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Bringing the World to Chicago

By Robert O’Connor.

[This is part two of a look at the legacy of the Chicago Daily News. Part one looked at its literary legacy]

“See that glint! That’s the telescope of the Chicago Daily News.” So says a character in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger story “When the World Screamed.” By the time that story appeared in 1929, the Chicago Daily News had legion of foreign correspondents unequaled among the newspapers of the day. They covered the world like no one else, and inspired the rest to follow. Like the contemporary literary renaissance in the city, they brought Chicago to the world and the world to Chicago.

Foreign correspondents was not new to American newspapers when the Chicago Daily News began experimenting with it in the 1890s. George Smalley had been the London correspondent for the New York Tribune since 1866. James Gordon Bennett, the publisher of the New York Herald, set up a Paris edition with Julius Chambers in 1887, the Paris Herald. It survives to this day as the International Herald Tribune, which is mostly the global edition of the New York Times.

But most of the news about the rest of the world came to America through the British press. American newspapers would reprint or rewrite stories from British newspapers. British newspapers – especially the Times – had their own foreign correspondents who had reported on wars or the events of the empire. Their network of contacts was so extensive that the Foreign Office contacted them when their own sources were unreliable. When American newspapers tried hiring locals to report on the region, it didn’t work. But the United States was becoming a world power and would soon require good foreign correspondents to keep abreast of world affairs.

First Experiments

The Chicago Daily News and its morning companion the Chicago Record had a few experiments with foreign correspondents before developing a network of correspondents. William E. Curtis was one of the first. He had been the Washington correspondent for the Chicago Inter-Ocean in 1888 when the Record’s owner and editor Victor Lawson sent him to Central and South America. Curtis wrote a series of articles on the region, as Robert W. Desmond tells in his book “Windows on the World.”

Desmond says these articles were instrumental in the establishment in 1890 of the International Union of American Republics, governed by the Washington-based Bureau of American Republics. Curtis served as the chair of the Bureau from its creation until 1893. That same year, he was the head of the Latin American division of the Chicago World’s Fair.

The Bureau changed its name to the Pan-American Union in 1901 and eventually created the Organization of American States in 1948.

In 1896, Lawson sent Omer Maris and William D. Johns to the Alaska district to report on the goings on as well as the gold-mining operations there. The discovery of gold in the Yukon territory was made by Johns in the Record on March 2, 1897. According to the Record‘s guidebook on the Klondike, it had special correspondents in Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa to give news of the gold fields from official Canadian sources.

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“You provide the pictures, I’ll provide the war.”

The Cuban struggle for independence had been going on for decades. In 1895, a group of rebels fought so intensely that newspaper correspondents from America and Britain (including a young Winston Churchill) traveled to the island to cover them.

Lawson sent a team of correspondents to Cuba in January 1897. He told Charles M. Faye, the managing editor of the Daily News to start a service at Key West. Faye directed the correspondents from his Chicago office along with Trumbull White, who was stationed in Key West. Crittenden Marriott had previously written for the Record and at the time was at the Washington bureau of the Associated Press. He was sent to Havana and reported on Don Valeriano Weyler, the Governor of Cuba. Weyler was sent by the Spanish government in 1896 to stop the rebellion and by the next year had put 300,000 into “re-concentration camps.”

Charles Crosby, a British-born engineer, joined rebel leader Maximo Gomez’s forces. He sent three dispatches signed “Don Carlos” to keep his identity secret before he disappeared. Marriott cabled Chicago that some of Crosby’s correspondence had been obtained by Spanish authorities. He also reported that a description of Crosby had been posted and that Spanish authorities were searching for him. Crosby had been killed on March 9 at Arroyo Blanco during fighting between Spanish and Cuban forces.

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Front page of the New York Journal, Feb. 16, 1898 – the day after the Maine explosion

William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, through their newspapers the New York Journal and the New York World, respectively, had been running inflammatory articles about Cuba for quite some time. The USS Maine exploded under mysterious circumstances on February 15, 1898, killing 266 men and the two papers insisted that it had been the work of Spanish agents. They urged action by the United States while dispatching their correspondents to the region. In all, according to Charles Brown’s book “The Correspondents War” the Journal sent 50 correspondents while the World sent 18.

Lawson disliked the coverage of Cuba provided by the four New York newspapers, the Journal, the World, the Herald and the Sun. In a letter to Record managing editor Charles Dennis he wrote “It is just because the New York papers do so much faking that I have hesitated to get the service of one of them.” Still, Lawson supported American action in Cuba, saying that American interests were at risk and could only be saved through a war with Spain.

