that 
the business press was of the utmost value not only in carrying 
out broad industrial policies, but actually in initiating them. 

Throughout the Presidencies of Mr. Harding, Mr. Coolidge, 
Mr. Hoover, and Mr. FranHin D. Roosevelt frequent meetings 
took place in addition to regular press conferences between the 
correspondents and editors of the business press and the incum- 
bent President. But that was by no means all. When important 
news issues arose special conferences were arranged with cabinet 
members and other high officials such as, for example, J. Edgar 
Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who was 
keenly interested in threats of sabotage to industry. Not seldom 
these conferences were sought by the government officials them- 

The business press corps had become so large and influential 
during the preparedness period prior to Pearl Harbor that when 
that event occurred it was that part of the Fourth Estate which 

130 Tradesmen's Entrance 

was especially utilized by the government in the Herculean task 
of starting the engine of American industry. As the war pro- 
gressed, such men as William S. Knudsen (later Lieutenant 
General) of the Office of Production Management, Donald 
Nelson of the War Production Board, Leon Henderson of the 
Office of Price Administration, General Brehon B. Somervell, head 
of the Army Services of Supply, their successors, and scores of 
others charged with the heavy burden of sustaining the war pro- 
duction and distribution in all phases leaned on the business 
press. Through that press more intimate messages (because more 
technical) could speedily be distributed throughout industrial 
America. In a word the technical press spoke the language as the 
daily press could not. 

During the period of the rise of business press representation 
at Washington, correspondents who solely represented one or 
more publications in that field were not made eligible for mem- 
bership in the Senate and House press galleries. Not a few had 
other newspaper connections which gained them admission, albeit 
such connections were of lesser import to them. This situation 
was so unsatisfactory that in the spring of 1941 the Congress 
responded to requests and established the periodical press gallery 
with office quarters, communication, and other facilities similar 
to those provided for members of the daily press. Gallery super- 
intendents are provided for the Senate and House sides, and a 
standing committee of members of the gallery is in immediate 
control. As in the case of the other galleries, the supreme authori- 
ties are the Speaker of the House and the Committee on Rules of 
the Senate. When the periodical press gallery first opened it had 
but a score of active members; now there are sixty! 

The trade paper of the newspaper profession itself is Editor and 
Publisher., established under that name in 1901. It had absorbed 
predecessor publications in the same field. The first was The 
Journalist, founded in 1884. Newspaperdom, established in 1892, 
and The Fourth Estate in 1894 later were merged. Also included is 
Advertising, founded in 1925. James Wright Brown is president of 
the Editor and Publisher Publishing Company, the head offices of 
which are in New York. James J. Butler has for years been Wash- 

Homer Joseph Dodge 131 

ington correspondent and, holding this unique position, probably 
is acquainted with more newspapermen than any other. 

Many individual correspondents have worked tirelessly for the 
business press, but one individual long has stood out as its chief 
champion at Washington. Paul Wooton, Washington member of 
the editorial board of the Chilton Publications (and also corre- 
spondent of the New Orleans Times-Picayune), a president of 
the National Press Club, helped in organizing the National 
Conference of Business Paper Editors and has served some years 
as president of that body. On a day in June 1943, Mr. Wooton 
called at the White House with some ninety members of the 
National Conference. Forestalling professional discussion, the 
President drew from his desk a gold watch and read to the as- 
semblage the inscription upon it: "Presented to Paul Wooton by 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of the Associated Busi- 
ness Papers in appreciation of his outstanding service to the 
business press in time of war. June 11, 1943." 


Ferdinand Lundberg, writing in the April 1940 issue of Harpers 
Magazine, observed: "A revolution has been quietly undermining 
the foundations of world journalism. The revolution is the work 
of the news letters, which some day may be regarded as the 
greatest new departure in the newspaper business since the in- 
vention of the telegraph, the linotype and the rotary press. 7 * 

The first Washington newsletter as they are known today was 
established by Homer Joseph Dodge in 1913. Associated with him 
for a brief period were C. N. Odell, afterward managing editor of 
the Washington Herald, and Ernst Knorr. Later George Gall, 
Harvey Jester, Edward A. Gross, and Lynne M. Lamm replaced 
their interest under the continuing editorial direction of Mr. 
Dodge. The Bankers' Information Service, as the newsletter was 
called, began as an intermittent letter to banks and was almost 
wholly confined to news of the establishment of the new Federal 
Reserve System. It developed into a daily, carried by leased wire 
to New York and printed there and covered all news of the Fed- 

132 Tradesmen's Entrance 

eral Government of importance to banks, industrial corporations, 
commercial establishments, law firms, and a wide variety of other 
interests. The daily report consisted of some ten thousand words. 

Although the staff had a permanent nucleus of full-time report- 
ers, various other part-time men were employed. Reporters who 
were specialists in various fields contributed news of those fields. 
Also Richard Boeckel, head of the Capitol staff, had part-time 
assistants. Reporters who later became notable figures on the 
Washington newspaper scene served on the staff of the old 
Bankers Information Service which incidentally had a twin issue 
under the name of the Federal Trade Information Service. Ralph 
A. Collins, George Durno, Wfllard M. Kiplinger, Avery Marks ( a 
president of the National Press Club), Lynne M. Lamm, Irving D. 
Foos, Louis Rothschild, Robert G. Covell, and others were of the 
staff. J, Bond Smith covered tax matters. 

As specialists, the members of the staff knew their subjects 
with an intimacy usually denied to correspondents of the metro- 
politan dailies and the press associations, with the result that the 
Bankers' Information Service frequently was first with Washing- 
ton news. On some occasions and by special arrangement such 
papers as the New York Times or the old New York World might 
adorn its front pages with a story beginning, "The Bankers 9 In- 
formation Service tomorrow will say . . ." but as a rule the news 
was served exclusively to the subscribers. 

Each subscriber to the service owned the privilege of asking 
for copies of bills in Congress, government publications, and 
answers to particular questions. Superficially this would appear 
unduly burdensome, but did not prove so in practice. While the 
Firestone Tire and Rubber Company or Henry Ford might ask 
anywhere from one to a dozen questions a day, J. P. Morgan 
would limit himself to one or two a year, so the more avid subscrib- 
ers' special services were paid for in effect by the more abstemious 
or less curious. Some remarkable developments resulted from 
special inquiries. For example, Harvey Firestone the elder wanted 
to know full details of every country in the world where rubber 
could be grown, with details of monthly rainfall, soil surveys, 

Homer Joseph Dodge 133 

labor, tax and other laws, shipping facilities., access to the interior, 
forms of government, and everything else. The information was 
furnished in four days. When the report was in, an appointment 
was made for Mr. Firestone with Herbert Hoover, then Secretary 
of Commerce. As a result Mr. Hoover obtained an appropriation 
of one hundred thousand dollars from Congress for an investiga- 
tion covering the same ground. It took a year and added little to 
the original four-day report on the basis of which Mr. Firestone 
established his Liberia project and did some experimenting in 

All Washington newsletter editors have discovered that the 
letter thrives best when what Big Business regards as an opposi- 
tion party is in power at Washington. While a Washington news- 
letter has a surprisingly wide variety of subscribers, the chief 
support arises from big business, and big business has been 
preponderantly Republican. It is felt that every possible source 
of Washington news must be drawn upon. Thus the Banker/ 
Information Service, starting in 1913, throve throughout the en- 
suing years of Democratic rule, but declined when the Repub- 
licans took office, Big Business believing that with its friends in 
power the need to watch Washington had passed. The Service 
expired at almost the apex of its friends' prosperity in 1927! 

There have been and still are highly specialized Washington 
newsletters of shorter or of longer life. The letters of Prentice- 
Hall, Standard Statistics, and Commerce Clearing House are 
devoted mainly to taxation, but touch, often at large, on other 
business subjects, usually with technical emphasis. The second 
Washington newsletter of wide interest was established by two 
Philadelphia newspapermen, P. H. Whaley and Henry M. Eaton, 
in 1918. Mr. Whaley was editor-in-chief and Mr. Eaton managing 
editor of the Philadelphia Evening Ledger. They established the 
Whaley-Eaton Service in the belief that the American people and 
especially the business community wanted something more than 
the daily press offered. World War I had produced a vast out- 
pouring of official and other propaganda. Messrs. Whaley and 
Eaton believed they should report background news without 

234 Tradesmen's Entrance 

coloring together with a calculated estimate of what that news 
meant. It is of special interest to quote from Mr. Lundberg again 
where he says: 

Business people still feel, as they report to the newsletter services, 
that all Washington Administrations exercise an indirect censorship 
through officials who discriminate socially and professionally against 
independent-minded journalists. Business people also believe that 
through advertising much private censorship is exercised over news, 
even though editorial policy is not dictated by advertisers. They think 
that the consciousness of a unity of interest with advertisers must affect 
the vision of a newspaper publisher. They feel that a newspaper with 
a large capital investment is not likely to take a pessimistic view of the 
business or political trend even when such a view is warranted by the 

The present success of the two outstanding Washington news- 
letters is strong and competent testimony to the soundness of Mr. 
Lundberg's observation. Newsletters carry no advertising. Even 
though their very titles embody the names of their editors they 
have a curious, half-shadowy anonymity Oracular, Sibylline! 
Even though they contain no confidential information, they have 
the aura of doing so, an aura with which they are endowed almost 
wholly by their subscribers! The member of the Rotary Club, in 
the Middle Western town and the Wall Street banker alike feel 
and want to feel that they have inside arcane information. And 
it is true that the Washington newsletter is free of all political, 
commercial, or any other pressure. The only weapon which could 
be used against it is wielded by the governmenta threat of with- 
drawal of the mailing privilege. Should this weapon ever be 
used, too many people would want to know why. 

The Whaley-Eaton Letter, now edited by the aging but still 
active P. H. Whaley and Harry Eaton, son of the late original 
partner, is issued in two parts. The American letter is a thought- 
ful, almost scholarly discussion of the American scene. A foreign 
letter was added in 1923. It emanates from London, but covers 
background news of importance from China to Peru. Politico- 
economic developments in Spain and Russia, South African gold 
production, the effects of censorship in India, and the Chinese 

Homer Joseph Dodge 185 

picture are covered with keen intelligence. The Whaley-Eaton 
Foreign Letter is written for American clients, but both letters 
have readers in many foreign countries. 


Wfllard Monroe Kiplinger knew Indiana's Abe Martin in his 
Ohio boyhood, and it scarcely can be questioned that he applied 
much of the wisdom he absorbed from that sage. For after what 
might be termed an apprenticeship with the Associated Press and 
the Bankers' Information Service he established the Kiplinger 
Washington Letter in 1923. It has become the Washington news- 
letter of widest circulation and probably chiefest influence. It has 
about a million readers. 

The Kiplinger Letter differs from the Whaley-Eaton in many 
respects. While the Whaley-Eaton Letter develops the situation 
as to a relatively few subjects each week, the Kiplinger Letter 
strews scores of news items and comments upon them through its 
pages. While the Whaley-Eaton Letter wears a certain dignity of 
presentation, the Kiplinger Letter runs trippingly along. The 
Whaley-Eaton Letter might be said to be to the Kiplinger Letter 
what the Atlantic Monthly is to Time magazine, the Union 
League to the Rotary Club! In respect of each comparison there 
is no secret as to which represents the greater circulation. 

As one of the more alert members of the Associated Press 
Washington staff Mr. Kiplinger learned Washington news and 
how to assay its value. As a reporter who sought contacts with 
every likely news source few channels escaped him. Further, he 
knew how to build around his desk a staff of specialists in various 
fields. The Kiplinger Washington Letter is assembled from the 
carefully prepared notes of the members of this staff. Frequent 
staff conferences are held through the week and then a final one 
at which the contents of the current letter are decided upon. Then 
Willard Kiplinger writes the letter. The style is indelibly his as 
the style of Time is Henry Luce's. But Mr. Kiplinger writes every 
word of his paper, as Mr. Luce does not 

Mr. Kiplinger now issues adjunctive letters, specializing within 

Tradesmen's Entrance 

his specialty. There is the Kiplinger Tax Letter, inaugurated 
in 1925; the Kiplinger Agricultural Letter, with a large audience 
among farm co-operatives, in 1929. Additional service, such as 
particular research, has not been held out to Kiplinger sub- 
scribers, but when inquiries are received full and careful replies 
are vouchsafed. Moreover Mr. Kiplinger draws from his clients 
suggestions of the utmost value as to what lines of investigation 
would prove fruitful of news of peculiar interest. The same 
relationship subsists between the Whaley-Eaton Service and its 

It has been fondly believed by some superficial observers that 
all one need do to start a Washington newsletter is to command 
a mimeograph. Careful analysis of this younger sister of the 
American press teaches that probably more anxious thought, 
more curious investigation, more earnest effort to arrive at essen- 
tial truths go into the production of Washington newsletters than 
into the daily filings of newspaper and press-association corre- 

Kiplinger, Whaley, and Eaton were all active newspapermen 
before they issued newsletters. Their enterprises have proved 
more than comfortably profitable, but the quickening redolence 
of printers* ink never could be completely fanned away from their 
nostrils. Inescapably drawn by this lure, Whaley-Eaton founded 
the Sphere in 1931 and Kiplinger Kiplinger s Magazine in 1946, 
both monthlies, both heart-warming jobs of typography and gen- 
eral format, with a satisfying high quality of material. The Sphere 
ceased publication in 1942, the war bringing paper and other 
shortages. Kiplinger s Magazine continues. 


Editorial Research Reports was established in 1923 by Richard 
Boeckel, Burt P. Garnett, and Homer Joseph Dodge, with Cleve- 
land Perkins subsequently joining. Mr. Garnett had been asso- 
ciated with Lowell Mellett, columnist and during World War 
II director of the Office of Government Reports, in the Scripps- 
Howard enterprises, and Mr. Perkins had served at many courts in 

Homer Joseph Dodge 1S7 

the American Diplomatic Corps. Editorial Research Reports 
maintains its original purpose of furnishing to editors compre- 
hensive material on a given subject. Each week the subscribing 
editor receives a study of some subject uppermost in the news or 
likely soon to become so. Such a report is not an editorial; it is 
material on which editorials can be based. 

At the conclusion of every session of Congress Editorial Re- 
search Reports issues records of the votes cast by every member 
on every measure of any importance, including votes on interior 
actions such as motions on amendments, appeals from rulings, 
and the like, always provided such votes have significance. In 
1929 a daily report was added to the service. It is edited by 
Bertram Benedict. 

Congressional Quarterly was started in the capital in 1945 with 
Henrietta and Nelson Poynter he also owns the St. Petersburg 
(Florida) Times as editors and publishers; and it is thriving as 
a link between the local newspaper and radio and Capitol Hill. It 
aims to give the facts to editorial writers and commentators and 
leaves the opinions to them. 

David Lawrence's United States News and World Report, itself 
a general news magazine, has auxiliary specialized issues which 
come within the category of Washington letters, especially as to 
format Apparently to meet the competition of the newsletters, 
a number of magazines, chiefly in the business field, print pages 
(somewhat in the nature of a newspaper's stop-press replate) 
in typewriter type, giving the impression of last-minute coverage. 
The Chamber of Commerce of tie United States issues Business 
Action, a Washington newsletter, and several trade associations 
issue such sheets, usually weekly. There is a Marshall Plan Letter^ 
and there have been somewhat ephemeral newsletters covering 
specific matters such as war surpluses. Roland Davies issues 
Tele-communication Reports, now covering television. A notable 
Washington newsletter issued for about a decade is that of Theo- 
dore Roosevelt Goldsmith. It concerns itself wholly with govern- 
ment securities. This is the type of letter which must be the work 
of an individual. Mr. Goldsmith is a recognized authority on his 
subject and the United States Treasury has consulted him on 

Tradesmen's Entrance 

policies. His letter reports on all fiscal developments directed by 
the federal government and the Federal Reserve System. 

Mr. Lundberg sums up his estimation of this phenomenon of 
the revolution in journalism by saying: 

"The newsletters have, in brief, made two important new dis- 
coveries. Significant news is not what is happening all over the 
world but what is happening within a few square city blocks of 
the world's surface. Vital news is not what has happened; such 
news is water over the dam, beyond control. Vital news is what is 
going to happen!" 


There is an important segment of the American press which 
cannot properly be grouped with the trade or business press, al- 
though specialized in purpose, nor can it be regarded as belonging 
to the general news press. It is the immensely self-conscious and 
the clamantly articulate labor press. It embraces some two hun- 
dred papers and magazines of national circulation and hundreds 
of local issues. It is conservatively estimated that the labor press 
now has a circulation of 16,000,000. The first outright labor paper 
was the Journeyman s Mechanics 9 Advocate, established at Phila- 
delphia in 1827. The Miners 9 Journal soon followed. Samuel Gom- 
pers, for half a century president of the American Federation of 
Labor, founded and edited the Cigar Makers 9 Official Journal in 
1876. The Carpenter has been published for seventy years. 

It is a far cry from these pioneers to the hundreds of labor 
journals and what amounts to a labor press association, the Feder- 
ated Press, as well as several syndicates. The earlier labor papers 
dealt almost wholly with the inner affairs of labor unions; today 
the labor press has a stentorian voice in national affairs. A recent 
survey of 16,075 editorials, articles, and items culled from one 
hundred labor press papers revealed that nearly four fifths of them 
dealt with social and political affairs, while 23 per cent were de- 
voted to economic issues. Only about one fifth of what was printed 
had to do with internal union affairs. 1 

The editorial style of many labor papers is still sharply remi- 

X >-M Digest, October 11, 1948. 

Homer Joseph Dodge 139 

niscent o the uninhibited American press of the first half century 
of the life of the Republic when, if an editor did not apply the 
bitterest epithets to his political opponents, it was only because 
they had escaped his memory. Any jaded reader of the conserva- 
tive daily press would find stimulating reward from perusal of 
most labor papers. 

To be sure, there is one branch of the labor press which main- 
tains a different and much higher tone. The American Federation 
of Labor issues Labor's Monthly Survey., and the Congress of In- 
dustrial Organizations publishes the Economic Outlook. These are 
addressed to the leaders of the labor movement and members of 
their staffs and to no slight extent to the conventional newspaper 
press and to as much of the public as may be reached. These pub- 
lications are handsome in format and sedately scholarly in expres- 
sion. Needless to say, Labor's survey and Labor's economic 
outlook, while covering the same ground fundamentally as the 
surveys and economic outlooks of management, discover and 
descry far other things. It scarcely can be gainsaid that some in- 
different judges might find that the surveys and economic outlooks 
of management publications could be regarded as equally myopic. 

The Washington corps of correspondents includes not a few 
who devote their entire efforts to the labor press. Editors, re- 
porters, caricaturists for labor magazines are active members of 
the National Press Club and belong to the press galleries of Senate 
and House. On important labor stories special labor reporters are 
sent to Washington, and each press association and some of the 
big dailies have men whose sole assignment is labor. In the sum- 
mer of 1949 Labor Press Association came into being. This is a 
co-operative news-gathering agency owned by 185 labor weeklies 
with a combined claimed circulation of 12,000,000. 

Personnel., organ of the American Management Association, in 
its January 1949 issue observes concerning the labor press: 

The labor papers carry a great deal of factual material pertinent to 
craft and occupational interests of their readers. They tell the essential 
story of unionism. They provide a needed opportunity to the rank and 
file to blow off steam, throw pop bottles at the umpire, indulge in 
sincere criticism of union leadership as well as management. They 

140 Tradesmen's Entrance 

also perform a public service in bringing to light certain important 
information which is seldom found in the daily press, information in 
fact which labor claims the daily press prefers to suppress. 

At least in one historical year the labor press proved the best 
gauge of American political opinion. In September 1947 the labor 
press stood two to one against President Truman. In April 1948 it 
was three to two against him. But in September 1948, but a few 
weeks before the epochal election, the labor press stood eleven to 
one in his favor! 


"Just One More, Please" 

BY HOWARD L. KANY Howard L. Kany is press radio repre- 

sentative for the Washington Bureau 
of AP. He was for a number of years 
newsphoto editor in the Washington, 
New York, and Chicago bureaus of AP. 
He is from Dayton, Ohio, and is a 
former staff member of the WasMng- 
ton Daily News. 

AND' WILLIAM C. BOURNE William C. Bourne is chief Congres- 

sional correspondent for the Interna- 
tional Information Service of the State 
Department. He was with OWI dur- 
ing the war and has worked on news- 
papers in his native Asheville, North, 
Carolina, throughout the South and in 
New York. 

The unexpected sun that shone down so brilliantly upon Harry S. 
Truman's Presidential inauguration in Washington's crowd- 
packed Capitol Plaza on January 20, 1949, despite the chill day 
bathed in its warming rays some three hundred and fifty news 
cameramen the largest and most diversified crew of its kind ever 
assembled in the national capital up to that time. 

When Chief Justice Fred Vinson prepared to administer the 
oath of office, swarms of men with Speed Graphics and some 
with telescopic lenses took careful aim from dozens of van- 
tage points. Some used black-and-white film, others full color. 
Many were banked in tiers in the spindle-legged steel stand so 
thoughtfully erected by inaugural officials directly facing the 
President thirty to forty feet above the interested throng of 
spectators. Newsreel crews ground away at strategic spots along 

142 "Just One More, Please" 

with their sound specialists, shooting for motion picture screens. 
Others recorded for telecasts. 

For the first time television cameras picked up inauguration 
scenes for spontaneous relay directly to living rooms in tens of 
thousands of American homes. The event marked significantly the 
latest great development in the field of visual journalism, but it 
also emphasized clearly through the deference shown the camera 
crews that news photography had come of age. 

With Washington's propulsion into top spot in national and 
international affairs, visual journalism has kept pace and a 
veritable stream of news pictures and of spot news and interpre- 
tive editorial cartoons flows outward from the national capital 
daily by plane, rail, wire, courier, and wireless to a news-hungry 
world. No event in the area worthy of the label "news" goes un- 
accompanied by the click of many shutters, the blinding flash of 
photographers* bulbs, and the scratch of artists' pens across 
drawing boards. 

Since Johann Gutenburg invented the fundamentals of modern 
letterpress printing, journalism has striven unceasingly to improve 
the graphic arts and thus to bolster its work with illustration. 

As the newspaper fraternity well knows, in the days before 
modern photography came into its own visual journalism placed 
its entire dependence in the line cut on a wood block. On May 
9, 1754, Benjamin Franklin in his Pennsylvania Gazette published 
what is said to be the first political-news cartoon ever to appear 
in the press of this country. An early reproduction hangs today on 
a corridor wall next to the National Press Club library. It depicts 
a snake divided off into eight sections, the head representing New 
England and the other seven parts the remaining colonies. "Join 
or Die/* the caption admonishes. 

Illustration of the news progressed little beyond the line cut 
until daguerreotype equipment, followed closely by the camera, 
was developed in the period just prior to and during the War Be- 
tween the States. 

Necessity is the mother of invention, and perhaps it was the 
pressure of the devastating drama of the war that touched off the 
next great forward stride in the field and gave to Mathew B. 

Howard L. Kany and William C. Bourne 143 

Brady his strong claim to the title of father of news photography. 

Brady, a Washington photographer, first realized the intense 
value of photographed battle action to the news. The heavy- 
bearded apostle of tripod and lens packed up his crude and 
unwieldy apparatus when the war broke out and set out in the 
wake of the Union armies to photograph subjects of such spirit, 
action, and personality that their extraordinary historic worth 
now far exceeds their great material value. 

In 1874 the federal government bought up Brady's collection 
of seventy-two hundred negatives for the paltry sum of $2,840. 
Apparently realizing its niggardliness, Congress later voted him 
another $25,000. But even as far back as President Garfield's 
administration the negatives were valued at $150,000. They are 
now so prized that along with other almost priceless American 
historic records they repose in the vaults of the National Archives. 

Ensuing years saw illustration in the press inch its way forward, 
but more in the advertising than in the news and editorial 
columns. It was not until 1880 that half tones made from photo- 
graphs began to appear alongside the printed word in the field of 
news and editorial comment. Since then the art has taken seven- 
league strides, with the greatest and most lasting coming in the 
period from World War I to World War II. 

The birth of visual journalism as it is known today was pre- 
ceded by excruciating labor pains, no small part of which was 
reflected in the treatment accorded the photographers them- 
selves. While reporters, columnists, and editorial writers were 
accepted generally in all walks of public and private Me some of 
them even making the social "blue book" photographers were 
decidedly persona non grata. 

That the situation has changed so sharply is due without doubt 
as much to the courage, resourcefulness, and persistence of the 
photographer himself as to the ingenuity of American inventors 
who produced better equipment for the job he had at hand. 

Until 1930 almost all news photographers operated out of doors 
without flash equipment and indoors by time exposure or with the 
aid of a villainous type of explosive flash powder which had to be 

"Just One More, Please" 

poured into a V-shaped metal trough mounted on a vertical 

There followed a lightninglike flash accompanied by a star- 
tling muted sound that can be described only as a tremendous 
"poof or "whoosh/* A great cloud of gray-white smoke rolled 
through the room, into the corridors, and even upstairs, leaving 
in its wake such acrid and pungent effects as to bring strong 
sneezes and watery eyes to the hardiest subjects. 

With advent of flash bulbs and shutter-synchronizing equip- 
ment this aspect of news photography changed, but the subjects 
of pictorial effort could not forget the startling experience and 
they wanted no further part of visual journalism's battle for 
recognition. The artist with his Speed Graphic still was persona 
non grata. 

Until World War I Washington photographic coverage was on 
a hit-or-miss basis. Free-lance cameramen handled occasional 
assignments for the big still-picture and newsreel companies, or 
for the most important events the companies might send down 
from New York a staff crew on special assignment. Then, with the 
war, training camps were established near by at Camp Meade, 
Maryland, and Camp Humphries, Virginia, for the doughboys. 
Home-town papers were crying for more and more pictures of 
them. Foreign missions and delegations began to pile into the 
capital, always making news. So full-time professional cameramen 
streamed in for ''tile duration'* and never got away. 

Washington blossomed from a whistle stop to a big-city news 
center, and camera coverage was a necessity. It was in this period 
that photographers began to replace pen-and-ink artists as the 
chief producers of newspaper illustrations, and the subjects 
themselves mostly national and international figures on the 
capital scene were becoming educated to the full value of a good 
news picture. 

Some prominent figures continued to balk at having a lens 
pointed their way. Washington had a patriotic parade in Septem- 
ber 1918. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker was on the review- 
ing stand with many other notables. A platoon of photographers 
crept up to photograph General John J. Pershing. Baker remon- 

Howard L. Kany and William C. Bourne 145 

strated with considerable vigor, and they "shot" him in the act 
The Washington Times printed the picture and in its columns 
commented, "Photographers fought a hard war yesterday. Though 
provided with passes, as usual, they were beneath the notice of 
Washington police. Nobody was friendly, everybody showed 
themselves otherwise, and the poor picture takers were chased 
helter-skelter about the court of honor.'* 

During President Wilson's second term a band of photog- 
raphers had to stand vigil across the street from the White House 
near the old State, War, and Navy Building, which was as close as 
they were permitted to loiter. They had no passes or pressroom 
and could only enter the White House grounds on special request. 
They had to snap their pictures on the run as notables left the 
White House gates. This work was tiring and the rewards skimpy 
for men who lugged around heavy box-type cameras and movie 
equipment on unwieldy tripods. 

Among the dozen cameramen who stood these White House 
dogwatches were Harry Van Tine of International News Photos, 
J. C. Brown of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer News of the Day, and 
George Dorsey of Warner-Pathe News. All three are stiE on the 

The photographers had wanted for some time to snap pictures 
of President Wilson playing golf, but Dick Jervis, the White 
House Secret Service chief, wouldn*t consent. One day he called 
them in, told them there was a shack full of knotholes near one of 
the greens where the President would be putting and they could 
sight their lenses through these knotholes. He took them out to 
the shack, and they crowded in. Becoming accustomed to the dark 
interior, they soon saw there were no knotholes. They tried the 
door. It had been padlocked on the outside. President Wilson 
played his game undisturbed. 

For five months during the fall and winter of 1919-20 the 
photographers tried to get permission to photograph Wilson, who 
was ill at the White House. Then in the spring they learned he 
was permitted to sun himself on the south lawn. Van Tine and 
several colleagues hid with their cameras in a load of hay ordered 
for the White House sheep. Secret Service men. noticed a sus- 

146 "Just One More, Please" 

picious bulge when the vehicle reached the White House gate. 
The photographers were unloaded outside, and the hay went on 
in to the sheep. 

On February 17, 1921, at the Capitol, House Speaker Frederick 
H. Gillett issued a list of rules governing entrance to the House 
Office Building. Rule two stated, "Dogs are not allowed to be 
brought into the House Office Building." Rule three said, "Per- 
mission to photographers must be in writing by the superin- 
tendent o the House Office Building." Said the Washington 
Herald next day, "Adding insult to injury, the cameramen feel it 
would have been more tactful to have inserted at least a para- 
graph between the order forbidding them the building, and a 
similar decree excluding dogs." 

These and many similar instances led two dozen news photog- 
raphers on June 13, 1921, to get together and organize the White 
House News Photographers* Association, with Arthur Leonard as 
the first president. George Christian, secretary to President Har- 
ding, issued the members identification cards granting them ad- 
mission to all public events and some private ones at which the 
President appeared. The association did not limit membership to 
photographers covering the White House. It was, and still is, 
open to all full-time professional news photographers in Wash- 

The early twenties brought a turn for the better in photog- 
raphers* working conditions. The White House opened a press- 
room and began to issue a daily calendar of the President's 
appointments, permitting the cameramen to plan when they 
should be there and when they could shoot pictures elsewhere. A 
former newspaperman and a member of the National Press Club, 
Harding posed for news pictures several times a week. He had 
a good general knowledge of photography, was informal and 
considerate, and the news cameramen regarded him as their 

"It used to be difficult," wrote George Dacy in the Dearborn 
Independent of June 3, 1922, in noting the capital's change of 
attitude toward news cameramen, "to obtain photos of Govern- 
ment officials and members of Congress. Many leaders were 

Howard L. Kany and William C. Bourne 147 

prejudiced against having their pictures published. The present 
Administration has softened such antipathies. Notables who once 
frowned whenever they saw a news photographer's camera now 
smile and pose." 

But cameramen still had barriers to cross. Dacy said in his 
opinion President Harding did not like to have his picture taken 
"any better than do you or I," but that he submitted to it because 
newspaper and magazine readers the world over wanted to see 
photographs of the President, and he considered it his duty to 
appear before the camera at frequent intervals. 

Public figures began entertaining cameramen. Senator Thomas 
Coleman DuPont of Delaware took photographers* association 
members for a fishing and swimming expedition down the Poto- 
mac. President Coolidge invited White House cameramen for a 
cruise on his yacht, the Mayflower. The photographers in turn 
started a series of annual dinners in honor of the President and 
other high federal officials. The first such banquet on March 1, 
1923, at the Arlington Hotel, cost $2.50 a plate. Tickets for the 
1949 dinner held on March 19 were $12.00. 

At the 1925 dinner Calvin Coolidge was chief honor guest. The 
next year he couldn't attend, so a delegation which included the 
1949 association president, George Dorsey, sliced off the top deck 
of a cake made in the form of a photo album and delivered it 
to the President. 

On August 8, 1924, photographers obtained a rare picture of 
the usually stern-faced Coolidge. He was pictured laughing at a 
not-so-spectacular play during a baseball game between photog- 
raphers and writers. The writers won sixteen to eleven, and 
cameramen said it was only because the scribes had the help of 
government statisticians. 

But photographers still were encountering difficulties. During 
an Armistice Day celebration in 1923 at the S Street home of 
former President Wilson close-ups were barred on Wilson's or- 
ders. They were implemented by a roped enclosure, and this 
restriction led to some rough play. A newsreel made that day 
showed a policeman dragging a cameraman along the street. 

"The truth is that Washington has been notorious as a place for 

148 "Just One More, Please* 

news photographers to stay away from/' one newspaper editorial 
stated. "Many times, news photographers have returned to their 
home cities in a generally bewildered condition and with cameras 
and plates broken as a result of manhandling by capital police- 
men. Setting up a camera for pictures that nobody objects to in 
other citiesand which statesmen do not object to when they are 
away from the capital appears to be a heinous offense in Wash- 

This incident led to the issuance of police passes to photog- 
raphers, credentials which would allow properly accredited cam- 
eramen to pass through all police lines. 

At the court-martial of Brigadier General Billy Mitchell in 1925 
still and movie cameramen squeezed into every foot of space 
behind members of the court. The clicking and humming of their 
machines were the only audible sounds above the reading of court 
orders as the trial began. 

When Col. Charles A. Lindbergh returned to Washington from 
his celebrated solo flight to Paris a motion-picture sound truck 
for the first time was included in the working paraphernalia of 
the cameraman. One newsreel firm rushed negatives to New York 
City by special train, processing film en route as the train set a 
new record of one hundred ninety-one minutes for the two-hun- 
dred-twenty-six-mile run. 

With the consent of her parents, Paulina Longworth, daughter 
of Speaker Nicholas Longworth and the former Alice Roosevelt, 
in 1926 posed for pictures at the age of six weeks. One photog- 
rapher reported that the five-minute date in a nurse's arms drew 
more photographers "than an eclipse of the sun." 

So did a White House call that year by Andrew J. Volstead, 
father of the Prohibition Amendment. Volstead refused to pose, 
then began walking away briskly. Cameramen followed. Volstead 
broke into a run. A witness said when Volstead reached the front 
lawn of the White House his long legs were working Like wind- 
mills and his coattails were floating out in his wake. Twenty feet 
behind, like a pack of hunting dogs, came the photographers. The 
author of the Prohibition Act was well down Pennsylvania Avenue 
before he stopped running. But the photographers already had 
what they wanted. 

o g S -5 

. ..w o" B '? 


'~' H t''" 1 r w r"*' 

x g 
i3 Ci" 5 

^ ^ I U ^ 


; 1 

These were homes of National Press Club 
before world's largest press club moved 
into present quarters in National Press 
Building, December 27, 1927. The club 
had 200 members when it established its 
first rooms (top) in building at 1205 
F Street N. W., May 2, 1908. On March 
20, 1909, the club moved to quarters 
above a store at 15th and F streets 
(center). And on March 20, 1914, the 
club took over its third home atop the 
Riggs Building (now Albee Building, 
bottom) at 15th and G streets. 

National Press Club 

Harris 6- Ewing 

The National Press Building at 14th (right) and F streets, N. W., 
houses headquarters for many Washington news bureaus, newspaper 
and magazine offices. The National Press Club occupies the top two of 
the fourteen floors. The club moved into its new quarters December 27, 


f. " "If^^l^L 

J. C. Handy Studio 

Pioneer news photographer Matthew B. Brady (right) watches asso- 
ciate make this 1864 exposure of balding Brig. Gen. R. B. Potter and 
his staff before Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia. In three "Brady 
collections" in Washington are thousands of Civil War scenes and 
portraits by Brady and contemporaries, who obtained remarkable 
results with primitive camera equipment. Close-cropped, this picture 
once was credited to Brady himself, but complete original print revealed 
he leaned this one out. 

In World War II, one of the best-known overseas correspondents was 
the late Ernie Pyle, of Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance, who here 
talks on Okinawa with Marine PFC J. P. Murray (right) of Winthrop, 
Massachusetts. A few days later Pyle was killed by Jap machine-gun 
fire, A Pulitzer prize was among his many awards. From 1941 to 1945, 
1326 Americans served as war correspondents; forty-five were killed. 


Paul Weir 

Washington newsmen (\vith badges) cover historic trial flight of Wright 
airplane just before its acceptance August 2, 1909, as first United States 
heavier-than-air craft. Federal government paid $30,000 for the four- 
cylinder single-engine twenty-five-horsepower machine after Orville 
Wright flew it at forty miles an hour for a few miles in Virginia from 
Fort Myer to Shooter Hill. From left to right are: Philip H. Patchin, 
New York Sun; Paul Weir, Associated Press; John Walter Mitchell, 
Washington Star; Edward B. Clark, Chicago Evening Post; Orville 
Wright; Wilbur Wright; Twouhy of the Washington Post; Charles E. 
Taylor, the Wrights' mechanic; unidentified man; A. P. Arnold, 
United Press; William A. Crawford, New York Times; Sergeant of the 
Washington Herald; Ralph A. (Spike) Collins, Washington Times; 
Carl H. Claudy, Sr., New York Herald writer and photographer. 

President William Howard Taft sat on White House bench in summer 
of 1911 with Washington correspondents grouped around him in this 
precursor of the presidential news conference. Beside him (right) is 
his secretary, Charles D. Hilles. The others are, left to right, Wil- 
liam W. Price, Washington Star, reputed to have been first full-time 
reporter at White House; Guy Mason, New York World, now District 
Commissioner, Washington, D. C.; Gus J, Karger, Cincinnati Times- 
Star; Robert D. Heinl, Leslies Illustrated Weekly; Robert Dougan, 
Associated Press; William E. Brigham, Boston Transcript; Louis Lud- 
low, Indianapolis Star, later for many years congressman from Indiana; 
Dudley Harmon, New York Sun; George Griswold Hill, New York 
Tribune; Paul Weir, Associated Press and Reuters; Major Alfred J. 
Stofer, Birmingham News; William L. Stoddard, Boston Transcript; 
William Hoster, Hearst Publications; William Wolfe Smith, Buffalo 
News; Frank R. Kent, Baltimore Sun; next man not identified; Henry C. 
Biggs, Chicago Inter-Ocean; John Lorance, Boston Advertiser; Orville 
H. Stewart, Baltimore Evening Sun; John Keim Stauffer, New York 
Evening Mail; Albert W. Fox, New York Herald; Oswald F. Schuette, 
Chicago Inter-Ocean; J. Fred Essary, Baltimore News; Arthur C. John- 
son, Denver Rocky Mountain News; Rudolph Forster, White House 
Executive Clerk; Sevellon Brown, Providence Journal; and Charles R. 
Michael, Philadelphia Ledger, Harris & t ^ ( 

Harris & Ewing 

National Press Club members and guests enjoy a summer evening in 
1914 on club roof atop Albee Building. The Washington Monument is 
in background. Among those at tables, from left to right, are: Left row, 
front to rear: First table, Mrs. Fred Britton; Representative Fred Britton 
(R-IH.) ; second table, L. White Busbey, secretary to Speaker Joseph G. 
Cannon; Franklin L. Fisher, 'National Geographic Magazine; third 
table, Russell M. MacLennan, New York Evening Telegram; Mrs. 
MacLennan; and just behind and to left of MacLennan, Theodore 
Tiller, New York Times, and Marvin Mclntire, Washington Times and 
later a secretary to President Franklin D. Roosevelt; right row of tables: 
second table, Mr. and Mrs. William E. Showalter, National Geographic 
Magazine; Mrs. Edwin Hood; Miss Gretchen Hood; Edwin Hood, 
Associated Press. 

At National Press Club, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan 
makes one of first transcontinental telephone calls. On April 3, 1915, 
he speaks to San Francisco on occasion of opening of press quarters at 
Panama-Pacific Exposition. From left to right are: Fred A. Emery, 
Associated Press; Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Byron R. Newton; 
Frank B. Lord, press club president; Bryan; and Theodore H. Tiller, 
New York Times and Southern newspapers. The coasts were first 
linked by public telephone January 26, 1915. 

Harris 6- Ewing 


Harris 6- Ewmg 

Warren G. Harding, one of seven United States Presidents (Taft to 
Truman) who have been members of the National Press Club, casts 
ballot in 1922 club election. At far right is Robert Armstrong, then 
club president. On guard at ballot box are, from left to right: William 
A, Crawford, Central News; Theodore Tiller, New York Times and 
Southern newspapers; Paul Mixter, Detroit Free Press; and Edward 
Coffin of American Red Cross. 

President Calvin Coolidge spreads mortar at cornerstone-placing cere- 
mony for National Press Building, April 8, 1926. Frank B. Lord, Buffalo 
Times, and a former president of the National Press Club, keeps one 
hand on the stone. Just to President's right are Ulric Bell, club presi- 
dent, and Secretary of Labor James J. Davis. Press building was com- 
pleted seventeen months later. 

Harris 6- Ewing 

Wide World Photos, Inc. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt smiles from behind his gadget-cluttered 
desk at one of the news conferences he normally held twice a week in 
the oval room of the White House. This conference was on August 25, 
1939. In May 1949, 550 reporters held credentials permitting attend- 
ance at presidential news conferences. 

Ladies and gentlemen of the press look down from Congressional Press 
Gallery (above flag) to report Franklin D. Roosevelt's account of Yalta 
conference. Roosevelt (at microphones, center) spoke from well of 
House at joint session March 1, 1945-six weeks before his death. 

Wide World Photos, Inc 

Wide World Photos, Inc. 

Newsmen race from a presidential news conference (in oval room, 
off left) to telephones in White House pressroom (off right) after 
President Truman announced on August 14, 1945, that the Japanese 
had accepted surrender terms. 

Harry Truman turns newsman for the moment-as he interviews the 
newly elected president of the White House Correspondents Asso- 
ciation, Robert Nixon (right), INS, on arrival at Key West, Florida, 
March 6, 1949, Nixon's predecessor in office, Ernest B. "Tony" Vaccaro, 
AP, is in center. President Truman had flown to Florida for a rest. The 
press followed in another plane. 

Wide World Photos, Inc. 

Wide World Photos, Inc. 

Washington newsmen crowd around a smiling President Truman for 
a group interview aboard his 1948 campaign train. During pre-election 
months reporters accompanied major presidential and vice-presidential 
candidates on barnstorming tours which took them to the far corners 
of the nation. From fifty to sixty newspaper, radio, photo service, and 
newsreel representatives traveled with Truman during the campaign. 

