Famous Americans of Recent Times
James Parton

Part 6 out of 9

printers to print his paper and share its profits or losses, and he
possessed about enough money to start the enterprise and sustain it
ten days. The cheapness of his paper was no longer a novelty, for
there was already a penny paper with a paying circulation. He had cut
loose from all party ties, and he had no influential friends except
those who had an interest in his failure. The great public, to which
he made this last desperate appeal, knew him not even by name. The
newsboy system scarcely existed; and all that curious machinery by
which, in these days, a "new candidate for public favor" is placed,
at no expense, on a thousand news-stands, had not been thought
of. There he was alone in his cellar, without clerk, errand-boy,
or assistant of any kind. For many weeks he did with his own hands
everything,--editorials, news, reporting, receiving advertisements,
and even writing advertisements for persons "unaccustomed to
composition." He expressly announced that advertisers could have their
advertisements written for them at the office, and this at a time when
there was no one to do it but himself. The extreme cheapness of the
paper rendered him absolutely dependent upon his advertisers, and yet
he dared not charge more than fifty cents for sixteen lines, and he
offered to insert sixteen lines for a whole year for thirty dollars.

He at once produced an eminently salable article. If just such a paper
were to appear to-day, or any day, in any large city of the world, it
would instantly find a multitude of readers. It was a very small
sheet,--four little pages of four columns each,--much better printed
than the Herald now is, and not a waste line in it. Everything _drew_,
as the sailors say. There was not much scissoring in it,--the scissors
have never been much esteemed in the Herald office,--but the little
that there was all told upon the general effect of the sheet. There is
a story current in newspaper offices that the first few numbers of the
Herald were strictly decorous and "respectable," but that the editor,
finding the public indifferent and his money running low, changed his
tactics, and filled his paper with scurrility and indecency, which
immediately made it a paying enterprise. No such thing. The first
numbers were essentially of the same character as the number published
this morning. They had the same excellences and the same defects: in
the news department, immense industry, vigilance, and tact; in the
editorial columns, the vein of Mephistophelean mockery which has
puzzled and shocked so many good people at home and abroad. A leading
topic then was a certain Matthias, one of those long-bearded religious
impostors who used to appear from time to time. The first article in
the first number of the Herald was a minute account of the origin and
earlier life of the fellow,--just the thing for the paper, and the
sure method of exploding _him_. The first editorial article, too, was
perfectly in character:--

"In _debuts_ of this kind," said the editor,

"many talk of principle--political principle, party
principle--as a sort of steel-trap to catch the public. We
mean to be perfectly understood on this point, and therefore
openly disclaim all steel-traps,--all principle, as it is
called,--all party,--all politics. Our only guide shall be
good, sound, practical common-sense, applicable to the
business and bosoms of men engaged in every-day life. We
shall support no party, be the organ of no faction or
coterie, and care nothing for any election or any candidate,
from President down to constable. We shall endeavor to
record facts on every public and proper subject, stripped of
verbiage and coloring, with comments, when suitable, just,
independent, fearless, and good-tempered. If the Herald
wants the mere expansion which many journals possess, we
shall try to make it up in industry, good taste, brevity,
variety, point, piquancy, and cheapness."

He proceeded immediately to give a specimen of the "comments" thus
described, in the form of a review of an Annual Register just
published. The Register informed him that there were 1,492 "rogues in
the State Prison." His comment was: "But God only knows how many out
of prison, preying upon the community, in the shape of gamblers,
blacklegs, speculators, and politicians." He learned from the Register
that the poor-house contained 6,547 paupers; to which he added, "and
double the number going there as fast as indolence and intemperance
can carry them." The first numbers were filled with nonsense and
gossip about the city of New York, to which his poverty confined him.
He had no boat with which to board arriving ships, no share in the
pony express from Washington, and no correspondents in other cities.
All he could do was to catch the floating gossip, scandal, and folly
of the town, and present as much of them every day as one man could
get upon paper by sixteen hours' labor. He laughed at everything and
everybody,--not excepting himself and his squint eye,--and, though his
jokes were not always good, they were generally good enough. People
laughed, and were willing to expend a cent the next day to see what
new folly the man would commit or relate. We all like to read about
our own neighborhood: this paper gratified the propensity.