On April 20th, Congress passed and President William McKinley signed a resolution pledging to use all military force necessary to free Cuba. Spain broke off diplomatic relations with the United States the following day and declared war on the US on April 23rd. The US did the same on April 25th.

Lawson sent 14 reporters (Charles Brown says 12, Desmond says 20) to report on the war. All but one of them went to Cuba. John T. McCutcheon was in Singapore when the war began and was able to cover the Philippines theater of the war for the Record.

McCutcheon, along with Edwin Harden of the New York World, were traveling around the world on a government sponsored trip when their ship was transferred to a naval squadron under the command of Admiral George Dewey when the war began. McCutcheon cabled the Record for instructions and the reply came to send all he could.

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John McCutcheon

Dewey captured Manila on May 1st. McCutcheon returned to Hong Kong and typed up a story based on his diary notes. He cabled back a 4,500 word story to Chicago, costing the Record $2,700 in telegraphy costs. George Ade edited the story and when it ran it was more than 6,000 words long. Admiral Dewey later said it was the best account to appear in any newspaper.

McCutcheon provided reporting and illustrations with his dispatches. William Schmedtgen, another of the Record‘s artists, provided illustrations of battles and soldiers in Cuba.

Trumbull White coordinated the Cuban correspondents from Key West while his wife, Katherine, served as a nurse on a Red Cross steamer that traveled between Key West and Cuba. She wrote articles on soldiers’ health and the conditions of the hospitals. Daniel Vincent Casey reported similar stories on the charities helping Cubans.

One of the key battles in the war happened a month after Manila, the battle of Guantanamo. It was covered by Howbert Billman along with Stephen Crane of the New York World and Blackwood’s Magazine. Both of them were impressed by the qualities of Cubans as fighting men.

Lawson commissioned a yacht, Hercules, that reporters could use during the war. It was used by Henry Barrett Chamberlin during his reporting on the Battle of Santiago.  Chamberlin also reported on the liberation of Puerto Rico from Hercules. Associated Press deputy managing editor Charles Diehl said that the Spanish had carried away telegraph operators and instruments, so the AP’s boat, The Wanda and the Hercules went to St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) and brought telegraph operators to San Juan.

The Hercules sailed back to the United States at the end of the war. When it landed, Henry Barrett Chamberlin wrote an article summarizing its career.

Kennett F. Harris reported on the trenches on San Juan.

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Theodore Roosevelt with the Rough Riders

Malcolm McDowell provided dispatches from the Battle of Santiago including the symbolic flag raising by Major General William Shafter. Nearby, Howbert Billman reported from the battle of El Caney and later described the formal surrender at Santiago.  Kennett F. Harris reported on the Rough Riders and provided the Record‘s coverage of Theodore Roosevelt, although Billman provided the story of Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill.

When the war ended, a deadly fever spread through the army. Of the four war correspondents that died during the war, three of them died in US hospitals after contracting the fever. Stephen Crane survived it, but his health never recovered. Malcolm McDowell wrote about the fever for the Record.

When the Spanish-American War ended, it was clear to Lawson that the United States was becoming a world power. “It is no longer desirable, or even safe,” he wrote to the Record‘s editor Charles Dennis, “for public opinion in this country to rely, as it now does, almost exclusively upon foreign agencies, most of them subsidized by foreign governments, for their own news of other countries.”

In 1901, Lawson sold the Record to Herman Kohlsaat, who owned the Chicago Times-Herald. Kohlsaat combined the two into the Chicago-Record Herald. Some of the correspondents stayed with the Record, but Lawson’s foreign service was moved to the Chicago Daily News.

A year earlier, he began sending permanent correspondents to Europe. Edward Price Bell was sent to London, John Foster Bass to St. Petersburg, Lamar Middleton to Paris and Frederick William Wile to Berlin. But another war would soon put war correspondents back to work.

Russo-Japanese War

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Russo-Japanese war (Kyokatsu)

On February 8, 1904, Japanese forces attacked Russian ships at Port Arthur, at the southern tip of the Liaodong Peninsula in Manchuria, beginning the Russo-Japanese war. As before, the Chicago Daily News chartered a boat, Fawan, to cover the battles more easily. John Foster Bass used the boat to report on the fall of Fort Arthur to the Japanese on January 2, 1905. Correspondents Stanley Washburn and Alfred Curtis also witnessed the fall. Washburn, son of U. S. Senator William Washburn, had been a writer at the Minneapolis Times when he was hired by the Daily News to cover the war from the Japanese perspective (he later wrote a biography of General Nogi Maresuke, who had captured Port Arthur) but he was quickly reassigned after the Russian Revolution in 1905.