This diagrammed scene of the 1949 presidential inauguration gives 
some indication of the growth of the Washington news corps from a few 
dozen at the turn of the century to 1,281 accredited newsmen in 1949. 
White lines enclose the press seats (800) and the radio section (180 
seats) in front of the platform (left) where President Truman took the 
oath of office. About 300 photographers still, motion-picture, and 
television recorded the events of January 20, 1949 almost 100 of 
them from a special stand on stilts (right) to provide a direct view of 
the oath-taking. 

Wide World Photos, Inc. 

Wide World Photos, Inc. 

Capitol Hill takes on a Hollywood atmosphere during sensational com- 
mittee hearings, such as this one on October 20, 1947, when the House 
un-American Activities Committee began a public recital of alleged 
communist influence in the motion-picture industry. In an arena 
framed by movie lights and cameras, radio commentators and recording 
technicians, still cameramen and reporters, the committee chairman, 
Rep. J. Parnell Thomas (R-N.J.) with hand upraised (right) swears in 
the first witness, H. A. Smith (left), a committee investigator. Thomas 
is flanked by other congressmen, while additional committee investi- 
gators (backs to camera) sit before microphones in center. 

Just off the Senate Press Gallery (through doors at upper right) are 
spacious workrooms for newsmen who cover the United States Capitol. 
This is one of the rooms, which are equipped with typewriters, tele- 
phones, desks, and copypaper for reporters' use. 

George Tames 

George Tames 

This is the lounge of the National Press Club, atop the National Press 
Building in Washington. The club's main dining room is in left back- 

Twenty-three of the past presidents of the National Press Club assem- 
bled in the club library for this picture in March 1948. From left to 
right they are: Seated-Clifford A. Prevost (president in 1942); Henry 
L. Swemhart (1925); Earl Godwin (1919); Frank B. Lord (1914-15); 
Oswald F. Schuette (1913); Grafton Wilcox (1917); Carter Field 
(1923); Louis Ludlow (1927); Norman Baxter (1930); Standing- 
Sam A. O'Neal (1944); William C. Murphy, Jr. (1934); George W. 
Stimpson (1936); Mark Foote (1934-35); Edward Jamieson (1945); 
Felix Cotton (1943) ; Charles 0. Gridley (1937) ; Bascom N. Timmons 
(1932); Richard Wilson (1940); Arthur Hachten (1939); Warren B. 
Francis (1947); Melbourne Christerson (1941); Harold Brayman 
( 1938) , and Paul Wooton ( 1946) . 

Harris 6- Ewing 

Wide World Photos, Inc. 

General Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the National Press Club register 
as he visits the club February 5, 1948. His successor as Army Chief of 
Staff, General Omar Bradley, awaits his turn. Their escort is Joseph H. 
Short, of the Baltimore Sim, 1948 press club president. At a club 
luncheon Ike said good-by to the capital news corps before leaving for 
the presidency of Columbia University. 

Howard L. Kany and William C. Bourne 149 

Almost as if anticipating such an incident Judge Isaac R. Hitt 
two weeks earlier had ruled from the District Court bench that 
news photographers were within their rights in taking pictures of 
people on the streets. 

When Queen Marie of Romania visited Mount Vemon in Octo- 
ber 1926 the grounds superintendent suddenly decided pictures 
would be prohibited. He thrust out his arm to wave away the 
cameramen, and just missed slapping the queen's nose. Published 
pictures showed the queen lifting her head to avoid the blow or, 
as some uncharitably contended, to be sure the man's hand 
wouldn't obscure her from the photograph. Later in Chicago the 
Queen wearied of sarcastic remarks about photographers, arose at 
a dinner to declare, "The photographer is doing his duty, just 
as I am. I propose a toast to the photographers/* No one took her 
seriously enough to respond, so she drank the toast alone. 

For a time President Hoover fought shy of lens close-ups. But 
photographers didn't stop trying for a scene of the President and 
his "medicine-ball cabinet" at their morning exercise on the White 
House south lawn. A group of them hired trucks upon which they 
mounted cameras equipped with long-distance lenses and circled 
the White House grounds. Hoover immediately spotted them, 
stopped tossing his eight-pound exercise ball, and ordered secret- 
service men to shoo them away. 

Later in Hoover's office the cameramen filmed the President in 
a formal scene surrounded by Senators James E. Watson of Indi- 
ana, Arthur Capper of Kansas, Joseph E. Ransdell of Louisiana, 
and Charles L. McNary of Oregon as he signed a farm-relief bill. 
"Stand still for just a minute," they instructed their subjects. After 
the shots were made Senator Watson broke the tension. "Those 
kodakers," he said, "are the only fellows in the world who could 
keep the mouths of four senators shut for three minutes." 

The big photographic news of 1930 and for many decades, for 
that matter was the introduction of the flash bulb. Its use per- 
mitted full freedom in camera work without danger in theaters, 
hearing rooms, and indoors generally. The new lamps, shaped like 
giant electric-light bulbs, with combustible paper inside (they've 
since been reduced drastically in size *and increased greatly in 

150 "Just One More, Please" 

light values) were first used in Washington news work at the 
White House for a scene of President Hoover signing a forty-five- 
million dollar drought-relief bill and a one-hundred-sixteen-mil- 
lion dollar public-works measure. 

The Associated Press in describing the debut of the flash bulb 
reported, "It blazed vividly, but with no report nor smoke." 

At first the bulb and shutter could be synchronized only by 
guess. Automatic synchronization came later with other innova- 
tions in the news-picture business. Since the start of airmail in 
the early twenties, news syndicates had customarily shipped 
duplicate photographic plates to distribution centers in New York, 
Chicago, and other cities. The advent of Associated Press Wire- 
photo in 1935 and later of Acme's Telephoto and International 
News Photos* Soundphoto put an end to this cumbersome system 
and permitted the dispatching of pictures by wire simultaneously 
with transmission of the news. 

Perishable glass plates long since had given way to cut film, 
which had much faster emulsion speeds. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration marked the opening of 
a "golden era" for Washington cameramen. Roosevelt had a perfect 
sense of the dramatic and unusual. And he loved to travel. These 
factors produced one sought-after assignment after another for 
news cameramen. 

But even a routine Roosevelt assignment generally had a special 
twist. There was the time the President in March 1934 drove to 
Union Station to meet Mrs. Roosevelt, just back from a tour of 
Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The President gave his wife a 
hug and a kiss for their twenty-ninth wedding anniversary. It was 
excellent copy, and the sentimental news pictures went around 
the world. 

Some of the best Roosevelt pictures caught him in relaxed and 
informal moods: eating a hot dog, munching peanuts at a baseball 
game, or with his pet Scotty, Fala, beside him. The photographers 
usually were permitted by Roosevelt to shoot whatever they saw, 
but occasionally there were restrictions. After withstanding a bar- 
rage of flash bulbs for birthday portraits in 1935 President Roose- 
velt took off his glasses to rub his eyes. A picture shot at that 

Howard L. Kany and William C. Bourne 151 

instant appeared in the press with the caption, "The President 
Ponders Farm Problem." This put the entire Washington photo- 
graphic corps on the spot, and the President's Press Secretary, 
Steve Early, ordered that thereafter photos would be made only 
when he gave the word to shoot, so they would illustrate no more 
than the intended story. The sequel was inevitable. 

Several months later Early announced there would be space in 
the President's office for only one photographer during the swear- 
ing-in ceremonies for Postmaster General Frank Walker. The 
syndicates protested such an enforced pool arrangement under 
which the single photographer would provide all services with 
prints, but Early called the office of the Associated Press, where 
he had formerly been employed, and the AFs Charles Gorry was 
ordered to make the pictures. President Roosevelt was so amused 
by the appearance of the lone photographer that he ordered Early 
to make a shot of the new postmaster, the President, and the 
<e brave cameraman/* Soon thereafter Mr. Early announced he 
would in future arrange space for all photographers. 

The era was replete with a variety of good news-picture copy. 
The President's annual birthday baU produced such shots as that 
of Senator Robert R. (Bob) Reynolds of North Carolina greeting 
Jean Harlow, the platinum-blond film star, with his best senatorial 
kiss. There were pictures of the topmost tip of the five-hundred- 
fifty-five-foot Washington Monument made from a precarious 
perch atop the exterior of the shaft during cleaning operations. 
And then there was the famous picture of J. P. Morgan with a 
circus midget on his knee. In June 1933, during a Senate Banking 
Committee inquiry, someone with an eye for the unusual a press 
agent later denied responsibilityplaced the little lady on the 
financier's lap. Morgan was caught off guard, but managed to hold 
the midget long enough for a few flash bulbs to record an interest- 
ing footnote to pictorial history. 

After Pearl Harbor more than half of Washington's professional 
news photographers left for overseas service, some with their own 
agencies or the military shooting with cameras, others doing their 
firing with guns. 

At home for the first time in history women were admitted to 

J52 "Just One More, Please' 

the news photographers* association, and some of them became 
very proficient. 

Roosevelt was whisked in and out of Washington on inspection 
trips to war conferences and other missions. Sometimes photog- 
raphers were left behind lack of space usually was given as the 
reason and sometimes they donned uniforms like Hugo Johnson 
of Paramount News and went with him. When Johnson in full 
military regalia arrived with the President at Mexico City welcom- 
ing ceremonies the band played both national anthems through 
to the end. Johnson had to stand stiffly at attention while the Mex- 
ican cameramen, dressed in civvies, moved about getting their 
pictures. Roosevelt noted Johnson's predicament and went 
through his greetings a second time for his benefit and that of the 
other uniformed American cameramen. 

President Roosevelt's unexpected death, when the greater part 
of the world sorrowed with the nation, brought this era to a close. 

The new President, Harry S. Truman, began his day early and 
often hustled about Washington without previous notice and little 
fanfare. Sometimes he would show up suddenly at the Capitol for 
a conference with his former colleagues or at Walter Reed Hos- 
pital for an informal call on the patients or at a reception at one 
of the hotels. Often he was out for early morning strolls at what 
many Washingtonians did not consider a respectable hour. 

Those Presidential habits required of the news photographers a 
constant alertness. Even when traveling with Truman it was no 
safer for the cameramen to relax than the newsmen. Once the 
photographers had settled down peacefully aboard the Presiden- 
tial train en route with Truman to a speaking engagement at 
Fulton, Missouri. A member of the train crew casually told them 
who was driving the Diesel engine that powered it. Hastily they 
grabbed up their cameras and were off to record the President 
at the controls. 

After V-E and V-J days had passed into history the cry for "just 
one more" picture became so frequent that President Truman 
formed a mythical "One More Club/* "You photographers," he 
said, "work harder than the President of the United States.'* 

Men who were leaders in the capital news-picture field, like 

Howard L. Kany and William C. Bourne 153 

Andrew (Buck) May of Harris and Ewing, Allen Dibble of the 
March of Time, and a host of others, had chatted with or photo- 
graphed Truman many times at the National Press Club, first as 
senator, then Vice-President, then President. As an associate mem- 
ber of the club he, like previous Presidents, has been no stranger 
in the clubrooms. He was still Vice-President in 1945 when at an 
entertainment there photographers "shot" him playing a piano 
accompaniment to Jack Benny's violin. After a few bars they said 
they heard Jack Benny tell him with a grin, "Vice-President or no 
Vice-President, you've got to keep time." 

And who can forget that alluring shot of Hollywood's Lauren 
Bacall seated cross-legged atop an upright piano in the club 
auditorium, while Vice-President Truman deftly fingered the 

Those are only a few of the memorable news pictures that have 
been made within the club's walls as innumerable great figures 
have trooped in and out during the last forty-one years as mem- 
bers or guests. 

The cameramen say Truman has "the feeF for a news picture. 
It was he who provided the picture that won grand prize in the 
1949 season's annual exhibition by the White House News Photog- 
raphers' Association. He set the scene in St. Louis just after his 
amazingly successful re-election when he held up on the train's 
back platform a Chicago Tribune front page bearing the headline: 


Thus it is small wonder that photographic coverage of Wash- 
ington nowadays provides a striking contrast to the light treatment 
accorded the art in the days before World War I. The news 
photographer no longer is either stepchild or afterthought. At 
every big Washington news event the men of the camera corps are 
seen with their complicated gear still cameramen with their 
Speed Graphics popping flash bulbs, newsreel crews with un- 
wieldy machines synchronizing sight and sound behind huge 
blinding floodlights mounted on tall standards, and television 
cameras picking up the news in the making to be flashed direct 

154 "Just One More, Please" 

through the transmitters into thousands of American homes or to 
be recorded for later showing. 

Photographers usually are the first of the news corps to arrive 
at Congressional hearings, notable White House occasions, or 
such history-making events as the signing of the North Atlantic 
Treaty. They come in the front door, well equipped with badges, 
passes, and wallets stuffed with credentials. They seldom run into 
trouble, since they're as well known to the uniformed men who 
police the capital and its buildings as the leading newsmen. 

Often elaborate preparations are made in advance by newsreel 
and television representatives for coverage of scheduled news- 
worthy events. At times stands must be constructed from which 
to obtain the proper angle for viewing a ceremony; there are 
wires to be strung so the floodlights will function properly. Often 
they consult White House officials, the Capitol architect, or com- 
mittee staffs on prior arrangements. At times they pool resources 
with representatives of government agencies in planning advance 
facilities that cost hundreds of dollars. 

When the day of the big photographic event arrives it's real-life 
Hollywood on the Potomac. Cameramen seem to be everywhere. 
They have regularly assigned positions, but invariably some will 
venture into almost every other conceivable spot to get an angle 
shot to his liking. Some have even crawled through a ventilator 
and out onto a narrow ledge inside the Caucus Room of the Senate 
Office Building for that different view of a Congressional hearing. 

In May of 1949 one hundred forty-eight men and women in the 
news-picture business were members of the White House News 
Photographers' Association. One hundred and seventeen were in 
still-picture work cameramen and picture editors for newspapers, 
news-photo services, and news magazines. Twenty-two were man- 
agers or camera and sound-recording operators for newsreel con- 
cerns. And nine were in television-news work. 

The most thorough coverage of national events is provided by 
the still-picture services, four of which have staffs numbering from 
five to twenty* Associated Press Photos has the largest staff, but 
Acme Newspictures, International News Photos, as well as AP 

Howard L. lanif and William C> Bourne 155 

distribute a larg part o their Washington picture copy by wire 
from their dcrwntovm offices. 

The four WaslirLgtDn newspapers the Post, the Star, the News 
and the rim^s-JHerflkZ-maintain staffs of from three to twelve. 
They photograpl events of local importance, as well as many of 
national and intern, ational import. 

It's a far cxy from Ben Franklin's political wood-cut cartoon, 
Mathew Brady's Coil War work, or even the capital coverage of 
World War L 



BY BRUCE CATTON Bruce Catton, a veteran of the Cleve- 

land Plain Dealer and the Newspaper 
Enterprise Association Washington 
staffs, held high public-relations posts 
during World War II with the War 
Production Board and the Department 
of Commerce. His book War Lords of 
Washington, 1948, is a revealing report 
on the government's war-publicity op- 

The evolution of the government press handout is as shadowy as 
the ancestry of the handout's parent, the government press agent. 

Both can be traced back to that innocent period when govern- 
ment was smaller and simpler than it is today, when Washington 
was essentially an overgrown county seat, and when a reasonably 
active reporter could cover every news source in the capital with- 
out undue strain. The present situation in which handout and 
press agent (renamed respectively "press release" and "informa- 
tion specialist" ) have become omnipresent, a combined headache 
and necessity for the press corps, chiefly reflects the enormous 
growth in the size and complexity of government. It also reflects 
the curious ability of democracy to adapt unlikely instruments to 
its own use. 

As a matter of definition, a handout, or press release, is the 
official mimeographed announcement by a government depart- 
ment or agency or a subdivision thereof of some official action 
taken, the word "action" being used very broadly to include any- 
thing from the text of an official's speech to a news bulletin re- 
garding the size of the corn crop. The information specialist, or 
government press agent, is the government employee who pre- 

Bruce Cotton 157 

pares, issues, and distributes the handouts and who in addition 
is available to the working press as one of the government's official 
question answerers. Any department or agency which is productive 
of anything substantial in the way of news and for the matter 
of that several which are not sets aside special quarters as a press- 
room or headquarters for the news correspondents. Desks, type- 
writers, and telephones are available there for use of the press, the 
handouts are distributed there, and one or more information 
specialists are on tap to expand and enlarge on the news in the 
handouts, to answer inquiries about matters not covered in hand- 
outs, and in general to help the reporters keep in touch with the 
department's news sources. 

The entire operation pressroom, handout, and press agent- 
is justified nowadays by the fact that it provides access to informa- 
tion which the press corps needs and which the press corps could 
not otherwise get without great trouble and expense. The whole 
intricate network of government information bureaus must stand 
or fall on its ability to serve that purpose: that purpose and no 
other. The anxiety of a government official to appear in the 
headlines, to have his fellow citizens think well of him, to acquire 
a reputation, and as a welcome by-product to continue in office 
is something else again. A government press office which exists 
to minister to that anxiety is simply a waste of the taxpayers* 
money. The entire operation is justifiable only to the extent that 
it provides the press and the public with an essential service. 

But the line of descent, nevertheless, runs back to the needs of 
the politician rather than of the press. Specifically it goes back 
rather surprisingly to the "party press'* of a century and more ago, 
when every administration had its own newspaper organ which 
was accepted as an official spokesman for the President and his 
party. The ultimate ancestor of today's information specialist is 
apparently such a person as Amos Kendall, the Kentucky editor 
whom Andrew Jackson brought to Washington as ghost writer and 
policy advisor, or to Francis Preston Blair, Kendall's protege, who 
showed up as editor of the Washington Globe. And the prototype 
for all subsequent Congressional complaints about government 
press agents is probably to be found in the angry attack on Ken- 

258 Handouts 

dall, voiced in the House of Representatives in 1838 by Congress- 
man Henry A. Wise of Virginia: "He was the President's thinking 
machine, and his writing machine aye, and his lying machine!" 

Obviously any administration equipped with its own newspaper 
had little need to issue handouts to correspondents; it simply 
printed its announcements in its own paper and let nature take its 
course. The handout as such seems to have developed because of 
the telegraph, when some alert Presidential adviser realized that 
it would be a good thing to have Presidential addresses and mes- 
sages to Congress printed as widely as possible on the day of 
delivery. Out of this came the custom of running off advance 
copies and making them available to the press first done appar- 
ently in the 1840s. But for a long time the idea went no farther 
than that Even the Civil War, first of all wars to get extensive 
press coverage in something like the modern style, did not see the 
creation of any central information bureau in Washington or of 
any press-relations officers in the field. Washington correspond- 
ents could drop in at the War Department and copy such dis- 
patches and announcements as might be made available, but very 
little was done to ease their path. Correspondents attached to field 
armies were often given semiofficial appointments to the staff of 
the commanding general, but this was simply a means of making 
it legal for them to be housed, fed, and transported at government 
expense; they remained entirely on their own, had no official 
duties whatever, and were expected to scratch around for their 
own news even when a battle was going on, with no spoon-feeding 
from headquarters. (Not a bad idea in many ways; a corre- 
spondent who saw with his own eyes that the army had been 
outmaneuvered and beaten said so in his dispatch and did not 
have to rely on the commanding general's own carefully worded 
explanation of the affair.) 

The innocent way in which press and government acted when 
a handout actually was issued in those days is unforgettably 
depicted by Carl Sandburg in his Abraham Lincoln: The War 
"Vears. Sandburg tells how Noah Brooks, correspondent for a 
California paper, casually dropped in at the White House one 
afternoon late in 1864 and found Lincoln scribbling out a little 

Bruce Catton 159 

one-paragraph feature story about tlie handling of a recent appeal 
for the release of two Confederate prisoners of war. The Presi- 
dent gave it to Brooks and asked him not to send it to his own 
paper, but to see that it got printed locally in the Washington 
Chronicle, a paper with which Brooks had no connection what- 
ever; the reason for this request being, as the President put it, 
that, "I've got a childish desire to see it in print right away." 
Brooks did as he was asked, the Chronicle printed the story 
without thinking to mention that this was a by-line piece by the 
President of the United States other papers copied it from the 
Chronicle, and in due time it was reprinted all across the country. 

The gap between that kind of informal operation and the 
modem setup of information men, mimeographed handouts, re- 
lease dates, and carefully planned systems of distributioninclud- 
ing the handout table at the National Press Club is, of course, 
very great. It symbolizes the enormous difference between the 
Washington of that day and the Washington of this: partly a dif- 
ference in the relationships between press and government, but 
basically a difference in the sheer size and complexity of govern- 
ment itself. Today's press could not for a minute put up with the 
quaint planless method of issuing government news embodied in 
the Lincoln-Brooks episode but neither could today's govern- 
ment. Government today is too big, the things it does are too 
important, the citizens' need to know all about it is too imperative. 
That curious institution, the government handout, was an inevita- 
ble outgrowth of the change in government itself. 

But most of the evolution has taken place in the last quarter 
century. It is only comparatively recently that the government 
handout has justified itself as a necessity to the press and hence to 
the proper functioning of democracy. Throughout most of its his- 
tory its origins in the old party-press system are clearly visible. 
The still widespread suspicions of "government press agents'" are a 
perfectly natural holdover from the time (still within living mem- 
ory) when old-fashioned press-agentry was the principal task of 
the government pressman. The government pressman was hired 
because his boss wanted to sell something his own reputation, 
some particular administration policy, or what not; he was hired 

Bruce Cation 161 

weeklies, and so on. Mr. Durand admitted that there was no spe- 
cific authority of law for hiring a press agent. He justified the 
appointment on the bureau's general authorization to incur "inci- 
dental, miscellaneous and contingent expenses" necessary to take 
the census. 

Apparently the congressmen did not quite know what they had 
come up against They agreed that census taking ought to be 
publicized and expressed concern over details. One of them asked 
plaintively why a press release should carry a release date "Why 
should not the public have the benefit of it without a release 
date?" Another was disturbed by the warning printed at the top 
of all handouts that any paper which disregarded the release date 
would be removed from the mailing list. Still another feared that 
this was a device to discriminate against Democratic newspapers 
and in favor of Republican. But in the end everything was ex- 
plained satisfactorily, the request for a Congressional investiga- 
tion was denied, and Mr. Durand goes down in history as first 
in a long line of government officials to answer to Congress for 
hiring a press agent 

It is clear that at the time of this hearing the government hand- 
out had gone through quite a period of evolution. Even though it 
was still new enough so that the average congressman didn't 
understand it, it is perfectly obvious that this device wasn't just 
something the Census Director had thought up on the spur of the 
moment. The canny Osgood with his mailing list of twenty thou- 
sand must have been quite an operator, but neither mailing lists 
nor officially franked press releases were new. The Census Bureau 
was using an established instrumentalthough it is noteworthy 
that the press agent did not deal with the Washington press corps 
direct: he mailed his releases out and shunned personal contacts. 

Congress returned to the fray in a much more aggressive man- 
ner two years later when Congressman John M. Nelson of Wis- 
consin demanded an investigation of "a press bureau maintained 
at public expense in the Department of Agriculture." Mr. Nelson 
doubted that there was any warrant in law for this work and 
asserted that, if there was not, "this practice of using public funds 
for private purposes, for the exploitation of officials and depart- 
mental work in newspapers, ought to be abolished." 

2Q2 Handouts 

What had happened was that, with a three-million-dollar meat- 
inspection bill pending, the Department of Agriculture was pull- 
ing all the strings to get it passed, franking its releases to the 
newspapers a la Osgood, and including in them attacks on various 
parties who were opposing the passage of the bill. In addition to 
creating enemies on Capitol Hill this had begun to annoy the 
press corps; Nelson remarked that "many times a correspondent 
goes to a bureau and there writes his story, only to find that the 
press agent has forwarded a garbled and unfair news story to his 
newspaper by mail." 

It developed that Agriculture was not alone. The Post Office 
Department had a press man listed as a fourth-class clerk, the 
Biological Survey had one, the Census Bureau had some sort of 
successor to the prodigious Osgood, and Civil Service was an- 
nouncing examinations for "editorial assistants'*; and Nelson com- 
plained, "If this press activity is to continue, other bureaus and 
departments will soon amount to an expenditure of hundreds of 
thousands of dollars." 

Congress by now was no longer innocently asking whether a 
release date was a nefarious device for injuring Democratic 
editors, It was in a much more sophisticated mood, and it knew 
enough about the government handout to see the need for very 
strict controls. A year later it passed a law prohibiting the spend- 
ing of money on publicity agents unless under specific authoriza- 
tion of Congress. One result of this law is pointed out by James 
L. McCamy in his book Government Publicity. Department heads 
began to invent new names for the job, and in place of the Census 
Director's frank admission that he had hired "what might properly 
be called a press agent" titles like director of information, editor 
in chief, and director of publications began to appear. The use 
of euphemisms was not really new, however; after all, Amos 
Kendall himself went on the government payroll as a mere clerk in 
the Treasury Department 

Congress went a step farther in 1919, prohibiting the use of any 
part of an appropriation for services or publications designed to 
influence any member of Congress in his attitude toward legisla- 
tion or appropriations. This law is still very much in force and is 

Bruce Cotton 163 

rigidly invoked by Congressional appropriations committees, as 
every government information director can testify. As a means of 
keeping the government information function in line it is probably 
the most effective control measure yet devised. 

Congress was suspicious and rightly so, for so far the handling 
of government publicity still followed the original line of descent. 
That is, the handout and the press officer were used to help the 
politician rather than the press. The elected or appointed official 
wanted something whether to get his own name in the papers, or 
to advance a cause or a program and he set up a handout opera- 
tion to get it. How far this might meet the needs of the press, if 
at all, was no concern of his. The government handout was begin- 
ning to grow, but it was growing straight in the direction of 

It took a world war, Herbert Hoover, and the New Deal to 
bring about a new concept. It must be admitted that these ele- 
ments of change make up rather a mixed grill, but they were 

To begin with there was the Creel Committee on Public In- 
formation in World War I. This was in a sense a propaganda 
outfit, but it was also a news center. At its offices on Jackson Place 
the correspondent could pick up all manner of press releases bear- 
ing on the war and on war activities, and the government handout 
suddenly began to appear as an aid to the reporter rather than a 
headache. It made sense to have government announcements 
duplicated and available to all comers in one central spot, rather 
than requiring each correspondent to go to each news source and 
either wait his turn for an interview or painstakingly copy an 
original document. The committee's offices closed when the war 
ended, to be sure, but the new idea had been planted. 

Along with this there were the war activities of the Treasury' 
Department, which was publicizing the various Liberty Loan 
drives and was issuing a constant stream, of news releases telling 
how the drives were progressing. It was right at this point inci- 
dentally that one of the little problems involved in the production 
of literature under government auspices came to the surface. The 
Treasury asked several well-known writers to produce short pieces 

164 Handouts 

on the Liberty Loans to be used as press handouts and printed as 
leaflets for general distribution. Among the authors was Ring 
Lardner, then at the height of his fame with his You Know Me, Al 
articles. On request Lardner wrote one of his famous "busher" let- 
ters about the Liberty Loan drive, filling it with the grammatical 
errors, misspelled words, and tortured syntax which were two- 
thirds of the fun in his pieces on bush-league baseball players. The 
Treasury people accepted it with thanks and sent it off to the 
government printing office to be set up for the handout leaflets. 
Back it came presently with grammar, spelling, and English con- 
struction painstakingly changed, according to government style, 
into correct and utterly lifeless prose. 

Then came Mr. Herbert Hoover. 

He, too, got his hand in during the war, when as Food Admin- 
istrator he preached the doctrine of the "clean plate," publicized 
mixed-flour bread, meatless Tuesday, and the like. He enlisted the 
aid of the press largely through the use of handouts and, like the 
War Industries Board, got a great deal of publicity simply by 
being helpful to the press with the large number of technical 
matters that needed description in everyday language. 

After the war, when a Republican administration took over, 
Mr. Hoover became Secretary of Commerce. At that time the 
Department of Commerce, like most other old-line departments, 
was a pleasantly drowsy place as far as the newsman was con- 
cerned. The monthly import and export figures constituted most 
of the department's news. Carbon copies of these were typed off 
and gently proffered to those who might be interested in them, 
but that was about the extent of it. Under Mr. Hoover, however, 
things began to happen. The work of the department was greatly 
expanded. Dr. Julius Klein, director of the Bureau of Foreign and 
Domestic Commerce, was oppressed by the realization that a 
large part of this bureau's work consisted in the production of 
what he dubbed "perishable information** information that would 
be extremely useful to businessmen provided the businessman 
could just get it while it was still hot. Consequently the depart- 
ment established a pressroom and began to stock it with handouts. 
These handouts originally were designated "press memoranda/* 

Bruce Cation 165 

and in the beginning they were mostly carbon copies of State 
Department reports from commercial attaches, but the scope of 
the operation grew. P. J. Croghan was brought in to handle the 
job, and the Department of Commerce became a lively news 

There are two points to be noted here. The first is that the use 
of the handout expanded in this department because the depart- 
ment's own job was expanding. The department was doing more 
things and hence was making more news, and a pressroom plus 
an information director plus mimeographed releases became a 
necessity from the reporter's own standpoint. (A similar develop- 
ment was taking place in the Department of Agriculture about 
the same time, where the growing importance and number of crop 
reports brought about the use of the same mechanism.) The 
average correspondent who was covering day-to-day news in 
Washington in the early twenties was apt to have a good half- 
dozen government departments on his beat. He might be the most 
energetic man on earth, but he could hardly devote more than 
an hour a day to each one. This new setup helped him. It made it 
possible for him to do his job. The handout was continuing its 
evolution in the direction of being a service to the press; the 
information man was becoming less and less an advocate and 
more and more a public servant. 

But the other point to be noted is that while Mr. Hoover's hand- 
outs were performing this service they were also helping Mr. 
Hoover. After all, by 1928 he had become the overwhelmingly 
logical choice for his party's Presidential nomination and the fact 
that his Department of Commerce had been a lively news source 
for eight years certainly had not hurt him any in this development. 
The implications were lost on no one in government, which is to 
say that motives of the purest self-interest began to operate in 
each department and agency as an incentive to provide expanded 
services to the press. 

Finally along came the New DeaL 

A great deal has been said and written much of it very impas- 
sionedabout the vast expansion in government which began to 
take place in March of 1933. Whether that expansion was good or 

266 Handouts 

bad is beside the point It did take place-and Washington lost all 
resemblance to the overgrown county seat and became a bewilder- 
ing complex of activities,, many of them new and strange, and all 
of them highly important Originally most of the really hot news 
came from the White House and the Capitol; now it was apt to 
develop anywhere at all, and a development which would affect 
the lives and fortunes of millions of Americans was likely to occur 
in some hitherto obscure bureau in, say, the Department of Agri- 
culture or in one of the new alphabetical agencies. The NBA, 
National Recovery Administration, for instance, with its myriad 
code authorities, industry committees, and what not, was simply 
too big and intricate for any one man to cover in the traditional 
way. The government handout became an absolute necessity, an 
essential element in the step-by-step process by which the citizen 
learns just what his government is up to. " 

By the mid thirties the National Press Club itself recognized the 
fact that the handout was an integral part of Washington coverage 
and established the famous table whereon were deposited daily 
stacks of the public and private handouts of Washington. Now the 
correspondent did not even need to make the rounds of the agen- 
cies to pick up the handouts. He could examine all of them at 
the Press Club table under circumstances of some ease and com- 
fort. Old-timers still tell about the day when one member emerged 
from the bar somewhat uplifted and swept all of the handouts off 
the table into tie trash barrel which practically disrupted the 
work of the press corps for the rest of the day. 

At any rate the handout burgeoned and reached its full flower 
under the New Deal; did so, be it noted, because the tremendous 
expansion of government made it a flat necessity. Even the Su- 
preme Court finally fell in line. Until the late 1930s the Court is- 
sued no handouts. Reporters took down decisions as they were 
read from the bench, and if they missed a point or misconstrued 
a finding that was their own hard luck. Then at last the Court 
hired a press officer and took to issuing mimeographed copies of 
decisions, which not only eased the newsman's job but actually 
made for more accurate reporting. 

Bruce Cotton 267 

How many government press agents are there by now anyway? 
There are all sorts of estimates, and the estimates vary widely 
not to say wildly depending on who makes them. The only solid 
figure this writer has been able to get comes from the Civil 
Service Commission, whose records show a total of 2,818 persons 
employed by the federal government in what is called the Infor- 
mation and Editorial Series. That figure is as of July 1947; the 
level hasn't changed much since, and it is roughly applicable 

That total includes 548 stenographers, secretaries, filing clerks 
and the like, and it also includes a scattering of men in the "pro- 
fessional" classification who are employed on various government 
technical publications. On the other hand it does not include the 
uniformed information officers in the press-relations sections of 
the armed services. Making allowances for these subtractions and 
additions, it would appear that there are currently between 
twenty-five hundred and three thousand government handout 
men. 1 

A fairly good-sized battalion, that but far below the "thirty 
thousand government press agents" guess that so often finds its 

'Dick Fitzpatrick, a member of the National Press Club, writing in the 
Journalism Quarterly for March 1949, published by the American Associa- 
tion of Teachers of Journalism and the Association of Accredited Schools and 
Departments of Journalism, Iowa City, Iowa, gives a study of government 
press releases. He shows that in the week December 3-9, 1947, 286 press 
statements containing 209,297 words were issued by government agencies. 
Some were factual statements concerning contracts, announcements of rul- 
ings, decisions, hearings, and the like. But four containing 10,166 words 
were issued to influence legislation; twenty-three containing 45,615 words 
were issued to influence policy; and one hundred and thirteen containing 
55,080 words told of activities of the issuing agencies and might be regarded 
as press agent material for those agencies. 

Of these press statements, the White House issued four, the Department 
of State sixteen, the Treasury twelve, the National Military Establishment 
thirty-six, and the Department of Agriculture thirty-seven. The greatest 
number emanated from the Department of Commerce sixty-six. During the 
same week press releases left at the National Press Club included seventy- 
one from, foreign governments, from labor unions, and from associations. 
See also Government Publicity in Practice in Federal Administration, Uni- 
versity of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1939. 


way into print. This latter figure is usually attained by defining 
as a press agent any government employee who spends all or a 
substantial part of his time producing material for publication. 
That definition sounds reasonable enough until you look at it, 
and then the bottom falls out of it. For it is so broad that it in- 
cludes practically all of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Com- 
merce, a good part of the Census Bureau, and thousands of people 
in the Department of Agriculture people who do indeed produce 
material for publication, but who are not press agents by any 
imaginable stretch of common sense. 

There is no way to determine how much the government spends 
on its press-information work. The figures would have to be col- 
lected one at a time from forty or fifty separate appropriations 
schedules, and even then there would be no way to be sure one 
had all of them. An extremely rough way to make a guess would 
be to assume that $4,500 a year is an average salary for the three- 
thousand-odd information employees. That works out to a total of 
$13,500,000 a year and admittedly it is not much better than a 
blind guess. 

Now there is no sense in pretending that the one motive oper- 
ative in every official breast through all this expansion of the use 
of handouts was the simple altruistic one of trying to help the 
press. Human motives always are mixed, the example of what the 
press release had done for Mr. Hoover was still a living memory, 
and the evangelistic fervor which pervaded so many New Deal 
agencies made the work of at least some of the new information 
bureaus resemble a holy crusade rather than a dead-pan effort 
to make objective news available. Some of the new information 
offices were designedly set up as "educational" endeavors and 
devoted themselves assiduously to the effort to sell a program or 
a point of view, and beyond any question a good deal of money 
and many man-hours of time were spent on thinly disguised prop- 
aganda work. 

But the controlled cynicism of the press corps and the undying 
suspicions of Congress carried a wholesome corrective. After all, 
the press corps had the final say on the use, if any, that was made 
of the material produced by the information bureaus, and Con- 

Bruce Cation 169 

gress passed on the money that was spent to maintain them. 
Congress, to repeat, was preternaturally suspicious and remains 
so to this day. Over and over it has investigated the government's 
publicity work, and the appropriations subcommittees of each 
house can always be relied upon to go over each department's 
appropriation bill and use a fine-toothed comb on the section pro- 
viding money for the division of information. By now the abuses 
have been pretty well eliminated, and the government handout- 
plus the whole informational operation which accompanies its 
production has pretty well justified itself by its works. What 
justifies it is the fact that it is useful to the working press. It might 
be worth noting in passing that in the spring of 1949 the Repub- 
licans in Congress banded together and hired their own informa- 
tion officer! 

But it must be emphasized just the same that the handout as an 
instrument of government needs eternal watching. The criticism 
directed against it is frequently partisan, prejudiced, and woefully 
uninformed, but the criticism is useful just the same. Government 
will always be tempted to use the handout for propaganda rather 
than as an aid to the press and the people. This temptation will be 
strongest in time of national emergency, which is precisely when it 
is most important for press and public to get a clear, unvarnished 
picture of what is really going on. The centralized information 
operation of the Office of War Information type by which hand- 
outs from diverse agencies are controlled, synchronized, and har- 
monized by one agency with overriding authority may be a neces- 
sity in time of war, but it is an extremely dangerous operation. Far 
too dangerous, certainly, to be justified in time of peace. For such 
an agency can go a long way toward giving an administration con- 
trol over its own publicity. The urge to use it so as to create the 
impression that government's job is being done properly as a sub- 
stitute for going out and doing the job properly in the first place- 
is apt to become too great for weak official flesh to resist. 

The handout in short is both a necessity and a problem. Rightly 
employed it is enormously useful to the democracy but those 
words "rightly employed" need to be underscored in red. The 
government handout can't possibly be abolished unless the gov- 

170 Handouts 

eminent itself is reduced in size and scope to the proportions of 
the early 1900s, which is clearly impossible. But it can and must be 
kept in its proper sphere, a job which would appear principally to 
be up to two people: 

First, to the handout artist himself the government information 
man, distant descendant of the Census Bureau's Mr. Osgood. He 
has to see his job right and act accordingly, which is to say that he 
must realize that his sole excuse for existence is the function of 
helping the press corps tell the people what is happening in gov- 
ernment He is neither an advocate nor a special pleader. He is 
simply a government servant in the good old-fashioned meaning 
of tie word. He is not there to cover up bad news, to make weak 
actions look good, to build up a department or an agency, or to 
make a cabinet member look like a statesman. Unless he can see 
himself as a public servant, paid to help the people know exactly 
what their government is up to, and unless he can steadfastly 
operate in that capacity he had better get into some other line of 
work and get there promptly. 

Second, there is the correspondent. He has to use handouts, but 
he does not have to let them become the crutches without which 
he can't walk. By insisting on going behind the handouts he can 
keep them honest. If he lets them make him lazy, the cause he 
represents is done for and so for that matter sooner or later is he. 
In the long run the government handout can't be a serious menace 
to the free flow of objective news unless the Washington corre- 
spondent consents. 

Right at the moment he seems to be a long way from giving that 


Autocrats of the Breakfast Table 

BY CABELL PHILLIPS Cabell Phillips is the Washington cor- 

respondent of the Sunday edition of 
the New York Times. He has previ- 
ously worked on southern and mid- 
western papers, including several years 
in government information services. 

There are a sort of men whose visages 
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond; 
And do a wilfull stillness entertain 
With purpose to "be dressed in an opinion 
Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit; 
As who should say, "I am Sir Oracle,, 
And when I ope my lips, let no dog barkT 

Merchant of Venice., Act 1, Scene 1 

The columnists are the glamor boys of the newspaper business. 
As every young sports writer dreams of the day he will become a 
Runyon or a Grantland Bice, as every village movie critic pays 
secret homage to the ideal of a Lyons or a Winchell, so the Wash- 
ington neophyte when first he comes upon the scene frames his 
destiny in the glittering likeness of a Pearson or the immaculate 
erudition of a Lippmarm. They are the heroes who have broken 
the shackles of impecunious publishers and sadistic city editors. 
They are the giants who mold events instead of being molded by 
them. They are the idols who have risen above the herd to pal- 
pable, obvious success. 

And indeed it is not a mean nor a wholly illusory goal upon 
which the young Washington correspondent has set his eye. The 
columnists and commentators are, in a profession becoming ever 
more circumscribed, the freest of free spirits. The world is their 

172 Autocrats of the Breakfast Table 

beat, and all the mysteries, villainies, romances, and parodoxes 
thereof. They can look upon it with a friendly or a jaundiced eye, 
pick what suits their instant mood, and write as they please, with 
only the obligation that they write interestingly. 

They are the elite who have been set free from the stern and 
frustrating rule of objectivity, the ritual of who-what-when-where- 
and-why. They can say what they think (if they can think what to 
say) about politics and religion, peace and war, Republicans and 
Democrats, mice and men. They are free to castigate an enemy, 
salve a friend, admonish presidents and kings, and project their 
opinions across continents and oceans. Unhampered by the petty 
tyrannies of the city desk, they can soar as far as their wings will 
take them into the wild blue yonder of Self-Expression. 

Fame and prestige are indisputably theirs. They are the titans of 
present-day journalism, the Bennetts, Greeleys, and Pulitzers of 
their time. Often they seem to sit as a People's Advocate, a sort 
of public conscience, at the councils of the mighty. They are the 
interpreters of great events, the formulators of opinion for inartic- 
ulate millions. They are known familiarly in countless towns where 
they have never set foot, and they are quoted as ultimate authority 
over cracker barrels and cocktails from Bangor to Burbank. In 
official Washington they are feared and respected above the gen- 
erality of their fellows. And throughout the country they wield an 
influence on the public mind that is conceivably greater than the 
collective influence of the papers which publish them. 

But they are also, it should be noted, fallible men and heirs 
to all the weaknesses of mortal flesh. They have fears, prejudices, 
guilt complexes, complaining wives, and moments of misgiving 
like the rest of us. They live under the constant threat that some 
blunder, some egregious misfire of fact or interpretation will 
strip them intellectually naked. The fatal temptation to take 
themselves too seriously, to become pompous and omniscient is 
always present. And, while the public has a strangely indulgent 
mood toward them, an almost irrational tolerance for inaccuracy 
and conceit, they are sometimes pulled from their pedestals in 
disgrace. It is a long and dreadful journey from the ivory tower 

Cabell Phillips 173 

to the rim of a provincial copy desk, but it is a journey some of 
them have had to make. 

