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Benjamin Franklin, without a friend or a dollar. His only wealth was industry, perseverance, and a stout heart, and with these resistless weapons he fought his way through inconceivable obstacles, until he has become the living illustration of that noble characteristic, so rare among men of affluence—the accumulation of riches, not for himself alone, but to make others happy during and after his life. I take it that a man who utilizes such a theory can afford to be criticised, as Mr. Childs has been, by a few of those who never see a good action without seeking a selfish motive for it. But a fine example is its own best eulogy. It lives and it lasts. It bears fruit before our eyes and refutes censure by practical results. Instances like this are infrequent. Wealth too often breeds avarice and suspicion. Too many hoard money for a graceless posterity, and in blind selfishness make themselves miserable while they live, that they may leave fortunes to spendthrift children. The career of this young man, Childs, teaches so different a lesson, that a friendly reference may perhaps stimulate others to an earnest imitation of it. And when we read this career in the light of the story of The Public Ledger, and how he got possession of it, and how he has improved and enhanced it, it sounds very like
The first number of The Ledger appeared March 25, 1836. The proprietors were three journeymen printers—W.M. Swain, Arunah S. Abell, and A. H. Simmons. It was published at six cents a week, and rapidly rose into a great circulation, not alone because its proprietors were energetic, but because they were bold and independent. Wisely employing the powerful pen of Russell Jarvis, they took the right side of every question, and especially the right of the people to assemble in public meeting and discuss all matters of principle or policy. The Ledger did not hesitate to criticise courts and juries, and to expose oppression, and was soon involved in a libel suit, which it met with a pluck that excited universal applause. Jarvis was a
writer of vast ability, a little too personal and trenchant, but possessing a style of rare force and fascination. He grappled with every question. He chastised the rowdyism of the students of the two great medical colleges, who had long terrorized the city; he denounced, with terrible invective, the burning of Pennsylvania Hall on the 17th of May, 1838, by a mob of madmen, resolved that no speeches against human slavery should be delivered in Philadelphia ; and when that infamous cowardice was followed by attempts on the two succeeding days to destroy the asylum for colored children on Thirteenth Street, above Callowhill, and the African Church in Lombard Street, near Sixth, the mob made several demonstrations against The Ledger office; but as it was known that Mr. Swain was in hearty sympathy with his brave editor, and was prepared to defend his property at every hazard, the ruffians were cowed. Not less fierce were The Ledger's denunciations of the Native American riots in 1844. Such newspaper courage was uncommon in Philadelphia, and for a time The Ledger suffered severely, but it gradually recovered its prestige, and grew into enormous influence. It was after these events that George W. Childs, a lad of eighteen, who had worked as an errand boy in a bookstore three years before, hired a little room in The Ledger building. Here he waited his opportunity. Sixteen years after, December 3, 1864, he startled the town by the announcement that he had purchased the great paper.
The example set by the original proprietors was not forgotten. There is at least equal enterprise, the same independence, tempered by a less personal tone, and the same vigilance over the interests of Philadelphia and the State. But a new element pervades the establishment-an element characteristic of Mr. Childs in his first successful business venture--that of helping others out of his own fortune. A few instances will show how steadily he has worked to this end. Before he was twenty-one he was in the firm of Childs & Peterson, book publishers. A
work compiled by Mr. Peterson, entitled “Familiar Science,” young Childs pushed into a circulation of two hundred thousand copies. Dr. Kane's “ Arctic Expedition " he put forth in splendid style, and paid a profit to the author of $70,000. He engineered Senator Brownlow's book in the same way, and paid over to the eccentric Tennesseean a premium of $15,000. More than any other influence he deserves the credit of the great success of that massive work, “Allibone's Dictionary of Authors." The following tribute on one of the initial pages of that bookperhaps the most indispensable in every library—is more enduring than any title of nobility:
“To George W. Childs, the original publisher of this volume, who has greatly furthered my labors by his enterprise, and zealous and intelligent interest, I dedicate the fruits of many years of anxious research and conscientious toil.
