Page images

ham theater. At the close of the play, he said there was another of Shakespeare's tragedies which he had long wished to see, and that was Hamlet.

Soon after writing his letter, the luckless Wiggins, tempted by the prospect of better wages, left the Spirit of the Times, and went back to West's, and worked for some weeks on Prof. Bush's Notes on Genesis, 'the worst manuscript ever seen in a printing-office. That finished, he returned to the Spirit of the Times, and remained till October, when he went to visit his relatives in New Hampshire. He reached his uncle's farm in Londonderry in the apple-gathering season, and going at once to the orchard found his cousins engaged in that pleasing exercise. Horace jumped over the fence, saluted them in the hearty and unornamental Scotch-Irish style, sprang into a tree, and assisted them till their task for the day was done, and then the party went frolicking into the woods on a grape-hunt Horace was a welcome guest. He was full of fun in those days, and kept the boys roaring with his stories, or agape with descrip tions of city scenes.

Back to the city again early in November, in time and on purpose to vote at the fall elections.

He went to work, soon after, for Mr. J. S. Redfield, now an eminent publisher of this city, then a stereotyper. Mr. Redfield favors me with the following note of his connection with Horace Greeley:


.66 My recollections of Mr. Greeley extend from about the time he first came to the city to work as a compositor. I was carrying on the stereotyping business in William street, and having occasion one day for more compositors, one of the hands brought in Greeley, remarking sotto voce' as he introduced him, that he was a "boyish and rather odd looking genius," (to which remark I had no difficulty in assenting,) but he had understood that he was a good workman.' Being much in want of help at the time, Greeley was set to work, and I was not a little surprised to find on Saturday night, that his bills were much larger than those of any other compositor in the office, and oftentimes nearly double those at work by the side of him on the same work. He would accomplish this, too, and talk all the time! The same untiring industry, and the same fearlessness and independence, which have characterized his

[ocr errors]

course as Editor of the New York Tribune, were the distinguishing features of his character as a journeyman."

He remained in the office of Mr. Redfield till late in December, when the circumstance occurred which gave him his FIRST LIFT in the world. There is a tide, it is said, in the affairs of every man, once in his life, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.

Horace Greeley's First Lift happened to take place in connection with an event of great, world wide and lasting consequence; yet one which has never been narrated to the public. It shall, therefore, have in this work a short chapter to itself.



Importance of the cheap daily press-The originator of the idea-History of the idea -Dr. Sheppard's Chatham-street cogitations-The Idea is conceived-It is bornInterview with Horace Greeley-The Doctor thinks he is no common boy'-The schemer baffled-Daily papers twenty-five years ago-Dr. Sheppard comes to a resolution-The firm of Greeley and Story -The Morning Post appears-And fails -The sphere of the cheap press-Fanny Fern and the pea-nut merchant.

WHEN the Historian of the United States shall have completed the work that has occupied so many busy and anxious years, and, in the tranquil solitude of his study, he reviews the long series of events which he has narrated, the question may arise in his mind,-Which of the events that occurred during the first seventy years of the Republic is likely to exert the greatest and most lasting influence upon its future history? Surely, he will not pause long for a reply. For, there is one event, which stands out so prominently beyond and above all others, the consequences of which, to this country and all other countries, must be so immense, and, finally, so beneficial, that no other can be seriously placed in com petition with it. It was the establishment of the first penny daily paper in the city of New York in the year 1833. Its results, in this country, have already been wonderful indeed, and it is destined to

play a great part in the history of every civilized nation, and in that of every nation yet to be civilized.

Not that Editors are, in all cases, or in most, the wisest of men not that editorial writing has a greater value than hasty composition in general. Editors are a useful, a laborious, a generous, an honorable class of men and women, and their writings have their due effect. But, that part of the newspaper which interests, awakens, moves, warns, inspires, instructs and educates all classes and conditions of people, the wise and the unwise, the illiterate and the learned, is the NEWS! And the News, the same news, at nearly the same instant of time, is communicated to all the people of this fair and vast domain which we inherit, by the instrumentality of the Cheap Press, aided by its allies the Rail and the Wire.

A catastrophe happens to-day in New York. New Orleans shudders to-morrow at the recital; and the Nation shudders before the week ends. A Great Word,' uttered on any stump in the land, soon illuminates a million minds. A bad deed is perpetrated, and the shock of disgust flies with electric rapidity from city to city, from State to State-from the heart that records it to every heart that beats. A gallant deed or a generous one is done, or a fruitful idea is suggested, and it falls, like good seed which the wind scatters, over all the land at once. Leave the city on a day when some stirring news is rife, travel as far and as fast as you may, rest not by day nor night; you cannot easily get where that News is not, where it is not the theme of general thought and talk, where it is not doing its part in informing, or, at least, exciting the public mind. Abandon the great lines of travel, go rocking in a stage over corduroy roads, through the wilderness, to the newest of new villages, a cluster of log-houses, in a field of blackened stumps, and even there you must be prompt with your news, or it will have flown out from a bundle of newspapers under the driver's seat, and fallen in flakes all over the settlement.