On the whole, though, it's nice work if you can get it, and 
the pay is all right too. It is a worthy goal for any young or even 
aging Washington correspondent But the hard fact remains that 
it continues to be a pretty limited field, where many are called and 
but few are chosen. It apparently takes something more than 
simple yearning to make the grade. 

So let's try to see just what the art of the columnist is how it 
has grown and prospered, the facts of its existence, and what it 
adds up to in the larger picture of national-affairs journalism 

There are a great many Washington correspondents who can 
with justification call themselves columnists. Nearly every bu- 
reau has one or more men who turn out interpretive background 
or editorial dispatches at regular intervals for their papers. Many 
of these are excellent, representing a great deal of honest journal- 
istic effort and reflecting the keen insight and knowledge of the 
writers. Their circulation is limited to the individual paper or 
perhaps the chain by which they are employed. Conspicuous 
examples of this type of columnists are Roscoe Drummond of the 
Christian Science Monitor, Arthur Krock of the New York Times., 
Edwin A. Lahey of the Knight newspapers, and Raymond P. 
Brandt of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to mention only a few. At 
the lower end of the spectrum there are others in this category 
who shall remain nameless. Their product is of a lesser caliber 
and predicated upon the assumption that a saving magic attaches 
to the simple device of a Washington dateline. Some such col- 
umns deal speciously in gossip and alleged "news behind the 
news." Others pontificate hollowly on foreign and national affairs. 
In each case the paucity of the writer's experience and knowledge, 
his incapacity for understanding and interpretation is embarrass- 
ingly apparent to everyone, it seems, except his managing editor. 

But for the purposes of this discussion the emphasis is upon the 
syndicated Washington columnists, the commentators whose work 
is known beyond the circulation area of any single paper and 
whose influence, if any, is national rather than regional. We are 

174 Autocrats of the Breakfast Table 

speaking here of the Walter Lippmanns, Marquis ChUdses, Drew 
Pearsons, and other luminaries of that bright nirvana toward 
which so many Washington newspapermen yearn. 

There are several schools of thought as to how it all began. 

One of the undisputed pioneers was the late Frederic J. Haskin 
(the third president, incidentally, of the National Press Club), 
who some forty years ago initiated a daily Washington feature 
known as the "Haskin Letter/* It was a combination of news, gos- 
sip, opinion, and historical fact which was widely published 
almost up to the time of his death in 1942. Some years after he 
began the letter he introduced a curious adjunct of journalism, 
the "Question and Answer Column,'* which was to be widely 
copied by other papers, syndicates, and magazines. 

Another early starter of considerable merit was Sir A. Maurice 
Lowe, Washington representative for the London Post. His five- 
day-a-week summary of Washington news, spiced with amiable 
philosophy, was syndicated by mail by the New York World 
during parts of the first and second decades of the century. 

Many are of the opinion that Paul Mallon was the originator of 
the Washington column as it is essentially known today. The 
circumstances of this accouchement are dramatic in the best 
tradition of a Hildy Johnson or a Bob Casey. 

Back in the late 1920s Mallon was an alert, fleet-footed young 
Capitol Hill reporter for United Press. In those days the Senate 
had the cozy habit of taking certain votes in secret session, only 
the final tally being made known through the aseptic and un- 
revealing columns of the Congressional Record. Mallon one day in 
1929 managed to get a bulletin on the UP wire giving the com- 
plete box score of die Senate's confirmation of Roy Owen West as 
Secretary of the Interior within less than an hour after the vote 
was taken. This caused some angry f Culminations among the sena- 
tors, and warning fingers were shaken in the young upstart's face. 
A few weeks later he repeated his feat under circumstances vastly 
more embarrassing to the Senate. The subject of confirmation was 
Irvine L. Lenroot, whose name had been linked to some power- 
lobby scandals, and the job was a judgeship on the U.S. Court of 
Customs. This time the senators blew their tops and withdrew 

Cabell Phillips 175 

Mallon's press-gallery privileges. But in so doing they blew Paul 
Mallon into fame and fortune. He became a journalistic St. 
George and front-page news all across the country. His talents 
were in such demand that he left the UP and began to sell his 
Washington dispatches to all takers through a syndicate. 

Mallon retired from the scene in 1945 simply, as he said, be- 
cause he had damn well had enough. But his column "News 
Behind the News," a five-days-a-week feature, reached at its peak 
more than three hundred papers. If it was not the first Washing- 
ton column, it certainly was the progenitor of its particular type, 
the revelatory, gossipy, fact-plus-hunch-plus-opinion column. Its 
tribe has multiplied prodigiously in the last twenty years. 

It is this writer's opinion, however, that the credit for being 
the first Washington columnist, as the term is understood in its 
larger connotation, goes to David Lawrence. Certainly he is the 
most durable. His column on national affairs is still a major 
feature in two hundred papers today, and its origins can legiti- 
mately be traced back to 1916. 

At that time he had been in the AP Washington bureau for five 
years. He had come there in 1910 from Princeton witih the repu- 
tation of a prodigy, a handicap he promptly overcame by proving 
really to be one. He ingratiated himself with the diplomatic 
corps and won their confidence. Later, when one of the inter- 
minable Mexican revolutions broke out, he managed to be the 
only American reporter on the spot. He was a disciple of Wood- 
row Wilson and "The New Freedom" and established the best 
pipelines of any Washington reporter into the inner cloisters of 
that administration. His on-the-spot coverage of negotiations 
leading up to the Versailles Treaty was outstanding. 

All of this redounded to the credit of the AP, but not much to 
that of Dave Lawrence, for by-lines were virtually unknown to 
the AP in those days. To escape this intolerable anonymity (and 
presumably to improve his economic position) he shifted in 1915 
to the New York Evening Post. His stint was to write the daily 
lead story out of Washington under his own by-line. This was not 
an uncommon assignment for Washington correspondents in those 
days. Lawrence, however, gave his stories a new twist by append- 

176 Autocrats of the Breakfast Table 

ing a shirttail of succinct interpretation. Not content to give 
simply the who, what, and where of Washington events, he gave 
the why also. He set the current happening in the larger canvas 
of what had gone before and what might reasonably be antici- 
pated in the future. This was an innovation in news reporting 
three decades ago, and it caught on. Lawrence's stories came to 
be more and more interpretive and less and less spot news. The 
Post began to syndicate them in 1916, and in 1919 encouraged him 
to set up his own syndicate. In 1920 he branched out still farther 
with a telegraphic financial and feature news service known as the 
Consolidated Press Association and then the United States Daily 
and then the United States News and World Report and so on to 
the point that now twenty-nine years later David Lawrence is the 
best living contradiction of the canard that reporters are poor 

Lawrence, however, did not initiate the opinion column. He and 
his earlier imitators had limited themselves rigorously to interpre- 
tation of the news, telling what it meant, not what they thought 
about it. The distinction for creating the modern by-lined column 
of editorial opinion appears to belong to Walter Lippmann. He 
launched it cautiously when he shifted from the lately expired 
New York World to the New York Herald-Tribune in 1931. He 
moved his base of operations to Washington in 1933. His column 
took on a bolder look, and its syndication began to boom. His 
temerity shocked many of the orthodox, including Lawrence. But 
when they saw that the temple walls did not crack under this 
heresy they began to put opinion into their columns too. 

The Golden Age of the columnists can thus be pegged to the 
period of the Great Depression. One authority has estimated that 
anywhere from one hundred and fifty to two hundred generally 
syndicated Washington columns came into being in the years 
between 1930 and 1934, most of them to expire after a brief but 
gaudy existence. 

Two factors seem to have influenced this burgeoning. 

First (but not necessarily most important), the Broadway col- 
umnist had already established a vogue. O. O. Mclntyre, Mark 
HeUlnger, and Walter Winchell were the pioneers in this ejEort 

Cabell Phillips 177 

of making the glittering lights of Times Square seem as familiar 
as those on Main Street. They brought the fascinatingly wicked 
fripperies of stage and screen stars and the headliners of the 
Speakeasy Set straight to the breakfast tables of Omaha and Dog- 
patch. They capitalized elaborately on the long-familiar journal- 
istic axiom that people are more interested in people than 
anything else. And they spiced this interest by telling or profess- 
ing to tell the most intimate and personal details of other 
people's lives. It required no stroke of managerial genius to 
figure out that if this paid off for Broadway it also ought to pay 
off for Washington, too, whence a great many people were begin- 
ning to turn their eyes and thoughts. 

Second, the popular preoccupation with government which 
was given such a stimulus by the depression and the high drama 
of the New Deal generated a demand not only for gossip and 
"news behind the news/' but for intelligent interpretation and 
background as well. The pious evasions of the Hoover adminis- 
tration had made the people cynical and suspicious of official 
pronouncements from Washington. Even the conventionally 
honest and straightforward news reports failed to satisfy their 
craving to know what was going on and why. The columnists, on 
the spot and wearing a cloak of either hard-boiled sophistication 
or Olympian detachment, answered the need. 

By the middle years of the thirties the Washington column had 
solidified its position as a journalistic institution. There was 
something of a stampede by newspapermen to break into this 
promising new pasture, and there was a staggeringly high 
mortality among them. But a few of the early starters have 
survived: Drew Pearson, who with Robert S. Allen created the 
fabulously successful "Washington Merry-Go-Round"; Joseph 
Alsop, ex-Herald-Tribune, who started business with Robert 
Kintner, and, after a wartime hiatus, resumed with his brother 
Stewart as partner; Mark Sullivan, the tired liberal of the muck- 
raking days; Frank Kent, the unreconstructed Tory of the Balti- 
more Sun; and, of course, Walter Lippmann and the indestructible 
David Lawrence, to mention the most conspicuous examples. A 
number of specialists invaded the field during the war years: 

178 Autocrats of the Breakfast Table 

retired generals and admirals who wrote assuredly (but with 
some fantastic blunders) about military strategy, aviation experts, 
economic analysts, foreign-affairs specialists, etc. Few of them as 
individuals have lasted into the postwar period. But they demon- 
strated that a public appetite exists for much of the fare they 
offered. The result is that the contemporary Washington colum- 
nist has had to extend himself well beyond the field of politics 
and the narrow construction of national affairs. He must write 
Icnowledgeably today on military matters, economics, science, and 
foreign policy as well. This added obligation has strained the 
talents of some to uncomfortable lengths. 

Accurate statistics on the columning industry are impossible to 
obtain. It remains one of the most ruggedly individualistic enter- 
prises in the free-enterprise system. Most columnists are private 
entrepreneurs, and the relation between them and their syndicates 
and even of their "home" paper, if they have such, is most often 
one of principal and agent. Earnings, circulation, readership, etc. 
are highly guarded trade secrets. However, some reasonably safe 
conjectures can be made. 

The number of syndicated columnists fitting our general de- 
scription and operating out of Washington at the time of this 
writing (spring 1949) was forty-six. With a few conspicuous 
exceptions such as the New York Times, Christian Science Moni- 
tor, and Chicago Tribune there is scarcely a daily paper in the 
country of as much as twenty-five thousand circulation that 
doesn't print one or more of them an average of three times a 
week. Thus it is reasonable to estimate that some fifty millon 
newspaper readers each day read or have the opportunity to read 
the product of some Washington columnist. Most papers, how- 
ever, are not satisfied with a single columnist. To achieve balance 
many of them pair off a conservative Lawrence with a liberal 
Tom Stokes or a gossipy George Dixon with a thoughtful Ernest 
Lindley. For top honors in distribution the palm undoubtedly 
goes to Drew Pearson. His "Washington Merry-Go-Round" is 
reliably reported to have four hundred and fifty subscribers with 
a gross daily circulation of about eighteen million. Peter Edson, 
whose column is distributed by Newspaper Enterprise Association 

Cabell Phillips 179 

is bought by a greater number of newspapers between seven 
hundred and eight hundred but they are predominantly small or 
medium-sized, with a substantially lower gross circulation. It is 
to be doubted if any other Washington columnist at this time 
boasts as many as three hundred subscribers, though again we 
are dependent upon conjecture; those who know (the columnists 
themselves and their syndicates) simply won't say. At the other 
end of the scale several of the newcomers, as well as some of the 
veterans whose popularity has diminished, get along on considera- 
bly less than a hundred subscribers. It seems to be generally 
accepted that anything less than twenty-five subscribers, which 
must include one or two papers of better than a hundred thou- 
sand circulation, spells financial failure. 

What are the criteria for a successful Washington column, 
successful, that is, in the sense of being able to command over a 
period of years a following sufficient to pay the freight? 

On sober analysis the answer does not seem to reside in the 
observance of any of the classical virtues enshrined in the journal- 
ism textbooks. Indeed some of the most "successful" Washington 
columns persistently flout those virtues. 

One in particular thrives on a splenetic hatred of the memory 
and family of Franklin D. Roosevelt One whose prestige is built 
largely on his occult preoccupation with goings on "behind the 
scenes" is a frequent and unrepentant offender against truth and 
basic reportorial accuracy. Others ride their personal hobbies- 
reclamation, tax reform, a big Army or Navy or Air Force, a better 
deal for the Indians, etc. to the uttermost limits of exhaustion. 
And still others cast all rules of logic and objectivity overboard 
to become palpable propagandists for a party or a program or a 
person. And yet they "succeed*' year in and year out. 

On the other side of the scale are many columnists who in the 
best tradition of the late Raymond Clapper are able and con- 
scientious reporters, who are well informed and have excellent 
sources of information, whose dispatches are well reasoned, fair, 
and judicious, who work at their trade with energy and imagina- 
tion. Yet this dedicated approach is no guarantee of longevity 
and material reward. Each year the "good" and the "bad" col- 
umnists seem to die off in about equal numbers. 

Autocrats of the Breakfast Table 

On balance then, it seems that the ultimate measure for "suc- 
cess" as a columnist is the ability to write interestingly; not 
learnedly, not penetratingly, not even well; but in a manner to 
capture the emotional or intellectual interest of enough thousands 
of newspaper readers to make him a profitable "property" to his 
syndicate. The columnist must be an individualist and stamp his 
product indelibly with his own personality. Whether it be the 
critical and scolding personality of a John O'Donnell, the evan- 
gelism of a Tom Stokes, or the austere intellectuality of a Walter 
Lippmann, his particular personality must pervade his work, and 
it must elicit the positive response-the interest-of many thou- 
sands of newspaper readers. The columnist who would survive 
cannot be all things to all men. He must devise an approach to 
the national scene that is peculiarly his own. If that approach-or 
style or technique or whatever it may be called-is attractive to 
enough people who buy newspapers, it will not mattery great 
deal how deficient he may be in the reportorial arts. This is not 
to say that integrity, knowledge, and industry are wasted attri- 
butes in the columnist Certainly most of the Washington practi- 
tioners possess these virtues in varying degree. But none is so 
essential to the magical formula of success as the capacity to 
write interestingly. That is the common denominator of the craft. 

It is an axiom that columnists wield more influence upon the 
public mind than any other group in our society save, as H. L. 
Mencken would have it, priests and herb doctors. That is impos- 
sible either to substantiate or disprove, but the weight of circum- 
stantial evidence favors the aflirmative view. 

Readership surveys indicate that columns in general are read 
by approximately 30 per cent of all newspaper readers, the range 
running from something like 15 per cent for the more erudite 
essayists up to 65 per cent for a WincheU or Pearson. The signifi- 
cance of this statistic is simply that the readership rating for 
straight editorials and similar thought-provoking matter is of the 
order of 12 to 15 per cent. Ergo if editorials wield any influence 
whatsoever upon the public mind, the columnists, being read by 
so many more people, wield a proportionately greater influence. 

Anyone familiar with the processes of Congress is aware of its 

Cabell Phillips 181 

extreme sensitivity to columnar comment. Doris Meeson, let us 
say, writing upon the paucity of educational opportunities in the 
South, is pretty certain to find her comments quoted on the floor 
by some Senatorial advocate of federal aid to education. Con- 
versely, Lowell Mellett, when he takes off after the racial bigots 
in the House, is likely to hear himself described as a dangerous 
Red by the Hon. John Rankin of Mississippi the next day. Most 
members of Congress are avid newspaper readers, and most of 
them have their favorite columnists. It is unquestionably true that 
such men as Walter Lippmann, Arthur Krock, and Drew Pearson 
do upon occasion affect the course of legislation and national 
affairs through their columns. 

This same sensitivity, moreover, runs through the executive 
branch of the government. Indeed, few Washington columnists 
could stay in business without at least one tamed cabinet member 
(usually men of normal vanity and ambition) in their stable of 
informants. Government programs have been materially altered 
to win the approval or avoid the ire of various columnists. 

The speed of modern communications and the plethora of cur- 
rent news has made today's metropolitan newspaper a fearsome 
and frustrating thing to the average reader. Harassed and con- 
fused as he is by the struggle for survival, he is overwhelmed by 
the sheer bulk of news which he feels it is his obligation as a good 
citizen to absorb. Thus he is tempted to skip all but page one and 
turn to his favorite columns in the hope that he will find there not 
only the top news of the moment in capsule, but also a ready- 
made opinion about it with which he can impress his fellows at 
the office next morning. 

And finally the columnists endow the news or at least the 
editorial pages with personality. As editors and publishers have 
retreated over the last quarter century into the cold and imper- 
sonal anonymity of corporate efficiency, the columnists have 
moved in to supply the intimate "you and me" relationship for 
which the readers instinctively yearn. People, it seems, like to be 
told what to believe, and they would rather be told by another 
person than by an inanimate institution. 

Thus the columnists have reinvigorated the journalistic corpus 

182 Autocrats of the Breakfast Table 

with some of the vitality it had in its lusty youth. Whatever their 
shortcomings as individuals, their collective contribution to na- 
tional-affairs journalism has been profound and constructive. 
They have made themselves as nearly indispensable to the aver- 
age newspaper of today as, say, want ads and comics. And to this 
observer that will continue to spell "influence" until a better 
yardstick is devised. 


World War II 

BY LYLE C. WILSON Lyle C. Wilson after sendee In London 

and New York came to Washington 
with the United Press bureau in 1927. 
He has been bureau manager since 
1933. He has received awards for dis- 
tinguished journalistic performance 
from the University of Missouri and 
the Atlantic City Headliners. 

Sunday is a day off for Washington newspaper people, or most of 
them. Washington cherishes the entire weekend. This particular 
Sunday not only was a day off, but glorious. Winter had not yet 
settled on the Atlantic seaboard. 

The biggest weekend local news had been the formal report of 
the Secretary of Navy that our own Navy was "second to none.** 
Earlier in the week the House of Representatives had passed the 
Third Supplemental National Defense Appropriations Bill, a mat- 
ter of $8,243,839,031. The vote had been 309 to 5. President John 
J. Jouett of the National Aeronautical Association had just re- 
ported that within twelve months our annual production rate 
would exceed fifty thousand airplanes a year. 

Washington felt it had had reason to be what it was: safe, warm 
and comfortable. In Griffith Stadium Washington's beloved Red- 
skins were playing their last professional home game of the season. 
A great many of the admirals, generals, and high civilian brass 
were watching. Others were playing golf. The community was out 
in the open, but for the lag-abeds, the hung-over, and the ill. 

That is how it was on the day of infamy, the seventh day of 
December 1941 in Washington, D.C. 

Shortly after 2:35 P.M. Steve Early, White House Press Secre- 

184 World War II 

tary, picked up Ms phone and asked Louise Hachmeister to set up 
a simultaneous conference call to the three press associations. 

"All on?" asked Steve urgently, and called the roll. 

"This is Steve Early at the White House/' he said with as much 
composure as he could summon. "At 7:35 A,M. Hawaiian time the 
Japanese bomhed Pearl Harbor. The attacks are continuing 
an( j No, I don't know how many are dead." 

That was about all Steve had then. The time of waiting for 
events had ended. By telephone, broadcast, and loud-speaker the 
call went out Idle caddies raced around golf links calling men 
back to their desks. In Griffith Stadium bewildered thousands 
heard one and another and finally scores of army, navy, and gov- 
ernment personages urgently paged. As the big shots scrambled 
out of their places others hurried away too. They were the news- 
paper and radio men and women who had heard those urgent calls 
and suspected what they meant. 

Radio broadcasts put the brakes screeching on many an auto- 
mobile within one or two hundred miles of Washington that 
day, turned it around, and started it home faster than the law 

Hour by hour the cruel facts pounded in. Pearl Harbor was 
a shambles, the anchored fleet a ruin. There were hundreds, now 
thousands, dead or wounded. In the space of an hour and twenty- 
five minutes in Hawaii the United States had suffered its most 
crushing defeat at arms. 

Not unnaturally by early Sunday evening the gathering at 
Washington's National Press Club approached Presidential-elec- 
tion-night size. Newsmen caught in a storm of crisis sought one 
another's company, one another's information and opinions, and 
perhaps one another's comfort in the easygoing headquarters 
where they were accustomed to find these things. But there were 
no election-night gaieties. 

With the somber news the capital press corps took up its biggest 
job. For some the job would be to learn what it is to die. For 
others it would be to suffer despair, discomfort, and great fear to 
send the story back. For those who stayed in Washington the job 
was to cover the biggest story up to now, to cover it under the 

Lyle C. Wilson 185 

rules of censorship, sometimes under the galls of officious official 
stupidity, always under pressure of edition time. 

It was a job calculated to separate the men from the boys and 
the women from the girls. 

The Washington war beat didn't, of course, always look that 
important. Bending to their unsurpassed copy load, newsmen 
often could find nothing on it big or inspiring enough to take the 
chill from the air. It took things like the comings and goings of 
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to lift the news above 
its dismal level. 

Nevertheless probably more phases of the war were covered 
from Washington than from any civilian capital in military history. 
Its communiques from field and fleet operations were usually the 
top ones, and the information available through the offices of 
Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall and Admiral Ernest J. 
King, Chief of Naval Operations, was essential to tying these and 
the reports from the front correspondents together and giving 
them their full meaning. 

The city on the Potomac was the mainspring of the war's polit- 
ical footwork and of its vast and often confused economic co- 
ordinations, wherever the international conferences were held. 
People who fell into the habit in those years of calling it a world 
capital were thinking of these things and thinking accurately. 

Again on the domestic scene Washington from the beginning 
took charge of the immense operation of mobilizing the American 
people's huge and complicated economy, their far-spread re- 
sources, and their prodigious energies for total war. Everything 
from the Selective Service draft and the allocation of steel plants 
to the limitation of the flounces on women's dresses proceeded 
from the capital. All this, too, kicked back on the press corps. 
Agencies, special authorities, co-ordinators, committees, new in- 
struments of government were born every night to accomplish 
these things. As each emerged squawling from the federal womb 
the reporters were there, checking the new names and faces of the 
VIPs (Very Important Persons) in charge of them and ready to 
begin the official biographies, sometimes ending in curious fade- 
outs and official obituaries. 

jgg World War II 

How we did it makes quite a storymainly a story of victory 
over newsmen's headaches. 

War coverage was under way from the instant of Steve Early's 
world-shattering phone call. On that particular story the State 
Department already was fully staffed for an historically profane 
conference between Secretary Cordell Hull, the Japanese Ambas- 
sador Admiral KicMsaburo Nomura, and Special Envoy Saburo 
Kurusu. Before three o'clock principal news offices and news- 
papers had the White House, the Pentagon, and the Navy Depart- 
ment well plugged. 

Everybody there was sufficiently alerted for the cloudburst of 
disaster in the next few days: Japanese raids on Manila, Singapore, 
Hong Kong; invasion of Malaya and Luzon in the Philippines; the 
attack on Wake Island. In the murky air of global explosion the 
war declarations were almost routine, including the Latin- Amer- 
ican; Japan's, Germany's, and Italy's against us; our retaliating 
ones; and the British action against Japan. 

Then followed weeks and months of confusion, bad news and 
worse rumors, and of constant, if sometimes fallacious, experting 
at the National Press Club. Many urgent problems were ignored 
and some nonexistent ones solved with great eclat. Bataan in the 
Philippines fell in April 1942, and Corregidor in May, while 
some press corps military savants were still urging the recall of 
Generals Douglas MacArthur and "Skinny" Wainwright from the 
Far Eastern Theater. General Jimmy Doolittie's heartening air 
raid on Tokyo between these calamities inspired some of our 
amateur scientists to speculations that some bigger and better 
explosive atomic physics was already in the air might spark 
lethal volcanic eruptions in the Japanese islands. 

All these by benefit of communique were largely Washington 
stories. So, as the Nazis tried to cut our shipping lines in 1942, 
were the year-long fiery sinkings off the Atlantic coastwhen any- 
thing at all could be printed about them. So in May and June were 
the naval battles of the Coral Sea and Midway. Perhaps too much 
so. Months passed before the cautious language of the official 
reports was sufficiently clarified to convince the downhearted that 
Japan's edge in sea power had been decisively blunted. And, al- 

Lyle C. Wilson 187 

though the trials and six electrocutions took place in Washington, 
a too rigid communique system left the case of the eight German 
saboteurs landed on American coasts in the summer of 1942 still 
something of a mystery to the capital's journalists. 

Things did not begin to straighten out even moderately until 
the Marines took their first bloody nibble at Guadalcanal in 
August. After that more factual and specific communiques and 
fuller reports from field correspondents gave the Washington press 
corps something tangible to talk about to the Pentagon's bigwigs 
when they went questing for information as to what the American 
public's war news really meant. But it took another disaster and 
a monumental headache in the war's international politics to make 
the capital coverage situation anything like reliably functional. 

In its indirect way the National Press Club played a part in 
the improvement On October 12, 1942, the Navy announced the 
sinkingas of nine weeks previously of the IL S. cruisers Quincy, 
Vincennes, and Astoria and the Australian cruiser Canberra in a 
Japanese smash attack off Savo Island. That day at the clubs 
cardroom round tablea luncheon spot where efforts at wit, wis- 
dom, and statesmanly viewpoints alternatively languish and flour- 
ishthe Navy seemed to be in the doghouse for keeps. And a good 
part of this critical sentiment got under the skin of the late Neely 

Bull was a relative of the naval Chief of Operations, Admiral 
King, by marriage. He knew as much and suspected more about 
the true situation in the Navy and its problems than did any of 
the others. He put the matter frankly up to King. For the informa- 
tion of some half-informed reporters would the admiral risk a 
secret meeting? The admiral would not 

King was counted among the roughest skippers in the Navy 
whether aboard ship or on his land bridge. Next to reserve officers, 
for whom he had much contempt, he disliked most the thought 
and company of newspaper reporters. Bull knew all this, but he 
persisted. And, although many a goggle-eyed Navy veteran still 
refuses to believe that it happened, King finally caved. 

From an evening in early November 1942 until the war's end 
the admiral met at intervals with a shifting but always small group 

2S8 World War II 

of newsmen. These meetings took place at Bull's home. When 
Neely died they were transferred to the suburban residence of 
Phelps H. Adams, Washington correspondent of the New York 
Sun. They came in time to be pleasant for both the admiral and his 
questioners, and King learned to make use of the press with the 
skill of a public-relations counsel. An outstanding example oc- 
curred when President Roosevelt, ill-advised, was thinking of kick- 
ing General George C. Marshall upstairs to some rather undefined 
global command or to put him in charge of our armed forces in 
Europe. King helped torpedo that one, and he used some of his 
friends of the press to do it. 

Next it was the turn of the Army Staff Chief General Marshall to 
turn some lights on. In the middle of the evening of November 7, 
1942, came the news that the Army in the dark hours had landed 
on the shore of North Africa. It broke in Washington, and it was 
titanic. It meant that the war had taken a turn toward inevitable 
climax in Berlin, Tokyo, and Home. I was one of the many news- 
papermen who wrote the big story that night, and I know how it 
felt. It made little shivers run up and down my back. 

But within a week there was serious trouble, not military but 
politics. To the amazement of the Allied Intelligence our forces 
found the French Vichy Government's Admiral Darlan in Algiers, 
not only found him but were forced to make use of him as a 
political weapon of war. Upon the head of General Dwight D. 
Eisenhower, commanding the operation, fell a barrage of abuse. 

The left wing of American politics and some others set up a loud 
shout of "foul," The complaints boiled down to charges that it 
was all a plot, the first move of American military appeasement by 
men who had been playing the Nazi game. The public showed a 
tendency to join the chorus of protest. 

Under such circumstances there was only one ambassador fit to 
serve between the unhappy Administration and the uneasy public. 
Mr. Roosevelt left the problem in General George C. Marshall's 
hands. So on the second Sunday after the landings there was an 
early ringing of telephones in the homes of about thirty newspaper 
and radio men. They were summoned to the Pentagon to be there 
right away. 

Lyle C. Wilson 189 

Assembled in Marshall's office, they were told by the General 
that Darlan's presence in North Africa had been entirely unfore- 
seen, but that it had been necessary for Eisenhower to use him 
since he was there. Marshall conceded that Ike was in a bad politi- 
cal hole, and himself too. Marshall's strategy was to read for up- 
ward of an hour to the assembled reporters the dispatches from 
Eisenhower on Darlan. All of Ike's astonishment and fears were 
there, also his actions step by step to by-pass Darlan if he could. 
Marshall ended his reading and said, in effect: 

"Well, gentlemen, there it is, fair and square. If you want to go 
on beating hell out of Eisenhower for something he didn't do I 
can't help it" 

That conference was off-record, of course. But it opened some 
vistas of understanding among those present. By word of mouth 
it illuminated things for some who were not there. Before the 
admiral was assassinated at Christmas the Darlan scandal had 
been cut down to a size where it could no longer do the North 
African campaign any damage. 

Marshall used the off-record conference procedure from then 
on and with utter frankness. One day he disclosed to a lot of pop- 
eyed correspondents the Allied battle order in the West, our own, 
and the Russians'. He cheerfully conceded that if the Russians 
knew their dispositions had been disclosed to us they might do 
almost anything short of quit the war. But Marshall never sought 
or gained the intimacy of Admiral King's secret meetings with 

This kind of access to the facts and to over-all policy factors did 
not solve all the newsmen's problems, of course. But it helped 
us to avoid going off on tangents of snap judgments, amateur 
opinion, and plain peeve when the facts themselves could not be 
revealed to a puzzled public. As more and more the front cor- 
respondents took over the actual military coverage after the North 
African landings Washington became chiefly a place where the 
main aims of strategy and the war's high politics were interpreted. 
But through the King and Marshall meetings we usually knew 
when in doubt where to go for the best light there was. 

Meanwhile, beginning within a day or two after Pearl Harbor, 

190 World War II 

we had the Office of Censorship to work with. And I say "work 
with" advisedlyrather than cope with. For, if any wartime 
agency in Washington was born with the know-how, the OC as 
opened, administered, and closed by Byron Price of the Associated 
Press was it. Some newspapermen, your correspondent among 
them, hold that the selection of Price to head it was the most 
felicitous choice made by Mr. Roosevelt in all his three terms plus. 

Price hated censorship, but he administered it as a voluntary 
system, with an implacable determination that it should work. 
His office came in time to be the court of last appeal to reason open 
to the Washington reporter. If it were all added up I venture 
that Price forced muddleheaded military, naval, and civilian per- 
sonnel to disgorge more information than he ever specifically 

His office had the power to okay as well as to stop any story for 
publication regardless of the department or agency of government 
it referred to, with the single big exception of the White House. 
The exception worked out pretty well too- most of the time. 1 

I personally ran afoul of one of the jams when it didn't work 
and of one of White House Press Secretary Steve Early's rare but 
spectacular outbursts of temper to boot. It came at the end of the 
January 1943 Casablanca Conference, President Roosevelt's first 
one overseas. There were leaks all over the world about Casa- 
blanca. They added up to published bits and pieces about the 
President's whereabouts, his intentions, and the probable time of 
his return the latter in very general terms and a somewhat im- 
pressive account of what currently was going on among the top 
men of China, Great Britain, and the United States. 

I laced them all together in a story and submitted it to the 
Office of Censorship. OC ruled that it was merely an account of 
what already had been leaked or speculated on in print and there- 
fore harmless and fit for publication. 

But on the morning it was printed reporters found Presidential 

^n the following chapter, Chapter 14, "Passed by Censor," Byron Price 
himself tells about his activities and those of his office in handling censorship 
problems. In the same chapter Elmer Davis, director of OWI, tells of his 
battle to get the military to release information to the public. 

Lyle C. Wilson 191 

Press Secretary Early livid with anger. When he found words 
Steve expressed the unqualified opinion that the writer of that 
dispatch had joined in a Nazi-Japanese plot to obtain the instant 
assassination of the President of the United States. He was mis- 
taken, of course, and ultimately got over his mad. Steve was like 
that, but a good man, too, who himself had had a hand in planning 
the censorship's successful operations. If there should be another 
war the press corps bids now for a couple of men like Early and 
Price, one at the White House and the other censoring the news. 
Simply for the sake of orientation, of course, and with the 
Censorship's full knowledge Washington's good reporters made it 
their business to know many things which never could be printed. 
Indeed the National Press Club membership probably lugged 
around enough secret information to have helped the Axis win 
the war if it could have got hold of it. Locally, for instance, the 
good reporters knew the obscure sidings in Maryland and Virginia 
from which Mr. Roosevelt could take off secretly in his private 
train. They knew about his Shangri-La hideaway in the Maryland 
mountains. That ceased to be a secret one day, though, when 
Mrs. Roosevelt's daily newspaper column made sprightly reference 
to it 

And now and then something unimportant ceased to be secret 
simply because the press corps wouldn't let it stay that way. This 
happened once when Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgenthau 
Jr. authorized his publicity man at the Treasury Department to 
announce that his boss was going to take a Florida vacation, but 
that his movements must not be reported for security reasons. 
To that the press said, "nuts" and briefly reported that Morgen- 
thau had departed to sun himself for a while. 

All things considered, I don't think it is an overstatement to say 
that the press corps and Byron Price's Office of Censorship to- 
gether eventually pretty well educated the government's military 
agencies in Washington in how to get their war reported straight 
on the line and in due sense of proportion. Some things were never 
straightened out entirely. To the end General MacArthur's daily 
communiques of the war in the Pacific islands bristled with 
rhetorical triumphs, but partial fictions were never permitted to 

192 World War II 

obscure Bis genuine over-all advances and strategic achievements. 

When D-Day came, with all the chips down, military expertness 
in public relations made it something of an anticlimax for 
Washington reporters. For the men who scrambled ashore in 
Normandy it was anything but that. But in the capital there was 
little excitement Everyone knew it was coming, although none 
among us knew just when. The corps of Washington correspond- 
ents had little to do about the landings in Normandy except to 
write the stories of applause and confidence that burgeoned. 

Finally on August 6, 1945, came an hour which was not an anti- 
climax. From the White House office of a modest little man who 
twenty-five years before had been having his troubles with a 
haberdashery business in Kansas City came a military and scien- 
tific announcement bigger than all the discoveries of Columbus, 
Galileo, Copernicus, Harvey, Edison, and Peary rolled into one. 
On Hiroshima in Japan, a city of two hundred thousand souls, an 
atomic bomb had been dropped and exploded. The tops in war 
stories was here and a peace story which grows bigger and 
newswise better with the difficulties and promises of our times. 

The Washington reporter will undertake to handle anything if 
he can get his hands on some facts and a telephone. In this case, 
aided by an enormous scientific briefing in the facts supplied by 
the government agencies concerned in launching it, he handled 
the coming of the Atomic Age and still is seeking, against 
doubtless necessary obstructions, to report the news of what it 
may finally mean to us. 

As to both the war- and the home-front coverage in Washington, 
I believe in giving credit where it is due. I have been a working 
newspaperman in the national capital since 1927. It is my honest 
opinion that had the era of perpetual big stories broken on us any 
time before the Roosevelt New Deal whirlwinds the press corps 
never would have caught up with the news. Nearly nine years of 
covering Franklin D. Roosevelt before Pearl Harbor was a sound 
break-in for covering anything else on earth. 

Nevertheless nobody can tell the story of the home front's 

Lyle C. Wilson 19S 

developments ia anything like full detail. It was just too compli- 

Nobody won any stars or ribbons for covering the home front. 
And nobody got killed either. But in some ways it was tougher 
than the battle front. There were no home-front rest areas. The 
sun came up each day on a changing Washington. Mr. Roosevelt 
inherited a mad governmental organization which had grown over 
the years with considerably less supervision and much less rela- 
tionship to natural laws than grew the famous Topsy. During the 
New Deal years he had amazingly complicated it. And Mr. 
Roosevelt was not the man to bring order from that kind of chaos, 
come the biggest war in history. 

Hence, as the war went on and national organization problems 
thickened, agency succeeded agency and administrator succeeded 
administrator or director succeeded director until a whole opera- 
tion was blurred by the successions. But they all worked one way 
or another. Production, price, wage controls, rationing! 

For my money the biggest wartime story which developed from 
scratch in Washington itself broke in its final form on October 2, 
1942. On that date Congress passed and Mr. Roosevelt instantly 
signed an anti-inflation bill. Congress had been balky. Gallery 
reporters for weeks had been telling the country of the slow move- 
ment of this legislation through Congress. It was a delicate re- 
porting job, and it was done in the main with discrimination. Many 
congressmen hesitated to lay severe controls on the people. Many 
also feared to give those controls into Mr. Roosevelt's hands. 

But, with the fleet, the Marines, and the Army on the aggres- 
sive in the Pacific, more good news just around the comer in North 
Africa, Mr. Roosevelt was in a position to demand. White House 
reporters bulletined on September 7 that Mr. Roosevelt said he 
would put on price ceilings himself if Congress refused to act. On 
October 2 he had his control law, and the press and radio had 
their hands full- That Act directed Mr. Roosevelt by November 1 
to issue a general order stabilizing prices, wages, and salaries 
affecting the cost of living. 

These hurry-up far-reaching actions touching every person in 

194 World War II 

the land never could have been effected without the media of 
information of which the press is the foundation. Rules, regula- 
tions, guides., and orders which could not have been distributed 
any other way reached officials and the public through the press. 
Oratory and the broadcast word could reach many. But when the 
public had to be told what to do and how to do it there was no 
substitute for the printed word. 

The act of October 2 was only the beginning. In all the regu- 
latory war developments the pattern was the same. The stay-at- 
homes were doing a safe, secure, but essential and difficult job of 
helping to lick Italy, Germany, and Japan. Prices got fixed and re- 
mained relatively steady. Wages had a tendency to wobble up a 
bit. Full overtime employment, coupled with the demands of the 
armed services for goods of every kind, made the civilian com- 
paratively long on money and short on things to buy. But one way 
or another, by legislation, bureau regulation, and occasional 
acts of mayhem upon the national economy, what was needed at 
the fighting fronts flowed there, and nobody on the home produc- 
tion lines starved or suffered more austerity than the human frame 
can bear. 

What happened to press corps life in wartime? 

Workwise, it was caught for four years in the grip of mounting 
personnel shortages. As each new front opened men with the deft 
touch of long experience left to cover it. Or men left to fight or 
to work on the government agencies' vital public-relations staffs. 
Replacements in the larger bureaus could not always maintain 
the standards of the departed. In result newspaperwomen's real 
break came with the war. In one office the roll call of women 
reached twenty-two. Some of them were tops and are on the job 
yet Those not fitted for big-time journalism have disappeared. 

In a way quite a lot of duplication of coverage went on, and 
some conflicts. Navy and War Department pressrooms came to be 
double and triple staffed. The Office of War Information, sired 
by Propaganda out of the Office of Facts and Figures, the In- 
formation Division of OEM, and the Office of Government Re- 
ports, set up the biggest newsroom in town. One of the basic 

Lyle C. Wilson 195 

disputes of the war between government and reporters was 
whether OWI would cover the news and report It to the reporters, 
or whether the reporters would cover it first hand. It all is a bit 
remote now, but it seems to me that dispute never was quite 
settled, so that OWI went its way covering the news and so did the 
regular reporters. 

For the government craftsmen as well as for the newsmen life 
in its relaxations centered in the National Press Club as usual. 
From that Pearl Harbor evening on it was the place where every- 
thing that happened was talked of; where everything that might 
or should have happened, or that anybody wanted to happen, was 
expanded upon in ideas of infinite variety. So the club became in 
due season the greatest center of information., misinformation, 
speculation, and of secrets, real or imaginary, upon this continent. 

To its special luncheons came government and visiting celebri- 
ties with off-record thoughts and global and domestic reporting 
which if laid end to end, it has been calculated, would have 
bridged some of the more notable gaps in the starry universe. Yet 
among the f our-hundred-and-fifty-odd men usually attending these 
revelations press and radio reporters and commentators, club 
guests, and associate members with insatiable appetites for the 
off-recordthere never was a leak of vital information. 

Eventually, though, quite a few things in the club's life changed. 
Scotch dried gradually away until Its sale was restricted to mem- 
bers only. Even then there were days when the bartenders had 
to mark it absent. Along with the scotch shortage other easy- 
going ways of the club diminished. After all there were more 
people in Washington than ever before, and the club's popularity 
in ratio to the increase more than multiplied. 

But in time of crisis in a lawless world order came among us 
to dwell for a time. Members alone were permitted within the 
precincts of the bar. Not before had the privilege of the bar been 
questioned to almost any man. And that included those who'd 
been in for a drink as a guest and stayed on, you might say, 
over the years. There were others who preferred the club wash- 
rooms to the more public facilities on all floors of the building and 
who, although nonmembers and perhaps unacquainted with any, 

World War II 

found the bar also accessible and came often to take great part 
In the debates and dialectics and found firm friends and even on 
occasion may have been elected to office. Who knows? Ours is a 
friendly place. But with a guard on the gate and a challenge for 
all the host of free riders diminished and was gone. 

Finally in the victory spring of 1945 the club organized an 
institution believed to be unique in the annals of wartime priva- 
tionthe sit-down cigarette queue. It began, of course, with the 
cigarette dearth which hit all American society for a while. 
Dealers furnished the club a normal supply, and things would 
have gone well but for one circumstance. Members formed the 
uneconomic habit of sending their secretaries, batmen, valets, 
wives, mothers-in-law, office boys, attorneys, and literary agents 
to the club to buy cigarettes. 