The man, we repeat, really had a vein of poetry in him, and the first
numbers of the Herald show it. He had occasion to mention, one day,
that Broadway was about to be paved with wooden blocks. This was not a
very promising subject for a poetical comment; but he added: "When
this is done, every vehicle will have to wear sleigh-bells as in
sleighing times, and Broadway will be so quiet that you can pay a
compliment to a lady, in passing, and she will hear you." This was
nothing in itself; but here was a man wrestling with fate in a cellar,
who could turn you out two hundred such paragraphs a week, the year
round. Many men can growl in a cellar; this man could laugh, and keep
laughing, and make the floating population of a city laugh with him.
It must be owned, too, that he had a little real insight into the
nature of things around him,--a little Scotch sense, as well as an
inexhaustible fund of French vivacity. Alluding, once, to the "hard
money" cry, by which the lying politicians of the day carried
elections, he exploded that nonsense in two lines: "If a man gets the
wearable or the eatable he wants, what cares he whether he has gold or
paper-money?" He devoted two sentences to the Old School and New
School Presbyterian controversy: "Great trouble among the
Presbyterians just now. The question in dispute is, whether or not a
man can do anything towards saving his own soul." He had, also, an
article upon the Methodists, in which he said that the two religions
nearest akin were the Methodist and the Roman Catholic. We should add
to these trifling specimens the fact, that he uniformly maintained,
from 1835 to the crash of 1837, that the prosperity of the country was
unreal, and would end in disaster. Perhaps we can afford space for a
single specimen of his way of treating this subject; although it can
be fully appreciated only by those who are old enough to remember the
rage for land speculation which prevailed in 1836:--

"THE RICH POOR--THE POOR RICH.--'I have made $50,000 since
last January,' said one of these real-estate speculators to
a friend.

"'The dense you have,' said the other, looking up in
astonishment 'Why, last January you were not worth a
twenty-dollar bill.'

"'I know that; but I now calculate I'm worth full $50,000,
if not $60,000.'

"How have you made it?'

"'By speculating in real estate. I bought three hundred lots
at Goose Island at $150 apiece; they are now worth $400. I
would not sell them for $350 apiece, I assure you.'

"' Do you think so?'

"'Sartain. I have two hundred and fifty lots at Blockhead's
Point, worth $150 a piece; some on them are worth $200. I
have one hundred lots at Jackass Inlet, worth at least $100,
at the very lowest calculation. In short, I'm worth a hull

"'Well, I'm glad to hear it. You can pay me now the $500 you
have owed me for these last four years. There's your note, I
believe,' said he, handing the speculator a worn piece of
paper that had a piece of writing upon it.

"The speculator looked blank at this. 'Oh! yes--my--now I'd
like--suppose,' but the words could not form themselves into
a perfect sentence.

"'I want the money very much,' said the other; 'I have some
payments to make to-morrow.'

"'Why, you don't want cash for it surely.'

"'Yes, but I do. You say you are worth $60,000,--surely $500
is but a trifle to pay; do let me have the cash on the nail,
if you please.'

"'Oh!--by--well--now--do tell--really, I have not got the
money at present.'

"'So you can't pay it, eh? A man worth $60,000, and can't
pay an old debt of $500?'

"'Oh! yes I can--I'll--I'll--just give you my note for it at
ninety days.'

"'The D--l you will! A man worth $60,000, and can't pay $500
for ninety days! what do you mean?'

"'Well now, my dear sir, I'm worth what I say. I can pay
you. There's my property,' spreading out half a dozen very
beautiful lithographs; 'but really I can't raise that amount
at present. Yesterday, I had to give three per cent a month
for $4,000 to save my whole fortune. I had to look out for
the mortgages. Take my note; you can get it discounted for
three per cent.'

"'No, I can't. If you will give me $250 for the debt, I
shall give the other half to pay the interest on your

"Whether the proposition has been accepted we shall know
to-morrow; but we have many such rich people."--_Herald_,
Oct. 28, 1836.

