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Captains Of Industry Or Men Of Business Who Did Something Besides Making Money - Three John Walters

1. Preface

2. David Maydole

3. Ichabod Washburn

4. Elihu Burritt

5. Michael Reynolds

6. Major Robert Pike

7. George Graham

8. John Harrison

9. Peter Faneuil

10. Chauncey Jerome

11. Captain Pierre Laclede Liguest

12. Israel Putnam

13. George Flower

14. Edward Coles

15. Peter H. Burnett

16. Gerrit Smith

17. Peter Force

18. John Bromfield

19. Frederick Tudor

20. Myron Holley

21. The Founders Of Lowell

23. John Smedley

24. Richard Cobden

25. Henry Bessemer

26. John Bright

27. Thomas Edward

28. Robert Dick

29. John Duncan

30. James Lackington

31. Horace Greeley's Start

32. James Gordon Bennett

33. Three John Walters

34. George Hope

35. Sir Henry Cole

36. Charles Summers

37. William B. Astor

38. Peter Cooper

39. Paris Duverney

40. Sir Rowland Hill

41. Marie-Antoine Careme

42. Wonderful Walker

43. Sir Christopher Wren

44. Sir John Rennie

45. Sir Moses Montefiore

46. Marquis Of Worcester

47. An Old Dry-goods Merchant's Recollections



The reader, perhaps, does not know why the London "Times" is the first
journal of Europe. I will tell him.

The starting of this great newspaper ninety-nine years ago was a mere
incident in the development of another business. Almost every one who
has stood in a printing-office watching compositors set type must have
sometimes asked himself, why not have whole words cast together, instead
of obliging the printer to pick up each letter separately? Such words as
_and_, _the_, _but_, _if_, _is_, and even larger words, like _although_
and _notwithstanding_, occur very often in all compositions. How easy it
would be, inexperienced persons think, to take up a long word, such as
_extraordinary_, and place it in position at one stroke. I confess that
I had this idea myself, long before I knew that any one else had ever
had it.

In the year 1785 there was a printer in London named John Walter,
well-established in business, who was fully resolved on giving this
system a trial. At great expense and trouble he had all the commonest
words and phrases cast together. He would give his type-founder an order
like this:--

Send me a hundredweight, made up in separate pounds, of _heat_, _cold_,
_wet_, _dry_, _murder_, _fire_, _dreadful_ _robbery_, _atrocious
outrage_, _fearful calamity_, and _alarming explosion_.

This system he called logographic printing,--logographic being a
combination of two Greek words signifying word-writing. In order to give
publicity to the new system, on which he held a patent, as well as to
afford it a fuller trial, he started a newspaper, which he called the
"Daily Universal Register." The newspaper had some little success from
the beginning; but the logographic printing system would not work. Not
only did the compositors place obstacles in the way, but the system
itself presented difficulties which neither John Walter nor any
subsequent experimenter has been able to surmount.

"The whole English language," said Walter, in one of his numerous
addresses to the public, "lay before me in a confused arrangement. It
consisted of about ninety thousand words. This multitudinous mass I
reduced to about five thousand, by separating the parcels, and removing
the obsolete words, technical terms, and common terminations."

After years of labor this most resolute and tenacious of men was obliged
to give it up. It was too expensive, too cumbersome, too difficult; it
required a vast amount of space; and, in short, it was a system which
could not, and cannot, be worked to profit. But though the logographic
printing was a failure, the "Daily Universal Register" proved more and
more successful. It was a dingy little sheet, about twice as large as a
sheet of foolscap, without a word of editorial, and containing a small
number of well-selected paragraphs of news. It had also occasionally a
short notice of the plays of the night before, and a few items of what
we now call society gossip. The advertisements, after the paper had been
in existence three years, averaged about fifty a day, most of them very
short. Its price was threepence, English, equal to about twelve cents of
our present currency. The paper upon which it was printed was coarse and
cheap. In the third year of its existence, on the first of January,
1788, the name was changed to "The Times." The editor humorously
explained the reasons for changing the name:--

"'Boy, bring me the "Register."' The waiter answers, 'Sir, we have no
library, but you may see it in the New Exchange Coffee House.' 'Then I
will see it there,' answers the disappointed politician, and he goes to
the New Exchange Coffee House, and calls for the 'Register'; upon which
the waiter tells him he cannot have it, as he is not a subscriber; or
presents him with the 'Court and City Register,' the 'Old Annual
Register,' or the 'New Annual Register.'"

John Walter was not what is commonly called an educated man. He was a
brave and honest Englishman, instinctively opposed to jobbery, and to
all the other modes by which a corrupt government plunders a laborious
people. The consequence was that during the first years of his editorial
life he was frequently in very hot water. When "The Times" had been in
existence little more than a year, he took the liberty of making a
remark upon the Duke of York, one of the king's dissolute sons, saying
that the conduct of his Royal Highness had been such as to incur His
Majesty's just disapprobation.