Like scotch, then, sales suddenly had to be restricted to mem- 
bers only, and then to a single hour in the day and to one package 
apiece and you had to have not folding money, but the exact 
change ready besides. So the queue formed. And, as became men 
used to getting into places by press badge instead of by standing 
in line, it arranged itself sitting down. 

By voiceless common consent the late Charles Stewart of the 
Central Press, known for his agile decrepitude as the Young Pre- 
tender, held first place regardless of where he sat. And Sir Wfll- 
mott Lewis of the London Times held second as the club's most 
distinguished resident foreigner. But otherwise each chair and 
each divan sitting space in the club's large living lounge came to 
have its special number in relation to all the others. He who sat 
and remained in the big leather chair in a far corner was number 
twenty-eight when aU stood up to buy, and none would challenge 
his senior position. 

Curious developments followed which usually accompany 
emergencies. The National Geographic Society, for example, be- 
gan outfitting expeditions to the National Press Club, an objective 
never before attempted save on club election days. Denizens of 
the cardroom who previously had been ignorant that the club 
comprised other apartments came groping into the lounge brush- 
ing spots from their eyes. Certain taproom elements who had 

Lyle C. Wilson 197 

never been beyond that oasis were led to chairs in the line by 
guides. Then the war ended and cigarettes were flush again. 

In that spring of 1945 was poured, too, the last pitcher of beer in 
an outstandingly successful entertainment enterprise the National 
Press Club Canteen. The canteen grew out of unplanned incident. 
On a sodden late fall Saturday in 1942 some sailors from a visit- 
ing British craft, short on money and knowledge of how to have 
fun in town, were brought to the club by some hospitable mem- 
bers and encouraged to drink all the beer they could hold. They 
could hold a lot, and some drank even more. 

The party was sufficiently a success so that by Christmastime 
bigger and better ones like it were a regular Saturday afternoon 
service, originated and sponsored by the National Press Club's 
American Legion Post. The club auditorium was pre-empted for 
the duration. Members were tapped for continuing contributions 
and enlisted in volunteer shifts of waiters. And all the GFs 
within cruising distance of Washington and of whatever Allied 
uniform were invited. Beer (but no hard liquors) in twenty- 
barrel geysers per Saturday flowed, while hot dogs piled up in 
mountains and diminished. It all floated along with GI's shouted 
conversation on oceans of boogiewoogie noise furnished by 
military bands from the neighborhood and an occasional musical- 
show orchestra. 

The attendance of the great very much including visiting show 
choruses was solicited, not to say commandeered, but under 
certain restrictions. No cabinet member, general, admiral, co- 
ordinator, agency head, Supreme Court justice, or Congressional 
celebrity could speak longer than two minutes, even if he was a 
visiting prime minister. The rule skipped only the show girls. They 
were at liberty to display their talents or whatever else they had 
as long as the boys wanted it. None of them ever seemed to be 
interested in public speaking anyhow. On one peak day the whole 
Supreme Court of the United States was present except for one 
member, and at the superpeak all of Earl Carroll's Follies girls 
with no absentees of record. 

Statisticians were never present, but at the best estimates of 
seven hundred GI's per Saturday on thirty Saturdays a year 

198 World War II 

canteens were omitted in deference to the Washington summers 
tens of thousands of "the kids" undoubtedly passed through the 
Press Club's fiestas on their way to grimmer experiences. 

Now and then a member covering a European battleground or 
some remote Pacific beachhead was made aware of this when 
some GI sidled up to him and asked, "Say, Mack, they still got 
those canteens running back there in that Press Club?" 

Maybe this is what made Charley Michie of the lately doomed 
newspaper PM call the canteen "the burp heard round the world." 

There isn't much else to say. In the National Press Club we 
mourned our dead: Ray Clapper, Ernie Pyle, and Ben Robertson, 
also (and we knew why) mourned by the public, and some others 
who were close chiefly to ourselves. A man was mourned, too, 
whose body came back on a glowing April Friday from Warm 
Springs, Georgia, to Washington. And next day his coffin, looking 
curiously small against the bulk of its gun caisson, moved through 
the city's still streets to the Union Station to entrain to its final 
resting place at his beloved Hyde Park. Many loved him, though 
not everyone, and some still manage to hate. But he was mourned, 
amid the corn, in some memorable newspaper and radio prose. 

Then the Japanese quit on a hot August day, and the town 
exploded in a celebration which nearly put a hole in the sky. From 
the bar and main dining-room windows of the Press Club awed 
members watched a task force of young Marines and their girl 
friends try to set fire to the Willard Hotel not once, but several 
times. Police protested, but did not arrest. There was celebration 
in the club, too, and morning found many a head heavy. 

But the professional members had found time to handle two 
flashes and accompanying reading matter as an opening chapter of 
the peace and who won or lost it. They were the executive orders 
ending the rationing of gasoline and war manpower controls. 
Those were the beginning of the endless task of the members of 
the Washington Press to tell the story of after the war. 


Passed by Censor 


George Creel was Chairman of the 
Committee on Public Information dur- 
ing World War I. His career includes 
editorship of the Kansas City Inde- 
pendent, Denver Post and Rocky 
Mountain News, special correspond- 
ence from Washington and the world 
at large for Collier's and other maga- 
zines. His books include The "War, The 
World and Wihon, 1920, The People 
Next Door (on Mexico), 1926, and 
War Criminals, 1944. 


Byron Price, a native of Indiana and a 
graduate of Wabash College, was news 
editor of the Associated Press bureau 
in Washington, 1922-27, bureau chief, 
1927-37, and executive news editor of 
the entire organization, 1937-41. He 
was director of the government's Office 
of Censorship, 1941-45, and is now 
Assistant Secretary-General of the 
United Nations. 


Elmer Davis, another native Hoosier, 
was director of the Office of War In- 
formation, 1942-45. A graduate of 
Franklin College and a former Rhodes 
scholar at Oxford, he has been a mem- 
ber of the New York Times editorial 
staff, 1914-24, news analyst of the Co- 
lumbia Broadcasting System before the 
war and of the American Broadcasting 
Company since. 

200 Passed by Censor 

AND WILLIAM A. KINNEY William A. Kinney started newspaper- 

ing as an undergraduate in Holy Cross 
College, Worcester, Massachusetts, 
during the 1920s. He joined the Asso- 
ciated Press in 1931 and for two years 
was assigned to work on its published 
official history. He has been a news 
editor in the Washington bureau and 
a member of the staff of World Report 
magazine. He is now chief of the 
News Bulletin Service of the National 
Geographic Society. 

Many have been the uncomplimentary remarks about the climate 
of Washington. One kind thing that may be said, however, is 
that this climate hardly has been salubrious for censorship in the 
century and a half the city has been the capital of the United 

Prime credit for this belongs, of course, to the Bill of Rights; 
but the record will show more than an occasional assist by the 
vigilance or ingenuity of the press corps. 

The only effective government ventures in press censorship 
to date have been under the stress of two world wars, with their 
overriding threat to national security. In each instance official 
censorship existed only for the duration. In each instance it was 
voluntary. And in each instance it was the genuine co-operation 
of the newspapers that made it effective. 

Unofficial censorship., like the poor, probably will always be 
with us. In the last analysis every reporter or editor perforce is 
a censor. He must decide what -facts to present., what facts to omit. 
Rare is the news story, though it run columns, that exhausts all 
information on a given subject. However, unofficial censorship 
never has been effective, whether exercised by individual cor- 
respondent or some presuming government bureau. 

Even in the worst days of the partisan press, when news was 
shamelessly colored and distorted, there were always enough re- 
porters in rival political camps to confound the best efforts to 

William A. Kinney 201 

suppress tidings politically distasteful to those in the saddle. 
Through the years it has been much the same story with those 
federal officials who have contrived at imposing covert little 
censorship systems of their own; no one ever has got away with it 
for long. 

Object lessons are many. Consider the case of William Tecumseh 
Sherman, Commanding General of the Army for a decade and a 
half after the "War Between the States and a man embittered 
(not without reason) toward the press. When a punitive cavalry 
expedition against the Indians was about to set out in 1876 
Sherman tried his official hand at blacking out newspaper 

In a War Department wire he instructed the superior officer 
of the operation. "Advise Custer to be prudent, not to take along 
any newspaper men, who always make mischief! 9 

With General George Armstrong Custer, however, that advice 
went in one ear and out the other. Dispatches on the progress 
of his Seventh Cavalry column came back regularly until the 
massacre at Little Big Horn. The lone civilian to go down in that 
slaughter was the newspaperman the insubordinate Custer took 
along from Bismarck, North Dakota. 

Journalistic history is vague on just how censorship got its start 
in the world or who sired it. Alexander the Great has been 
credited with inventing postal censorship for his troops in the 
fourth century B.C. Much earlier^ the Old Testament records, the 
death penalty was decreed for any herald who brought back 
news of defeat in battle. 

By his present name the censor dates back to ancient Rome, 
where he began by doing business at an entirely different stand. 
The two-man office of censorship was created in 44& B.C., en- 
trusted with the responsibility of presiding over the census. This 
involved not only the registration of citizens but also an estimate 
of the duties each individual owed to the state. 

In time the scope of the office widened immeasurably. The 
censors directed the levying of taxes; they let contracts for repair 
of public buildings; they determined the composition of the 
Roman Senate; they propounded the moral code by which the 

202 Passed by Censor 

populace should abide, and any flouting of their rules could cost 
a man his job and his right to vote. Thought control in a toga is 
not difficult to discern. 

When Europe started to emerge from the Middle Ages the idea 
of censorship was quite firmly established and generally ac- 
cepted. Printed publications were subject to various strictures, all 
designed to prevent circulation of embarrassing facts or "disturb- 
ing sentiments among the people. Books and plays required 
official licenses. Religious censorship wielded stern powers over 
matters adjudged in the ecclesiastical sphere an elastic ter- 
ritory which frequently encompassed a lot of non-ecclesiastical 

For the English-speaking world the first resounding blow 
against this devious system of curbs and hindrances was delivered 
in 1644 by the poet, John Milton. His Areopagitica thundered 
against the entire business of censoring and licensing the press 
and with eloquence denounced the tyrannical restrictions of 

It was a telling attack, but not until a half century later 
1695 to be exactdid Britain achieve virtual freedom of the press. 
Other European countries were not so fortunate. Censorship in 
one form or other persisted, in many of them down to this day. 

Britain, the record shows, displayed no missionary zeal in 
carrying the gospel of press freedom at once to the benighted. 
The circumscribed publishers and pamphleteers among His 
Majesty's subjects in the American Colonies can bear full witness 
to that. They had to wait for their liberation until a Revolution 
was fought and the United States came into being with a Con- 
stitution and Bill of Rights that guaranteed freedom of speech 
and of the press. 

For a full century and more governmental censorship efforts 
hardly constituted a major problem for Washington correspond- 
ents or the nations press. 

True there was the Sedition Act which Congress produced in 
1798 during the period of semibeUigerent sparring with France, 
but the law was quickly jettisoned under the combined pressure of 
the newspapers and the electorate. 

William A. Kinney 203 

Some three score years later censorship of a sort appeared 
with the Civil War, but a sorry, inept, jumbling thing it was. 
Throughout the greater part of the conflict newspapers North 
and Southsewed as excellent intelligence sources for the 
enemy -unconsciously most of the time and in all but a few cases 
with complete immunity. With blithe abandon front pages fre- 
quently telegraphed advance battle plans, troop dispositions, 
details of fortified works, strategic blows in the making. There 
were moments when things were reasonably close to a modern 
G~2s concept of paradise. 

The efforts of Lincoln's Secretary of War y Edwin M. Stanton, 
to establish an effective censorship system are historically note- 
worthy, though the results fett far short of the objectives. Much 
better than the most patriotic editor of his day he came to under- 
stand the importance of wartime security to the national interest. 

It remained., however, for two world wars to bring home that 
idea to the Washington press corps and to persuade the country 
of its validity. But for handling the security problems raised by 
those two wars no true guide or precedent existed in American 
experience. Both conflicts were fought in an advancing era of 
mass communications, with complex economic -factors often as 
vital as the strength of battalions. 

The scheme of censorship the two wars produced had best be 
told by the three men intimately responsible for its functioning: 
the prodigious George Creel of World War I; the imperturbable,, 
efficient Byron Price of World War 11; and the oft maligned 
Elmer Davis, who waged an unsung battle against needless 
suppression of news by the military throughout the struggle 
with the Axis. 

A provocative, dynamic personality, Creel is sui generis. As 
Chairman of the Committee on Public Information he was not 
only chief censor for a nation at war, but also its number one 
propagandist. In the latter role he once had one hundred and -fifty 
thousand persons working for him- artists, speakers, writers, all 
fervently preaching the gospel of "Make the World Safe for 
Democracy* while the bands played "Over There," and Four- 
Minutemen sold Liberty Bonds. 

204 Passed by Censor 

In perspective censorship consumed only a minor part of 
Greets amazing wartime energies,, and -for it he required a very 
small administrative staff, drawn in the main from the ranks of 
Washington correspondents. 

Like any censor Creel found at times that his lot was not a 
happy one. He exploded against the AP when a censorship slip- 
up let through the first news of the arrival of the first U, S. troops 
in France. Nor was this the only occasion he verbally flayed 
correspondents for dispatches which may yet be considered con- 
troversial. But such incidents as these made only occasional 
footnotes in the successful 1917-18 experiment in wartime cen- 
sorship which Creel directed. 

W. A. K. 


On the heels of President Wilson's War Message the Army 
and the Navy persuaded him to ask Congress for the enactment 
of a hard and fast press-censorship law. As we had come to a 
fairly close relationship by reason of my work for his re-election 
in 1916 I took the liberty of sending the President a detailed 
argument against the proposed legislation. 

Aside from the enormous cost and the physical difficulties of 
enforcement I pointed out that for the first time in our history 
soldiers of the United States were sailing to fight in a foreign 
land, leaving families three thousand miles behind them. Nothing, 
therefore, was more important than to guard against any impair- 
ment of the people's confidence in the information given to them. 
Since they would be suspicious enough by virtue of natural 
anxieties, a censorship bill was bound to stir the fear that news 
was being suppressed or else slanted. Even if freedom of the 
press was abused, abuses were preferable to the deadening evil 
of autocratic control. 

I also made the point that censorship laws, while protesting 
protection of military secrets as a sole objective, had a way of 

George Creel 205 

slipping over into the field of opinion. "Information of value 
to the enemy" was an elastic phrase and could easily be stretched 
to cover the whole area of independent discussion. Nothing was 
more dangerous, for a democracy did not need less criticism in 
time of war, but more, 

What I urged was a Committee on Public Information to make 
the fight for the "verdict of mankind/' a vast publicity operation 
that would weld our own people into an understanding and 
determined whole, that would win the support of neutral nations 
by the presentation of facts, and that would carry America's 
message to the Central Powers. 

Instead of a censorship law, with its irritations and confusions, 
I suggested a voluntary agreement that would make every news- 
paper in the land its own censor, putting it up to the patriotism 
and common sense of the individual editor to protect military 
information of tangible value to the enemy. 

President Wilson saw fit to approve my statement, and on 
April 14, 1917, announced the creation of a Committee on Public 
Information with myself as civilian chairman and the Secretary of 
State, the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of the Navy as 
the other members. One meeting, however, disclosed the cumber- 
some nature of such a setup. From that time on until the end of 
the war I conferred personally with Secretary of War Newton 
D. Baker and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels when 
occasion required and reported directly to the President. 

Deciding on the concealments to be asked of the press was a 
tedious, tiresome business. As first presented by the generals and 
admirals the list contained a hundred or more requests for secrecy, 
and it was only after weeks of battling that the number was 
pared down to eighteen. 

The next step was their submission to the National Press 
Club, and after sufficient time for proper study I called a meet- 
ing of the newspapermen and presented myself for questioning. 
The temper of the gathering, hostile at first, grew more friendly 
as understandings were reached, and at the end there was agree- 
ment that the plan merited a fair trial. 

The eighteen requests, printed on a six-by-twelve-inch card, 

206 Passed by Censor 

were placed in the hands o every Washington correspondent 
and went to every city desk in the country. The secrecy desired 
had to do with troop movements; the location of bases; tie sailing 
or arrival of warships, transports, and merchant vessels; in- 
formation as to convoys; coast or antiaircraft defenses; the laying 
of mines or mine fields or of any harbor defenses; information with 
respect to government devices and experiments in war materials; 
the transportation of munitions; and everything relating to 
aviation schools, the production of air materiel, and the numbers 
and organization of the air division, etc. etc. 

A foreword made it clear that the eighteen items represented 
the thought and advice of the Army and Navy technical ad- 
visers, and the closing paragraph read as follows: "These requests 
to the press are without larger authority than the necessities of the 
war-making branches. Their enforcement is a matter for the press 

With the press depended on to protect information of tangible 
value to the enemy it became an obligation to meet the legiti- 
mate demand for all war news that did not divulge military 
secrets. This was done by placing men in every department of 
government for the preparation and release of reports on America's 
war effort. Not the hundreds of "public-relations counselors" of 
World War II, but a few trained reporters recommended by the 
elders of the National Press Club. Four in the War Department, 
for example, three in the Navy, and one each in the War Trade 
Board, the War Industries Board, the Department of Justice, and 
so on down the line. 

A difficult and delicate task it was, for both press and officials 
viewed the arrangement with distrust. Admirals and generals 
wanted an "iron curtain," and newspapermen feared that it meant 
"press-agenting" on a huge scale. White House orders took 
care of military objections, and the suspicions of the cor- 
respondents quieted when it was seen that we furnished facts 
without the least trace of color and bias. At no point, moreover, 
was there any attempt to prevent independent news-gathering or 
to interfere with individual contracts. What also helped was 
ultimate recognition of the value to the press of a machinery 

George Creel 207 

that made daily delivery and equitable distribution of all official 
war news from just one center. 

The Division of News also operated the voluntary censorship, 
interpreting the government's requests for secrecy. A twenty- 
four-hour service was maintained, and men on the reference desk 
advised as to whether the news item was or was not covered 
by the card. In no instance, however, were there direct orders, 
care being taken to explain that compliance or non-compliance 
was up to the individual. Washington correspondents, I am glad 
to testify, leaned over backward in their observance of the card's 

As far as the good faith of the press was concerned our 
"Voluntary censorship" may be written down as a success. News- 
papermen may well be proud of the record, for I can recall only 
two or three deliberate violations in the eighteen months of war. 
Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done about them. 
The committee itself was without authority to punish, and due 
to the lack of an enforceable code of ethics the press was 
equally powerless. Shyster lawyers can be disbarred^ quack 
doctors can have their licenses revoked, and unworthy minis- 
ters can be unfrocked, but the newspaper profession had no 
method of dealing with black sheep. 

What made the showing even more remarkable was that 
from first to last the press labored under the strain of constant and 
justifiable irritations. All went fairly well in Washington, where 
the committee was available for authoritative rulings, but out in 
the field all was chaos. A lieutenant would bar one paper from 
taking plane pictures and the next day a colonel would give the 
right to a rival sheet. The press was barred from printing ship- 
ping news, but the notices of arrivals and departures were posted 
in hotel lobbies. Naval construction was a top-drawer secret, but 
it was common for the number and cost of new battleships and 
cruisers to appear in the Congressional Record. Army officials 
in Chicago would kill a story to which Kansas City censors 
offered no objections. Reporters were commanded to ignore the 
construction of a great plane factory even while the Chamber of 
Commerce was giving a banquet in celebration of the project Any 

208 Passed by Censor 

mention of troop movements was verboten to the press, although 
the people of towns crowded railroad stations to see their 
"boys" off. 

The committee also suffered its bedevilments. Knowing that 
something was being kept from them, the public became con- 
vinced that a great deal was being hidden, thus opening the door 
to every variety of wild and disintegrating rumor. Now it would 
be that epidemics had broken out in the training camps, killing 
soldiers in such numbers that the bodies were being dumped 
into trenches without burial services. Then would come the 
whisper that a German submarine had slipped into New York 
harbor, sinking scores of ships, and that every morgue and 
hospital was filled with the dead and dying. Day after day 
such lies ate at the heart of America's morale. 

Out of it all came my conclusion that the "voluntary censorship" 
was not only unworkable but unnecessary. To confirm the belief, 
however, I saw the openminded head of one of the Intelligence 
units and asked him if he honestly believed that the enemy 
relied on our press for information. 

"Certainly not," he answered. "Speed in transmission is the 
essence, and it takes days, not hours, for newspapers to reach a 
neutral country in communication with the enemy." 

"Then the employment of spies and the use of cables is plainly 

"Of course." 

Going to the White House, I laid my case before President 
Wilson, and in July he issued an order subjecting all cable com- 
munications to rigid censorship. Press dispatches were not 
touched, but everything else was given a scrutiny that re- 
sulted in the detection and arrest of many enemy agents. In 1917, 
fortunately for us, the radio was not a problem. 

With control of the cables in successful operation, I went to 
the President with the suggestion that the "voluntary censorship" 
of the press be discontinued. The needs of the day, I insisted, were 
confidence, enthusiasm, and service, and these needs could not be 
met fully until every citizen was given the feeling of partnership 
that came from frank statements concerning every phase of our 
war effort 

George Creel 209 

What wiser or more helpful than to let the people know what 
was being done with their enemy? To provide them with the as- 
surance that the military program had not bogged down but was 
going ahead at full speed? Information, and detailed information, 
as to the progress of troop training, plane and ship construction, 
etc. was good news for Americans and bad news for the enemy. 
Common sense commanded that newspapers be given the green 
light. With an effective censorship of the cables and the mails, 
there was no reason why the flow of information to our people 
should not be full and free. 

Of course there were some secrets that had to be guarded. 
War plans, new inventions, technical developments, et cetera, 
et cetera. But where was there any other answer than secrecy 
at the source? If such information came to the ears of a reporter, 
most certainly it could be learned by any spy worth his pay. 

Going further, I pointed out that the atmosphere created by 
common knowledge of a press censorship, even in small degree, 
provided an ideal "culture" for the propagation of enemy rumor. 
A newspaper story had a responsible editor behind it, and if 
untrue could be denied and disproved. On the other hand the 
source of a rumor could not be traced and gathered momentum 
as it leaped from coast to coast. 

The proposal to lift the "voluntary censorship" brought a 
scream of protest from the admirals and generals, and President 
Wilson viewed it with equal disfavor. While admitting that from 
80 to 90 per cent of the press could be counted on for patriotism 
and intelligence, he held stubbornly to the view that some measure 
of control was necessary for a 'lawless" 10 or 20 per cent. Thus 
it continued for the duration. 

Even so after thirty-one years I am still convinced that my 
argument against it was sound. 

Press censorship departed the Washington scene with the end 
of "The War To End Wars" in November 1918, only to return a 
little more than two tumultuous decades later for another Arma- 
geddonbigger, more stupendous than ever. 

210 Passed by Censor 

The uneasy intervening years spawned a host of complexities 
that were to make World War I problems seem mere child's play. 
The most formidable factor was the amazing development of 
rapid communications. (Remember CreeTs aside? "Fortunately 
for us, the radio was not a problem!'} Economically , too, the na- 
tions warmaJdng potential had become vastly more intricate, and 
the area of military security expanded many times over to accom- 
modate the enormous advance of science and technology. 

Add to all this the fact of Total War. And Total War on two 

Confronted with such a situation, one of the soundest decisions 
to come out of the White House in those hectic days after Pearl 
Harbor was against trying to operate a combined censorship- 
propaganda agency on the 1917-18 pattern. 

The Office of Censorship was to be just that and nothing more. 
Propaganda and some of the other civilian phases of psycho- 
logical warfare were later checked to a separate instrumentality, 
the Office of War Information. 

The choice of the man to head the Office of Censorship in 
World War II was as felicitous as the decision to limit its respon- 
sibilities. "For Chief Censor President Roosevelt selected Byron 
Price, then Executive Editor of the Associated Press in New Yorfc. 
A newspaperman's newspaperman, Price possessed a rare com- 
bination of qualities almost made to order for the job. He was one 
of the best known and respected news executives in the country. 
Twenty-two years spent as a Washington correspondent had made 
him thoroughly familiar with government processes, politics, and 
red tape. And, perhaps the highest recommendation., he had a 
veteran newspaperman's innate mistrust of censorship. 

As Chief Censor it fell his lot to "sit on' the most awesome news 
story since creation the unleashing of atomic energy. In the 
course of safeguarding this secret until Hiroshima, Price found 
himself the first censor in history who had to worry about the 
content of wartime comic strips. There was always the danger 
that the wildly imaginative yet often prophetic strips of the Buck 
Rogers variety might spur thinking along atomic lines. No less a 
hero than Superman bowed to Price and meekly revised his ad- 

Byron Price 211 

ventures when the advance script called for featuring cyclotrons 
too prominently. 

Interestingly enough, ordinary citizens showed marked concern 
over the danger of security leaks via the funny pages long before 
atomic secrets became a censor's problem. They wrote in to volun- 
teer their warnings. "Watch out" one patriot cautioned, "for tip- 
offs to the enemy in the comic stripsr 

The Office of Censorship had its headaches, too, when the 
political overtones of censorable news seemed to drown out the 
security factors involved. Political partisanship never took a com- 
plete holiday during the war, but no one ever accused Price of be- 
ing anyone's tool or cafs-paw. 

Best index of the job done by Censorship is that it was one of 
those extremely rare war agencies that failed signally to achieve 
a Congressional investigation or even the kudos of a sustained 
attack. On the contrary it was occasionally embarrassed by praise. 

Perhaps the most eloquent tribute went in the record as V-J 
Day neared. It came from the American Civil Liberties Union, 
normally hypersensitive to any suspicion of an infringement of 
Constitutional guarantees. "Censorship arising out of the war? 
the Union found, "has raised almost no issues in the United 
States." The Chief Censors account may explain how his agency 
managed to incur that encomium. 

W. A. K. 


The story of press censorship during World Wax II is a tale 
of many places and many deadlines. Its pattern unfolded in 
countless city rooms and briefing rooms, on waterfronts and battle- 
fronts, over the desks of frequently bewildered and sometimes 
exasperated military brass and publishing brass, and in sundry 
blacked-out corners. But the hub of all its activity was Washing- 
ton, and the Washington correspondents were nearly always 
vividly in the foreground. 

212 Passed by Censor 

With the single exception of their colleagues in combat zones 
overseas the capital corps of newsmen felt most heavily the re- 
straints of censorship. For nearly four years their lives and profes- 
sional habits were invaded in a manner and to an extent which 
they themselves did not always realize. By the same token to them 
belongs a generous share of credit for whatever degree of success 
the undertaking attained. 

To the naked eye of American newspaper initiative the War 
Years presented a strange outlook. Day-by-day editors made their 
news selections on the advice of government agents, and many 
times many potential first-page exclusives went the way of the 
wastebasket. Beginning gradually and almost gently while the 
country still drifted in the twilight preceding war, the era of 
abnormal behavior for newspapers came to full bloom soon after 
Pearl Harbor and continued until hostilities ended. 

The first portents appeared in 1940, when more and more public 
officials began to speak only in whispers, enjoining reporters not 
to print all they knew. In early 1941 the Navy boldly asked for 
secrecy regarding the repair of British warships in American ship- 
yards. The response was spotty, but in the main effective. En- 
couraged by the Navy's partial success, the Weather Bureau, the 
Maritime Commission, and other agencies set out to make re- 
quests of their own taking into their own unco-ordinated hands, 
so to speak, a law which did not exist at all. 

The reverberations in the National Press Club bar and adjoin- 
ing areas were loud and discordant. Frustration was fed increas- 
ingly by bewilderment and confusion, even by outright anger. 
Just what did the government want, and where would it end? 

The coming of actual war saw some of the confusion dissipated, 
but it must be said that much of the frustration and some of the 
sense of outrage persisted to the end of hostilities. There was also 
no lack of ribaldry sometimes at the helplessness of censors with- 
out a legal leg to stand on, trying to keep their balance between a 
hungry press and the threatening interdictions of the more short- 
sighted among the military. 

Of course that was one of the inescapable trials of a voluntary 

Byron Price 213 

censorship, which was the only kind anyone wanted barring 
some of the military authorities. 

Congress legalized censorship of international mail and cables 
after Pearl Harbor, but neither the President nor any member of 
Congress proposed to include the domestic press. The only exist- 
ing statute which might apply was the old Espionage Act, but 
that had been drafted to catch spies, and proof of malicious intent 
was required for conviction. In essence there was no legal basis 
for restraints on the press. 

Mr. Roosevelt's answer to the dilemma was the creation on 
December 19, 1941, of an Office of Censorship. Departing widely 
from the pattern of World War I, he placed upon this single 
agency two sorts of responsibilities. He instructed it to censor 
mail and cables entering and leaving the country and also to seek 
the voluntary co-operation of press and radio to withhold valuable 
information from the enemy. 

It was the first of these responsibilities which absorbed the 
major resources of the Office of Censorship and involved recruit- 
ment of fourteen thousand mail and cable censors. 

But it was the second responsibility which carried the dynamite. 
In any democratic country the press censor's house can be builded 
only on sand. He can rely only on the shifting possibilities of 
mutual understanding; no barrier to free expression will be toler- 
ated by free people if they believe it imposes senseless restraints. 

From the practical viewpoint, also, co-operation of the press lay 
at the very heart of the entire censorship process. No matter how 
many thousands or millions of censors might be stationed on the 
borders, they never would seal off communication completely. 
Friendly nations still must be given the courtesy of the diplomatic 
pouch. Travelers must pass if the business of war is to be expe- 
dited, and every traveler carries information in his head. The only 
safe way to curtail information for the enemy is to keep it out of 
circulation at home. 

Immediately it came into being, the Office of Censorship set 
about drafting a code designed to draw together and classify the 
categories of information which in the interest of national security 
ought not to be published in wartime. It appealed to the press to 

214 Passed by Censor 

observe this code, and it assembled a small staff of experienced 
newspapermen (there never were more than a dozen on the rolls 
at any one time) to answer questions in borderline cases. They 
were never to object to editorial opinion or criticism. They were to 
work only with facts, facts, facts, seeking eternally the one ob- 
jective of keeping dangerous information from the enemy. 

This all sounds very simple, but in practice many complications 
arose. The making of the code in that hectic Christmastide of 1941 
was in itself a feverish exercise in rope walking. Departments and 
bureaus, military and civilian, asked for far more restrictions than 
any effective traffic could possibly bear. Negotiation and drafting 
was largely the handiwork of John Sorrells, executive editor of the 
Scripps-Howard newspapers, who was borrowed to take over as the 
first Chief of the Press Division. The task he undertook required 
all the brilliant craftsmanship, diplomacy, and downright courage 
which had brought him to the very top of the newspaper pro- 

The real point about the code, as every newspaperman knew, 
was that it would be completely useless unless backed by mutual 
confidence. It came to have meaning not by reason of its promul- 
gation by the government, but only because the overwhelming 
majority of the press accepted it as reasonable and workable. It 
retained significance only because that attitude of the press did 
not change during the entire period of the war. 

The operation admittedly was far from perfect. For one thing 
a basic tenet was that the Office of Censorship would not censor 
the government, that if a qualified "appropriate authority" dis- 
closed information for publication censorship would not object. 
However sound that thesis may have been, it led to many com- 
plications. Sometimes it was possible, for example, for enterprising 
correspondents to induce a congressman to sponsor a story other- 
wise in violation of the code a circumstance which led Jim 
Wright, Washington correspondent for the Buffalo Evening News, 
to remark on "the 531 holes in the code/" But actual abuses of that 
kind were few indeed. 

For a time many newsmen were confused by the relative func- 
tions of the Office of Censorship and the information services of 

Byron Price 215 

the government, eventually herded under the wing of Elmer 
Davis's Office of War Information. Actually the two agencies were 
as separate as were the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the 
Bureau of Fisheries. Each did what its name indicated, and any 
threat of conflict was dissipated by a signed agreement that the 
Office of War Information would do no censoring and the Office 
of Censorship would not meddle with the government's informa- 
tion programs. 

Nearly all of those who served in the Press Division were on 
leave from private newspaper or magazine employment requisi- 
tioned for brief or long periods to help win the war. After Sor- 
rells the Division was headed successively by Nathaniel R. How- 
ard, editor of the Cleveland News and formerly secretary of the 
American Society of Newspaper Editors; Jack Lockhart, managing 
editor of the Memphis Commercial Appeal; and finally Theodore 
F. Koop, a seasoned AP man who had been directing the Informa- 
tion service of the National Geographic Society. To William H. 
Mylander, erstwhile Washington correspondent for the Toledo 
Blade and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and James E. Warner, then 
Washington correspondent for the Providence Journal (now of the 
New York Herald Tribune capital staff), fell the major task of 
clearing stories of the Washington correspondents and defending 
the agency when it was ribbed over the Press Club luncheon 

In all an even twenty pulled their weight in the boat at one time 
or another, the others being William P. Steven, managing editor 
of the Tulsa Tribune; Kingsley Rice of the Technical Publishing 
Company, Chicago; Frank P. Tighe, managing editor of Auto- 
motive Industry; W. Holden ("Mike") White, publisher of Your 
Garden magazine; Frank C. Clough, managing editor of William 
Allen White's Emporia Gazette; Charles R. Corbin, managing 
editor of the Toledo Blade; James Pope, managing editor of the 
Louisville Courier-Journal; A. Milburn Petty, Washington corre- 
spondent for National Petroleum News; Joe Alex Morris, foreign 
news editor of the United Press Associations; Philip D. Adler, 
editor and publisher of the Kewanee (Illinois) Sun-Courier; 
Arthur E. King, managing editor of the Winston-Salem (North 

216 Tossed "by Censor 

Carolina) Journal; William H. Walsh, city editor of the Spring- 
field (Massachusetts) Republican; Day Thorpe, editor of the 
Bethesda (Maryland) Journal; and J. Philip Buskirk, an authority 
on technical and scientific data. 

One special distinction was enjoyed by this aggregation of ama- 
teur and unorthodox bureaucrats. In the nature of things they had 
to be a court which acted without the customary law's delay. Early 
in the war Lockhart established something like a world's record 
for celerity in burning up red tape. By long-distance telephone he 
cleared a story sentence by sentence for a managing editor who 
was just on his deadline and was feeding copy to the composing 
room in five-line takes. And between them they made the dead- 

Naturally newspaper v acceptance of the code was not always 
enthusiastically unanimous. Sometimes as in the case of the 
atomic bomb and the timing of the Soviet declaration of war on 
Japan the disagreements arose because censorship could not 
disclose its reasons without destroying the security it was trying 
to protect. Sometimes disputes were due to plain and honest 
difference of opinion as to what information would help the 
enemy and what would not. 

When in the Congressional campaign year 1942 the President 
decided to visit war plants across the continent the protest against 
secrecy reached worrisome proportions. Protection of the Presi- 
dential travels had always been an accepted part of the code. This 
time there might be political implications, and a substantial group 
of respected Washington correspondents objected. But while they 
argued they kept the secret until the trip was over and the news 
officially released. The general sentiment of the press did not ap- 
pear to support the protest, and the code stood. 

It was just as well. A little later the President again left Wash- 
ington, this time for Casablanca. Again as before editors were 
informed that he was taking a trip. Period. It worked, and Berlin 
learned about it all too late. 

The story of the atomic bomb, as seen by the censors in all its 
stages, is far too long to relate here. One early chapter was some- 
thing of a classic. Editors were asked to be cautious about stories 

Byron Price 217 

involving certain minerals in the atomic table and their com- 
pounds, including several having no connection with the bomb 
and "a few phonies" which the resourceful and imaginative Nat 
Howard said later he threw in gratuitously for the admonitory 
note to editors "just to confuse the enemy." 

It may still surprise some correspondents to know that the long 
trail reached its news climax not on the day of Hiroshima, but 
three weeks earlier on July 16, 1945. 

That was the day of the first test in New Mexico. Anxious War 
Department officials pressed beforehand for complete secrecy, but 
the censors made no promises, being uncertain of the possibilities. 
Actually the explosion was so powerful that mildly alarming dis- 
patches soon began to come into Washington, and the War De- 
partment was advised to make an announcement to dampen 
curiosity. It announced that there had been "an explosion of 
munitions"--the literal, exact truth, but undoubtedly the greatest 
understatement in the whole history of press handouts. 

The result was that many important newspapers were satisfied 
and printed nothing at all about an event which may be regarded 
as one of the great news developments of all time an atom had 
performed as directed, and incalculable changes were in prospect 
in warfare, in industry, in the daily Me of the human race. 

All of the operations of the Office of Censorship were ended 
within twenty-four hours of the surrender of Japan under a plan 
recommended by the agency itself and approved by President 
Truman in advance. 

Of course there had been mistakes both in and out of the 
government, but unquestionably a vast amount of valuable in- 
formation had been kept from enemy listeners. Neither the first 
landing in Africa in November 1942, nor D-Day for Normandy 
in June 1944, nor the development of The Bomb, nor any other 
major military project had been disclosed prematurely. In no 
single case was evidence produced that any newspaper or maga- 
zine had violated deliberately any request of the Office of Censor- 
ship. And in the end the press emerged as free as it had been 

Yet the whole experience of World War II censorship can only 

218 Passed by Censor 

engender a fervent hope that it will never have to be repeated. 
Like all of the other inevitable dislocations of war, even volun- 
tary censorship leaves scars behind. For several days after the 
end of censorship operations had been announced stories con- 
tinued to arrive "for clearance." 

One young reporter who had known no other way of life in 
Washington was almost in despair when told that the code really 
was abolished and the censors gone. His confusion was touched 
with a plaintive helplessness. "But if you people won't clear this 
for me, who will? I simply must find someone." 

No one who loves liberty can miss the point of that. 

The Washington story of censorship in World War II does not 
end with the activities of the Office of Censorship. The Office of 
War Information operated in the same -field for most of the dura- 
tion, but working the opposite side of the street, as it were. 

Censorship's job was essentially negative; it was to see that the 
enemy did not obtain information that would be damaging to 
the Allied cause. OWI had a positive mission to perform: it was 
to see that the people both at home and abroad did receive such 
information and propaganda as would be damaging to the enemy's 
cause or beneficial to the Allied war efort. 

OWI took some time to evolve as a war agency, so it did not 
appear on the capital scene until several months after the Office 
of Censorship. To direct its operations (a thankless assignment, it 
proved) the President called in Elmer Davis, a Hoosier like Price 
and one of the nation's top radio news commentators. 

There is quite a widespread tendency to classify OWI as purely 
a propaganda agency. Actually an important, but virtually unsung, 
chapter in its turbulent career was the tenacious battle it waged 
under Davis to pry loose legitimate news from the stranglehold of 
the military, who more often than not took a "you cant print that" 
attitude toward virtually everything. 

Stringent precautions to protect vital military information are, 
of course, imperative for a nation at war, but the armed forces' 

W. A. K.- 219 

concept of just what was vital could extend at times to include 
the kitchen sink. This was no new development; it is an occupa- 
tional disorder. When Lee was pushing toward Gettysburg in 
1863 Union censors in Washington sought to suppress the news 
that the Confederate columns were riding into Pennsylvania. As if 
Lee did not know where he was or where he was going! 

In World War II the armed forces began with three categories 
of classified (i.e. unpublishable) military information. In ascend- 
ing order these were: Restricted^ Confidential, and Secret. For a 
conflict so titanic, however, the three classifications evidently 
proved militarily inadequate; hence in the best tradition of the 
American zest for superlatives someone invented Top Secret. The 
zeal for security produced some strange contradictions. A minor 
officer, obtaining leave to get married, found his leave orders 
stamped "Restricted" but no objections were raised to the news- 
paper accounts of the nuptials of the "classified' groom and the 
''non-classified' bride. Imagine the possibilities for confusion when 
the subject matter became more strictly military in character. 

It was against this unpredictable windmill of military security 
that Davis had to joust throughout all but a few months of the 
war. It was a long campaign, waged day in and day out. No one 
perhaps can estimate with reasonable accuracy the amount of 
legitimate information which OWI succeeded in extorting from 
the reluctant censorship dragons in the armed forces who other- 
wise never would have made the news public. 

The battles started early after OWFs creation and continued 
later than you think. It was a tough fight prying loose from Navy 
some vague details of the Savo Island disaster in the Solomons a 
few months after OWI was born., and the fight remained tough 
most of the way. The swelling tide of Allied victories may have 
made things somewhat easier toward the end, but one never 
could relax. As late as December 1944, SHAEF sought to black 
out coverage of the Battle of the Bulge. And even after V-E Day 
the military censors tried (with a singular lack of success) to veto 
publication of dispatches on the post-surrender wave of sinkings 
by die-hard U-boat captains. The grounds were that the news 
would furnish "information to the (surrendered) enemy r 

220 Passed by Censor 

The fight against needless and harmful censorship was only one 
of the multiple efforts of OWI under Davis, but certainly the most 
significant in the broad view of the Washington press corps. 
There can be no minimizing, however, the importance of the 
informational and propaganda missions which OWI discharged. 

Director Davis, until now, has never spoken out on the prob- 
lems he faced. When he stepped out at the war's end his final 
report to President Truman was innocuous and perfunctory. 
Given the perspective of several years plus the threat that war 
may come again 9 he writes for the first time on what his headaches 
were and what advice he would give to a successor, should that 
dire and sorry day again come upon the nation. 

W. A. K. 


Byron Price and I had plenty of headaches during our govern- 
ment service, but for one thing each of us was always grateful 
that he didn't have the other's job as well as his own. The com- 
plete separation of information and censorship was one of the 
soundest administrative decisions of wartime. Indeed the govern- 
ment was reluctant to set up an information agency at all; censor- 
ship was begun almost at once after the outbreak of war, but it 
was six months before a comprehensive information organization 
was established. By that time many things had been done that 
could not be undone. 