S. AUSTIN ALLIBONE."
George W. Childs never fails a friend. His brother publisher, George P. Putnam, of New York, prints a letter in which he gratefully acknowledges the prompt and cheerful manner in which Childs gave him his name as security for $100,000 in his hour of adversity. After referring to this act of substantial friendship, Mr. Putnam speaks of Mr. Childs as publisher of The Ledger: "Such an enterprise as would positively frighten most of us timid and slow-moving old fogies, you in your shrewd energy and wide-awake sagacity enter upon as a positive. You wave your magic wand, and, lo! palaces rise, and the genii of steam and lightning send forth from their subterranean cells and lofty attics thousands of daily messages over the continent; and fortune follows deservedly, because you regulate all these powers on liberal principles of justice and truth.”
There are three hundred and nine employés in The Ledger establishment, exclusive of the newsboys. At a Fourth of July dinner given to them by Mr. Childs in 1867, the accomplished general manager, the leading editorial writer, W. V. McKean, made some interesting statements. These workingmen, he
GREAT NEWSPAPER ESTABLISHMENT.
said, represent a large amount of individual capital, not less than half a million. "The carriers, although they do not make
** the highest wages, have been among the thriftiest of the employés, and the aggregate value of their Ledger routes would sell at the Merchants' Exchange, as readily as Government securities, for a sum not less than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars." At the same time, Mr. Muckle, who has charge of the cash department, "referred to what he considered the great feature of the day-the assemblage of one hundred and ten newsboys, where all was joy and happiness. Here again was another evidence of Mr. Childs's kindness; and, as another striking proof of his kind disposition, he would state that during the two years of the present proprietorship he had dispensed for him more money in charity than was given during all his twenty-three years' connection with the establishment.”
These three hundred and nine employés sent to Mr. Childs a testimonial, in which they called him their honored and esteemed employer, and expressed their heartfelt thanks for his great kindness and consideration for all of them, continued without intermission since he had been proprietor of The Public Ledger;
“For your innumerable acts of generosity and courtesy, of which all of them have been the frequent and gratified recip
"For your goodness of heart, your benevolence, your enterprise, and your cardinal virtues, which not only honor you, but reflect honor upon those who labor for you ;
“For the uniform justice with which you have ruled The Public Ledger office-a justice always tempered with mercy-a mercy always anxious to pardon ;
“And, above all, honored sir, your employés desire to thank you:
“For having built a palace for them to work in ; a printinghouse which is unparalleled in the world; a printing-office which, in all its departments, is the most healthy, comfortable, and spacious on the American continent.
“For all this, and more than this, that you have done for them, your employés desire, though it be in insufficient words, to convey to you their most sincere thanks.”
What this gratitude means was told by the lamented Ellis Lewis, former Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, at the dedication of the Printers’ Cemetery, a gift of Mr. Childs to the Philadelphia Typographical Society. I was present on that occasion, and can never forget the effect produced by the following words of the venerable man, now in his grave:
“Some men pursue military glory, and expend their time and energies in the subjugation of nations ; Cæsar and Napoleon I. may be named as types of this character. But the blood and tears which follow violence and wrong maculate the pages of history on which their glory is recorded. Others erect splendid palaces for kingly residences, and costly temples and edifices for the promotion of education and religion, in accordance with their particular views. But views of education and religion change, buildings waste away, and whole cities, like Herculaneum and Pompeii, are buried in the earth. Others, again, win public regard by the construction of means of communication for the furtherance of commerce. The canals, railroads, and telegraphs are glorious specimens of their useful exertions for the public good. But the marts of commerce change. Tyre and Sidon and Venice are no longer commercial centres. The shores of the Pacific are even now starting in a race against the great commercial emporium of our continent. But Mr. Childs has planted himself in the human heart, and he will have his habitation there while man shall live upon earth. He has laid the foundation of his monument upon universal benevolence. Its superstructure is composed of good and noble deeds. Its spire is the love of God, which ascends to heaven. Such a monument is indeed