For this offense he was arrested and put on trial for libel. Being
convicted, he was sentenced to pay a fine of fifty pounds, to undergo a
year's imprisonment in Newgate, to stand in the pillory for one hour,
and give bonds for his good behavior for the next seven years. While he
was still in prison, he was convicted of two libels: first for saying
that both the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York had incurred the just
disapprobation of the king; and secondly, for saying that the Duke of
Clarence, another son of George III., an officer in the navy, had left
his station without the permission of his commanding officer. For these
offenses he was condemned to pay fines amounting to two hundred pounds,
and to suffer a second year's imprisonment. His first year he served out
fully, and four months of the second, when by the intercession of the
Prince of Wales he was released.

From this period the newspaper appears to have gone forward, without any
interruption, to the present day. In due time John Walter withdrew from
the management, and gave it up to his eldest son, John Walter the
second, who seems to have possessed his father's resolution and energy,
with more knowledge of the world and a better education. It was he who
took the first decisive step toward placing "The Times" at the head of
journalism. For many years the Walters had been printers to the custom
house, a post of considerable profit. In 1810 the newspaper discovered
and exposed corrupt practices in the Navy Department,--practices which
were subsequently condemned by an investigating commission. The
administration deprived the fearless editor of the custom house
business. As this was not in accordance with the usages of English
politics, it made a great outcry, and the editor was given to understand
that, if he would wink at similar abuses in future, the public printing
should be restored to him. This offer he declined, saying that he would
enter into no engagements and accept no favors which would diminish, in
any degree whatever, the independence of the paper.

This was an immense point gained. It was, as I have said, the first step
toward greatness. Nor do I believe that any newspaper has ever attained
a genuine and permanent standing in a community until it has first
conquered a substantial independence. The administration then tried to
accomplish its purpose in another way. During the gigantic wars of
Napoleon Bonaparte, extending over most of the first fifteen years of
the present century, "The Times" surpassed all newspapers in procuring
early intelligence from the seat of war. The government stooped to the
pettiness of stopping at the outposts all packages addressed to "The
Times," while allowing dispatches for the ministerial journals to pass.
Foreign ships bound to London were boarded at Gravesend, and papers
addressed to "The Times" were taken from the captain. The editor
remonstrated to the Home Secretary. He was informed that he might
receive his foreign papers _as a favor_ from government. Knowing that
this would be granted in the expectation of its modifying the spirit and
tone of the newspaper, he declined to accept as a favor that which he
claimed as a right. The consequence was that the paper suffered much
inconvenience from the loss or delay of imported packages. But this
inconvenience was of small account compared with the prestige which such
complimentary persecution conferred.

Another remarkable feature of the system upon which "The Times" has been
conducted is the liberality with which it has compensated those who
served it. Writing is a peculiar kind of industry, and demands so
strenuous and intense an exertion of the vital forces, that no one will
ever get good writing done who compensates it on ordinary commercial
principles. The rule of supply and demand can never apply to this case.
There are two things which the purchaser of literary labor can do
towards getting a high quality of writing. One is, to give the writer
the amplest motive to do his best; and the other is, to prevent his
writing too much. Both these things the conductors of "The Times" have
systematically done. It is their rule to pay more for literary labor
than any one else pays for the same labor, more than the writer himself
would think of demanding, and also to afford intervals of repose after
periods of severe exertion.

Until the year 1814, all the printing in the world was done by hand, and
"The Times" could only be struck off at the rate of four hundred and
fifty copies an hour. Hence the circulation of the paper, when it had
reached three or four thousand copies a day, had attained the utmost
development then supposed to be possible; and when such news came as
that of the battle of Austerlitz, Trafalgar, or Waterloo, the edition
was exhausted long before the demand was supplied. There was a
compositor in the office of "The Times," named Thomas Martyn, who, as
early as 1804, conceived the idea of applying Watt's improved
steam-engine to a printing press. He showed his model to John Walter,
who furnished him with money and room in which to continue his
experiments, and perfect his machine. But the pressmen pursued the
inventor with such blind, infuriate hate, that the man was in terror of
his life from day to day, and the scheme was given up.

Ten years later another ingenious inventor, named Koenig, procured a
patent for a steam-press, and Mr. Walter determined to give his
invention a trial at all hazards. The press was secretly set up in
another building, and a few men, pledged to secrecy, were hired and put
in training to work it. On the night of the trial the pressmen in "The
Times" building were told that the paper would not go to press until
very late, as important news was expected from the Continent. At six in
the morning John Walter went into the press-room, and announced to the
men that the whole edition of "The Times" had been printed by steam
during the night, and that thenceforward the steam-press would be
regularly used. He told the men that if they attempted violence there
was a force at hand to suppress it, but if they behaved well no man
should be a loser by the invention. They should either remain in their
situations, or receive full wages until they could procure others. This
conduct in a rich and powerful man was no more than decent. The men
accepted his terms with alacrity.