The Cheap Press-its importance cannot be estimated! It puts every mind in direct communication with the greatest minds, which all, in one way or another, speak through its columns. It brings the Course of Events to bear on the progress of every individual. It is the great leveler, elevator and democraticizer. It makes this huge Commonwealth, else so heterogeneous and disunited, think with one

mind, feel with one heart, and talk with one tongue. Dissolve the Union into a hundred petty States, and the Press will still keep us. in heart and soul and habit, One People.

Pardon this slight digression, dear reader. Pardon it, because the beginnings of the greatest things are, in appearance, so insig nifican that unless we look at them in the ligh of their conse quences, it is impossible to take an interest in them.

There are not, I presume, twenty-five persons alive, who know in whose head it was, that the idea of a cheap daily paper originated. Nor has the proprietor of that head ever derived from his idea, which has enriched so many others, the smallest pecuniary advantage. He walks these streets, this day, an unknown man, and poor. His name-the reader may forget it, History will not-is HORATIO DAVIS SHEPPARD. The story of his idea, amply confirmed in every particular by living and unimpeachable witnesses, is the following:

About the year 1830, Mr. Sheppard, recently come of age and into the possession of fifteen hundred dollars, moved from his native New Jersey to New York, and entered the Eldridge Street Medical School as a student of medicine. He was ambitious and full of ideas. Of course, therefore, his fifteen hundred dollars burned in his vest pocket (where he actually used to carry it, until a fellow student almost compelled him to deposit it in a place of safety). He took to dabbling in newspapers and periodicals, a method of getting rid of superfluous cash, which is as expeditious as it is fascinating. He soon had an interest in a medical magazine, and soon after, a share in a weekly paper. By the time he had completed his medical studies, he had gained some insight into the nature of the newspaper business, and lost the greater part of his money.

People who live in Eldridge street, when they have occasion to go down town,' must necessarily pass through Chatham street, a thoroughfare which is noted, among many other things, for the extraordinary number of articles which are sold in it for a 'penny a piece.' Apple-stalls, peanut-stalls, stalls for the sale of oranges, melons, pine-apples, cocoanuts, chestnuts, candy, shoe-laces, cakes, pocket-combs, ice-cream, suspenders, lemonade, and oysters, line the sidewalk. In Chatham street, those small trades are carried on, on a scale of magnitude, with a loudness of vociferation, and a

flare of lamp-light, unknown to any other part of the town. Along Chatham street, our medical student ofttimes took his way, musing on the instability of fifteen hundred dollars, and observing, possibly envying, the noisy merchants of the stalls. He was struck with the rapidity with which they sold their penny ware. A small boy would sell half a dozen penny cakes in the course of a minute. The diference between a cent, and no money, did not seem to be appreciated by the people. If a person saw something, wanted it, knew the price to be only a cent, he was almost as certain to buy it as though it were offered him for nothing. Now, thought he, to make a fortune, one has nothing more to do than to produce a tempting article which can be sold profitably for a cent, place it where everybody can see it, and buy it, without stopping—and lo! the thing is done! If it were only possible to produce a small, spicy aily paper for a cent, and get boys to sell it about the streets, how it would sell! How many pennies that now go for cakes and peanuts would be spent for news and paragraphs!

The idea was born-the twin ideas of the penny paper and the newsboy. But, like the young of the kangaroo, they crawled into the mental pouch of the teeining originator, and nestled there for months, before they were fully formed and strong enough to confront the world.

Perhaps it is possible, continued the musing man of medicine, on a subsequent walk in Chatham street. He went to a paper warehouse, and made inquiries touching the price of the cheaper kinds of printing paper. He figured up the cost of composition. He computed office expenses and editorial salaries. He estimated the probable circulation of a penny paper, and the probable income to be derived from advertising. Surely, he could sell four or five thousand a day! There, for instance, is a group of people; suppose a boy were at this moment to go up to them with an armful of papers, 'only one cent,' I am positive, thought the sanguine projector, that six of the nine would buy a copy! His conclusion was, that he could produce a newspaper about twice the size of an average sheet of letter-paper, half paragraphs and half advertisements, and sell it at a cent per copy, with an ample profit to himself. He was sure of it! He had tried all his arithmetic upon the project, and the figures gave the same result always. The twins leaped from

« PreviousContinue »