There were four government information organizations in exist- 
ence on Pearl Harbor day beside the information offices of the 
individual departments, but most of them were specialized. Robert 
W. Sherwood's Foreign Information Service operated under the 
direction of Major General William J. Donovan and in Donovan s 
opinion was an adjunct to his para-military activities, which later 
became the Office of Strategic Services. Lowell Mellett's long- 
standing Office of Government Reports was largely concerned 
with finding out what people were thinking about. Bob Horton s 

Elmer Davis 221, 

Information Division of the Office for Emergency Management 
was a very efficient operation, but in a limited field. Archibald 
MacLeish's Office of Facts and Figures had assembled some good 
men and produced some good ideas, but lacked authority to get 
anything done about them. 

In June 1942 these four were combined into the Office of War 
Information. But by that time they had had time to acquire a 
certain jealousy of one another, especially as there was some dupli- 
cation in their work. So when I took over the four and had to try 
to weld them into one I sometimes felt like a man who had mar- 
ried a four-time widow and was trying to raise her children by all 
her previous husbands. 

I think OWI did on the whole a pretty good job, though far 
short of perfection, but I am not concerned to argue that point 
with those who disagree. It may be more pertinent to mention 
some of our operating problems, for somebody who reads this 
book is likely to be stuck with the same job next time, if there is 
a next time. I assure that unfortunate that I shall regard him with 
sympathy and shall restrain any impulse to sit there comfortably 
in a grandstand seat and yell, "Take him out!" 

Creel points with pride to the fact that he put his men in every 
department to write and release news of the war effort not public- 
relations counselors, he says, but trained reporters. He could do 
that because there was nobody there already; practically speak- 
ing, departmental information began with him. But by 1942 every 
government department had long had its regular information 
staff (most of them trained reporters). OWI was directed to lay 
down policies that they must follow. But they had been there 
before OWI was established, and they knew they would still be 
there after OWI was gone. Naturally it was often pretty hard to 
bring them into line, especially as a department head usually 
backed his own men in an argument. Our directives were sup- 
posed to be binding on all departments, but there was only one 
man in Washington who could make them bind. It was our job to 
make them stick without running to him all the time. 

Most departmental news, and much war news, continued to be 
released at the departments. Some of our people dreamed of a 

222 Passed by Censor 

single United States Newsroom, where all war news would be re- 
leased. Among the correspondents this would have been a great 
convenience to the small and one-man bureaus. But the wire 
services and the larger bureaus, with their specialists in the work 
of the major departments, wanted the news to continue to be 
released where a man who wanted background on the story would 
find it easy to reach the official who knew, and the department 
information staffs, of course, backed them up. It was eventually 
decided that way perhaps the best decision in any case. But one 
factor in that decision was that by June 1942 it was impossible to 
find, or to commandeer, enough space in downtown Washington 
for a single all-inclusive newsroom. Since we decided that the 
headquarters of OWI must be close to the newsroom, that meant 
that we had to establish ourselves more than a mile off center in 
a place (the Social Security Building at Independence Avenue and 
4th Street) hard to reach unless a man had specific business there; 
also that the OWI newsroom remained essentially Bob Horton's 
war-agencies newsroom, with some amplifications. 

The chief cause of the public clamor that led to the establish- 
ment of a single government information agency was the conflict 
and confusion in official statements, which so bewildered the pub- 
lic in the spring of 1942. (The classic instance was the dispute 
between the Army and the Navy as to whether there had or had 
not been an air raid on Los Angeles.) We were directed to end 
the conflict and confusion in talk in so far as it did not reflect a 
continuing conflict and confusion in policy. When the policy was 
still unsettled there was nothing we could do about it except to 
tell a man he could say nothing. But he could always say it any- 
way if he felt it strongly enough, for our direct authority extended 
only to formal releases. We had neither the authority nor the 
desire to interfere with what an official said to a reporter or a 
gathering of reporters (though we often felt he had been a fool 
to say it), so any man could always make an end run around our 
directives by a press conference with planted questions. I am 
surprised that that didn't happen even oftener than it did. We 
often found that men who were told that they had to tell a co- 
herent story if they said anything in a formal release would actu- 

Elmer Davis 223 

ally get together and iron out their disagreements, but we never 
managed to get a general coherence in statements till Jimmy 
Byrnes went in as Director of War Mobilization and began to get 
some coherence in policy. 

Our clearance-and-co-ordination procedure was attacked from 
another direction; it was said that by trying to make people get 
together and agree what they were going to do and what they 
would say about it we were spoiling some good stories (or, as it 
was usually phrased, suppressing legitimate differences of opin- 
ion). I don't know the answer to that one. You can have either 
clearance and co-ordination or conflict and confusion; one makes 
a better war effort, the other makes better headlines. Take your 
choice. One unquestionably valid criticism of our clearance pro- 
cedure was that it delayed news. One department might be itch- 
ing to go with its version of a story that we had to hold up till 
other departments legitimately involved could agree on what 
should be done and said about it. This was a variant of the fa- 
miliar choice between prompt news and accurate news, but occa- 
sionally the delays were unconscionable. 

News of military operations before we came in had been scanty 
and often inaccurate; we expected trouble with the Army and 
Navy and had it. It took more than four months to establish the 
principle that on questions of security the services had to appeal 
from our decision, not we from theirs. After that news of military 
operations was on the whole satisfactory in quantity, quality, and 
promptitude. But most of it was released in the theaters; and once 
in a while we in OWI in Washington, knowing what had hap- 
pened, had to point out that the theater communique fell far short 
of giving the news. We had, of course, no authority over a theater 
commander; in such cases we had to tell our story to the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff, who passed it on to the theater commander not 
always without dilution. We always got the news out, but it took 

Our dealings were not merely with the press, but with the radio, 
magazines, motion pictures, and book publishers; but those as- 
pects of our work are irrelevant to this discussion. The Overseas 
Branch of OWI which eventually became nine tenths of the 

224 Passed by Censor 

whole operation In appropriations and personnel may seem ir- 
relevant, too, but it has some bearing on the domestic story. The 
decisive and compelling reason for putting domestic and foreign 
information under the same roof was this: often there came up a 
case in which the need of issuance of an official statement for 
information of the home public had to be balanced against the 
unfavorable propaganda effect which such a statement from an 
official source might create abroad. It was often argued by our 
overseas people concerned with propaganda that if this had to be 
said at least it need not be said yet, or said just that way. Such 
cases will arise in any war. In the late war they were always de- 
cided in favor of the immediate information of the American 
people, regardless of the effect elsewhere. But the decision can 
more easily be made in a single organization than if two organiza- 
tions had to fight it out and finally refer the argument for settle- 
ment to an already overworked President. 

In the next war, if such a calamity should befall us, it will not 
be done that way. When the late war, sometimes inaccurately 
termed World War II (by my computation it is the eighth world 
war in which Americans have been engaged, though I see that an 
eminent historian calls it the ninth) when that was drawing to a 
close we in OWI concluded that continuation of the foreign- 
information service was necessary in the national interest. Some 
thought it should be set up as an independent agency, but most 
of us held that it would be safer against abolition by Congress if it 
were in the State Department (which in any case would lay down 
its policies) . This turned out to be correct. Even the personal inter- 
vention of General Marshall barely saved it from destruction at 
the hands of Representative John Taber of New York, Chairman 
of the House Appropriations Committee; an independent agency 
would have had no chance at all. 

Now its future is secure, but it is in the State Department and 
will probably remain there. So in a future war the argument as 
to the domestic necessity as against the foreign undesirability of 
the release of any particular piece of government information will 
have to be fought out between the State Department and some- 

Elmer Davis 225 

body else, and I only tope they can settle it between them without 
having to refer it to the White House. 

For there will be a somebody else in the next war (if any), a 
domestic Office of War Information, because the conflicts and con- 
fusions that are endurable and indeed often useful in peacetime 
are a serious handicap to a war effort. In my judgment, however, 
no Office of War Information will be set up the next time until 
experience has once more proved that it is necessary that is to 
say, some months after war breaks out and I only hope that not 
too many localized false starts will have been made in the mean- 
time. When it comes it might better be set up in a different way 
under the direction of the White House Press Secretary, who can 
delegate his White House functions to an assistant if need be. 

There are two reasons for this. In the first place the principal 
statements of national policy on the home front and the principal 
material for American propaganda abroad will always in war- 
timebe what the President says in speeches or at news confer- 
ences. The national information program should be tied in as 
closely as possible with what he says, and, since that means that its 
operators should know beforehand what he is going to say, this 
can most easily be done if the director of the information program 
is also the man who advises the President on his statements. 

Furthermore, since an Office of War Information will be more 
effective if it is clearly an extension of the President's voice, its 
director should be a trained newsman who has the personal as well 
as the official confidence of the President. But if such a man exists 
and this has not always been the case he will probably already 
be working as the White House Press Secretary and he might as 
well combine the two jobs. The division of functions made no 
trouble the last time because we always had excellent relations 
with Steve Early, but it could make trouble with a different kind 
of man. 

Any other advice for my possible successor? Well, this may seem 
trivial, but it isn't; he had better not take the job unless they can 
assure him as much space as he needs downtown where people 
can get at him. Beyond that it should be clearly understood from 
the beginning not after four months* argument that he has com- 

226 Passed by Censor 

plete jurisdiction over the release of military news, subject, of 
course, to the right of appeal to the President by the chiefs of 
the armed services if they think security is endangered. (Experi- 
ence shows that they will seldom if ever exercise that right after 
the burden of appeal is put on them,) And the tighter the Presi- 
dent's control over all departmental information, the more likely 
we shall be to get information for the public which will both be 
strictly accurate and will promote the prosecution of the war. 
Which after all is the only reason for having an Office of War 


The Diplomatic Correspondent 

BY WALLACE R. DEUEL Wallace R. Deuel is diplomatic corre- 

spondent for the Chicago Daily News. 
He was stationed in Washington in 
1931-32, in Rome and Berlin from 
1932 to 1941, when he was again as- 
signed to Washington. 

World politics are as different from domestic politics as mayhem 
is different from mumbledepeg. World politics are indeed a form 
of mayhem. They are not a game, as domestic politics have been 
fondly held to be. They are an unrelenting and implacable 
struggle for the survival of the fittest, and only the fittest do 

No nation is exempted from this struggle. America cannot 
escape history any more than any other nation can. It cannot 
choose whether or not to play a great part in world politics, as 
Theodore Roosevelt said more than a generation ago; it can only 
choose whether to play its part well or meanly. 

The American people have always known these facts of life, 
and in times of great crisis they have always acted correctly upon 
them, although on occasion they have acted only just barely in 
time. Between great crises, however, a good many Americans 
have preferred not to trouble themselves unduly about foreign 

But the days when such indifference was possible have gone, 
quite possibly forever. This began to be apparent with the rise of 
Adolf Hitler, became reasonably clear with the fall of France, and 
grew all but inescapable with the realization that the Soviet 
Union was irrevocably committed to a policy which Secretary'of 
State Dean Acheson has termed mildly enough, "imperialist and 

228 The Diplomatic Correspondent 

Now and indefinitely into the future America is committed to 
the ineluctable responsibilities of great power. Now and indefi- 
nitely into the future America will be the hero or the villain, 
but in either event the leading person of the drama of world 
politics. Now and indefinitely accordingly America is interested 
in world politics as never before. 

As American participation and interest in world politics have 
increased, so has the demand for foreign-policy reporting from 
Washington. The nation's capital has indeed become the news 
capital of the whole world. 

The American press has sought to satisfy the increased demand 
for foreign policy news in two principal ways. First, editors have 
called for more and more stories on world affairs from corre- 
spondents who were and who have continued to beresponsible 
for covering national affairs as well. Thus something new has been 
added to the qualifications required of any and every well- 
rounded Washington correspondent: the ability to write about 
world politics as well as about politics at home. 

But this "general practitioner" type of coverage has not satisfied 
all editors. It has not provided either the quantity or the quality 
which some papers have wanted and have felt they could afford. 
Foreign affairs have accordingly been more and more elevated 
in recent years to the status and dignity long enjoyed by antiques, 
chess s crossword puzzles, pets, and the new books although not 
yet, of course, to the estate of sports or society. More and more 
editors have assigned men to the sole task of covering foreign- 
policy news in Washington. The past fifteen years have seen a 
great burgeoning of this species of the genus Washington Corre- 
spondentthe diplomatic, or foreign affairs, correspondent. 

The diplomatic correspondent covers the formulation and con- 
duct from Washington of American foreign policy. He may appear 
at sessions of the United Nations Security Council and General 
Assembly and at the more sinister and significant international 
conferences. He may make occasional grand tours in partibus 
infidelibus. His headquarters and his habitat are, however, in the 
District of Columbia and its geographical, official, and social 

Wallace R. Deuel 229 

Ideally a diplomatic correspondent should have the qualifica- 
tions both of a good diplomatist and of a good reporter. He should 
know a good deal about the world including above all his own 
country and about world politics. He should know about the past 
as well as about the present, or he won't know much about the 
future, and it is part of his job to know that too. 

The good diplomatic correspondent should know much about 
diplomacy, and he should know and be well and favorably known 
by a good many diplomatists. Preferably he should speak at least 
one or two of the other world languages in addition to English. 
Fairly extensive experience as a foreign correspondent is an 
enormous advantage to a diplomatic correspondent This is by 
no means an essential qualification, however. It can indeed be a 
disadvantage if, because it is too prolonged, it results in ignorance 
of the United States and of the ways things are done in this 

A diplomatic correspondent nowadays should if possible have 
at least a rudimentary awareness of such subjects as economics, 
armaments, atomics, nutrition, public health, and all the other 
complex technological subjects which now figure so prominently 
in world affairs. 

Most of the best diplomatic correspondents have had most of 
these qualifications. So conspicuously indeed is this the case that 
during many periods, if not most, the half-dozen or even dozen 
senior diplomatic correspondents in Washington have known a 
great deal more about foreign affairs than have the half-dozen or 
dozen highest-ranking officials in the State Department and the 
nation's leading ambassadors abroad. These officials are apt to 
be successful politicians or contributors to campaign funds of 
successful parties or at best '"broad-gauge outsiders" with a "fresh 
approach," and any special expert knowledge of world politics 
they may possess is liable to be purely coincidental. 

Finally and this is an absolutely prerequisite qualification 
the diplomatic correspondent must be able to write stories that 
make sense to his average reader. 

Some editors are loath to hire diplomatic correspondents, and 
it is perhaps no wonder that this is so. For one thing men with 

2SO The Diplomatic Correspondent 

the necessary qualifications for the job are expensive, as news- 
paper salaries go. For another thing the idea has gotten around 
not without help from some of the diplomatic correspondents 
themselves that the practitioner of this branch of the profession 
is a gilded and even glittering creature who toils not, neither does 
he spin, and who lives and works (or does not work) like an 
oriental pasha. Striped pants and full evening dress must be the 
diplomatic correspondent's commonest garb, according to this 
legend, and champagne and caviar his diet. His habits are social,, 
nocturnal, and languorous, it is firmly believed, and his respect 
for his employers and their wishes inadequate in the extreme. 

It is true that there is a good deal of dressing up and dining out 
in diplomacy and that fine feathers sometimes do indeed seem 
to make fine diplomatists. "Diplomacy is a round of protocol and 
purgatives," said General Vergny, and this is still in some measure 
the case. Yet even when snuffbox and silk-knee-breeches diplo- 
macy was in its finest flower diplomatic correspondents didn't 
have to wear the same clothes or put themselves in the same pos- 
tures as the diplomatists themselves. They could do so if they 
wanted to, of course, and some didby contagion or to provide 
themselves with protective coloration or conceivably to give 
themselves airs. But this was always a matter of preference, not 
of necessity. 

Especially since World War II, moreover, diplomacy has 
greatly changed. It is no longer, if it ever was, virtually the sole 
prerogative of gentlemanly dilettantes who had leisure and luxury 
because they came from fine old families and had fine old bank 
accounts. Increasingly diplomatists may be trade unionists or 
college professors or professional revolutionists, rather than 
gentlemen of the old school or retired bankers. Diplomacy's 
problems, furthermore, are vastly more numerous, more technical, 
more pressing, and more dangerous than they used to be. Even 
the diplomatists themselves have less time, less energy, and less 
inclination for society after a day's work than they formerly had. 
The diplomatic correspondent nowadays can accordingly operate 
admirably without a white tie or even a black one although it is 

Wallace R. Deuel 231 

preferable, of course, that he wear a tie of some kind while on 

But, while the diplomatic correspondent does not need to ape 
the night life of the diplomatist, he does need to adapt himself to 
the diplomatist's daytime habits of work. The nature of diplomacy 
conditions when it does not indeed determine the nature of the 
diplomatic correspondent's methods: his sources, his relationships 
with his sources, the material which he obtains from them, his 
manner of doing so, and the way in which he reports the material 
he obtains. Diplomacy conditions these methods, moreover, in 
ways which are by no means always agreeable by orthodox 
newspaper standards. 

The good reporter is expected to write ascertainable and veri- 
fiable facts. He is expected to name the sources of his facts and 
to quote the sources in substantiation of any generalizations or 
summaries he himself puts into his stories. He is expected to 
confirm his facts so securely that they cannot be plausibly denied 
least of all by the very sources from which he obtained them. 

The good reporter is supposed to get his facts fast and file them 
fast. He is supposed to write them clearly, simply, and succinctly. 
He is supposed to make them as interesting and as exciting as he 
honestly can. He is supposed to eschew comment and interpreta- 
tion of his own. 

The nature of diplomacy and diplomatists often make it virtu- 
ally impossible for the diplomatic correspondent to function in 
this way. 

Diplomacy operates in a condition of international anarchy. 
There is no law in the true sense of the term among sovereign 
nations no law, no policemen, no courts, no jails, and no electric 
chairs. In the struggle for survival, as Lenin said, it is in the long 
run if not always a question of "Who-Whom?" That is, "Who eats 
whom?" It is a question of "Eat or be eaten." And as Remy de 
Gourmont said of a somewhat similar case, "When it is a matter 
of not being eaten, all means are the right ones.* 7 

It may be an exaggeration to say that all means are the right 
ones in diplomacy, but, if so, it is not too great an exaggeration. 

282 The Diplomatic Correspondent 

It is the fashion nowadays for diplomatists to say that the only 
good diplomacy is honest diplomacy. This pretension is in itself, 
however, of only relative truth, and the diplomatist who tried to 
act on it would have a short professional life and an unhappy one 
and so would the reporter who believed it. 

Candor is a luxury which diplomatists can seldom afford. It 
could hardly be otherwise. Too much is at stake. Truth is noto- 
riously the first casualty in war, and equally alTs fair in war, and 
diplomacy is the waging of war <f by other means." Duplicity and 
deceptions are recognized and permissible practices of diplomacy, 
just as they are in other forms of combat. A diplomatist who 
unnecessarily told the truth and thereby revealed information 
whose disclosure harmed his country would be a poor diplomatist 
and indeed a poor patriot Even the diplomatic correspondent's 
best friends among his sources will accordingly try to deceive 
him. They will do so in either one or both of two ways: by failing 
or refusing to tell him things which are true and by telling him 
things which are not true. 

The official denial is perhaps the most common form in which 
the diplomatist's duplicity vis-a-vis the correspondent manifests 

Henry L. Stimson, when he was Secretary of State, once denied 
a story of mine in terms which contain all the classic elements of 
the diplomatic dementi. 

"That story is absolutely and unqualifiedly false,'* Stimson said 
with much feeling. "It is a story which no American correspond- 
ent ever should have written and no American newspaper ever 
should have published. It is a story which will do nothing but 

In facts the story was absolutely and unqualifiedly true. Stim- 
son himself privately admitted later that same day that this was 
the case. The story reported that while the Secretary of State 
was attending a disarmament conference in Geneva for which he 
was then about to depart he would try to rally support among the 
other delegations for American opposition to Japanese aggression 
in Manchuria. This had seemed so obvious as to be hardly worth 
writing a story about. It had been a dull day, however, a high 

Wallace R. Deuel 233 

official in the Department who enjoyed Stimson's confidence had 
confirmed the story, and so I had written it 

Stimson's utterance has an impressive purity of form and logic 
if not of veracity. It is in a way the very model of an official 

The Secretary's logic is clear if the order of the three sentences 
of his statement is reversed. Stimson said that my story would do 
nothing but harm because he thought it would reveal and thereby 
frustrate one of his principal purposes in going to Geneva. Stim- 
son wished to conceal this purpose, and he thought others would 
not discern it in time to take action against it. Since the story 
would do harm in this sense to an American Secretary of State's 
labors, no patriotic American should have written or published it 
in Stimson's logic. And finally, since the truth would do harm, the 
Secretary had argued to himself that he was justified in saying 
that the story was absolutely and unqualifiedly false. 

Obviously a diplomatic correspondent is not the only kind of a 
reporter whose sources lie to him. But lying is accepted and prac- 
ticed in diplomacy on an enormously greater scale than in most 
other affairs and by otherwise honorable men who would never 
dream of such terminological inexactitude under most other cir- 
cumstances. Duplicity is the rule in diplomacy rather than the 

Diplomatic discretion causes complications in a reporter's life, 
too, as well as diplomatic duplicity. Even when a source tells a 
correspondent a useful truth he is apt to tie more strings on it 
than the Lilliputians tied on Gulliver. 

The diplomatist speaks for his government and his country, and 
he therefore cannot speak lightly when he can speak at all. He 
dotes on the off-the-record statement and on the utterance that 
must not be attributed to him or to any official or even "authori- 
tative** source. 

This, of course, is anathema to the reporter and perhaps even 
greater anathema to his editor. In the Kingdom of Heaven 
sources will always accept full responsibility for what they say. 
But in the kingdoms of the earth the diplomatists are seldom 
willing to do this. The reporter frequently has but one choice: to 

234 The Diplomatic Correspondent 

accept information on the odious conditions stipulated by the 
diplomatist or to get so little information that he must seek other 

The reporter, moreover, will seldom get valuable information 
from diplomatic sources by telephone. The line is too apt in the 
diplomatist's experience to be tapped, and, even if it is not, it is 
too insecure a channel of communication. 

Diplomatic discretion is a principal cause of one of the most 
harrowing occupational hazards of the reporter. This is diplomatic 
language, "that guarded understatement which enables diploma- 
tists and ministers to say sharp things to each other without be- 
coming provocative or impolite," as Harold Nicolson describes it 
in his book Diplomacy, ". . . a paper currency of conventionalized 
phrases in place of the hard coin of ordinary human converse." 

"These phrases, affable though they may appear, possess a 
known currency value,** says Nicolson. The reporter as well as the 
diplomatist must know what that value is. 

A. A. Adee, one of this country's great career diplomatists, once 
drafted a statement which is a classic example of the use of 
diplomatic language. The late Bertram D. Hulen told the story in 
his book Inside the State Department. 

It was on the eve of the Spanish-American War. The ambassa- 
dors of all the great powers of that day Great Britain, France, 
Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Italy sent word that 
they wished to call on President McKinley to make a joint plea 
for peace in behalf of their governments. McKinley asked Adee 
to prepare a statement for the ambassadors. Adee scribbled out 
two sentences on the back of an envelope for the President The 
first thanked the ambassadors for their good will. The second read 
as follows: 

"The Government of the United States appreciates the humani- 
tarian and disinterested character of the communication now 
made on behalf of the Powers named, and for its part is confident 
that equal appreciation will be shown for its own earnest and 
unselfish endeavors to fulfill a duty to humanity by ending a 
situation the indefinite prolongation of which has become in- 

Wallace R. Deuel 235 

What McKinley meant to say to the ambassadors was, of 
course, "No/* 

Diplomatic language poses two problems for the reporter: 
First, he must be sure that he understands the exact meaning the 
language is intended to convey; and, second, he must make that 
meaning clear to his readers of ten without being able to quote a 
single passage which proves to the average reader that that 
particular meaning was in fact intended. 

Still another quality of diplomacy and diplomatists which con- 
ditions the methods of the reporter is its and their remoteness 
from ordinary people and ordinary people's lives. Almost alone 
among the members of the professions the diplomatist has little 
or no direct personal concern with the man in the street. 

Even the greatest merchant prince must please his customers. 
The lawyer must convince a jury. The doctor must make himself 
clear and credible to his patients, the teacher to his students, the 
newspaperman to his readers. The elective official must gratify 
the voters. But the diplomatist can thrive indefinitely like the 
green bay tree without convincing or cajoling a single layman. 
He deals mostly with other diplomatists and less frequently 
with politicians and need cope only with them. He is an expert 
whose affairs are transacted overwhelmingly with other experts. 
Most diplomatists are accordingly neither notably gifted nor 
notably eager in seeking to make themselves clear to the public. 

More particularly most diplomatists understand little of the 
nature of news and of newsmen. They do not understand that 
news is the most perishable of commodities and must be handled 
in hot haste. They do not understand that an editor confronted 
by an urgent news situation will not and cannot wait for a lei- 
surely and well-thought-out disquisition which may be available 
tomorrow, but will and must print whatever it is lie can get this 
afternoon or this morning. 

The diplomatist, therefore, is apt to be inaccessible to reporters 
for several hours at a time, to move and speak slowly even when 
he is accessible, to mistime the release of information abominably, 
and in general to be his own worst enemy as well as that of the 
reporter in matters of public relations. 

236 The Diplomatic Correspondent 

Thus it is clear that the diplomatic correspondent often cannot 
pay proper homage to the orthodoxies of his craft. He must fre- 
quently deal not with ascertainable and verifiable facts, but with 
trends and tendencies, with hints and insinuations and innuen- 
does. As often as not he is unable to name his sources or even to 
admit that he has any; he himself must accept full accountability 
for what he writes. He must find some of his biggest stories be- 
tween the lines of what his sources sayor what they do not say 
and not in the lines themselves. He must translate diplomatic 
language into words and sense and meanings that his readers can 
understand; even in public utterances he will not commonly find 
statements which he can quote to prove that his conclusions are 
justified. The diplomatic correspondent's sources will blandly or 
indignantly deny the very stories which they themselves have 
given him and will do so without hesitation or compunction, and 
tihe reporter will have no redress. 

The reporter will not be able to move with the speed in this 
field with which he can move in others. Often he cannot use the 
telephone at all, but most go in his own proper person to see his 
source and wait his turn in an overcrowded and inflexible sched- 
ule. The day when there is a crisis in Lusitania is the one day 
when it is all but impossible to see the officials who know about 
Lusitania; they are all locked in conference rooms, trying to re- 
solve the crisis, and have left word they must not be disturbed. 

Even when run to ground the officials will eye the reporter 
warily and askance. They are bedeviled by the difficulties, the 
delicacies, and the dangers of their problems; they would much 
prefer as a rule that the problems be reported in understatements 
of the case, if at all; and they know that the reporter will write 
them with brash and irreverent emphasis and that the editor will 
make the most excitement out of them that he feels he possibly 

The diplomatic correspondent writes more exposition and less 
narration than do most other reporters. He must not write opinion 
and exhortation. If he does that he is not a reporter, but a col- 
umnist. But he must write a good deal of interpretation or 
"analysis," as the radio calls it. 

Wallace R. Deuel 2S7 

"Any reasonably competent reporter can get more facts than he 
can use," the late John T. Whitaker once said of newspaper re- 
porting abroad. "The trick is in knowing what the facts mean. We 
are paid for our judgment." The same thing is true of writing 
about foreign affairs at home. 

A good diplomatic correspondent must almost say with Terence 
that nothing human is alien to him because almost nothing hu- 
man is alien to foreign affairs. A country's birthrate will determine 
its destiny in the long run. What happens daytimes on the produc- 
tion lines of a nation's industry has more influence on its world 
position than what happens on the receiving lines at an ambassa- 
dor's evenings at home. A change in women's styles can change 
America's demand for half a dozen commodities in half a dozen 
other countries and therefore America's "diplomatic" relations 
with those countries. 

For better or for worse, however, most editors do not consider 
things like these the proper prerogative of the diplomatic corre- 
spondent. Orthodoxy and cost accounting ordinarily confine the 
foreign-affairs reporter, like most others, to conventional and offi- 
cial news sources. There are three main categories of such sources 
for the diplomatic correspondent in Washington: foreign, Amer- 
ican, and "mixed" sometimes very mixed. 

The "mixed" sources include such institutions as the United 
Nations, the International Bank and Fund, the Far Eastern Com- 
mission, and the Pan American Union. These and a sometimes 
bewildering number and variety of other international organiza- 
tions yield some of the best copy produced by the diplomatic cor- 

Foreign embassies and legations yield considerably more. A 
good many foreign diplomatists understand better than most of 
their American colleagues do that they need the press more than 
the press needs them, and they are accordingly more forthcoming 
with information than are the State Department and the American 
Foreign Service. In any news situation which concerns both the 
United States and another country and by definition most of the 
situations that interest the diplomatic correspondent do chances 
are at least even that the skilled and experienced American re- 

2S8 The Diplomatic Correspondent 

porter will get more and better information from the foreign gov- 
ernment than he will from his own. Many of the most spectacular 
and significant diplomatic dispatches written out of Washington 
are based on material which American diplomatists have tried to 
suppress, but foreign embassies and legations have made avail- 

This pains the State Department when it happens. American 
officials are sometimes inclined to think and even to say that it is 
unpatriotic on the part of a reporter to use such information. It is 
true that it can be dangerous for a correspondent to rely too pre- 
dominantly on foreign sources. They will try to slant the news to 
suit their purposes, just as American sources will try to do the 
same thing to suit theirs. Obviously the reporter must know how 
to protect himself against this. He must know what America's 
interests are and what foreign governments' interests are and be 
sure he does not confuse them or serve another country's purposes 
against those of his own. A good diplomatic correspondent should 
be able to do this. When he succeeds he obtains honest news 
which he can obtain in no other way a not necessarily unpatri- 
otic pursuit. 

But most diplomatic correspondents must rely on American 
sources for most of their news, because it takes much time, energy, 
and money to keep in touch with foreign embassies and legations, 
and most of the news that most editors want and want fastcan 
best be obtained from American, not foreign, sources. 

The Armed Forces, and particularly the Army, have played a 
major part in the making and carrying out of foreign policy in 
recent years not only in the occupied areas, but elsewhere as well, 
and the diplomatic correspondent will accordingly have the Pen- 
tagon as one of his principal ports of call. Economic factors are 
the very blood and bowels of world politics today perhaps they 
always have been and so the foreign affairs reporter will find 
news in the Department of Commerce, the Economic Cooperation 
Administration, the Treasury, and the Export-Import Bank among 
other sources. Rainfall and harvests make and unmake govern- 
ments and their policies, and the diplomatic correspondent there- 
fore must keep an eye on these, too, perhaps through the Depart- 

Wallace R. Deuel 289 

ment of Agriculture. Developments in atomics can decide the 
issues of both peace and war, and the reporter cannot ignore these 

The extradition or expulsion of an alien always involves at least 
one other country besides the United States and is therefore 
germane to the diplomatic correspondent's work So is a speech 
by a prominent American labor leader before a foreign labor con- 
vention. So is a plan for an oil pipe line in Arabia or a campaign to 
raise funds for Israel. The foreign-affairs reporter's work may take 
him accordingly to a federal court., to CIO and AFL headquarters, 
to an oil company's offices or to a synagogue. 

His work will take him most of all, however, to three other prin- 
cipal sources of news about foreign policy: the White House, the 
State Department, and the Senate and most particularly the 
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, for, while the Executive 
Branch of the government proposes, the Senate disposes, most 
conspicuously in matters of foreign relations. 

The greatest of these is the State Department. It is by all odds 
the most important single source of most foreign-policy reporting 
in Washington so good a source indeed that no single reporter 
can possibly cover all the news to be found there. 

When the Department was established under Its first Secretary, 
Thomas Jefferson, its entire staff consisted of five clerks. The 
nation's foreign office, moreover, grew slowly. In 1838 Washing- 
ton newspapers reported with satisfaction that the Department's 
personnel had multiplied tenfold, but this still only brought the 
total to fifty. For almost a century the Department expanded at an 
almost glacial rate and moved with equal deliberation in other 
respects as well, unkind persons have said. 

During and after World War II, however, the Department 
grew with all but explosive force and to what seemed at the time 
like Brobdingnagian proportions. At its point of greatest expansion 
just after the war 9,337 persons worked for the Department in 
this country mostly in Washington and New York and 14,276 
more served abroad. A good many of these were personnel of tem- 
porary war agencies taken over by the Department, and their 
numbers have since been reduced by the processes of administra- 

240 The Diplomatic Correspondent 

tive digestion and elimination, but in 1949 the Department still 
had 7,892 persons working for it in the United States and 12,597 in 
other countries. 

The scope of the Department's operations had grown so greatly 
that it needed a twenty-eight-position telephone switchboard with 
four thousand lines. It spent fifteen thousand dollars in 1949 on the 
upkeep of a fleet of automobiles and trucks required to transport 
Departmental personnel and chattels from place to place in the 
District. It had two hundred and twenty-one employees in its com- 
munications units alone, and thirty-two were needed merely to 
issue travel orders and reservations to its officials and clerical, ad- 
ministrative, and fiscal workers. 

The State Department has grown vastly more complex as well 
as vastly greater. It has needed since the war assistant secretaries, 
or officers of equivalent rank, for such purposes as propaganda, 
research and intelligence, administration and security, economics, 
United Nations and social affairs, occupied areas, and transport 
and communications as well as for old-fashioned "diplomatic'* 

As the Department has grown in size and complexity so has the 
task of the diplomatic correspondent who must cover it. The 
foreign-affairs reporter now has at least six principal ways and 
means by which he can and must try to keep up with develop- 
ments in the Department 

First, he will have as many individual talks with as many indi- 
vidual officials as he possibly can, from the Secretary of State on 
down into the lower depths of the Department's hierarchy. Dur- 
ing the first postwar years the diplomatic correspondent sought 
out one official in particular with especial zeal: Charles E. Bohlen, 
the Departmental Counselor and one of its principal Russian 
experts. With the exception of Joseph Stalin, Bohlen is the only 
living person who sat in on all the conferences of Big Three chiefs 
of government and foreign ministers during the war and con- 
tinued to do so thereafter. He served as interpreter and adviser at 
these and other conferences and in Washington to Presidents 
Roosevelt and Truman and to Secretaries Hull, Stettinius, Byrnes, 
Marshall, and Acheson. Secretary of State Byrnes designated Boh- 

Wallace R. Deuel 241 

len principal "official-unofficial" high policy spokesman, and he 
continued to serve in this capacity as in others until he was ap- 
pointed minister in Paris in mid 1949. 

Second, some Secretaries of State from time to time have had 
informal, background, and off-the-record talks " with groups of 
twelve to twenty of the senior American diplomatic correspond- 

Third, the Secretaries* open press conferences provide much 
major news. 

Then there are the three great services performed by the office 
of the "Special Assistant to the Secretary for Press Relations" 
the redoubtable and immortal Michael J. McDermott: the answer- 
ing of uncounted inquiries round the clock, the giving out of the 
Department's printed and mimeographed releases, and the con- 
ducting of a daily news conference. McDermott and his principal 
assistant, Lincoln White, also arrange special press conferences 
with departmental experts on particularly urgent problems from 
time to time. 

News and other information of a different sort also issue from 
the Department's Office of Public Affairs. Most of this material is, 
however, intended not for daily-newspaper use, but for magazines 
and for clubs and other organizations especially interested in 
foreign affairs. 

There are two other important and "unofficial" sources of 
news, background, and interpretation for the reporter who covers 
the formulation and conduct of American foreign policy the 
meetings of the National Press Club and of Overseas Writers at 
which guests speak on world affairs. 

The captains and the kings of the world address these gather- 
ings, and much of what most of them say bears directly or in- 
directly on America's foreign relations. Presidents and former 
Presidents of the United States and other countries speak, and 
crowned heads, Secretaries of State and foreign and other cabinet 
ministers, field marshals and ambassadors and others of the great 
and near great. They speak when they are at the peak of their 
power, and they also speak when they are out of office and some 
of the glory may have departed from them but they may speak 

242 The Diplomatic Correspondent 

then more freely and informatively than before. Passionately 
anonymous officials of lesser rank also speak, officials of whom the 
great world has often never heard, but who sometimes know more 
about the facts of a case than do the captains and the kings and 
who sometimes speak more candidly, more completely, and more 
to the point than do their presumptive betters. Speakers at both 
clubs also usually answer questions from members after their set 

Press Club speeches are usually on the record and for attribu- 
tion and direct quotation. 

Overseas Writers is an organization of Washington newspaper- 
men who have had professional experience abroad and who now 
work in the capital for American-owned newspapers, press asso- 
ciations, and radio stations. Most guests who address Overseas 
Writers speak for background, and a few put their remarks off the 
record. Little of what is said at these meetings may be attributed 
to the speakers in any way or even to "an official source/ 7 but 
most of it can be written on the reporter's own responsibility, and 
virtually all of it is of invaluable help in judging day-by-day news 
developments which can be reported. 

Every correspondent will develop his own combination of these 
sources and methods for the reporting of foreign-policy news. The 
"general practitioner" who must cover national as well as world 
affairs may find it difficult to keep intimately in touch with very 
many embassies and legations. He probably will not be able to 
have frequent and numerous individual talks with individual 
officials in the State Department. Perhaps he is not eligible for 
membership in Overseas Writers or is usually too busy to attend 
its luncheons. In many cases he will perhaps tend fo rely primarily 
for his foreign-policy news on White House and State Department 
press conferences, on Congressional debates and other utterances, 
on the services of the indefatigable McDermotfs office, and on 
the guest speakers at the Press Club. 

Even the specialists the diplomatic correspondents have more 
different styles than pitchers do. One will rely in the first instance 
on foreign ambassadors and ministers, another on a favorite sen- 
ator in the Committee on Foreign Relations, and still another on 

Wallace R. Deuel 243 

wide acquaintance among officials in the State Department. Some 
foreign-affairs reporters find cocktail parties and the other rites 
and paraphernalia of Washington social life pleasant and profit- 
able, and others flee these things as the devil is reputed to flee 
holy water. 

The methods and sources of the individual correspondent de- 
pend partly on the kind of news his editors want and the speed 
with which they demand that it be filed and partly on the corre- 
spondent's own taste, temperament, background, experience 
and, of course, on his salary and expense account. 

As will be clear from this description of foreign-affairs reporting 
in Washington, the diplomatic correspondent is more like a for- 
eign correspondent in some ways than he is like most reporters 
working in their own countries. In background, in qualifications, 
in interests, and in methods the diplomatic correspondent has 
much in common with an American correspondent serving abroad 
and with the correspondent of a foreign news-gathering organiza- 
tion serving in the United States. The diplomatic correspondent, 
like the foreign correspondent, is primarily interested in the for- 
eign policy of the government he is covering. He concentrates his 
efforts on that government's foreign office and on the embassies 
and legations aupres that government. He finds the foreign office 
reluctant to tell him what it is doing, but he finds the embassies 
and legations at least as eager as he is to learn the same things he 
wants to learn and sometimes more than willing to exchange in- 
formation and impressions with him. 

There is, moreover, still another bond between the diplomatic 
and the foreign correspondents, for most diplomatic correspond- 
ents have served abroad, often in the countries from which the 
foreign correspondents come, and the two have covered some of 
the same conferences and other stories. They see eye to eye on a 
good many things. They speak the same language often literally 
as well as figuratively. 

Thus it not infrequently happens that American foreign-affairs 
reporters in Washington work more closely with foreign cor- 
respondents than they do with their American colleagues and see 
more of them after office hours as well. 

244 The Diplomatic Correspondent 

During and since the war conditions have conspired to keep 
the number of foreign correspondents in Washington below what 
it would be if editors abroad were free to send as many men to 
this country as they would like to send. News-gathering organiza- 
tions in other countries have been disorganized and disrupted 
by the war and the reconstruction, as have other organizations. 
Hard times in general and an acute shortage of dollars in particu- 
lar make it difficult for foreign newspapers and agencies to sup- 
port bureaus in this country. German, Italian, and Japanese or- 
ganizations suffer from these same disabilities and in even greater 
measure, and they also suffer under the moral obloquy and the 
legal servitude of "enemy character," which makes it doubly 
difficult for them to reestablish their positions in the capital. 

Despite these inhibitions, however, there were more foreign 
correspondents in Washington in 1949 than there were just before 
the war, representing a larger number of employers of a larger 
number of different nationalities. The February 1949 Congres- 
sional Directory listed forty-seven correspondents representing 
thirty foreign organizations of fifteen nationalities as members of 
the congressional press galleries. The April 1939 Directory listed 
only twenty-two correspondents serving nineteen foreign employ- 
ers of eight nationalities which included German, Italian, and 
Japanese organizations. Twenty of the correspondents of foreign 
news-gathering organizations listed in 1949 were British; they 
represented eight employers, Renter's agency, and seven news- 

Some of the "foreign correspondents" in Washington are Amer- 
ican citizens, just as some correspondents representing American 
organizations abroad are foreign citizens, but most of the foreign 
correspondents in the capital are citizens of the countries where 
their organizations are owned. Their kinship with the diplomatic 
correspondents is much the same in either case. 

The foreign press corps in Washington doubtless will increase 
if and when economic and political conditions permit. The corps 
of American diplomatic correspondents in the capital has already 
grown enormously since before the war and may grow even 
greater as the United States continues to play a leading part in 

Wallace R. Deuel 245 

world affairs. The postwar increase in censorship in some essen- 
tial news areas abroad and the raising of other obstacles to free 
movement and free communications may indeed cause editors 
to look more and more to Washington for foreign-affairs report- 
ing, even if America's direct participation in world affairs should 

Foreign relations have always made news in Washington in 
any event, and newspapermen have always reported it and doubt- 
less always will. 