Washburn went to Constantinople and chartered a dispatch boat, visiting Black Sea ports of Odessa and Batum to deliver dispatches to U. S. and British consular officials, but also to gather news in that part of the country. He transmitted the news from neutral ports in Romania and Turkey to the Chicago Daily News and the Times of London. He would do the same thing in World War I for the Times and Colliers magazine.

Richard Henry Little, on leave from Chicago Tribune, reported for Daily News on Russian side. Little, along with Francis McCullagh of the New York Herald and Manchester Guardian, were captured by Japanese and held for weeks as POWs. Some of Little’s later political columns were illustrated by cartoonist Herbert Block (“Herblock“).

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The war came to a close with the Portsmouth Conference. The conference was arranged by President Theodore Roosevelt, who would win the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the negotiations. Among those present to report the signing ceremony were George Smalley, who was now the Washington correspondent for the Times, and Melville Stone, the man who started the Chicago Daily News and the Record, who was by now the managing editor of the Associated Press.

Building a first-rate foreign service.

In 1900, Lawson sent his first permanent correspondent to London, Edward Price Bell. Bell directed the other European correspondents for the Daily News during his time there. Press baron Lord Northcliffe called him “the best American newspaperman London ever had,” while J. L. Garvin, the editor of the Observer called him “the best unofficial ambassador the American people ever sent our people.”

Bell considered himself a statesman representing the public when he interviewed officials. He believed that journalism and statesmanship were “natural allies.” During World War I he sent letters to the Times reassuring the British public that America was on their side and would join their fight.

Lawson urged Edward Price Bell to keep up the bureaus and spare no expense in making them lavish. They weren’t just offices, they were parlors, where dignitaries and weary tourists could feel welcome. The paper advised Chicagoans going to Paris that they could use their bureau at the corner of the Rue de la Paix and l’Avenue de l’Opera as a place to relax and even to have mail delivered.

For a brief time, the Daily News‘ offices were shared with the London Daily Chronicle. In 1907, the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris was formed in their offices.

Frederic William Wile, the Berlin correspondent for the Daily News, told Bell in 1906 that he had the firm impression that Lawson’s bureaus were “the reason, of all reasons, for his continuing to keep the service up.” Raymond Swing, another Daily News reporter in Berlin, thought Lawson “did not care a hoot about foreign news.”

Wile followed Bell to London in 1900, but was transferred to Berlin in 1901. He remained there until 1906 when he became the London Daily Mail‘s correspondent in Berlin, which he stayed until 1914. He also represented the New York Times from 1908 to 1914. Wile was replaced at the Daily News by Albert Wilkie.

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Paul Scott Mowrer, 1929 (LOC/Chicago Daily News)

Lamar Middleton was assigned to Paris for the Daily News in 1901, where he stayed until his death in 1910. Lawson replaced him with 23 year old local reporter named Paul Scott Mowrer despite protests from the staff. Charles Dennis advised Mowrer not to occupy himself with “too much European politics,” since readers didn’t pay much attention to foreign news. What readers wanted, Dennis told him, were “feature stories, quint episodes illustrative of French life, human interest stories, stories of Americans abroad.” He was also told to pick the best jokes from the Paris newspapers and forward them to Chicago.

Mowrer became concerned. Everyone around him was concerned about the rising tensions In Europe. Mowrer told Bell that what was happening in Europe was no less important than the Russo-Japanese War, which had four reporters from the Daily News.

Mowrer covered the Balkan wars between 1911 and 1913. His brother Edgar had come to the Sorbonne to study and also covered them for the paper. When it was over, Edgar was assigned to the Rome bureau and later went to Berlin. Interest in the war was there, but it quickly died away.

Part of that brief flurry of attention came from one of Mowrer’s reports from Albania. The Daily News received several angry letters signed by persons of Greek origin living in Chicago. Mowrer had used the word “Albanian,” in such a way that implied that it was an independent country, with the writers insisting it was Greek territory.

This disturbed Mowrer when he learned of it, since it seemed to bring his integrity into question, as well as his accuracy (he writes about it in his memoir “The House of Europe“). He was reassured by his friend Elmer Roberts, a reporter for the Associated Press in Paris, who told him that maybe the people who wrote in knew nothing of the facts, but were encouraged by the Greek consulate in Chicago acting from instruction from Athens.