A great secret of "The Times'" popularity has been its occasional
advocacy of the public interest to its own temporary loss. Early in its
history it ridiculed the advertisers of quack medicines, and has never
hesitated to expose unsound projects though ever so profusely
advertised. During the railroad mania of 1845, when the railroad
advertisements in "The Times" averaged sixty thousand dollars a week, it
earnestly, eloquently, and every day, week after week, exposed the empty
and ruinous nature of the railway schemes. It continued this course
until the mighty collapse came which fulfilled its own prophecies, and
paralyzed for a time the business of the country.

Was this pure philanthropy? It was something much rarer than that--it
was good sense. It was sound judgment. It was _not_ killing the goose
that laid the golden egg.

Old readers of the London "Times" were a little surprised, perhaps, to
see the honors paid by that journal to its late editor-in-chief. An
obituary notice of several columns was surrounded by black lines; a mark
of respect which the paper would pay only to members of the royal
family, or to some public man of universal renown. Never before, I
believe, did this newspaper avow to the world that its editor had a
name; and the editor himself usually affected to conceal his
professional character. Former editors, in fact, would flatly deny their
connection with the paper, and made a great secret of a fact which was
no secret at all.

Mr. Carlyle, in his "Life of Sterling," gives a curious illustration of
this. Sir Robert Peel, in 1835, upon resigning his ministry, wrote a
letter to the editor of "The Times," thanking him for the powerful
support which his administration had received from that journal. Sir
Robert Peel did not presume to address this letter to any individual by
name, and he declared in this letter that the editor was unknown to him
even by sight. Edward Sterling replied in a lofty tone, very much as one
king might reply to another, and signed the letter simply "The Editor of
'The Times.'"

But all this is changed. The affectation of secrecy, long felt to be
ridiculous, has been abandoned, and the editor now circulates freely
among his countrymen in his true character, as the conductor of the
first journal in Europe. At his death he receives the honors due to the
office he holds and the power he exerts, and his funeral is publicly
attended by his associates. This is as it should be. Journalism has now
taken its place as one of the most important of the liberal professions.
Next to statesmanship, next to the actual conduct of public affairs, the
editor of a leading newspaper fills, perhaps, the most important place
in the practical daily life of the community in which he lives; and the
influence of the office is likely to increase, rather than diminish.

Mr. Delane was probably the first individual who was ever educated with
a distinct view to his becoming an editor. While he was still a boy, his
father, a solicitor by profession, received an appointment in the office
of "The Times," which led to young Delane's acquaintance with the
proprietors of the journal. It seems they took a fancy to the lad. They
perceived that he had the editorial cast of character, since, in
addition to uncommon industry and intelligence, he had a certain
eagerness for information, an aptitude for acquiring it, and a
discrimination in weighing it, which marks the journalistic mind. The
proprietors, noting these traits, encouraged, and, I believe, assisted
him to a university education, in the expectation that he would fit
himself for the life editorial.

Having begun this course of preparation early, he entered the office of
"The Times" as editorial assistant soon after he came of age, and
acquitted himself so well that, in 1841, when he was not yet
twenty-five, he became editor-in-chief. He was probably the youngest man
who ever filled such a post in a daily paper of anything like equal
importance. This rapid promotion will be thought the more remarkable
when it is mentioned that he never wrote an editorial in his life. "The
Times" itself says of him:--

"He never was a writer. He never even attempted to write anything,
except reports and letters. These he had to do, and he did them well. He
had a large staff of writers, and it was not necessary he should write,
except to communicate with them."

His not being a writer was one of his strongest points. Writing is a
career by itself. The composition of one editorial of the first class
is a very hard day's work, and one that leaves to the writer but a small
residue of vital force. Writing for the public is the most arduous and
exhausting of all industries, and cannot properly be combined with any
other. Nor can a man average more than two or three editorial articles a
week such as "The Times" prints every day. It was an immense advantage
to the paper to have an editor who was never tempted to waste any of his
strength upon the toil of composition. "The Times" prints daily three
editorial articles, which cost the paper on an average fifty dollars
each. Mr. Delane himself mentioned this during his visit to this

There was one quality of his editorship which we ought not to overlook.
It was totally free from personalities. I have been in the habit for a
long time of reading "The Times"--not regularly but very frequently, and
sometimes every day for a considerable period; but I have never seen an
individual disrespectfully mentioned in the paper. An opinion may be
denounced; but the individual holding that opinion is invariably spoken
of with decency. "The Times" has frequently objected to the course
pursued by Mr. Gladstone; but the man himself is treated with precisely
the same respect as he would be if he were an invited guest at the
editor's table.

"The Times," being a human institution, has plenty of faults, and has
made its ample share of mistakes; but it owes its eminent position
chiefly to its good qualities, its business ability, its patriotism, its
liberal enterprise, and wise treatment of those who serve it. The paper
is still chiefly owned and conducted by John Walter, the grandson of the

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