Secretary of State John Hay, who served in that office from 1898 
to 1905, regularly received "a small group of four or five of the 
most experienced and trusted correspondents who were assigned 
to the Department of State, and informally explained policies and 
revealed latest advices received by the Department/* Hulen wrote. 
"He was the first to undertake the experiment, and much, although 
not all, that he said was in confidence/' Elihu Root, who succeeded 
Hay as Secretary, continued this custom, but Philander C. Knox, 
who followed Root, abandoned it "Knox occasionally received an 
individual correspondent evenings at his home, but no groups/* 
according to Hulen. 

Regular open State Department press conferences began to as- 
sume real importance in Robert F. Lansing's term as Secretary, 
which began in 1915, Hulen reported. As recently as 1931 and 1932, 
however, only seven correspondents kept a full-time watch in the 
Department, and Secretary Stimson's daily conferences commonly 
drew no more than twelve or fifteen attendants and often even 
fewer. Even on the eve of World War II in 1939 there were only 
ten regulars in the Department pressroom, and Secretary Hull's 
conferences ordinarily attracted no more than twenty or thirty 
men. McDermott still had only three assistants and only four to 
five stenographers, messengers, and clerks. 

The bombs that fell on Pearl Harbor put an end to this almost 
bucolic state of affairs in the coverage of foreign-policy news, and 
it has never been the same since. 

The press conferences of Secretaries of State are now second 
in popularity and importance only to those of Presidents. Attend- 
ance, which averaged sixty when Edward R. Stettinius Jr. was 

246 The Diplomatic Correspondent 

Secretary, increased to an average of seventy-five to ninety during 
James F. Byrnes's tenure of office and grew to more than one 
hundred under General of the Army George C. Marshall's and 
Dean Acheson's regimes. On occasions of special news interest in 
the first postwar years as many as two hundred and fifty corre- 
spondents attended Secretaries* conferences. Under Marshall at- 
tendance outgrew the rooms where the conferences had formerly 
been held, and they now take place in the Department's au- 

McDermott's list of correspondents who have asked to be noti- 
fied of any major State Department news development now to- 
tals one hundred seventy-four names. The Overseas Writers, 
which had fifty-two members in 1922, had two hundred and 
twenty-four members in 1949. 

The State Department has greatly expanded its press services 
and f acilities in an attempt to keep up with the passionate new in- 
terest in foreign-policy news. 

McDermott now has a staff of twenty-six. His office was giving 
out by 1947, 1948, and 1949 more than half again as many releases 
as it had issued during the war: 1,002 in 1947 and 1,036 in 1948, 
for example, compared with 611 in 1942 and 539 in 1943. 

Twenty years ago the State Department pressroom was a single 
chamber of cubbyhole proportions, jammed with what looked- 
and functioned like secondhand flea-market furniture, "sped with 
the spavins, past cure of the fives, stark spoiled with the staggers, 
swayed in the back and shoulder-shotten." 

The room was handy because it was on the same floor with and 
just around the corner from the offices of the Secretary, the Under- 
secretary, and the Assistant Secretaries, and the correspondents 
could keep a close watch on the comings and goings through the 
most exalted portals. Now the press's working space is three floors 
away from the Secretary's office. Moreover, the correspondents 
had a perhaps slightly illicit arrangement with the Department's 
Negro doormen of that era under which the doormen would 
interrupt their slumbers or the numbers game which certain of 
them operated and would inform the correspondents of significant 
arrivals and departures at important offices. Winners in the num- 

Wallace R. Deuel 247 

bers game also could sometimes be touched for the price of a 
drink or taxi fare home in cases of extreme need. 

A great change has come over all this. Present press quarters 
comprise a vast, spacious, sanitary, soundproofed area, air-condi- 
tioned like the rest of the building and tinted the chaste and vernal 
April green, which is Washington's most fashionable color for 
interior decor. There are seventeen work booths for correspond- 
ents representing thirty-one news-gathering organizations of seven 
nationalities. Press quarters further include a room known ele- 
gantly as the press lounge and a third premise sometimes indeli- 
cately referred to as the Hung-Over Room, whither reporters may 
retire to nurse such wounds and grudges as may afflict them. The 
furniture is new and tasteful throughout these quarters or was 
when the correspondents moved in. Not a single rusty spring juts 
out of a single ancient butt-sprung chair, and all the tables and 
desks still have all four legs all indeed of the same length. 

Gone are the Negro doormen, their news flashes and bulletins, 
their numbers game, and their small loans. Gone are the col- 
leagues, uncertain of hand, eye, and breath, who were once as- 
signed to the Department because they couldn't be counted on 
elsewhere and couldn't (so it was supposed) do much harm there. 
Gone, too, are the swift, stealthy approaches and predatory 
pounces upon callers at the Department, who could not escape 
because the quarters were too confined. 

Respectability has come to the covering of American foreign 
policy. The change is quite possibly an improvement. 


Every Day Is Election Day 

BY FREDERICK C. OTHMAN Frederick C. Othman is a specialist in 

humorous articles on the Washington 
scene for the United Feature Syndi- 
cate, Inc. 

The most thoroughly organized and cross-indexed lodge brother 
in America bar none (and that includes such champion joiners- 
uppers as congressmen) is the Washington correspondent. He 
eats more underdone chicken in lace paper pants than a Kiwanian. 
His hip bulges with membership cards. 

And when I say every day's election day for him I'm exaggerat- 
ing only slightly. If he kept up with all the politics involved in all 
his own clubs, associations, luncheon groups, guilds, lodges, 
unions, committees, and fraternities he'd have little time left to 
speculate in print on the doings of the Republicans and the 

Take this book. The Publications Committee of the National 
Press Club is responsible for it, and I frankly never did think it 
would get written, because we committeemen had to eat too many 
lunches, mostly sixty-cent hamburgers, in the board room to get 
around to our typewriters. We yammered and argued and voted 
on what the title ought to be, whether the publisher was giving us 
a square deal, what was wrong with the martinis, who was to 
write what, and where the hell was the waiter with the food, until 
finally the committee had to quit holding meetings. Only then 
did the authors get to work. 

Some days I had to eat two lunches (and thereby got stuffed 
like Hany Truman at his multiple Christmas dinners) because of 
other committees of other clubs holding meetings on the same day. 

When I was a cub in St. Louis covering Rotary Club luncheons, 

Frederick C. Othman 249 

state chiropodist banquets, and W.C.T.U. teas I swore to myself, 
so help me, if I ever escaped the pallid mashed potatoes beside the 
paper cup of peas on the plate with the thin sliver of coldish meat 
I'd do my eating at home. I ate then on a press pass for free. 

When finally I got to Washington there seemed to be a germ in 
the air. My resolution went glimmering, and I'm back eating the 
beef that was carved with a straight-edged razor. Only difference 
is that now I pay my own check and I sneer at Rotarians no longer. 
I'm one of 'em. So is every other correspondent in the capital. 

There's the Press Club, with its committees in charge of every- 
thing from the dust on the books in the library to the odd noises 
that emerge from the gullets of the club chorus, and from the 
nakedness of the art in the main lounge to exactly when a cele- 
brant in the bar reaches the stage that indicates he is to be 
bounced. The Press Club is the big square at the top of a chart of 
clubs so complicated as to resemble one of those squiggly displays 
Chester Bowles used to present to Congress when he was trying to 
prove what a fine thing was the OPA. From this headquarters the 
dotted lines run in all directions. 

Over in Foggy Bottom, hard by the gas works, is the State De- 
partment Correspondents' Association, holding its meetings in 
rooms whose chairs usually are warmed by diplomatic bottoms. 
Most of these brothers also are members of the Overseas Writers 
Association, composed of those gentry who worked abroad at one 
time or another in their checkered careers. The Overseas Writers 
meet frequently with considerable pomp and circumstance for 
lunch at five dollars a throw, including food and speeches by 
such fellows as Anthony Eden and more lately the vegetarian 
British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps. He got 
scrambled eggs, cooked special. 

Where the clubmen really congregate (and step on their own 
toes because they seldom can recall exactly which club is holding 
a meeting) is the White House. Here hold forth the surviving 
members of President Franklin D. Roosevelfs old Cuff Links 
Club. You can recognize 'em because they wear gold cuff links 
presented by Mr. R. Here also is the Hard Rock Club, composed 
of those hardy correspondents who went down into a coal mine 

250 Every Day Is Election Day 

with Harry Truman in 1944 when he was running for Vice- 
President. The members of this display in their lapels gold picks 
and shovels presented by Mr. T. 

These are barely the beginning of subdivided fraternity at the 
Executive Mansion. The greatest of these forums of brotherhood, 
free speech, and indifferent eating are lie White House Corre- 
spondents' Association, the White House Radio Correspondents* 
Association, and the White House Photographers* Association. 
And a good thing it is, too, tnat Harry Truman is blessed with a 
zinc-lined stomach. Whenever one of these outfits holds a shindig, 
he, poor man, has got to put on his claw-hammer coat and eat 
some more of that chicken. He seems to thrive on it. 

In 1948 the White House Correspondents officials decided in 
their wisdom to charge the members $12.50 per each for them- 
selves and guests for the privilege of joining Mr. Truman at dinner. 
The resultant howl could be heard in McLean, Virginia, clear 
across the Potomac. The clubmen didn't object to Mr. T. at the 
table you understand, but to the price. 

The executive board of the correspondents, a mysterious and 
sacrosanct group about which a mere member is wise not to in- 
quire, concluded that there was justice in these complaints and 
reduced the price per plate of the 1949 dinner for members to 
ten dollars. Each correspondent is allowed to invite one guest, 
usually his boss. For these deadheads the boardmen announced 
that the tab would be fifteen dollars. This added up again to 
twenty-five dollars on any kind of calculating machine. To com- 
plaints about this, the board said, no comment. 

About this same time the members were shocked to read in the 
morning papers that they had elected Bob Nixon of the Interna- 
tional News Service as their president. This was the first they 
knew about it. But perhaps they shouldn't have been surprised. 
Tony Vaccaro of the Associated Press was elected president on 
the same sleepwalking basis in 1948, and Merriman Smith of the 
United Press in 1947. Fact is I've been a paid-up member of the 
association since 1932, and I haven't put my mark on a ballot yet. 
Ah weH. 

The 1949 dinner wasn't bad. Turkey instead of chicken, and I 

Frederick C. Qthman 251 

never did see a better juggler, a more agile drummer, or a faster- 
talking comedian than the entertainment committee provided. 
Mr. Truman stuck it out until the end. Made a speech, too, in 
which he said it was a wonderful show. 

The radio spielers fed him immediately thereafter, and then 
he had to eat another meal with the Gridiron Club, composed in 
large part of the same reporters with whom he'd been eating all 

Then he beat it out to his flying machine so he could recover in 
Florida. He announced (read between the lines here) that his 
vacation would continue at Key West for thirteen days, or until he 
had to return to Washington for more of the same namely the 
White House Photographers' dinner. 

Of all the clubs in Washington, and I warn you I'm just getting 
a good start, my favorite is the Fiscal Correspondents* Association. 
Ladies not admitted to the art gallery. And if they get in by 
mistake they soon find their way out. 

This club was organized in the early days of the New Deal to 
bring pressure on the Administration for the installation of a new 
adding machine in the Treasury pressroom. The old one was good 
only as a nest for one of the Treasury Department's celebrated 
rats. There was nothing wrong with the machine mechanically, 
you understand, but it added up to $999,999,999 only. To do their 
job properly with the advent of President Roosevelt the fiscal 
correspondents needed a machine that would add into the billions. 

They got this apparatus at once, and the late William Woodin, 
Mr. Roosevelt's first Secretary of Treasury, dropped down to the 
pressroom to serenade the members on his violin. It was a relax- 
ing place. Woodin was a frequent visitor until his untimely death. 
I must report that he never knew the water cooler contained no 
water. He had no idea the pale fluid in the upturned bottle was 

Heavy black smoke sometimes seeped out the door of the press- 
room. Yells as of Comanche Indians frequently reverberated up 
the ancient corridors. The Treasury guards ignored these develop- 
ments and wisely kept their noses out of the pressroom where, 
since Woodin, none but members was welcome. 

252 Every Day Is Election Day 

The only time Secretary of Treasury Henry Morgentihau Jr. 
visited the fiscal club he made the mistake of sitting down upon 
a chair. Then he stood up screaming. The members were playing 
no favorites. While one group in front kept him in conversation 
about the state of the nation another sneaked up behind and ig- 
nited a small bonfire on the floor beneath his seat. He scrammed, 
never to return. He could not seem to realize that in a democracy 
such as that of the fiscal experts* everybody, including the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, deserved and got the same warm and smoky 
welcome. The association's fire department long since had dis- 
covered that blazing carbon paper made the blackest smoke. 

The members tended well their water cooler without the water. 
Day and night they kept a blackjack game in action. They also 
engaged in foot races, weight-lifting contests, and other athletic 
activities 111 be delighted to describe in private and over a beer. 
And finally as patrons of the arts they lavished tender attention on 
their gallery. This consisted of feminine photos in the nude for the 
most part, with appropriate captions, lavish frames, and some 
prominent faces carefully clipped and superimposed with glue 
upon the heads of the nekkid ladies. The Fiscal Correspondents* 
art gallery was libelous per se. 

When John Snyder became Secretary of the Treasury and paid 
his first visit, fortunately without sitting down, he was scandalized. 
He said nothing, but over the next week end his painters were at 
work. They scraped off all the art from the walls and painted them 
in baby blue. Other workmen also removed the gin cooler and re- 
placed it with an automatic drinking fountain which produced 
water only. This was a sad blow to the Fiscal Correspondents, but 
they said nothing. Patiently, like spiders reweaving a torn web, 
they began assembling a new art exhibit It perhaps is not up to 
the high standards yet of the old, but it is sufficiently startling 
even now to send occasional females on their way without stating 
their wants. They usually open the door, gulp, and silently dis- 

The Fiscal Correspondents, I hasten to add, also do some work. 
I don't know how they find the time, but if it were not for them 

Frederick C. Othman 2SS 

the financial pages of America's press would be scrawny indeed. 
And the Treasury a dull and fusty establishment. 

Sigma Delta Chi, the honorary journalistic fraternity, has a large 
and active chapter in Washington, complete with the chicken in 
the pants. And the Newspaper Guild has chapters all over the 
place, meetings at the drop of a hat, and arguments far into the 
night. It is amazing to me how the members of a labor union, 
particularly the articulate ones of the Guild, can battle so long 
and so vociferously over so little. On the other hand I also was 
amazed recently to be invited to a meeting at the Willard Hotel 
of the United Press chapter of the Guild. You think the members 
were damning management? And grousing about their pay? Haw. 

They were downing their scotch and chewing their potato chips 
while they discussed in deadly earnest how to improve the quality 
of their work. So help me, Hannali, they were. First they held a 
seminar on how best to pry news out of a bureaucrat, how to by- 
pass liis press agent, and tow to translate the gobbledegook of 
his handouts into English. Then they argued about grammar, 
sentence structure, and the architecture of the paragraph until 
you'd have thought that here was a class in advanced English com- 
position. And so actually it was. 

In 1944, you may remember, there was a fellow named Tom 
Dewey running for President for the first time. He was traveling 
with a trainload of Washington correspondents when in Castle 
Rock, Wyoming, boom! The engine hit a cow, and all hands were 
shaken up. A few suffered bruises; still fewer were scratched 
enough to bleed. 

Any other trainload of passengers would have wigwagged a 
lawyer and sued the railroad for eighteen million dollars. But not 
the gents of the Fourth Estate. Habit was too much with *em. They 
shook their heads dazedly as they crawled out of the wreckage, 
and then on the spot they organized another club: the Castle Rock 
Survivors* Association. It meets regularly over chicken, while the 
members brag about their wounds, which seem to grow more 
gruesome with each passing year. 

L Russell Young, who looks more like a senator than a senator 

J ^WUCWiriJW, i ,, to _, O' .!- I - ' 

254 Every Day Is Election Day 

dfoes, used to cover the White House for the Washington Evening 
Star. This was an arduous task, but Russ also found time to play 
chje^,^idi_yisiting firemen ajid secret-service agents, draw por- 
traits in charcoal of those whose faces amused him, and organize 
the J. Russell Young School of Expression. This was and is hall 
e$ap3Sonal institution and half club. J. Russelfnow is a District of 

^^a-W^..^^^^^^^^ im .^ VUIM>n . , _ ,. ,, ^<~,i, , t, , , - J i , ,, ,, , ,, , , , T f<t,^r w .,,. 

Columbia Commissioner, but the school meets regularly (over 
chicfeen > of qourse ) so that the graduates may sneer at the forensic 
efforts of the new students* 

All the members of the foregoing institutions, plus some others 
in skirts, automatically have joined the House and Senate press 
galleries, and at the moment all is well upon Capitol Hill. It wasn't 
always thus. 

For years the gentlemen of the standing committee, elected by 
the members upon payment of one dollar per year per each, with- 
stood the demands of a few feminine news writers for a ladies' 
room. The ladies said they were no gents. They had a gents* room, 
didn't they? Then why should a lady have to scamper around the 
corner and down the block? Wasn't she a citizen too? And also a 
human being? 

The management regarded these pleas as feminine capricious- 
ness. And ignored 'em. The ladies, led by Elizabeth May Craig 
of a string of New England papers, as you can imagine, got more 
desperate with each passing hour, month, yes, and year. They did 
an unprecedented thing. Ignored the almighty committee and ap- 
pealed directly to the Rules Committee of the Senate and to the 
Speaker of the House. 

These gallant lawgivers brought the problem of the ladies' 
powder room, before the full membership of both bodies, which 
voted overwhelmingly to give the girls white-tiled sanctums they 
could call their own. These were installed some years ago, but the 
scars brought on by this ruckus between the sexes still have not 
healed completely. 

I might add in passing that Mrs. Craig has become an expert 
at this kind of thing. Last year she was assigned to go to Europe 
with the Army, and before she took off she wangled from the Air 
Force the first ladies' room ever to be installed within a B-29. 

Frederick C. Othman 255 

And while I'm on the subject of skirts I must report that there 
are more of these in the Washington press corps than ever before. 
The ladies, who never have been allowed to join the National 
Press Club, retaliated by organizing not one club of their own, 
but two. One of these is called the Women's National Press Club. 
The other is named the American Newspaper Women's Club. 
And if I had any sense I'd stop right there. The rival clubwomen 
are a little touchy. 

The Newspaper Women's Club in any event owns its own club- 
house and looks down its nose at the Women's Press Club, which 
doesn't. The latter takes an equally dim view of the Newspaper 
Women. Claims they are not either. Says mostly they are society 
dames who never saw the inside of a city room. So they both hold 
regular parties at which President Truman and his missus eat 

For years, it seemed like, the female reporters and the wives of 
the members conducted an insidious infiltration program into the 
National Press Club itself. What if the ladies couldn't join? They'd 
run the club anyhow. And almost did. 

First they got the board (which has wives, too, never forget) 
to establish a ladies' dining room. The ladies used this as their 
private sanctum and grumbled when a mere man entered. They 
also kicked about the food and the service and said they believed 
they ought to be allowed into the main dining room on Sundays. 
They got that privilege. Then they said they should use it on 
Thursday nights too. Again the board bowed low. 

The girls pressed the point They said they believed they'd use 
the main dining room every night. Yes ma'am, said the board. 
Then the ladies went too far. 

They said they had decided to take over the bar and use it for 
a cocktail lounge. I can tell you that anguish prevailed in the 
board room. The masters of the club were subjected to pressure 
from every side. Their wives lobbied at home, and there's no bet- 
ter base of attack, as any congressman can report. The member- 
ship on the other side threatened to resign en masse, or almost, if 
a female ever stuck her powdered nose past the swinging door. 

The governors, as all rulers must, struck a compromise. They 

256 Every Day Is Election Day 

built the ladies a cocktail lounge of their own at the far end of 
the ballroom, where they can yammer to their little hearts' content, 
with nary an echo reaching the cardroom. Peace, if s wonderful. 
And probably will be until this book is published and the ladies 
get a look at it Particularly at Chapter 16. 


Coverage Today 


Thomas L. Stokes, born in Atlanta and 
a graduate of the University o Geor- 
gia, has been on the Washington scene 
continuously since 1921. He has been 
a correspondent for the United Press 
and the New York World Telegram 
and is now a syndicated columnist for 
United Features. He received a Pu- 
litzer prize for national reporting, 
1938, and in 1946 the Raymond Clap- 
per Memorial Award for Washington 
news coverage. He is the author of an 
autobiography, Chip oQ My Shoulder, 

Perhaps it never occurs to you, but back of that news story with a 
Washington dateline that you read casually in your newspaper 
you would find, if you could whisk yourself across the space be- 
tween, another human being, man or woman, who spends his or 
her days and sometimes nights about some one or other of the 
many sources of news in that veritable maze of buildings in Wash- 
ington that houses your national government. 

He or she may be completely anonymous, or merely a 'Wash- 
ington correspondent" whose name means nothing to you, or "the 
Washington correspondent" of your local newspaper. He or she 
is figuratively legion, for Washington is today the news capital of 
the world, and it takes a lot of human beings to get the news 
at the source, to process it, and to get it to you there in the news- 
paper which you read over your breakfast in the morning or in 
your living room or study at night. 

Today there are nearly fourteen hundred men and women en- 
gaged in gathering and processing the news of Washington for 

258 Coverage Today 

our nation and the world, or to be exact 1,381 accredited by the 
established governing bodies of each medium at the time this was 
written. This figure, of course, is subject to constant change 
and upward if recent years furnish a guide. 

They were divided: newspapers, 785; radio and television, 273; 
periodicals, 200; and photographers, 123. 

Those who operate in this flourishing news-gathering industry 
in the national capital, with their families, constitute a small town 
in themselves, a town within a city. They have their own social 
organizations and their own official associations for self -regulation 
and self-discipline. Newspapermen early established their right 
of access to the sources of news and their code of privileges, since 
the newspaper tradition in Washington is an ancient and cher- 
ished one, and thus paved the way for similar access and privileges 
for the other media as they came along. 

Most of the news with a Washington dateline that you find on 
the front page of your newspaper day after day comes from three 
principal sources: the White House, Congress, and the State De- 
partment. The President is always the leading character in the 
great drama of American politics, for he is both a person and a 
symbol Congress is constantly interesting not only because it 
makes the laws that affect you and me in our daily lives, but also 
because it is a constantly seething cauldron of issues and person- 
alities. The State Department is almost daily in the spotlight in 
this sometimes confusing and disturbing postwar period, with its 
Truman Doctrine for Greece and Turkey, its Marshall Plan for 
economic recovery in Europe, the Atkntic Pact to bind us and 
western Europe together in a common front against encroach- 
ments by Russia. Washington has become the capital of the world, 
and the State Department is the front office where foreign policy 
is developed and executed day by day. 

The White House correspondent is the most glamorous figure 
in the Washington news-reporting world to the public at large, 
perhaps, though the aura about him is sometimes magnified be- 
yond its relative significance in the whole Washington news- 
gathering process. There are other news sources that are more 
productive day in and day out. This can be said objectively by 

Thomas L. Stokes 259 

one who himself periodically has covered the White House over a 
period of many years, beginning with the Warren G. Harding 
administration in the early 1920s. Among the memories that 
linger from those now long-gone days are the series of conferences 
over coal-mine and railroad-shop strikes that made a harassed man 
out of the usually genial President. He dramatized his personal 
ordeal when he came from his office one sweltering summer day 
to visit for a few minutes with the White House reporters after a 
particularly grueling session, shirt-sleeved and wan of face, and 
remarked to the men in the profession in which he had spent a 
good deal of his life, *Tm glad to get away from that fob in there. 
It's good to be with you fellows for a few minutes." Another 
memory is of nights spent sitting about the lobby of the White 
House Executive Offices during an illness of Mrs. Harding. Hap- 
pily she recovered to live for some years thereafter. At an early 
age a young reporter learned how the sunrise comes over the 
White House lawn. 

The generations of White House reporters before and since 
have had the same sort of experiences. They are accepted and 
routine, though never so much so that they are not recalled 
whenever White House correspondents of other eras and this sit 
down in idle moments on their beats or off to pass the time in 
reminiscence, even as this one has done. 

Glamor attaches naturally to the White House correspondent 
because of his very close and constant association with this seat 
of power. He spends virtually all of every day at the White House, 
stationed just outside the President's office when the Chief Execu- 
tive is in Washington, and lives as close to him almost as a valet 
when the President travels. He is identified with the President in 
the public mind as much as the Secret Service men who guard 
the President and dog his steps wherever he goes. For there, 
too, is the White House correspondent. 

A staffman is maintained as White House correspondent by the 
three press associations, Associated Press, United Press, and 
International News Service, and by the larger metropolitan news- 
papers. His job is a demanding one. This is true especially of the 
press association White House correspondent. The White House 

260 Coverage Today 

is his sole job and sole field of operation. He is responsible for 
everything that happens there that is news. He goes to his post 
at the White House Executive Offices in the morning, remains 
there all day, and accompanies the President if the latter leaves 
the White House for an official function at night. 

In a news conference with the President's press secretary every 
morning the White House correspondents get a preview of the 
day's events at the Executive Offices, a list of the visitors who 
are scheduled to see the President that day, and any news an- 
nouncements ready to be released. Thereafter they station them- 
selves about the lobby or in the pressroom which adjoins it, inter- 
view every caller after he sees the President, and keep in contact 
with the various secretaries and officials at the Executive Offices 
with whom they establish friendly relations as news sources. 

White House correspondents of the press associations have 
direct telephone connections with their offices, with private 
booths. They dictate their stories over the telephone and keep in 
communication to relay tips about possible news developments 
elsewhere from information obtained at the White House either 
through visitors or news sources in the White House and receive 
queries and tips from their offices that have initiated elsewhere 
about possible White House news. 

Their day*s work ends nominally when the President leaves his 
office and retires to the mansion for the night, though it really 
does not end then, nor in fact does it ever end, for they are literally 
charged with the President for twenty-four hours a day. Every 
so often they must get in touch with the White House at night 
for an answer to some query or tip that has come to their offices, 
and occasionally they must spend hours in front of the mansion 
at night waiting for the breakup of some official conference on 
government business that the President has called. Such night con- 
ferences are held in the White House itself instead of the Execu- 
tive Offices. 

The job of the White House correspondent is, in short, the 
President From close and intimate association with the White 
House personnel and with the President himself the regularly 
assigned White House correspondents get to know the President, 

Thomas L. Stokes 261 

his character and personality, his habits and from that knowledge 
frequently are able to diagnose his various acts as President and 
to forecast what he might do in a given situation or set of cir- 
cumstances. An example was when the late Robert J. Bender, 
White House correspondent for the United Press in the Woodrow 
Wilson administration, was able to predict that President Wilson 
would attend the Paris Peace Conference after World War I. 
There had been some speculation as to whether the President 
would go to Paris. Bender knew Wilson so well that he knew 
he would insist on sitting in personally at the Peace Conference 
and so got a news beat for which the source was bis own 
knowledge of personal character. 

There is big news at the White House. There are also the homely 
incidents that happen there as in any other household in the 
land which the alert and knowing White House correspondent 
finds out from personal acquaintance with members of the staff to 
weave into human-interest stories. There was, for instance, the 
story of the mechanical hobbyhorse on which President Calvin 
Coolidge exercised secretly. That came from a tip that J. Russell 
Young, then White House correspondent for the Washington 
Evening Star and later Commissioner for the District of Columbia, 
received from someone who had talked with a mechanic at the 
Navy Yard where the horse had been sent for repairs and which 
Young confirmed in a casual conversation with Frank W. Stearns, 
the Boston merchant, a close friend and confidant of the President 
who spent a good deal of time at the White House. Young wrote 
a delightful yarn about the way in which the President put this 
mechanical buckaroo through its paces, with a description of the 
perturbation of the President when the animal went into high 
gear and almost threw him. His story had the quality of surprise, 
for the public had not pictured the rather dour New Englander 
in such a role. The story was picked up all over the country and 
became the subject of cartoons and light editorials. 

There was the story of the "assassination" of President Martin 
Van Buren which Bruce McNamee, White House correspondent 
in the Harding and Coolidge regimes for Universal Service, dis- 
covered in a conversation with a Secret Service friend. In the 

262 Coverage Today 

middle of the night a pistol shot rang out in the lower reaches 
of the White House. An investigation by frantic Secret Service 
men disclosed that the eerie disturbance was caused by a police- 
man on guard in the glassed-in corridor leading from the Executive 
Offices to the White House in the rear. He had dozed off as he 
sat in a chair on his post of duty. Suddenly he awoke from his cat- 
nap to see before him in the moonlight that streamed in through 
the glass paneling the somewhat forbidding face of Martin Van 
Buren. It was a tribute perhaps to the sculptor of the marble bust 
of the President who had been so many years in his grave that the 
policeman in his sudden excitement had whipped out his pistol 
and cracked at what he thought was an intruder. His marksman- 
ship might be rated fair. He hit Martin Van Buren in his stone 
neck, opening a wound that required a trip to the repair shop. 

Then there was the story of President Herbert Hoover s sixty- 
mile-an-hour dash on a quiet Sunday afternoon from his mountain 
retreat on the Rapidan to the White House at news of a sudden 
development in connection with the German debt moratorium. 
Driving at such speed on Sunday afternoon over Virginia's roads 
was unusual for a President in those days. Mr. Hoover was always 
very meticulous about the proprieties. Consequently he took 
offense when he saw the incident recorded in a box on the front 
page of the New York Times the next morning, so much so that 
he ordered the chief of the Secret Service to investigate and find 
out who was responsible for the "leak." Nothing ever came of it, 
for all that Turner Catledge, White House correspondent for 
the New York Times, had done was to work out a simple problem 
in arithmetic involving the distance and the time it took to make 
the trip. His story was merely to emphasize the emergency in 
foreign affairs that had developed of a quiet Sunday afternoon. 

In those days when President Hoover retired to his retreat on 
week ends the White House correspondents were not allowed to 
go there with him, but stayed at an inn several miles away and 
kept in touch by telephone with the President's lodge. On this 
particular Sunday they learned suddenly that the President had 
left his Rapidan camp and was headed hurriedly back toward the 
capital. They set out in pursuit in the course of their business, 

Thomas L, Stokes 26S 

but never were able to catch up with him. This sort of thing is a 
greater cause for anxiety to a White House reporter than the lay- 
man can realize, for he is never supposed to let the President 
get out of sight figuratively when traveling. His whereabouts and 
movements must be known at all times. 

All of this is part of the White House correspondent's business, 
and there are thousands of similar stories. It adds the constant 
spice of adventure that is, when a fellow is young. The writer 
was among a group of newspapermen who had a similar ex- 
perience while covering Herbert Hoover. The then President- 
elect suddenly left Fort Myers, where he had been visiting with 
Harvey Firestone, Henry Ford, and Thomas A. Edison, and dashed 
away across Florida toward Miami Beach, where he was head- 
quartered in this preinauguration interlude, without any warning 
for the newspaper correspondents who had been told the night 
before that he would return around the coast on the Jeremiah 
Milbank yacht on which he had come to Fort Myers. The news 
caught us at breakfast at the hotel, and we jumped up from un- 
finished ham and eggs, got into the trailer we were using for this 
assignment, and sped away across the state two hours behind the 
President-elect, whom we never overtook. There was, we learned 
later, no special reason for this quick departure, though we 
speculated nervously among ourselves the whole trip. This re- 
porter remembers it very vividly not only because of his personal 
anxiety at the time over escape of the quarry, but because he 
bumped into a door in his haste in getting out of that hotel 
dining room and got a handsome cut over his eye which he was 
never able to explain satisfactorily to his wife who met him at the 
other end of the journey. 

Traveling with the President is one of the most exciting and at 
the same time one of the most wearing experiences of White 
House correspondents, for, mixed with the fun, of which there is 
plenty even if not so much as the newspaper reader imagines- 
are not only such frustrations as recounted, but considerable and 
sometimes seemingly endless work. This is especially true on long 
railroad tours and in election years most of all, when the White 
House correspondent is grinding out copy at aE hours as he records 

264 Coverage Today 

the President's progress and speeches for the daily newspaper 
and perhaps posterity. 

For many other Washington correspondents not assigned there 
daily and regularly the White House is a point of call more or 
less frequently, particularly those who are correspondents for 
single newspapers and specialize in local news as well as handling 
national news from time to time and who range the whole city 
as assignments take them here and there. Often a correspondent 
who concentrates on news for his locality must go to the White 
House when a visitor of special interest to his city, state, or area 
calls there to see the President about some matter of interest 
to his newspaper so that he may interview the visitor after he 
has talked with the President. The visitor may be a federal 
government official who has authority over the matter, or a local 
official who has come to Washington in connection with it, or a 
local politician on a strictly political mission, a businessman, 
labor leader, or what not. Consequently numbers of such cor- 
respondents are constantly in and out of the White House every 
day. Some of them attend the morning conferences of the 
President's press secretary to check on local news developments. 

Once a week when the President himself holds his regular 
press conference newspapermen and -women from all over the 
capital flock to the White House to stand in the President's 
office for the back-and-forth of questions and answers. These 
weekly press interviews with the President are always well at- 
tended, and occasionally the office is jammed when some mo- 
mentous announcement is expected or when developments of one 
sort and another in this country or abroad focus attention on the 
attitude of the President and suggest that he will have some- 
thing to say in regard to them. The late President Roosevelt 
usually held two press conferences weekly when in Washington. 
President Truman reduced the number to one. 

The State Department has always been a top assignment in 
Washington, and it has become increasingly important with the 
commanding role the United States has assumed in world affairs. 
The press associations, big metropolitan newspapers, and some 
foreign newspapers and news agencies keep staffmen there for the 

Thomas L. Stokes 265 

same continuous vigil as is maintained at the White House, This 
post requires able, intelligent, well-informed newspapermen who 
also must have special skill as news getters, for they must develop 
contacts among officials in all the geographical divisions, or the 
geographical "desks" as they are called, upon whom they can rely 
for news and background information and guidance to interpret 
properly events all over the world. They are at one and the same 
time reporter, student, and part diplomat. Theirs is a highly 
responsible job. 

Like White House reporters, they, too, must watch the daily 
visitors who call to confer with the Secretary of State or other 
high officials and interview them as they leave. One of the most 
dramatic of such interviews was with Japanese Ambassador 
Kichisaburo Nomura and Japanese Peace Envoy Saburo Zurasu, 
who had presented themselves in the anteroom of Secretary of 
State Cordell Hull at the very moment when the bombs were 
raining down in the attack on Pearl Harbor on that memorable 
Sunday, December 7, 1941, though it was not known to the 
reporters nor publicly when that conference broke up that Pearl 
Harbor had been attacked. State Department reporters were on 
the job twenty-four hours a day in that tense period just before 
and after the war with Japan began. Front-page headlines were 
made daily at the State Department 

For general information and background on broad policy 
matters the Secretary of State holds regular press conferences, and 
these, like the President's conferences, are well attended, usually 
attracting some general-news reporters who rove the whole Wash- 
ington scene as well as specialists in foreign affairs representing 
newspapers here and abroad. The press associations, as well as 
some big newspapers, have men regularly assigned to cover the 
numerous embassies and legations of foreign governments in 
Washington, which also requires peculiar skill and thorough 
background in foreign affairs. 

The Capitol, where Congress sits day by day during sessions 
and legislates and quarrels and stews, is the biggest single source 
of news in Washington. Sooner or later all policies must go to 
Congress for ultimate analysis and approval, and a wealth of 

266 Coverage Today 

information is available at the Capitol always about what goes 
on in government generally. 

Members of Congress must find out what goes on all over the 
government as part of their responsibility to the public. Accord- 
ingly the Capitol is a rich mine of news for the energetic reporter. 
Some of the best reporters, not only in Washington but in the 
nation, are found among the men and women who cover Congress 
regularly, both in the staffs of press associations and among 
special correspondents assigned there. From Capitol reporters, 
too, because they become experts in politics in its usual practical 
sense, come those who are assigned to cover national conventions, 
Presidential campaigns and other national political events. 

It is the consistently most exciting news front in Washington, 
for there practical politics is played in its most fascinating and in- 
triguing manner. There you are dealing with experts in what has 
been called "the great American game." 

Reporting there requires energy and intuitive ability. The days 
are sometimes long and always filled with activity, and oc- 
casionally there are night sessions. For staffmen of press associa- 
tions and newspapers regularly assigned there the day begins 
with coverage of committee sessions in the morning, either open 
sessions where there are public hearings on bills being prepared 
for floor consideration and there are a score or more of these 
every day in House and Senate or executive sessions in which 
committees are working out the final form of bills. Outside of 
committee rooms where such executive sessions are being held 
you will find a group of Capitol reporters waiting for the com- 
mittee to break up. They may get an official explanation from the 
committee chairman of what transpired, but often this does not 
occur or if it does is not sufficient, and so the reporters begin to 
seek out friends on the committee to ferret out privately what 
really happened. This sometimes requires digging. But the re- 
porters always find out in the end, and you get it in your news- 
paper. You may depend upon that. 

Reporters who cover the daily committee sessions and the 
regular sessions of House and Senate acquire a detailed knowledge 
of government and are as a result the best informed reporters in 

Thomas L. Stokes 267 

Washington on the whole field of national government, though 
reporters who are specialists naturally will have a more intimate 
knowledge in a particular subject. Public hearings by committees 
produce a continuing and enormous amount of information about 
government and government policies and public reaction to them. 
There the cabinet officer must appear to state his case for bills 
recommended by the Administration dealing with his sphere of 
government, and there also you watch a constant parade of as- 
sistant secretaries and other department officials and heads of 
special and independent bureaus and agencies to develop details 
about the work of their departments and agencies in response to 
questions from committee members. There, too, representatives 
of groups and interests affected by the proposed measures appear, 
whether it be business, labor, the farmer, or others. They are 
great open and public forums. 

When House and Senate assemble for their regular daily 
sessions, which ordinarily is at noon, though occasionally it may be 
an hour or two hours earlier when there is a rush on some 
particular major bill, you will see the correspondents regularly 
assigned to report these sessions take their places in the press 
gallery. The press associations keep these sessions covered from 
beginning to end so that nothing that occurs on the floor escapes 
them. Staffmen for the big metropolitan newspapers likewise 
follow these proceedings closely. 

Much news, of course, develops off the floor and not in the 
open, so to speak. Consequently you may always find reporters 
in and out of the lobby of the House of Representatives and about 
what is known as "The President's Room" off the Senate lobby 
busily interviewing members of House and Senate on this or that 
maneuver, legislative or political. 

Newspapermen generally have the run of the House lobby, 
and press association representatives are permitted on the floor 
itself. Similar privileges are not granted, however, in the Senate. 
No newspaperman can go either into the Senate lobby or on the 
floor during sessions. 

Formerly press associations were permitted to have admission 
to the Senate floor during sessions for a representative. But this 

268 Coverage Today 

privilege was revoked during the Hoover administration when 
Paul Mallon, then covering the Senate for the United Press, stirred 
up resentment among senators by publishing two secret roll calls 
on Presidential nominations taken in executive session. Mallon 
was not, of course, on the floor at the time, as executive sessions 
were closely guarded. He got his information after the session 
from members who did not believe in secret sessions on public 
business of such importance as nominations to high office by the 
President and who checked the roll for him and gave it to him. 
Mallon won wide commendation for this public service, and it 
brought about one of the few reforms in legislative procedure in 
recent times, which was to amend Senate rules to require open 
public sessions thereafter on nominations. Previously they always 
had been secret. But the Senate Rules Committee rescinded the 
floor privilege for press associations because of Mallon's act. It 
never has been restored. 

While more of the spectacular front-page news comes from 
Congress, the White House, and State Department, there is a 
constant flow of news from the other regular executive depart- 
ments and special bureaus and agencies and there are so many 
of the latter category in these days. Some of it is big news 
nationally, and most of it is important because of its direct effect 
upon the daily lives of all of us in this age when government 
has come to have such a close relation with our citizens and their 
families through the reforms and changes of recent years. A great 
many reporters, able and alert men and women, are regularly 
assigned to the news centers in this area to keep you informed. 
During the war, of course, the War and Navy departments were 
constant hot spots that were covered on a twenty-four-hour basis, 
and since that time, for we still have no real peace in the world, 
there has been continued emphasis on news from the military, 
naval, and air sectors now concentrated in the National Defense 
Establishment under unification of the services. 

The scope and intensity of Washington news coverage have 
expanded and contracted periodically through the years, de- 
pending upon circumstances, though for the last two decades 
news reporting in the national capital has been enjoying a bull 

Thomas L. Stokes 269 

market There was a contraction after World War I, during which 
Washington news had suddenly become very important Soon 
after the nation's dramatic and successful military entry upon 
the world stage in World War I we withdrew into our shell of 
isolation with rejection of membership in the League of Nations 
so that our country was not in the main current of international 
affairs in a role of leadership as after World War II a quarter of a 
century later. Here at home after a postwar depression that dis- 
appeared quickly the nation was prosperous and content during 
the laissez-faire Republican regimes of the middle 1920s. Con- 
sequently there was not a great deal of interest in what went on 
in Washington. This was reflected in a contraction of the news- 
gathering business. 

Washington really became the news capital of the nation during 
the great depression that began to manifest itself publicly in the 
1929 stock-market crash and continued well into the 1930s. The 
advent of the Roosevelt New Deal, with all the measures it took 
first, for salvage and recovery and, second, for reform on a wide 
front turned the attention literally of almost every citizen con- 
stantly upon Washington; for every citizen had a very direct and 
personal interest sooner or later in what was done during this 
amazing and breath-taking span. It meant food, shelter, jobs, 
safety of bank deposits and investments, safety for homes and 
farms, higher wages, social security for unemployment and old 
age, and the like, all very personal matters. 

News about all these things originated from Washington. Every 
development was of keen and often anxious interest to millions 
all over the country. Nearly every household had a stake in what 
was being done in Washington. This all meant more and more 
people in Washington to gather this news and more to handle it 
and get it out over the wires, over the radio, in pictures. All this 
while international news was falling off, with shrinking foreign 
trade and all the nations pointing their economies toward at- 
tempted self-sufficiency. 