Paul Mowrer’s reporting on Germany’s opposition to the Dawes plan on 1929 earned the first Pulitzer Prize for correspondence. The next year, Leland Stowe of the New York Herald Tribune won the award for covering conferences on war reparations. Stowe would later write for the Daily News. In 1933, Edgar Mowrer would win the same award for his coverage of the German presidential election.

Paul Mowrer married Hadley Richardson in 1933. They had met five years earlier, shortly after her divorce from Ernest Hemingway.

War was looming on the horizon. The Chicago Daily News had four veteran correspondents – Bell in London, Mowrer in Paris, Wilkie in Berlin and John Bass in St. Petersburg -ready to cover it. James Keeley, the British-born editor of the Chicago Tribune (who gave it its motto “The World’s Greatest Newspaper“) told a London crowd  on the eve of the war that Lawson’s “harvest was at hand.”

Lawson’s Harvest

When war broke out, Lawson sent reporter Harry Hansen to become the head of the Berlin bureau of he Daily News. Hansen soon travelled to Belgium to cover the German advance. He was arrested along with two French journalists and they were held at Beaumont, the headquarters of the German army. The French journalists were put in a prison camp, but Hansen was let go. He then traveled to Holland and reported on the German buildup that occurred before the Battle of the Marne. He later traveled to Paris and covered the war from there.

The Chicago Daily News hired European writers to help report the war, from Brits Percy Philips and H. M. Tomlinson, to French Rene Arcos and Charles de la Garde.  Louis Edward Browne was in the Balkans for the paper and with Serbian forces in Albania. He later reported on the creation of Turkey.

When Italy entered the war in 1915, Egar Mowrer and A. R. Decker transferred to Rome. Decker, at one point, went aboard an Italian submarine seeking Austrian naval craft in the Adriatic. He would later report on the sinking of the USS Alcedo.

Raymond E. Swing was in Berlin from 1914-17. In 1915 went to Constantinople to report on the Battle of Gallipoli from the Turkish side. The transport ship he was on was torpedoed by a British submarine, but Swing survived. Oswald Schuette (who introduced the verb “steam-rolled” in American politics) was the second man at the bureau. When America declared war on Germany in 1917, All of its foreign correspondents were forced to leave Berlin. Schuette was the last to leave. He went to Copenhagen and Stockholm listening posts for the rest of the war.

John Foster Bass covered the war from the Russian front. He was wounded on the front in 1916 and succeeded by Issac Don Levine and Basset Digby. Issac Don Levine had been born in Russia, but moved to the US as a young man. He returned and covered the Russian revolution and ensuing civil war for the New York Herald Tribune and the Daily News. Digby had written one of the first travelogues of Siberia with Richardson Wright in 1913.

The Paris Peace Conference was the last big event for the Daily News. Paul Scott Mowrer, John Foster Bass, Louis Egar Browne and Harry Hansen all covered the conference. Charles Dennis, the managing editor, was in Paris until the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Henry Justin Smith, who by that time was the news editor, was also there.

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“Big Four” negotiators

The Treaty of Versailles was finalized on May 7, 1919 and presented to the German delegation. Representatives of the “Big Four” – Italy’s Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando, French Prime Minister George Clemenceau, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and US President Woodrow Wilson – opted to not release the full treaty to the public. Paul Scottt Mowrer was allowed to see it a few days later and cabled the important parts back to Chicago.

The Big Four released an official summary a few weeks later, but the full treaty was kept a secret. Spearman Lewis of the Chicago Tribune found a copy of the treaty and gave it to Frazier Hunt, also of the Tribune. Hunt took the copy from Paris to Washington and gave it to Senator William Borah, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Borah, a Republican, was outspoken in his opposition to ratifying the treaty and the League of Nations. When he received the treaty, he took steps to have it published in the Congressional Record. It ultimately would not be ratified by the Senate.

After the War

Lawson’s harvest was over, but the foreign service was kept on. Lawson and Bell were “afraid the consequences of war are going to be worse than the war itself,” so Bell conducted interviews with British statesmen that were meant to have the status of official state papers. He left his post in London in 1922 to conduct more interviews, which earned him a nomination in 1930 for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ben Hecht served in in the Berlin bureau after the war, returned to Chicago in 1921 to write his column “1001 Afternoons.” Henry Robinson Luce, who later founded TIME magazine was Hecht’s assistant during this period.