Interest in this country in Washington never had a chance to 
lag, for World War II broke upon us before we had emerged com- 
pletely from depression. Washington suddenly became the news 

270 Coverage Today 

capital of the world. For almost overnight the United States 
became the banker and producer for the war all over the globe, 
and it supplied as well millions of men and directed over-all 
strategy, diplomatic and military. After the war was over it con- 
tinued to be the banker and producer and broker for a bankrupt 
world. Billions were poured out in rehabilitation, an operation 
that constantly gathered interest at home and abroad because it 
provided resistance against the advance of Communism which 
feeds upon broken-down economies and hungry, idle, and dis- 
tressed people. Men and women in Europe, in Asia, in Africa 
hung nervously upon news from Washington for it brought as- 
surance of food and medicines and funds to rebuild farm and 
industry so people could help themselves. Statesmen and diplo- 
mats of many countries, friendly and unfriendly, sat figuratively 
at the news tickers to scan dispatches from the news capital of 
the world. 

Our world role likewise has intensified the interest of our 
own people in what happens in Washington. 

The men and women who tell this story are a widely assorted 
lot, with widely assorted duties. 

Newspapermen divide into many categories. There are Wash- 
ington correspondents who represent a single newspaper; some 
who represent two, three, four, or sometimes a string, usually 
newspapers in smaller or medium-sized cities; and many who are 
members of a sizable Washington bureau for a single big metro- 
politan daily. These bureaus vary in size, at the time this was 
written, ranging up to a staff of twenty-eight in the Washington 
bureau of the New York Times which is the largest. There are 
variations of these. The nineteen Scripps-Howard newspapers 
maintain a big bureau known as the Scripps-Howard Newspaper 
Alliance. Some of its staff members cover news of local interest 
to the various newspapers; others cover national news, develop 
features and special stories related to editorial policy; and others 
write national editorials for the newspapers in the chain. Another 
variation which approaches a press association is a bureau with a 
staff of varying size that serves a number of newspapers here and 
there throughout the country. The largest such bureau is operated 

Thomas L, Stokes 271 

by Bascom Timmons, a veteran who came to Washington from 
Texas many years ago. Two are operated by women: Esther 
Tufty and Mary Cottrell, widow of Jesse Cottrell, long a Wash- 
ington correspondent. These enterprises represent commendable 
newspaper initiative. Their reporters cover a wide range. 

The largest staffs in Washington are maintained by the three 
major press associations which have bureaus in key cities all over 
this country and the world as well as string correspondents in 
smaller towns and cities and serve newspapers all over the world. 
The total personnel of press association Washington bureaus, in- 
cluding telegraph operators, are: Associated Press, 155; Inter- 
national News Service, 45; and United Press, 103. They are the 
Washington correspondents for the great bulk of newspapers in 
this country and elsewhere. Only a comparatively small number 
of newspapers have individual and specialized news coverage in 
Washington. Every daily newspaper in our country takes one of 
these daily press-association services, some two, while some few 
subscribe to all three. Their coverage of Washington is highly 
organized and detailed. AP and UP also operate local news ticker 
services over which Washington news is distributed by teletype as 
it breaks to subscribers among both newspaper bureaus and 
government offices in the capital. 

Each of the three press associations keeps reporters regularly 
at the principal sources of news in Washington. It is frequently 
said that the press associations "watch every rat hole," and this is 
almost literally true. All day long as news develops these reporters 
feed it into the central office either by dictating over telephones 
with direct lines from such key spots as the White House, State 
Department, and other departments and agencies or by filing 
it on direct telegraph-printer circuits into the main office from 
the press galleries of House and Senate at the Capitol, where 
direct telephone connections also are available for the use of 
press association staffmen. This news is edited and processed and 
filed on trunk wires from the central offices of the press associa- 
tions. Each such central office is a busy labyrinth of editors (usu- 
ally known in the trade as desk men), rewrite men, wire filers, 
and printer operators, the whole operation under direction of a 

272 Coverage Today 

bureau manager whose job is one of the most responsible among 
Washington newspapermen and often the most trying and diffi- 
cult. He and his staff are on call for emergencies day and night 
twenty-four hours a day. Some of the biggest stories break in 
odd hours, showing no respect whatever for orderly living. 

Some of these, too, are what are usually known as "police 
stories," that is, stories involving accidents or catastrophes 
affecting human beings and having nothing whatever to do with 
tariff and tax bills or labor legislation or the United Nations or 
Russia, for Washington is, like all other cities, full of human 
beings, a fact sometimes overlooked. 

Such a story was that of the famous Knickerbocker Theater 
disaster in Washington in which ninety-seven persons lost their 
lives when a faultily designed roof fell under the weight of one 
of the city's biggest snowstorms on a Saturday night back in 
January 1922. All of us all over the city were routed out for that. 
I still can remember going into the United Press office on the 
following Monday morning to see Carl Groat, one of the staff 
who had recently returned from a tour of duty in Germany, sitting 
at his typewriter, somewhat wan-looking, drinking at intervals 
from a big tin cup of coffee from a nearby restaurant as he wrote 
the final "clean-up" story on that tragedy. He hadn't been to bed 
for two nights. I remember quite well, too, how some of us were 
rushed out to La Plata in nearby Maryland when a freak tornado 
wrecked a schoolhouse and killed and injured many school 
children, while others were hurried off to hospitals into which the 
injured were brought. Then there was the Christmas Eve night 
when we were pulled away from our homes or parties to cover 
a fire that broke out in the White House Executive Offices during 
the Hoover administration. 

Washington political correspondents frequently have to be- 
come police reporters again, and they turn to it with a will. After 
all most of them started that way, and such occasions provide 
welcome interludes from national and world problems and from 
dignitaries who may once have served in city councils and state 
legislatures but now are often stuffed shirts. 

Press association reporters in Washington are first-rate news- 

Thomas L. Stokes 273 

papermen, among the best in the business. Usually they have 
served in other bureaus in various parts of the country. They 
represent the cream of such talent They constitute a reservoir 
which is often drawn upon by big metropolitan newspaper 
bureaus, newspaper syndicates, magazines, and radio networks. 
They get valuable experience because they cover at one time or 
another every news source in Washington. Consequently they are 
familiar with the over-all operations of government and come to 
understand the significance of the sometimes devious moves on 
the vast checkerboard of government and politics. 

Somewhat comparable to the press association technique, 
though on a restricted and specialized basis, is that of the Wash- 
ington bureaus of big metropolitan newspapers New York, Balti- 
more, Philadelphia, and Chicago. These bureaus have a city-desk 
setup, with reporters regularly assigned to the principal news 
centers White House, Capitol, State Department, and so on 
though they do not attempt to cover the city in the detailed 
manner of the press associations. They concentrate on the major 
stories of the day or stories in which their newspaper may be 
particularly interested, and they seek also for news that is over- 
looked or underemphasized by other newspapers. News "scoops'* 
or "beats" come from this sort of initiative possible in specialized 
coverage by competent men on the Washington staffs of metro- 
politan newspapers; and there still are such "scoops,** even though 
they are less frequent because of the generally more intensive 
coverage of the city by all types of news reporters. The big 
metropolitan bureaus in the national capital have a large file every 
day to their newspapers that is sent out over their own direct 

In cases where a newspaper is represented by only one or two 
staffmen in Washington the type of coverage varies. News of 
local or regional interest is usually a primary concern. Some de- 
vote their entire attention to this. Others also cover national 
stories in which their newspapers are interested. The nature of 
their work depends on the wishes of their newspapers. Cor- 
respondents who represent a string of newspapers concentrate on 
news of local interest. Special correspondents often furnish 

274 Coverage Today 

sprightly copy with the spice of human interest, and some of them 
have large followings and win reputations in their own areas. 
Frequently they dig out stories in Washington exposing situations 
in their territories that trace back to a federal agency or official 
which subsequently becomes a matter of national news which 
other newspapers then pick up and follow. These local correspond- 
ents quite often have their influence on national policy through 
their energetic coverage of news for their areas. 

Highly skilled specialists are developed among men and women 
reporters in Washington because of the character of their as- 
signments and the newspapers they represent. There are able 
financial reporters, for example, whose findings are read closely 
not only by the business and financial community, but also by 
government officials engaged in that field. Reporters representing 
inidwestern and southern newspapers devote much of their at- 
tention to government agricultural policy, and among them you 
find both men and women who acquire an expert knowledge of 
farm and farm-commodity problems. It is so, too, with foreign 
affairs as well as the numerous other categories of news which 
Washington correspondents must follow. 

From time to time special correspondents turn up stories that 
not only attract national attention, but set Congressional in- 
vestigations into motion to explore all angles of situations thus 
revealed, with the result that legislation frequently follows. A 
brilliant expose of that sort was by the late Paul Y. Anderson of 
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one of the great Washington cor- 
respondents of all time, who uncovered the Continental Trading 
Company, so-called, which was an important link in the famous 
Teapot Dome oil scandals of the Harding administration in the 
early 1920s. Another example of this kind of initiative was the 
revelation by Leo Sack, then Washington correspondent for the 
Pittsburgh Press of the Scripps-Howard chain, of huge expendi- 
tures in a Pennsylvania primary. That prompted an investiga- 
tion by the Senate that ultimately revealed that some three 
million dollars had been spent by three Republican candidates 
for the United States Senate and resulted in the unseating of the 
successful candidate, William S. Vare. An example of public- 

Thomas L. Stokes 275 

service reporting of the finest and most intelligent character was 
that by Ruth Finney of the Scripps-Howard newspapers and 
Marion F. Ramsay of the Hearst newspapers in covering the 
protracted investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into 
the electric-power industry in the late 1920s and early 1930s 
which laid the groundwork for regulatory legislation. These are 
samples of consistent good work by special correspondents in 
Washington. It goes on day in and day out through the years. 

The constantly increasing importance of Washington in the 
nation and the world is manifest in the attention it gets from our 
magazines, both news and general, and from business and techni- 
cal journals of all sorts. 

Large bureaus are maintained by the weekly news magazines, 
Time and Newsweek., with staffmen regularly assigned to the 
principal sources of news in Washington, specialists in their 
various fields, who cover their "beats" day by day just as do news- 
paper reporters. The significance these magazines attach to 
Washington is shown by the fact that the first section of each of 
them is devoted to an account of the previous week's events in 
Washington, supplemented by detailed treatment of developments 
of particular importance and by personality sketches of leading 
figures in government and politics. 

The same day-by-day reportorial technique is used also by 
United States News and World Report, published by David 
Lawrence, which every week carries very informative articles 
about Washington and world events of an expository and back- 
ground nature. It is ably written and ably edited by a highly 
competent staff of ex-newspaper correspondents, veterans who 
know their way around the national capital from long experience. 
Foreign correspondents are stationed in the principal news 
centers in other parts of the world. A newcomer to the Washington 
magazine field is Kiplinger Magazine, published by Willard M. 
Kiplinger, the ex-newspaper correspondent who started many 
years ago the highly successful Washington newsletter familiar 
to businessmen and financiers all over the country, itself now a 
Washington institution. His magazine is devoted to special articles 
about Washington and developments elsewhere of interest to the 

276 Coverage Today 

general reader as well as to businessmen. The McGraw-Hill 
business, financial, and scientific group of magazines has one of 
the largest bureaus in Washington, staffed by specialists in all 
the manifold fields covered by its periodicals. 

Coverage of news of interest to the rapidly growing television 
industry began in Washington even before most of us were 
aware of this new medium by establishment of Television Digest 
by the foresighted Martin Godel, who was likewise a pioneer in 
the radio news-and-information field in Washington when he 
founded Broadcasting magazine In 1931. The latter, now published 
by Sol Taishoff, who was associated with Codel in this very suc- 
cessful enterprise, covers news in Washington and elsewhere of in- 
terest to the industry and radio broadcasters. Ten years earlier 
Robert D. Heinl had founded a radio newsletter which is still 

Aside from these and many magazines and publications of 
specialized interest that are represented by staff men in Wash- 
ingtonto which Sports Afield is the newest addition magazines 
of more general public interest and circulation also have estab- 
lished bureaus in Washington: Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, 
Life, Look, Readers Digest, and others. 

Physically, or in the mechanical sense, Washington then is 
literally blanketed by news reporters of all kinds. 

How well actually is Washington covered? 

Here you get differences of opinion and judgment. They 
range from the periodic "expose" of Washington correspondents, 
nearly always anonymous and cynically critical in nature, to the 
bar-side reminiscences of some old-timer who loves the city, its 
politics, and its political and newspaper traditions, and in whose 
stories Washington newspapermen loom somewhat on the heroic 
side with the usual legends of quaintness and eccentricity. 

Neither, of course, accurate. 

We can enjoy the latter as we tolerantly mark it off to senti- 
mentality. As for the loose charges in the "expose" type of com- 
mentary to the effect that Washington correspondents are "lazy," 
that they are "stuffed shirts," that they rely too much on the 
government "handout," the local name for formal news releases, 

Thomas L. Stokes 277 

that some of them are little more than personal ambassadors of 
their bosses back home all those can be dismissed as ephemeral 
and flimsy by admitting frankly that cases can be cited in proof 
of all such allegations among the fourteen hundred men 
and women who are employed in all the media of news cover- 
age in the national capital. It would be strange if there were not 
a few among so many. But they are the exceptions. 

Criticism, if it would be fair, and judgments, if they would be 
sound, must take account of circumstances as they exist, among 
which is that the Washington correspondents cannot all be 
lumped into one general category for analysis, which is the mis- 
take often made. Washington news coverage is functional and 
as previously pointed out falls into categories. 

There are undoubtedly too many government releases and 
'liandouts," but in a mass-production age and government in 
Washington is virtually on an assembly-line basis in these times 
that is the simplest and most efficient way to announce routine 
news of government decisions and activities. It is all news some- 
where or other in the country, sometimes to one city, sometimes to 
a whole area, sometimes to the whole nation. Reporters assigned 
to the various news fronts in Washington are there to do that 
necessary routine work, along with their broader job of develop- 
ing their assignment, familiarizing themselves with the personali- 
ties and policies on their *lDeat J> so they can interpret the activities 
of their particular sector to the public. 

There is necessarily a watchdog and fireman aspect to Wash- 
ington reporting which must be taken into account in any general 
judgment, though it is a comparatively minor phase. To judge 
properly the work of individual Washington newspaper corre- 
spondents it is necessary to know just what it is they do and are 
supposed to do in short their functions in Washington news 
coverage. In my judgment they rate as an exceedingly capable 
group, energetic, highly intelligent, well informed, and versatile. 
It is risking no contradiction to say that our national government 
is covered better than any other in the world. 

Newspaper and press association directors and executives 
usually know what they are getting in the way of Washington 

278 Coverage Today 

reporters. In the case of individual newspapers the Washington 
correspondent in almost every instance has come up through the 
ranks on his home paper, has covered all sorts of local assign- 
ments, usually has specialized in both city and state politics, fre- 
quently has served as city editor and occasionally as managing 
editor or news editor, and is sent to Washington as a promotion. 
As for press associations, their Washington staffs are made up 
almost entirely of men and women who have served in numerous 
other bureaus in the country, frequently abroad also, and their 
assignment to Washington is a promotion. So Washington cor- 
respondents are seasoned, experienced, and able men or they 
would not be in Washington in the first place. 

They are, then, picked men. They have been selected especially 
for their jobs in Washington. That they not only suited their 
editor in the first instance, but also continue to suit himfor 
most of them remain in Washington for the rest of their lives- 
offers a clue to Washington correspondents and the system they 
represent. In other words they do to a large degree reflect their 
editors and their newspapers. 

Any criticism of their coverage of Washington is also a criticism 
of the American newspaper in general. It is necessary to consider 
the whole pattern, not just the Washington correspondent. A 
whole system is involved and he reflects that. 

I would like from this point on to give my own views on this 
situation which I have arrived at after more than a quarter century 
of careful study and observation of capital coverage. It is gener- 
ally recognized that wide differences of opinion prevail on these 
topics political, economic, social, and professional. 

The American newspaper and the Washington correspondent, 
who is a mirror of the American newspaper in miniature, are open 
to valid criticism. This, however, cannot be broadside either, nor 
too generalized. For newspapers do not fall into one category. 
Some are self-satisfied and smug, routinized and, politically and 
economically orthodox. Others show considerable individuality 
and initiative. Washington correspondents reflect their news- 
papers to an extent, but not altogether. Some of the repre- 
sentatives of the easygoing type of newspaper often develop a 

Thomas L. Stokes 279 

curiosity that is to be commended, though not demanded, and 
sometimes this becomes so apparent as to attract notice among 
newspapers of more initiative, who hire them away. There is 
among Washington newspapermen the same percentage of in- 
dividuals who have the itch for fame and perhaps fortune as 
among newspapermen everywhere and among members of any 
other trade or profession. There are still greener fields. There 
are always better assignments in Washington as well as beyond. 
One job in Washington is not the end. Ambition always has 

In assessing Washington correspondents it is well to take into 
account the fact that a majority of American newspapers are 
conservative, which is revealing no secret. Newspapers them- 
selves know it and admit it, and the public knows it. So does 
the Washington correspondent. It can be said that by and large the 
percentage of conservatism is less among Washington correspond- 
ents than in newspapers in general, which is probably merely a 
replica of the situation in nearly every city room in the country 
where reporters as a whole are much less conservative than their 
publishers. This springs perhaps from their closer contact with 
the realities in their daily work. They know from firsthand obser- 
vation the influence that dominant economic interests exert in a 
city and a state and on city and state government. Those same 
influences operate on national government. 

When Franklin D. Roosevelt goaded newspapers, which he 
did fairly regularly, he always made a distinction between pub- 
lishers and the reporters who stood before him. He was very 
careful to exempt the latter airily from his criticism, a form of con- 
descension that was obvious and not appreciated. But neverthe- 
less he put his finger upon a situation that is very apparent. His 
general aims won far more support among Washington cor- 
respondents than among their publishers. 

The Roosevelt war on depression and the dazzling succession of 
New Deal reforms made up one of the greatest news stories of 
our entire history, for they embraced both a political and an 
economic revolution when many old concepts had to be re- 
examined and discarded. That story was covered in complete 

280 Coverage Today 

and full detail by a growing contingent of Washington correspond- 
ents, even though most newspapers began to strike back editori- 
ally more and more at the reform phase of the Roosevelt 
Revolution. All that was necessary was to tell this story, and 
Washington correspondents told it and in many cases brilliantly. 
Those were days when Washington newspapermen literally had 
to go back to school because of the new concepts that were ad- 
vanced of which orthodox courses in their colleges had said noth- 
ing. During those years as in the war years thereafter Washington 
correspondents worked tirelessly and for long hours. Their work 
is a great credit to the corps. 

The New Deal era was a great story. There was an equally great 
story when the reaction against the Roosevelt-reform era set in, 
when the giant economic forces that Franklin D. Roosevelt had 
checked for a time revived and came back to the battle. They 
moved in en masse after election of the Republican Eightieth 

This was a great and dramatic story with the exciting in- 
gredient of conflict. Yet this counterrevolution was not nearly so 
well covered from Washington as the original revolution. The 
devious operations of powerful interests in Washington politics 
did not get the coverage that they deserved, though there were 
some Washington reporters who dug constantly and deeply to re- 
veal how, for example, the private utilities were trying to break 
down federal regulatory laws and to stop the needed expansion of 
public power projects already authorized; how real estate inter- 
ests worked to defeat rent control and needed housing legislation 
that had been promised to war veterans by both parties; how 
other special interests tried to weaken the Wage-Hour and Social 
Security Acts; how certain tariff-protected industries had almost 
succeeded in killing the reciprocal trade program; and so on. 

This conservative counterrevolution, which was carefully 
plotted and promoted by corporate wealth and finance, was 
minimized and underplayed in news dispatches out of Washing- 
ton, and what went out was in turn given even less attention 
often by the newspapers themselves, all of which might be ex- 

Thomas L. Stokes 281 

plained on the editorial page where this same counterrevolution 
was either overlooked entirely, condoned, or even praised. 

The fact that this story came as a surprise to the people when 
President Truman told it to them in his election campaign is 
a reflection on the newspapers. It should not have been a surprise. 
The reports of some Washington correspondents that told the 
story may be found in the files; but generally not a great deal of it 
was widely enough written, nor often enough, nor with enough 
detail and emphasis to impress the public. This failure of the 
newspapers did not help to inspire confidence in them; for in the 
end the people found out about It. 

The lack of interest in this story by so many newspapers had 
its effect in the too slight attention paid to it by their Washington 
correspondents. President Truman's election brought demands 
from the public for more enlightenment thereafter, and this 
offered a challenge to Washington correspondents and to the news- 
papers they represent. 

The inadequacy as this writer sees itof reporting on the post- 
war offensive of big business and finance to recapture their 
former dominant influence in government points in itself to a 
delinquency in Washington news coverage. This is the too little 
emphasis placed on the impact of great financial and industrial 
power on Washington, its government, and politics in general. 
This opens up the big subject of the play of economics upon 
politics, a game in which the various moves are, it is true, not 
always easy to discern or to demonstrate. Economic forces most 
active today in politics may be divided broadly into business, 
labor, and the farmer, so far as special interests are involved as 
differentiated from the consumer who embraces all three, as well 
as others less numerous in the American economy. 

Labor's activity is closely scrutinized and reported in consider- 
able detail, and its real influence in Washington is, by and large, 
exaggerated. That of the farmer is frequently magnified too. But 
the activity and influence of business are understressed, when not 
actually ignored, in Washington news coverage. It is more devious 
and less apparent in its political operations. 

The conflict that is generated by constant big business-industrial 

282 Coverage Today 

pressures upon government was dramatized and symbolized very 
simply by Franklin D. Roosevelt when he announced that his 
aim was to move the capital of the nation from New York to 
Washington. He approached this objective to the point where 
the political and economic opposition claimed that big govern- 
ment had become the problem rather than big business. His 
revolution never went that far, of course, contrary to the mislead- 
ing diagnosis that got wide circulation through all the propaganda 
avenues available to big business, among which were many news- 
papers. "Big government" was raised up as the target in the 
counteroffensive by the revivified financial-industrial oligarchy, 
and this counteroffensive had considerable successes not always 
immediately apparent to the general public. Another variation of 
the numerous catchy propaganda arguments was that labor was 
getting too strong, that we were headed toward a labor govern- 
ment, which was not true either. It was used effectively in apply- 
ing further restrictions to labor in the campaign that came to its 
climax in the Taft-Hartley Act, which was perhaps the keystone 
achievement of the conservative counterrevolution. This cam- 
paign overreached itself not only on the labor front, but elsewhere, 
including a curb on farm benefits granted in the New Deal era, 
and it was the union of labor and the farmer, each for its own 
self-interest, that resulted in President Truman's re-election. This 
was another example of the checks and balances that operate in 
our system quite often to bring together in a temporary voting 
alliance diverse interests that subsequently do not co-operate in 

The story of the raids and inroads by big business was dis- 
closed by President Truman rather than the newspapers, and his 
success in his almost singlehanded campaign is a tribute to his 
abilities as a campaigner that generally had been far underrated. 
The failure of the newspapers generally to forecast the election 
result perhaps was due in part to a temporary blind spot caused 
by overintensified interest in a change in Washington. They could 
not see the people over their editorial pages, which they ac- 
cepted as too much the gospel truth. 

They lost contact with the people, who have an uncanny way of 

Thomas L. Stokes 283 

finding out about the diverse interests that operate in our politics, 
though it sometimes takes time. This discernment in the American 
people is the salvation of our democracy and the reason for its 
continued health and stability. They were not misled when they 
finally got the facts by the propaganda that labor and the farmer 
were getting sufficient power to throw our system out of balance 
and "change our form of government/' as it was put so glibly. 

Nor was the close observer of Washington events who knows 
the hard facts of politics. Experienced Washington correspondents 
do know them. Some of them tell the whole story. More of them 
could if they had the freedom they deserve. This is in the power 
of the newspapers to bestow and encourage. They have not only 
an obligation, but a mission under our democratic system. They 
must begin to tell the whole story if they expect to regain the 
confidence of the American people. 

There's nothing wrong with Washington news coverage that 
the newspapers themselves can't cure, 


Journalist and Journalese 

BY CARTER BROOKE JONES Carter Brooke Jones after a long serv- 

ice on newspapers in various cities is 
now literary critic of the Washington 

Most Washington correspondents learned the rudiments of their 
trade elsewhere. Naturally some grew up in our enormous, pon- 
derous, humid, provincial capital, but relatively few. 

Some of our most dignified and self -appreciated correspondents 
once were police reporters back in St. Paul or San Antonio or 
Bangor or Cleveland. There are those who under proper condi- 
tions at the Press Club taproom will relax to the extent of describ- 
ing some of their early adventures on the home-town paper. 
Others prefer to forget these callow years. Yet every once and 
again one of our more austere political pundits runs smack into 
some home-towner he once was glad to know at city hall or police 
headquarters. Such an irreverent knew-him-when has been heard 
to exclaim over a grudgingly preferred highball: 

"Well, well, Bill. I'd never have known you. If that outfit ain't 
class! By God, I'll bet you shave every day. And I never saw you 
with a shirt that clean except maybe on your day off when you 
were taking your girl out. I see your stuff sometimes. I don't 
always just get it. It ain't quite as clear as what you used to write 
when you went out with the boys on them vice raids. Remember 
the time . . ." 

And the pundit leans over the table, hoping by lowering his 
voice to hush the raucous tones of his visitor's reminiscences. The 
host has always been vague about his earlier years, with ambigu- 
ous references to assignments abroad and postgraduate courses. 
And now this heel has to come along and . . 

Carter Brooke Jones 285 

Something happens to reporters when they come to Washing- 
ton. Not right away, but in time. They soon find that the breezy 
ways of Spokane or Dallas or Atlanta won't do at the great white 
throne of Government. As the years pass and their papers or press 
associations give them increasing responsibilities they stiffen 
slowly from reporter into correspondent, from person into per- 
sonage. Some emerge from shirttail-outers into stuffed shirts. They 
become not only as carefully tailored as somebody out of the State 
Department, but their demeanor and their copy are as meticu- 
lously stylized. They no longer can afford to associate with just 
anybody, and they don't write stories. They pronounce judgment, 
prophesy, and pontificate. 

These solemn commentators on the national scene would hate 
to be shown some of their early copy back in Dubuque or Fresno. 
They'd find they used the sort of journalese professors of journal- 
ism and other critics have been trying for years to proscribe. No 
doubt they wrote plenty about torso slayers and sex fiends and 
had their local cops throwing out many a dragnet and drawing 
cordons through which the bandits always managed to slip. Today 
they scorn such vulgar writing; they are Washington correspond- 
ents. But at least in the old days their readers understood them. 

Some years ago you'd find such correspondents in morning coats 
and striped trousers, complete with spats and sticks, undistinguish- 
able from the Minister of Ruritania. They still sport such clothes 
when they are au fait, but, since men's dress has grown increas- 
ingly informal, they are more apt these days to be seen in double- 
breasted suits with conservative stripes or in the sort of sport 
jackets Esquire and the New "Yorker admit to the canon. 

Let's take a look at one of the more august of these super- 
journalists. He is L. Sparkenborough Smythe. He is Washington 
correspondent for the Epic City Windjammer y one of the most 
influential papers in the Middle West. There was a time when 
he was police reporter on the Gazette in the smaller town of 
Nostalgia. He was known then as Lem Smith, and he played 
pinochle with the cops and wrote about stark tragedies and blond 
nudes found in alleys and murders that baffled crack detectives. 
But don't remind him of those days. He won't like it. 

286 Journalist and Journalese 

Now Mr. Smythe is a member of the Gridiron Club, a past 
president of the National Press Club, a member of the Alfalfa 
Club and of heaven knows what else. He and his wife play bridge 
with an Assistant Secretary of State and ministers from two of the 
smaller South American countries and their respective wives. Time 
was when Mr. Smythe's clothes looked as if he'd not slept well in 
them, and he always needed a haircut. You should see him today. 
His eldest son is at Groton and headed straight for Harvard if he 
isn't detoured into Reform School. His wife, who used to have the 
staff of the Nostalgia Gazette in for poker and drinks, has no time 
for newspapermen or their wives except, of course, certain ones. 

Well, this is a typical day. Mr. Smythe has a press conference 
he feels he'd better cover (he now says "attend"). He could send 
Jimmy, his assistant in the bureau, the sharp young man who will 
get somewhere if he can just forget he's not in Epic City covering 
city hall. But Mr. Smythe is not one to shirk duty, especially when 
he can't think of anything else to write that day. 

The correspondent arrives late he makes that a point: you 
must never be too eager and finds the Secretary answering ques- 
tions about crop estimates and plans for price stabilization. 
"Sparky," as he is called by some friends without an appreciation 
of his importance, pulls out a leather-bound notebook (he used to 
carry a wad of copy paper) and a gold pencil. He listens for some 
time, or appears to, and then asks a question which has been 
covered three times, once since he came in. Finally when the 
conference is stalled Mr. Smythe clears his throat and ponders. 

"Now, Mr. Secretary, I take it that if a crop we'll say corn, 
which is very important in my part of the country and assume 
that the seasonal price is below last year's parity, which was some- 
what higher than the prevailing market price plus parity in the 
world market in the typical year, which, I believe, was 1938 or 
was it 1928? Anyway, would you say that the government in that 
event should undertake to stabilize the price by maintaining 
parity, provided it is no higher than the stabilizing price agreed 
upon the previous year, minus the difference between the top 
price and/or the low price during the typical year?" 

Carter Brooke Jones 287 

Tm afraid," replies the Secretary, "I don't quite get you, 

"Never mind/' Smythe says magnanimously, "I think I catch the 

Well, farm stuff is always for page one in Epic City, and so 
L. Sparkenborough Smythe, back at his office in the National Press 
Building, turns out a piece. He writes: 

"Good news for Middle Western farmers can be reported au- 
thoritatively today by this correspondent, although the favorable 
development necessarily is tempered by world-market conditions 
and the usual parity formula. This does not necessarily spell out 
a higher price for corn, and yet informed sources are inclined to 
optimism rather than pessimism, depending, of course, on the 
actual crop as contrasted with the forecast. 

"This correspondent has learned through a searching investiga- 
tion at the Department of Agriculture the disclosure of matters 
still officially secret that the price of corn will be bolstered by the 
government if, as now is anybody's guess, there is an oversupply 
of feed and livestock prices do not hold up to last year's parity. 

"It can be revealed exclusively by the Windjammer's Washing- 
ton bureau that the Secretary has agreed to uphold parity under 
certain specified and uncertain conditions. Though he was reluc- 
tant to talk, he has made known his attitude in official circles. It 
was further learned . . ." 

In Epic City the managing editor of the Windjammer reads Mr. 
Smythe's dispatch to an accompaniment of profanity. He reluc- 
tantly takes it up to the composing room, remarking to the 
make-up editor, "I guess Sparky can't help it It's the way those 
damned bureaucrats think and talk. But I'm damned if I under- 
stand this story. Maybe some farmers will, though I doubt it like 

"If you ask me/* the make-up editor retorts, "I don't think 
Sparky can write any other way, no matter what they tell him. 
He's gone Washington entirely. I knew him when he was still Lem 
Smith and covered police for the Gazette down in Nostalgia. 
When he wrote a piece in those days at least you knew who got 
himself shot and who the cops picked up. I'd hate to turn him 

288 Journalist and Journalese 

loose on a good murder now. He'd probably tell you everything 
but what happened to the corpse, where it was found, and what 
name it went under." 

Mind you, I don't mean to contend that all Washington corre- 
spondents are like Sparkenborough Smythe, that all of them go 
high-hat and turn pontifical. There are among them some delight- 
ful fellows, essentially unchanged by the formalism of Washing- 
ton's marble corridors and personalities. Some, moreover, grasp 
complex subjects and explain them in clear prose. There remain, 
however, too many like Sparky, who easily can confuse the sim- 
plest issue and can clutter up the intricate any time. 

The journalistic cliches of other cities are not much used in 
Washington. We don't have many scandals involving millionaire 
playboys, and it's not often that a broker is sued by "the blond 
problem in his life/' But there is a Washington journalese, dread- 
ful in its ponderous attachment to words like "pronouncement" 
and "protocol" and "allocation" and "agenda" and "priority." Some 
correspondents can never mention what a department is spending 
without calling it a departmental expenditure. To others a Treas- 
ury report is always "a summary of the current fiscal situation." 

On the other hand some phrases minted by political reporters 
and congressional correspondents are pungent and have become 
worthy additions to the language. 

What could be more expressive than "a decision reached in a 
smoke-filled room"? This apparently dates back to the Republican 
National Convention of 1920 which nominated Warren G. Har- 
ding for President, though it may have been used earlier. At least 
it will always be associated with the Harding nomination. 

Not all the new terms that came from Washington correspond- 
ents and caught the public fancy were originated by them. Some 
came from political leaders wilt an ear for phrases. 

President Theodore Roosevelt put a number of phrases into cir- 
culation, if he did not originate them. Some like "hat in the ring" 
to designate an announced office seeker survive. Others like "big 
stick" 1 have passed into that innocuous desuetude which (as a 
phrase) Grover Cleveland inflicted on the public. The term "trust 

x ln foreign relations "speak softly, but carry a big stick." 

Carter Brooke Jones 289 

buster" had a heavy run during the first Roosevelt's administration., 
but, according to Henry L. Mencken in the American Language, 
Supplement 2 (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1948 ) , it dates back to 

Woodrow Wilson was a phrasemaker, but usually his phrases 
(for example, "open covenants, openly arrived aC or 'Tittle group 
of willful men") were too intellectual to circulate through saloons 
and billiard halls and get into everyday language. President Har- 
ding, who had been a small-town editor, had the literary touch of 
a writer of government directives, but he added one frightful word 
to our vocabulary: "normalcy." As a general term normalcy was 
at best obsolete. Funk & Wagnalls* New Standard Dictionary says 
it is a term "used specifically in mathematics," The noun had been 
"normality" for perhaps a century. But first Washington corre- 
spondents, then editorial writers, then biographers and novelists 
took up normalcy. It persists. 

The phrase "White House spokesman" apparently first got into 
Washington dispatches during the Harding administration, but 
came into general use during the succeeding administration of 
Calvin Coolidge. 2 Mr. Harding after some unfortunate experi- 
ences in impromptu answers at press conferences became cagey. 
Mr. Coolidge took no more chances with the press than he did 
with the other vexations of office. The public never knew that the 
alert White House spokesman who gave out information surpris- 
ingly accurate was the President himself. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt gave journalism and the country at large 
a whole set of phrases. "Forgotten man," "economic royalist," 
"spending to save/* "social security," "arsenal of democracy" are a 
few that came out of the New Deal. No matter at the moment 
how many Mr. Roosevelt actually invented and how many were 
materialized by his hovering battalion of ghosts. 

"White House spokesman" and other subterfuges faded in the 
tenure of Roosevelt H. It became the custom to quote what the 
President said at press conferences, though without quotation 

2 This is the best recollection of John Russell Young, one of the founders 
of the National Press Club, a veteran White House reporter for the Wash- 
ington Star, later a commissioner of the District of Columbia. 

290 Journalist and Journalese 

marks unless a direct quote was authorized. This plan was con- 
tinued into the Truman administration. Such face-savers as "a 
White House source" or "a source close to the Administration" no 
longer were needed. If you got a news item from a White House 
secretary you quoted him. Life was simpler for White House re- 
portersat least their writing chores were. 

But some of the biggest Washington stories, perhaps most of 
them, do not develop at the White House. They break on Capitol 
Hill or at the various departments and the innumerable agencies. 
Government executives, members of Congress, their aides and 
counselors often fear for political or personal reasons to announce 
such news, but will tip it off to their favorites in the press corps. 
Thus the persistence of such phrases as "it was learned from a 
weU-informed source" or "according to an Administration spokes- 
man who cannot be identified." 

Authoritative circles continue to whirl. It may be wondered 
sometimes whether they do not revolve in the reporter's head. 
And perhaps many a correspondent fails to name "sources that 
cannot be disclosed" because he hasn't the dimmest notion where 
they are. When a columnist wants to do a little single-handed 
prophesying he often strikes out defensively. "It will be denied, 
but . . ." He seldom fails: it generally is denied. 

Has journalese changed so much? Well, Washington stories are 
qualified in much the way they were fifty years ago. The Venezue- 
lan dispute of 1895, it will be recalled, involved Great Britain and 
the United States in a diplomatic brawl in the course of which 
President Cleveland sharply invoked the Monroe Doctrine. The 
Washington Star, trying to follow the row from day to day, re- 
ported on page one, April 29, 1895, that "no official light was 
thrown on the Venezuelan situation today. Information, more or 
less authentic, continues to circulate through diplomatic channels. 
One report that is said to be reliable is that positive assurances 
have been given the Administration that the British forces will 
withdraw from Venezuelan territory as soon as the [proposed] 
indemnity of $75,000 [sic!] shall have been collected. The Presi- 
dent spent the day at the White House and had no callers of 
importance up to two o'clock/* 

Carter Brooke Jones 291 

Could any correspondent o today have done any better or 
any worse? 

The harassed newspaper copyreader (it might be explained for 
the benefit of the general reader that he has to write headlines) 
has been forced to develop an argot of his own. Since he must 
describe the story in words that fit arbitrarily into certain space- 
so many units consisting of letters and spaces governed by un- 
yielding metal for each head he necessarily has had to evolve a 
sort of shorthand. Thus "probe" fits where "inquiry" wouldn't. 
"Solon" can be squeezed in where 'lawmaker" or 'legislator" 
never could be. "Cops" (shunned by the more dignified journals) 
just fills a head which "police" would overflow. "Ban" as a noun 
or a verb in any tense is a convenient word. 

Headwaters undoubtedly have contributed more words to jour- 
nalese than they have absorbed from reporters. Writers are prone 
to adopt headlines in their copy. Thus "a ban on parking" has 
become a cliche originated on the copy desk out of necessity. 

It was copyreaders* luck to have the long name Roosevelt 
thrown at the front pages so often in the last half century. But 
they got around that, lie first Roosevelt became *T. R." not only 
to newspaper readers, but to the general public. Indeed no one 
can say how much this intimate contraction of his name had to do 
with his election and his popularity for the rest of his life. Teddy 
was a versatile writer. He should have paused somewhere to indite 
an apostrophe to copyreaders. Roosevelt II inevitably became 
F. D. R. 

The sports writers so immortalized the late Christy MatthewsoB 
as "Big Six" (originally "big six-footer") that the papers once re- 
ported that a letter addressed simply with a huge figure six had 
been delivered to the pitcher without delay. Such phrases as 
"Manassa Mauler" and "Brown Bomber," which emerged from 
sports-department typewriters, always will identify for ring fans 
the champions who wore these noms de guerre. 

Once in what may be called euphemistically some years back I 
worked for the Associated Press. It is still an organization of pon- 
derable dignity. Then it was Olympian in its austerity. Under 
Melville Stone and Frederick Roy Martin slang was forbidden. It 

292 Journalist and Journalese 

was recognized that there were certain trade names in sports. A 
two-base hit was a two-bagger. Very well. But call it a double- 
sacker well, you'd better not. A strike-out was never a fan-out 
or a whiff-out, and if you called home run a circuit clout you'd 
likely get a message from the control point cautioning you against 
such vulgarities. But the worst thing the AP ever did (long before 
my time) was to refer to a certain character as "John Johnson, 
pugilist." His name wasn't John it was Arthur but he fought 
under the name of Jack Johnson. And once the New York Times 
quoted Governor Al Smith as having said "bologna," which all the 
world knew he had not. But those days are long gone, and today 
AP sports writers torture the language as cheerfully as anyone in 
an effort to write colorfully. 

The police reporter has done his share as an innovator. Mr. 
Mencken points out 3 that more than a few expressions like "big 
shot" apparently originated in the city room, not the underworld. 4 

The news weeklies meaning chiefly Time, which was the model 
for others have had a profound and dreadful effect on journalism. 
Time's concisions (well, why not?) have been copied and imitated 
to shameful proportions. That word "jampack" is only one of many 
that reporters refuse to forget. Time's way of writing also has had 
a degenerative influence on the press in general. What I shall call 
its nonsequitur style has become a bible for the young men of the 
United Press who try so desperately to write cleverly and show up 
the AP. Time writes, "Thin, long-nosed Henry L. Wilmerdich has 
developed a new remedy for hives." And the UP says: "Elongated, 
affable Senator Vandenberg (R., Mich.) introduced a bill today 
which would reduce the excise tax on linseed oil under certain 
conditions." 5 

Journalism like most trades has its inner argot. The public knows 
what "scoop" and "beat" mean. Hollywood has taught everyone, 
just as it has shown what newspapermen, are like: a bunch of ill- 
mannered, slovenly drunks who carry big notebooks and at least 

8 Henry L. Mencken. American Language. Supplement 2. 1948. 
*A1 Capone was quoted as saying he called his mob a "syndicate** after 
reading the term in the papers. 

Hypothetical but typical quotations. 

Carter Brooke Jones 293 

once a day tell the managing editor to go to hell, who spend most 
of their time in bistros, and yet who leap into action at the scent 
of a story and turn out brilliant copy. 

The public, however, is not familiar with the initials "B O M. w 
It means "business office must," and it means what it says: get that 
into the paper or else. It usually is an announcement of plans to 
celebrate the golden jubilee of Shiffenheffer's Department Store 
or something of similar import. 

Nor does a "lead" mean anything to newspaper readers. It is, 
however, a shibboleth of newspapermen comparable in impor- 
tance to a doctor's prescription or a lawyer's mispronunciation of 
certain Latin phrases. A lead is the beginning of a story, especially 
the first paragraph. Reporters would spend hours, if it were not 
for deadlines, polishing up leads. They are written primarily for 
other newspapermen. They must be, for the public, I've always 
been convinced, does not give a single damn how a story starts 
so long as it finds out within a reasonable time what happened. 

I emerged from a curtailed 6 course in journalism and took my 
first newspaper job with the fixed idea, imparted by some mis- 
guided teacher, that no lead should begin with "a," "an," or "the." 
The way I maltreated the parts of speech trying to avoid those 
simple and natural beginnings! Finally I decided it was, like a 
lot of other things I'd been told, malarkey, and I dropped the prac- 
tice. I don't think any paper bothers with such an absurd taboo 
any more. But reporters still struggle with leads, hammering out 
flamboyant announcements of murder, rape, and Presidential proc- 
lamation, all wasted on the readers they are presumed to write for. 

I do not wish from whatever Tve said to convey the notion that 
I do not think newspaper writing has improved. I think it has 
decidedly, though there is some journalistic writing of one hun- 
dred years ago that we could not improve on. Many particularly 
worn phrases have dropped out. The best writers instinctively 
avoid the most hackneyed words. Yet, with edition time moving 
toward you like a crouching panther you can't altogether avoid 
falling back on the ready-made patterns of expression. And I 
doubt that Old Subscriber would want you to. There is much in 

6 At the request of the college. 

294 Journalist and Journalese 

the newspaper of today to encourage those who love a simple, 
serviceable English (or American). 

If reporters would just quit saying everything "spreads like wild- 
fire" and calling a fight "an altercation" , , . But I can hear the 
referee yelling, "Break!" IVe been hitting in the cliches long 


Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, 

by Carl Sandburg, cited, 158-59 
Acheson, Dean, Secretary of State, 

quoted, 227 
Acme Newspictures, 154; Telephoto, 


Adams, John, 14 
Adams, John Quincy, 1314 
Adams, Phelps H., 188 
Adee, Alvey A., 48, 234 
Adler, Philip D., 215 
Advertising, newspaper, 130 
Affleck's Drugstore, 30-31 
Agriculture, Department of, use of 

radio by, 78-79 
Aikman, Duncan, 9 
Albee Building, National Press Club 

quarters in, 35, 71, 94-95, 108 
Alexandria, Virginia, Advertiser, 

newspaper, 10 
All-American Front, The, by Duncan 

Aikman, 9 

Allen, Robert S., 74, 177 
Alsop, Joseph, 177 
Alsop, Stewart, 177 
American Broadcasting Company, 

90, 199 
American Civil Liberties Union, 

quoted, 211 
American Language, by H. L. 

Mencken, cited, 289, 292n. 
American Newspaper Annual, 128 
Americar Newspaper Directory, 127 
Anderson, Paul Y., 64, 69, 274 
AP. See Associated Press 
April, historic events occurring, 27; 

1917, news events of, 55-58 
Areopagitica, by John Milton, cited, 

Associated Press, early rejection of 

radio, 79; establishment of, 17; 

number of Washington corre- 
spondents, 45; offices of, 42; 
quoted, 150; radio wire service 
offered by, 82-84. See also Press 

Associated Press Photos, 154; Wire- 
photo, 150 

Astoria (cruiser), 187 

Atchison, John C., 128 

Atomic bomb, censorship as applied 
to, 21&-17 

Authier, George F., 72 

Automotive Industry, 215 

Ayer, N. W., & Son, 128 

Bacall, Lauren, 153 

Baker, Newton D., Secretary of War, 
57, 144-45, 205 

Bakmeteff, George, 47 

Balfour, Arthur J., 57 

Baltimore American, 23, 43 

Baltimore Sun, 44, 74 

Bankers' Information Service, 93, 

Bankruptcy law amended, 121 

Barbary States, wars with, 11 

Barbour, Warren, Senator, 85 

Barry, David S., 43 

Barthelme, Dr. George, 46 

Bastian, Walter M., 122 

Bataan, fall of, 186 

Baukhage, H. R., 79, 85, 86 

Beatty, Morgan, 90 

BeU, Samuel W., 72, 73 

Bender, Robert J., 261 

Benedict, Bertram, 137 

Bennett, James Gordon, 17; estab- 
lishment of first Washington bu- 
reau of reporters by, 15; quoted, 

Benny, Jack, 153 


Benton, Thomas Hart, Senator, 

quoted, 7 
Berlin, Irving, 35 
Bernhardt, Sarah, farewell speech at 

National Press Club, 33 
Bernstorff, Count J. H. von, 46-47 
Bethesda Journal, 216 
Bey, Raiaf, Counselor o the Turkish 

Embassy, 32 
"Black sheeting," 49 
Blair, Francis Preston, 157 
Blanton, Thomas L., Representative, 


Blumenthal, A. Q, 113-14 
Blythe, Samuel G., 42, 59 
Boeckel, Richard, 132, 136 
Bohlen, Charles E., 240-41 
Borah, William E., Senator, 49, 68; 

support of radio newscasting, 83 
Boston Evening Transcript, 43 
Bourne, William C., 141 
Boyle, John, 128 
Brady, Mathew B., 142-43 
Brainerd, Chauncey C,, 73 
Brandagee, Frank B., 39, 50 
Brandt, Raymond P., 68, 120-21, 173 
Brayman, Harold, 102 
Brigham, William E., 43 
Britton, Edward E., 112 
Broadcasting. See Radio in news re- 

Broadcasting magazine, 276 
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 73 
Brooks, Noah, 158-59 
Broun, Heywood, 103-4 
Brown, Charles Brockman, 12 
Brown, J. C., 145 
Brown, James Wright, 130 
Bryan, James William, 107-15, 121- 


Bryan, William Jennings, 3, 56 
Bryce, James, Viscount, 29, 47 
Buck, Gene, 71 
Buel, Walker S., 72 
Buffalo Evening News, 65, 214 
Bull, Neely, 187-88 
Bull Moose Party, 3 
Bull Run, reporting battle of, 17 
Bullard, Seth, 33 


Bureau of Standards, short-wave 

radio broadcasts beginning in 

1920, 78 

Burr, Aaron, law office of, 109 
Business Action, 137 
Business press, in America, 126-31; 

origins of, 125-26 
Buskirk, J. Philip, 216 
Butchers and Packer's Gazette, early 

trade journal, 127 
Butler, James J., 130-31 
Butler, Nicholas Murray, 40 
By-lines, 38, 59, 175 
Byrnes, James, as Director of War 

Mobilization, 223; as Secretary of 

State, 246 

Cabinet of the United States, The, 

Calder, William M., Senator, 76 

Calhoun, John C., 13 

Cameramen. See Photography 

Cameron, Simon, Secretary of War, 

Campbell, Lawrence R., 120, 122 

Cannon, Joseph G., 38, 44; at 
National Press Club, 33, 73 

Capital press corps, club activities 
of, 248-56; 1800-24, 10-11; 
1824-61, 13-16; 1861-65, 16-19; 
1865-1900, 20-25; present news 
coverage of, 257-83; women in, 
45; World War I coverage, 54-58. 
See also Washington correspond- 

Capitol, news coverage of, 265-68 

Capitol Theatre, 118-19 

Capone, Al, 292 

Capper, Arthur, Senator, 149 

Carmichael, Otto, 31 

Carpenter, The, 138 

Casneau, Mrs. June, 7 

Castle Rock Survivors' Association, 

Catledge, Turner, 262 

Carton, Bruce, 156 

Censorship, 200-26; in Civil War, 
17, 19-20, 203, 219; through his- 
tory, 201-2; in World War I, 163, 


203-9; in World War II, 190-91, 

Census, Bureau of, press agent liired 
by, 160-61 

Central News, Ltd., press associa- 
tion, 46 

Chang Yin Tang, 47 

Changing Times magazine, 26 

Chaplin, Charlie, 113 

Chicago Daily Hide and Leather, 

Chicago Daily News, 227 

Chicago Inter-Ocean, 46 

Chicago Post, 46 

Chicago Record Herald, 43, 46 

Chicago Tribune, 42, 46, 110, 153, 

Chinda, Viscount Sutimi, 47 

Chip off My Shoulder, by Thomas 
L. Stokes, 257 

Christian, George, 146 

Christian Science Monitor, 45, 46, 
74, 173, 178 

Church, Wells (Ted), 81-82 

Cigar Makers 9 Official Journal, 138 

Cincinnati Commercial, 22 

Cincinnati Times Star, 50 

Civil War, 16-20; censorship in, 17, 
19-20, 203, 219 

Clapp Senate Investigating Commit- 
tee, 40 

Ckpper, Raymond, 64, 72, 179, 198 

Clark, Champ, 33, 40, 44, 56 

Clark, Walter E., 128 

Clay, Henry, 13 

Cleveland News, 215 

Cleveknd Plain Dealer, 61, 72, 156 

Clinton, George, Vice-President, 12 

Clough, Frank C., 215 

Club, newsmen's, effort to establish, 
17, 20-25. See also National Press 

Club activities of Washington corre- 
spondents, 248-56 

Cockran, Bourke, 48 

Codel, Martin, 276 

Cody, Buffalo BiU, 29 

Colfax, Schuyler, Vice-President, 21- 


Colliers magazine, 127, 199, 276 

Collins, Ralph A., 102, 132 

Cologne Gazette, 46 

Colorado Building, 42 

Columbia Broadcasting System, 75, 
79-83, 90, 199 

Columbus Dispatch, 65 

Columnists, 171-81; society, early, 

Congress, news coverage of, 265-68 

Congressional correspondents, 1867, 
20; first, 12. See also Congressional 
press gallery 

Congressional Directory, listing of 
correspondents in, 44-45; listing 
of foreign correspondents in, 244 

Congressional periodical press gal- 
lery, 130 

Congressional press gallery, ladies' 
quarters, 254; size before and 
after World War I, 44-46 

Congressional Quarterly, 137 

Congressional Radio Correspond- 
ents Association, 85, 89-90 

Congressional radio galleries, 85-86 

Consolidated Press Association, 176 

Continental Trading Co., Ltd., 69 

Cook, Dr. F. A., 33 

Coolidge, Calvin: laying of National 
Press Building cornerstone, 117; 
mechanical hobbyhorse of, 261; at 
National Press Club, 71-72; and 
news photographers, 147; press 
conferences of, 53, 66-67; radio 
broadcast by, 81 

Coolidge, Louis H., 31 

Copeland, Royal S., Senator, 116 

Corbin, Charles R., 215 

Corcoran Building, 42 

Coronet magazine, 26 

Corporate reorganization law, 121 

Corregidor, fall of, 186 

Cottrell, Mary, 271 

Couzens, James, Senator, 68 

Covell, Robert G., 132 

Cox, James M., 63 

Craig, Elizabeth May, 254 

Crawford, William H., 13 

Credit Mobilier scandal, 6 


Creel, George, 199, 203-4, 221 

Creel Committee on Public Informa- 
tion, 55, 163, 203-4, 205-9 

Cripps, Sir Stafford, at Overseas 
Writers* luncheon, 249 

Croghan, P. J., 165 

Crounse, Lorenzo R., 41 

Cuff Links Club, 249 

Curtis, Charles, Senator, 70 

Curtis, Sumner N., 43 

Custer, General George Armstrong, 

Dacy, George, quoted, 146-47 

Daily News Record, 128 

Daily States, ante-bellum paper, 7 

Dana, Charles A., 6 

Daniels, Josephus, Secretary of the 
Navy, 205 

Darlan, Admiral, 188-89 

Daugherty, Harry M., Attorney Gen- 
eral, 63, 69-70 

Davies, Aled, 102 

Davies, Roland, 137 

Davis, Elmer, 90, 199, 203, 215, 

Davis, Jim, Secretary of Labor, 61 

Davis, John W., 63 

Davis, Oscar King, 43, 44 

Dearborn Independent, quoted, 

Democratic National Convention of 
1924, 80 

Dempsey, John J., Representative, 85 

Denver Post, 65, 199 

Depression of 1819, 11 

Detroit News, 110 

Deuel, Wallace R., 227 

Dewey, Admiral George, 39, 48 

Dibble, Allen, 153 

Dill, Clarence C., Senator, 76n, 

Diplomacy, by Harold Nicolson, 
quoted, 234 

Diplomatic correspondents, 227-47 

District National Bank, 112 

District National Building, 42 

Dixon, George, 178 

D-M Digest, cited, 138n. 


Dodge, Homer Joseph, 93, 111, 131, 


Doheny, Edward L., 62 
Donovan, William J., 110, 220 
Doolittle, General James, 186 
Dorsey, George, 145, 147 
Drummond, Roscoe, 173 
Dumba, Dr. Constantine Theodore, 


Dunlap, Harry L., 42 
Dun's Review, 127 
DuPont, Thomas Coleman, Senator, 


Dupuy, Colonel R. Ernest, 87 
Durand, E. Dana, 160-61 
Dumo, George, 132 

Early, Stephen T., 64, 151, 183-84, 
190-91, 225 

Eaton, Harry, 134 

Eaton, Henry M., 133-34 

Ebbitt Hotel, 41, 108, 115 

Economic Outlook, 139 

Eden, Anthony, at Overseas Writers* 
luncheon, 249 

Editor and Publisher, 130 

Editorial Research Reports, 93, 136- 

Edson, John Joy, 110-17 

Edson, Peter, 178 

Edward, Prince of Wales, 35, 95-96 

Eight April Days, by Scott Hart, 26 

Eisenhower, General Dwight D., 

Elfenbein, Julien, 126 

Emporia Gazette, 215 

Esquire magazine, 61 

Essary, J. Fred, 74, 120 

Evans Building, 42 

Exchange Telegraph press associa- 
tion, 46 

Fairbanks, Charles W., 38 

Fall, Albert B., 62 

Famous Players-Lasky, 110, 112-13 

Federal Reserve System, establish- 
ment of, 3 

Federal Trade Information Service, 


Field, Carter, 36, 120 

Finney, Ruth, 275 

Firestone, Harvey, 132-83 

Fiscal Correspondents* Association, 

Fitzpatrick, Dick, cited, 167n. 

Fleeson, Doris, 181 

Flynn, Mike, 31 

Foch, Marshal, 35 

Foos, Irving D., 132 

Fordney-McCumber tariff bill, 48 

Foreign correspondents, 243-45 

Foreign policy reporting, 227-47 

Ft. Wayne News Sentinel, 65 

Four-Power Pacific Pact, wrong an- 
swer of President Harding- con- 
cerning, 53, 66 

1410 Pennsylvania Avenue Building, 

Fourth Estate, The, 130 

Fowler, Eltinge, 43 

Fox, William, 112-14, 115 

Fox Film Corporation, 112-18 

Franklin, Benjamin, 127, 142 

Fredericksburg, reporting battle of, 


Fugger, Johann, originator of busi- 
ness letter, 125 

Funk & Wagnalls' New Standard 
Dictionary, cited, 289 

Gales, Joseph, Jr., 12 

Gall, George, 131 

Garnett, Burt P., 136 

Garthe, Louis, 43 

George VI, King of Great Britain, 

visit to Washington, 86 
Georgetown Sentinel of Liberty, 10 
Georgia (battleship), 48 
"Gerstenberg University," 22, 24 
Gettysburg, reporting battle of, 20 
^Gilded Age," Washington news 

scene of, 6-7 
Gillett, Frederick H., Representative, 


Gillette, Guy, Senator, 85 
Glass, Carter, Representative, 3 
Gobright, William Lawrence, 17, 20 


Gockeler, C. J., 112 
Godwin, EarL, 31, 77, 95 
Goldsmith, G., jewelry shop of, 26, 

Goldsmith, Theodore Roosevelt, 


Gompers, Samuel, 138 
Gorry, Charles, 151 
Gotch, Frank, 33 
Gourmont, Remy de, quoted, 231 
Government press agents, 159-68 
Government Publicity, by James L. 

McCamy, cited, 162 
Government Publicity in Practice in 

Federal Administration, cited, 

Greeley, Horace, 15 
Gresham, Sir Thomas, 125-26. 
Gridiron Club, 23-24, 70-71 
Groat, Carl, 272 
Gross, Edward A., 131 

Hachmeister, Louise, 184 

Hackett, James K., 29 

Hall, Henry, 43 

Hammond, John Hays, 30, 110-18 

Handouts, 48-49, 156-70 

Hard Rock Club, 249-50 

Harding, Warren, 259; administra- 
tion scandals, 69-70; at National 
Press Club, 35, 36, 61, 72-73; and 
news photographers, 146-47; 
phrases originated by, 289; press 
conferences of, 52-53, 66; radio 
address of, 76-77 

Harkness, Richard, 90 

Harlow, Jean, 151 

Harper, Robert, 112 

Harper's Magazine, quoted s 131 

Harris, Charles K., 35 

Harris and Ewing, 153 

Harsch, Joseph C., 90 

Hart, Scott, 26 

HaskLn, Frederic J., 32, 174 

Havas News Agency, 31 

Hay, John, as Secretary of State, 245 

Hayden, Charles S., 112 

Headlines over thirty-five years, 3-4 

Healey, Frank, 102 



Hearst National News Association, 

Heath, Perry, 59 

Heinl, Robert D., 276 

Heiss, A. E., 128 

Heiss, John D., 7 

Hellinger, Mark, 176 

Henderson, Leon, 130 

Henning, Arthur Sears, 42 

Henry, Bill, 90 

Herbert, Victor, 33, 71 

Hibbs Building, 42 

HiU, Edwin C., 72 

Hill, George Griswold, 43 

Hill, John A., 127 

Hilles, Charles D., 51 

Hitchcock, Gilbert M., Senator, 31, 

Hitt, Judge Isaac R., 149 

Holmes, George R., 60, 72 

Home Life Building, 42, 95 

Hooe Building, 109 

Hoover, Herbert, 262-63; as head of 
War Food Board, World War I, 
56; law permitting corporate re- 
organization, 120-21; and news 
photographers, 149-50; radio ad- 
dress by, 81; as Secretary of Com- 
merce, 67, 129, 133, 164-65 

Hoover, J. Edgar, 129 

Horton, Bob, 220 

House of Representatives, press gal- 
lery, 12. See also Congressional 

Houston, David H., Secretary of 
Agriculture, 34 

Howard, Nathaniel R., 215 

Hughes, Charles Evans, 66 

Hulen, Bertram D., cited, 234; 
quoted, 245 

Hull, Cordell, 186, 245 

Information specialists, 15758. See 
also Government press agents 

INS. See International News Service 

Inside the State Department, by 
Bertram D. Hulen, 234 

International News Photos, 145, 154; 
Soundphoto, 150 

International News Service, number 
of Washington correspondents, 45; 
offices, 42; radio wire service of- 
fered by, 82-84. See also Press 

Interview, direct quotation, intro- 
duction of, 22 

Iron Age, early trade journal, 127 

Irving, Washington, 12 

It Depends on the Wind, by Homer 
Joseph Dodge, 93 

Jackson, Andrew, 13-15 
~acob, Harvey, 102, 111-18 

'arvis, Russell, 14 

"efferson, Thomas, 10, 11, 239 

'effries, Jim, 33 

"ester, Harvey, 131 
Joffre, Marshal, 57-58 
Johnson, Hiram W., Senator, 49, 68, 


Johnson, Hugo, 152 
Jones, Carter Brooke, 284 
Jones, Jesse H., 120 
Jones, Sam, 102 
Jouett, John J., 183 
Journal of Commerce, early trade 

journal, 127 

Journalism Quarterly, cited, 167 
Journalist, The, 130 
Journeyman's Mechanics* Advocate, 

first labor paper, 138 
Jusserand, J. J., Ambassador, 47, 57 

Kahn, Otto, 117-18 

Kansas City Independent, 199 

Kansas City Star, 64, 70 

Kany, Howard L., 141 

Karger, Gus J., 50 

KDKA, radio station, initial voice 
broadcasting on, 78, 79 

Keith Theatre, 71 

Kellogg-Briand Pact, broadcasting 
signing of, 81 

Kendall, Amos, first information spe- 
cialist, 157-58, 162 

Kent, Frank, 177 

Kern, Charles E., 128 

Kewanee (III) Sun-Courier, 215 


Keyset, Charley, 33 

Kile, O. M., 120 

King, Arthur E., 215 

King, Admiral Ernest J., 185, 187- 

King, William H., Senator, 116 

Kinney, William A., 200 

Kintner, Robert, 177 

Kiplinger, Willard M., 132, 135-36 

Kiplinger publications, 135, 275 

KircKtiofer, Alfred H., 65 

Kitchin, Claude, 56 

Klein, Dr. Julius, 164 

Knebel, Fletcher, 61 

Knickerbocker Theatre disaster, 73, 


Knight newspapers, 173 
Knorr, Ernst, 131 
Knox, Philander C., Secretary of 

State, 48, 245 
Knudsen, William S., 130 
Koop, Theodore F., 75, 215 
Krock, Arthur, 1, 60, 173, 181 
Kuhn, Oliver Owen, 82 
Kurusu, Saburo, 186, 265 

Labor press, 138-40 
Labor's Monthly Survey, 139 
LaFollette, Robert (the elder), 56, 


Lahey, Edwin A., 173 
Lamm, Lynne M., 128, 131, 132 
Lansing, Robert F., Secretary of 

State, 245 
Lardner, Ring, 164 
Lawrence, David, 64, 79-80, 137, 

175-76, 177, 275 
League of Nations, ratification fight, 


Leggett, Eugene S., 121 
Lenin, Nikolai, cited, 231 
Lenroot, Irvine L., 174 
Leonard, Arthur, 146 
Lewis, Alfred Henry, 59 
Lewis, Fulton, Jr., 84-85 
Lewis, Sir William, 196 
Life magazine, 276 
Lincoln, Abraham, 17-20, 158-59 
Lindbergh, Charles A., 35, 148 


Lindley, Ernest, 178 

Lippmann, Walter, 176, 177, 180, 


Lockhart, Jack, 215, 216 
Lodge, Henry Cabot, Senator, 55 
London Post, 46, 174 
London Times, 17, 46 
Longworth, Alice Roosevelt, 56 
Longworth, Nicholas, 31 
Longworth, Paulina, 148 
Look magazine, 276 
Lord, Frank R., 112 
Los Angeles Times, 118 
Losekam's Restaurant, 38-39 
Louisiana Purchase, 11 
Louisville Courier-Journal, 1, 215 
Louisville Evening Post, 65 
Lowe, Sir A. Maurice, 46, 174 
Ludlow, Louis, 65, 119 
Lundberg, Ferdinand, quoted, 131, 

134, 137 
Lyon, James, 10 

MacLeish, Archibald, 221 
McAndrew, William R., 85 
McCamy, James L., cited, 162 
McClellan, General George B., 18 
McCombs, William F., 3 
McCullagh, James B., 22 
McDermott, Michael J., 241, 245-46 
McGrath, D. Harold, 86 
McGraw, James H., 127 
McGraw-Hill, 118, 276 
Mclntyre, O. O., 176 
McKinley, William, 39, 234-35 
McNamee, Bruce, 261 
McNary, Charles L., Senator, 149 
McNeir, William, 48 
McSween, Angus, 49 
Madden, Jack, 104, 105 
Madero, President Francisco, of 

Mexico, 48 

Maine (battleship), sinking of, 39 
Mallon, Paul, 68, 174-75, 268 
Manning, W. Sinkler, 44 
March of Time, 153 
Marie, Queen of Romania, 149 
Markham, Edgar, 120 
Marks, Avery, 132 



Marse Henry: An Autobiography, by 

Henry Watterson, 6-7 
Marshall, Clarence G., 32 
Marshall, General George C., 185, 

188-89, 224, 246 

Marshall, John, Secretary of State, 9 
Marshall Plan Letter, 137 
Martin, Frederick Roy, 291 
Martin, Joseph W., Jr., 85 
Mason, Guy, 43 
Masterson, Bat, 33 
May, Andrew (Buck), 153 
Mellett, Lowell, 136, 181, 220 
Mellon, Andrew W., Secretary o the 

Treasury, 74, 117 
Memphis Commercial Appeal, 215 
Menaugh, Robert M., 85 
Mencken, H. L., 180; cited, 289, 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer News of the 

Day, 145 
Mexican war, 15 
Michelson, Charles, 64, 72, 73 
Michie, Charley, 198 
Mike's restaurant, 98-102 
Miles, General Nelson A., 48 
Miller, George, 102-5 
Milton, John, cited, 202 
Miners' Journal, early labor paper, 138 
Minneapolis Tribune, 72 
Missouri Compromise, 11 
Mitchell, Billy, 148 
Mongolia (battleship), 57 
Moon Is Waning, The, by Scott 

Hart, 26 

Moore, Willis, 33 
Morgan, Frank P., 112 
Morgan, J. P., 40, 151 
Morgan, J. Pierpont, 40 
Morgenthau, Henry, 191, 252 
Morris, Joe Alex, 215 
Morrison, Fred W., 85 
Morrow, Hugh, 106 
Morse, Frank, 112 
Moses, George H., Senator, 49, 68 
Munn, Orson Desaix, 127 
Munsey Building, 42 
Museum and Washington and 

Georgetown Advertiser, 10 

Mussolini, Benito, membership in 

National Press Club, 73-74 
Mutual Broadcasting System, 90 
Mylander, William H., 215 

Napoleonic Wars, 11 

Nashville Banner, 112 

National affairs journalism, broad- 
ened scope of, 5-6 

National Broadcasting Company, 
78-84, 90 

National Capital Press Club, 24-25 

National Farm and Home Hour radio 
program, 78-79 

National Geographic Magazine, 75, 

National Geographic Society, 215 

National Intelligencer, 10, 12; 
quoted, 21 

National Metropolitan Building, 95 

National Petroleum News, 215 

National Press Building, 36, 97, 106- 
24; building of, 107-19; financial 
struggles after erection, 119-22 

National Press Club, Annual Hobby 
Night, 33; bar strike, 102-5; build- 
ing of National Press Building, 
106-24; Canteen, 197-98; and 
censorship in World War I, 205-7; 
clubrooms: first, 26-30, second, 
30-35, third, 35-36, 71, 94-95, 
108, fourth, 97, 119; establishment 
of, 26-29; in 1920s, 71-74; during 
Prohibition, 70, 93-98; radio news- 
men in, 76, 86, 89; signers, 111- 
12; spelling bees and debates, 
34; as source of news on foreign 
relations, 241-42; visiting celeb- 
rities, 33; women in, 255-56; dur- 
ing World War II, 195-98 

National Republican, 19, 21 

Nebraska (battleship), 48 

Nelson, Donald, 130 

Nelson, John M., 161-62 

New Deal, influence on handouts, 

New Orleans Item, 27 

New York Commercial, 128 

New York Enquirer, quoted, 14 


New York Evening Post, 175-76 

New York Globe, 46 

New York Herald, 15, 43, 46 

New York Herald Tribune, 46, 176, 

New York Journal, 51 

New York Journal of Commerce, 128 

New York Mail, 46 

New York Morning Sun, 43, 44, 46 

New York Press, 46 

New York Staats-Zeitung, 46 

New York Sun, 6, 15, 39 

New York Times, 83, 171, 173, 178, 
262, 270, 292; cited, 3n.; corre- 
spondents of, 1, 43-44, 64, 199; 
quoted, 4-5 

New York Tribune, 15; correspond- 
ents of, 4, 19, 43 

New York World, 174, 176; corre- 
spondents of, 42, 43, 64, 69 

New York World Telegram, 257 

Newsletters, 131-38 

Newspaper Enterprise Association, 

Newspaper Guild, 253 

Newspaper Row, 2125, 41 

Newspaper women, 255 

Newspaperdom, 130 

Newsweek magazine, 275 

Nichol, Graham B., 28 

Nicolson, Harold, quoted, 234 

1913, news events in April, 3 

Nixon, Bob, 250 

Nomura, Admiral Kichisaburo, 186, 

Norris, George W., 56, 68 

North Africa, Allied landing in, 188- 

O'Brien, Frank M., cited, 6-7 
OC (Office of Censorship). See Cen- 
sorship, World War II 
Ochs, Adolph, 43-44 
O'Connell, Dan, 115 
Odell, C. N., 131 
O'Donnell, John, 180 
Office of War Information. See OWI 
O'Laughlin, John Callan, 42 


Ohio State Journal, 65 
Oil City Derrick, 128 
Osgood, Whitman, 160-61 
Othman, Frederick C., 248 
Oulahan, Richard V., 60, 64, 110 
Overseas Writers, 241-42, 246, 249 
OWI, 194-95, 215, 218-26 

Pacifist disturbances at beginning of 

World War I, 55 
Pack, Harold J., Ill 
Paramount News, 152 
Patchin, Robert H., 43 
Patterson, Eleanor, 7n. 
Payne-Aldrich tariff bill, 43 
Pearl Harbor, attack on, 184-85 
Pearson, Drew, 90, 177, 178, 181 
Peary, Admiral Robert, 33 
Peck, George Wilbur, Governor of 

Wisconsin, 32 
Pecora Committee, 40 
Pendennis, quoted, 1 
Pennsylvania Gazette, 142 
People Next Door, The, by George 

Creel, 199 

Perkins, Cleveknd, 136 
Pershiag, John J., 57, 144 
Personnel, quoted, 139 
Petty, A. Milbum, 215 
Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, 

46, 102 

Philadelphia Inquirer, 106 
Philadelphia North American, 46 
Philadelphia Press, 46 
Philadelphia Public Ledger, 46, 72 
Philadelphia Record, 46 
Phillips, Cabell, 171; quoted, 7-8 
Photography, news, 141-55; by wire, 

initiated at National Press Club, 


Pic magazine, 61 
"Piece trading/* 49 
Pittsburgh Chronicle Telegraph, 43 
Pittsburgh Dispatch, 73 
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 215 
Platt, Tom, 38 

Poker at the Press Club, 29-30 
PoFs Theatre, 35 
Political cartoons, 142 


Political reporting, requirements for, 


Pollock, Charming, 76n. 
Poor Richard's Almanack, 127 
Poore, Ben Perley, 23 
Pope, James, 215 
Population of Washington: 1800, 9, 

10; 1820, 10; 1850, 16; 1860, 16; 

1908, 26; 1920, 64; 1930, 64 
Porter, Rufus, 126-27 
Poynter, Henrietta and Nelson, 137 
Presidential announcers, 80 
Presidential campaign, of 1824, 13; 

of 1912, 38-39, 40 
Presidential candidates, newspapers 

published by, 13-14 
Presidential election of 1920 as pio- 
neer radio news program, 79 
Presidential press conferences, 50 

54 66-67, 264 
Press agents. See Government press 

Press associations, 271-73. See also 

Associated Press; International 

News Service; United Press 
Press Club, first, 21; second, 23; 

third, 24-25. See also National 

Press Club 
Press coverage of Washington, 1800, 


Press-Radio Bureau, 83, 86 
Press statements. See Handouts 
Preston, James, 31, 47 
Prevost, Clifford, 104 
Price, Bill, 44, 51 
Price, Byron, 72, 190-91, 199, 203, 


Price-control act, 193 
Prices Current, first American trade 

journal, 126 

Prices Current Grain Reporter, 127 
Proctor, John C., 21 
Prohibition, 93-98 
Providence Journal, 43, 111, 215 
Public address system, use at Har- 
ding inauguration, 77 
Pujo "Money Trust** investigation, 

Pulitzer, Joseph, 6 


Pulitzer Prizes, for Washington news- 
men, 69 

Pursuit of a Whisper, by Homer 
Joseph Dodge, 93 

Pyle, Ernie, 198 

Quay, Matt, 38 
Quincy (cruiser), 187 

Radio, initiated at National Press 
Club, 36; in news reporting: Con- 
gressional radio galleries estab- 
lished, 84-86; initial use by De- 
partment of Agriculture, 78-79; 
introduction of, 75-82; opposition 
of newspaper publishers to, 82- 
84; postwar techniques of, 88-89; 
present status of, 89-92; resistance 
of capital press corps to, 81-82; 
during World War II, 86-88 

Railroads, news dispatches carried 
by, 15 

Railway Age, 127 

Ramsay, Marion L., 275 

Rankin, Jeannette, 56 

Rankin, John, 181 

Ransdell, Joseph E., Senator, 149 

Rash, Bryson, 91 

Readers Digest, 276 

Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 

Reed, David A., Senator, 68 

Reed, Jim, 49 

Renter's Telegram Company, 46 

Reynolds, Robert R., Senator, 151 

Rice, Kingsley, 215 

Richards, Mrs. George C., 45 

Richmond Federalist, 10 

Richmond Times-Dispatch, 26, 75 

Rigby, Mrs. Cora, 45 

Riggs Building. See Albee Building 

Roberts, Roy A., 64, 70 

Robertson, Ben, 198 

Rocky Mountain News, 199 

Rogers, Saul, 114-15 

Roller, Dr., 33 

Roosevelt, Franklin D., corporate re- 
organization law, 121; and news 
photographers, 150-51; phrases 


originated by, 289; and press con- 
ferences, 53; radio broadcasts of, 
81; in World War II, 188 

Roosevelt, Theodore, campaign of 
1912, 38-39, 44; cited, 227; at 
National Press Club, 33, 35; 
phrases originated by, 288-89; in 
World War I, 56-57 

Root, Elihu, as Secretary of State, 

Ross, Charles G., 64 

Rothschild, Louis, 132 

Rowell, George P., 127 

Russell, William H., 17 

Russia, commercial treaty abrogated 
by President Taft, 3 

Sabath, Adolph J., 122 

Sack, Leo, 274 

St. Louis Dispatch, 64 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 68, 173 

Salaries of capital press corps: in 

1820s, 13-14; 1861-65, 18; 1860s 

and 1870s, 20; 1908, 27; 1912, 

42-43; in 1920s, 65 
Salmagundi Papers, 12 
Sandburg, Carl, cited, 158-59 
Sata, Arne, 57 

Saturday Evening Post, 42, 106, 276 
Savannah Press, 65 
Scientific American, early technical 

journal, 126-27 
Scott, General Winfield, censorship 

established by, 17 
Scribner's magazine, 127 
Seibold, Louis, 69 
Senate, news events of the 1920s, 

67-69; secret voting in, 68, 174- 

75, 268 
Senate press gallery, 12, 31. See also 

Congressional press gallery 
Senators, election by legislatures, 41 
Sevareid, Eric, 90 
Shackleton, Sir Ernest, 33 
Sherman, James S., 39-40 
Sherman, General William Tecum- 

seh, 201 

Sherwood, Robert W., 220 
Shipp, Thomas R., 11 


Shrank, John, 40 

Sigma Delta Chi, 253 

Simmons, E. A., 127 

Simonds, Frank H., 4 

Simpson, Kirke L., 69 S 121 

Smith, Hal, 44 

Smith, J. Bond, 132 

Smith, Jesse, 62 

Smith, Merriman, 250 

Smith, Samuel Harrison, 10-12 

Snyder, John, 252 

Somervefi, General Brehon B., 130 

Sorrells, John, 214, 215 

Sousa, John Philip, 35 

Southern Building, 42 

Sphere, 136 

Sports Afield, 276 

Spot-news correspondents, emer- 
gence of, 15 

Spring-Rice, Sir Cecil, 47, 57 

Springfield (Mass.) Republican, 216 

Spurgeon, William P., 27, 30, 49 

Standard Rate and Data Service, 128 

Standing, Sir Guy, 29 

Stanton, Edwin M., 19-20, 203 

Star Building, 42 

State, Department of, 239-40; news 
coverage of, 264-65; press con- 
ferences of, 245-46; pressroom in, 

Stearns, Frank W., 261 

Sterrett, William Green, 59 

Stettinius, Edward R., Jr., 246 

Steven, William P., 215 

Stewart, Charles, 103, 196 

Stimpson, George W., 120-21 

Stimson, Henry L., 48, 232-33, 245 

Stokes, Thomas L., 64, 69, 178, 180, 

Stone, Melville, 291 

Stormfeltz-Loveley Co., 109 

Story of the New "York Sun, by 
Frank M. O'Brien, cited, 6-7 

Strayer, Louis W., 73 

Sullivan, Mark, 64, 177 

Sweinhart, Henry L., 36, 108-15 

Taber, John, 224 

Taft, William Howard, 38-41, 84; 


inauguration of, 30; at National 
Press Club, 33 

Taishoff, Sol, 276 

Teapot Dome scandal, 62, 69 

Technical Publishing Company, 215 

Tele-communication Reports, 137 

Telegraph, news dispatches by, 15 

Telephone, introduction o, 22 

Television, news over, 91-92, 142 

Television Digest, 276 

Texas, annexation of, 15 

Thackeray, William M., quoted, 1 

Thompson, John, 127 

Thompsons Bank Note and Com- 
mercial Reporter, 127 

Thomson, James M., 27 

Thorpe, Day, 216 

Tighe, Frank P., 215 

Tighe, Matt, 51 

Tilden, Samuel J., 6 

Tiller, Theodore, 60 

Time magazine, 26, 275, 292 

Timmons, Bascom N., 38, 110, 119- 
21, 271 

Toledo Blade, 215 

Trade journals, 124-31 

Traffic World, 128 

Transradio Press, 83-84 

Treasury Department, publicity ac- 
tivities in World War I, 163-64 

Truesdell, Frank, 23 

Truesdell, J. A., 44 

Truman, Harry S., 37; first White 
House television program, 91; in- 
auguration of, 141-42; and news 
photographers, 152-53 

Tufty, Esther, 271 

Tulsa Tribune, 215 

Tumulty, Joseph P., 54-55 

Turf Club of National Press Club, 

Turning Stream, The, by Duncan 
Aikman, 9 

Tyler administration, 15 

Typewriter, introduction of, 22 

Underwood, Oscar W., 80 
Union Pacific Railroad fiscal com- 
pany scandal, 6 


United Press, number of Washington 
correspondents, 45; offices, 42; 
radio wire service offered by, 82- 
84. See also Press associations 

United States Daily, 79, 176 

United States News and World Re- 
port, 137, 176, 275 

United States Telegraph, General 
Jackson's personal organ, 14 

Universal Gazette, 10 

Untermeyer, Samuel, 40 

UP. See United Press 

Vaccaro, Tony, 250 
Van Tine, Harry, 145 
Vardaman, Senator, 56 
Vare, William S., 274 
Vergny, General, quoted, 230 
Vermont (battleship), 48 
Veterans* Bureau scandal, 62 
Villard, Henry, 19-20 
Vincennes (cruiser), 187 
Vinson, Fred, Chief Justice, 141 
Viviani, Rene, 57-58 
Volstead, Andrew J., 148 
Von Zell, Harry, 81 

Walker, Ernie, 33 

Walker, Frank, Postmaster, 151 

Wall Street Journal, 128 

Walsh, Thomas J., Senator, 68 

Walsh, William H., 216 

War, The World, and Wilson, The, 

by George Creel, 199 
War communiques, Civil War, 20; 

World War II, 186-87, 191-92 
War Criminals, by George Creel, 199 
War reporters, Civil War, 17-20 
War-contract scandals, 1861-62, 18- 

War Lords of Washington, by Bruce 

Catton, 156 
War of 1812, 11 
Warner, Albert L., 85, 90 
Warner, James E., 215 
Warner-Pathe News, 145 
Washington, burning by British, 11; 

population: 1800, 9, 10; 1820, 10; 


1850, 16; I860, 16; 1908, 26; 

1920, 64; 1930, 64 
Washington Chronicle, 159 
Washington correspondent, back- 

ground of, 28^86; requirements 

for, 2. See also Capital press corps 
Washington Correspondents' Club, 


Washington Daily News, 141 ,/' ,. 
Washington Evening Star, 2$, 118, 

25< 26r" 

Washington Federalist, 10 
Washington Globe, 157 
Washington Herald, quoted, 146 
Washington journalese, 286-94 
Washington letters of early 1800s, 

13-15; conversion to spot cover- 

age, 15-16 

Washington News, 155 
Washington news coverage of pres- 

ent time, 257-83 
Washington newsletters, 131-38 
Washington Newspaper Club, 98- 


Washington Post, 26, 155 
Washington Post Building, 42 
Washington Star, 19, 155, m 284;._Qrr 
^ 82; quoted, 

" " 

Washington Times, quoted, 145 
Washington Times-Herald, 31, 155 
Watson, James E., Senator, 149 
Watterson, Henry, cited, 6-7 
Weapon of Silence, by Theodore 

Koop, 75 

Wellman, Walter, 33 
West, Roy (X, 68, 174 
Westory Building, 116 
Whaley, P. H., 133, 34 
Whaley-Eaton Service, 133-35 
Wheeler, Burton 3L, Senator, 68, 69 
Whitaker, John T., quoted, 237 
White, Lincoln, 241 
White, W. Holden (Mike), 215 
White House, news coverage of, 50- 

54; news photography at, 145-46; 

press quarters, 51; radio broad- 

casts, 80-81 


White House correspondent, 258-64 

White House Correspondents* Asso- 
ciation, 250 

White House news conferences, 66- 

White House News Photographers' 
Association, 146, 153, 154, 250 

White House Radio Correspondents* 
Association, 250 

Wile, Frederick William, 79 

Wiley, Dr. Harvey, 31 

Willaid Hotel, 21-22; Gridiron 
Room of, 29 

Willert, Arthur, 46 

Williams, John Sharp, Senator, 55 

Willis, Frank B., 34 

Willis, H. Parker, 128 

Wilson, Lyle C., 183 

Wilson, Woodrow, 71; attempts to 
photograph, 145-46; campaign of 
1912, 39-40; election of, 3; estab- 
lishment of White House news- 
conference system by, 51-52; at 
National Press Club, 33; phrases 
originated by, 289; and wartime 
censorship, 205, 208-9 

Winchell, Walter, 176 

Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, 215- 

Wise, Henry A., 158 

Woman suffrage amendment, 41 

Women's National Press Club, 255 

Wood, Robert, 73 

Wooton, Paul, 120, 131 

World Report magazine, 200 

World War I, censorship in, 163, 
203-9; news coverage of, 54r-58 

World War H, 183-98; censorship 
in, 190-91, 210-26; National Press 
Club during, 195-98; news pho- 
tography in, 151-52; radio news- 
casting in, 86-88 

Wright, Jim, 214 

Wyatt Building, 42 

Young, J. Russell, 28, 253-54, 261, 

Yot/r Garden magazine, 215