In 1925, Lawson died and ownership passed to a distant relative of his wife, who had worked with the paper for years, Walter Strong. The staff was relieved, believing he would keep the paper in good hands. Strong untimely passed in 1931 and ownership would pass to Colonel Frank Knox, the general manager of Hearst’s 27 newspapers.

Knox, unlike the hands-off Lawson, was an active man, who had charged up San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt, and who ran for Vice-President in 1936 with Alf Landon.

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Bell disliked Knox for his Republican politics and he wanted the freedom and deference Knox wasn’t willing to give him. In 1932, the Daily News reported that Edward Price Bell had resigned, though Paul Mowrer believed he had been fired. “Bell’s attitude,” Knox told Charles Dawes, “is only an exaggerated illustration of the difficulties I am encountering in handling the staff of the foreign news service.”

Mowrer also disliked Knox. As soon as Knox acquired the paper, Mowrer was removed as head of the European correspondents. Mowrer returned to Chicago as associate editor, becoming editor in 1935. He was joined by European correspondents Hal O’Flaherty and Carol Binder, who would become the foreign editor for the paper. Knox edited the paper until he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1940.

In 1939, John Whitaker and Leland Stowe jumped to the Daily News foreign staff from the New York Herald Tribune. They also began writing for the New York Post. Whitaker had covered the second Italo-Abyssinian War for CBS in 1936, and Mussolini awarded him the Croce di Guerra for his reporting. Whitaker was critical of fascism, so much that he was asked to leave in 1941 for his views. He insisted on being formally expelled. Stowe was in Oslo when the war started and reported on the German invasion there. He also traveled with the Soviet army.

Paul Ghali had joined the paper after service in the Egyptian Diplomatic Service. He found the diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini’s son-in-law and foreign minister, whom Mussolini had executed for disloyalty. His wife, Edda, sneaked into Switzerland with the diaries hidden in her clothing. Portions of the diaries were published in the Daily News and were later used in the Nuremberg trials.

George Weller joined from the New York Times and reported on World War II for the paper, earning a Pulitzer Prize in 1943 for a story about how a US Navy Pharmacist’s mate performed a life-saving operation in a submarine. He also reported on the devastation at Nagasaki. Much of his reporting from there was censored until many years later.

Winding Down

When Knox died in 1944, Adlai Stevenson and a group of Daily News employees, including Mowrer, attempted to buy the paper. They ultimately lost to John Knight, who also owned the Akron Beach Journal and the Detroit Free Press. Binder and Mowrer resigned in protest. The new owners, Binder said were putting “bobby sox on the Madonna.”

The New York Post sent Mowrer to Paris to write the Paris Post which quickly fizzed out. He ended his career  as the poet laureate of New Hampshire in 1968.

In 1959 Knight attempted to buy the Chicago American so he could have a Sunday paper, but he was outbid, so he sold the Daily News to Field Enterprises.

In a last ditch effort to save the paper, in 1977 Marshall Field V put Jim Hoge, editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, in charge of the Daily News. Hoge, who would later edit Foreign Affairs, called the four remaining foreign correspondents back home. A year later, the Daily News was gone.

Legacy

The Chicago Daily News was a penny paper who encouraged its correspondents to seek out the news rather than wait for it. Victor Lawson saw that America was becoming a world power and needed to understand the world. It couldn’t rely on foreign news services – many of which were (and are) owned by governments.

He sent journalists who embodied the qualities of statesmanship across the world. The correspondents were journalists, yes, but they were also ambassadors of America. Some, like Stanley Washburn, would carry out intelligence gathering for the government (this practice continued until Carl Bernstien exposed the practice in a 1977 Rolling Stone article).

The Chicago Daily News had the best foreign correspondents of any American newspaper. They knew the countries they lived in, and respect them. They lived in them for years an were respected by their European colleagues.

They brought the world to Chicago, and Chicago to the world.

MORE:

Bell, Edward Price, “Journalism of the highest realm: the memoir of Edward Price Bell, pioneering foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News” (LSU Press, 2009)

Brown, Charles Henry, “The correspondents’ war: journalists in the Spanish-American War” (Scribners, 1967)

Desmond, Robert W, “Windows on the World: World News Reporting, 1900-1920” (Univ. of Iowa Press, 1981)

Hamilton, John Maxwell, “Journalism’s roving eye: a history of American foreign reporting” (LSU Press, 2009)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

profileRobert O’Connor is a journalist, writer, adventurer and a few dozen other things (including a Co-Editor of 3:AM). His stuff has appeared in the Twin Cities Daily Planet, Hot Press, KFAI and a few other places. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, April 5th, 2011.