But it was not such things as these that established the Herald.
Confined as he was to the limits of a single town, and being compelled
to do everything with his own hands, he could not have much in his
columns that we should now call "news." But what is news? The answer
to that question involves the whole art, mystery, and history of
journalism. The time was when news signified the doings of the king
and his court. This was the staple of the first news-letter writers,
who were employed by great lords, absent from court, to send them
court intelligence. To this was soon added news of the doings of other
kings and courts; and from that day to this the word _news_ has been
continually gaining increase of meaning, until now it includes all
that the public are curious to know, which may be told without injury
to the public or injustice to individuals. While this man was playing
fantastic tricks before high Heaven, his serious thoughts were
absorbed in schemes to make his paper the great vehicle of news. Early
in the second month, while he was still losing money every day, he hit
upon a new kind of news, which perhaps had more to do with the final
success of the Herald than any other single thing. His working day, at
that time, was sixteen or seventeen hours. In the morning, from five
to eight, he was busy, in the quiet of his room, with those light,
nonsensical paragraphs and editorials which made his readers smile in
spite of themselves. During the usual business hours of the morning,
he was in his cellar, over his flour-barrel desk, engaged in the
ordinary routine of editorial work; not disdaining to sell the morning
paper, write advertisements, and take the money for them.

About one o'clock, having provided abundant copy for the compositors,
he sallied forth into Wall Street, picking up material for his
stock-tables and subjects for paragraphs. From four to six he
was at his office again, winding up the business, of the day. In
the evening he was abroad,--at theatre, concert, ball, or public
meeting,--absorbing fresh material for his paper. He converted
himself, as it were, into a medium through which the gossip, scandal,
fun, and nonsense of this great town were daily conveyed back to it
for its amusement; just as a certain popular preacher is reported to
do, who spends six days in circulating among his parishioners, and on
the seventh tells them all that they have taught him.

Now Wall Street, during the years that General Jackson was disturbing
the financial system by his insensate fury against the United States
Bank, was to journalism what the Army of the Potomac was in the year
1864. The crash of 1837 was full two years in coming on, during which
the money market was always deranged, and moneyed men were anxious and
puzzled. The public mind, too, was gradually drawn to the subject,
until Wall Street was the point upon which all eyes were fixed. The
editor of the Herald was the first American journalist to avail
himself of this state of things. It occurred to him, when his paper
had been five weeks in existence, to give a little account every day
of the state of affairs in Wall Street,--the fluctuations of the money
market and their causes,--the feeling and gossip of the street. He
introduced this feature at the moment when General Jackson's
embroilment with the French Chambers was at its height, and when the
return of the American Minister was hourly expected. Some of our
readers may be curious to see the first "money article" ever published
in the United States. It was as follows:--


"Stocks yesterday maintained their prices during the session
of the Board, several going up. Utica went up 2 per cent;
the others stationary. Large quantities were sold. After the
Board adjourned and the news from France was talked over,
the fancy stocks generally went down 1 to 1-1/2 per cent;
other stocks quite firm. A rally was made by the bulls in
the evening, under the trees, but it did not succeed. There
will be a great fight in the Board to-day. The good people
up town are anxious to know what the brokers think of Mr.
Livingston. We shall find out, and let them know.

"The cotton and flour market rallied a little. The rise of
cotton in Liverpool drove it up here a cent or so. The last
shippers will make 2-1/2 per cent. Many are endeavoring to
produce a belief that there will be a war. If the impression
prevails, naval stores will go up a good deal. Every eye is
outstretched for the Constitution. Hudson, of the Merchants'
News Room, says he will hoist out the first flag. Gilpin, of
the Exchange News Room, says he will have her name down in
his Room one hour before his competitor. The latter claims
having beat Hudson yesterday by an hour and ten minutes in
chronicling the England."--_Herald_, June 13, 1835.

This was his first attempt. The money article constantly lengthened
and increased in importance. It won for the little paper a kind of
footing in brokers' offices and bank parlors, and provided many
respectable persons with an excuse for buying it.

At the end of the third month, the daily receipts equalled the daily
expenditures. A cheap police reporter was soon after engaged. In the
course of the next month, the printing-office was burnt, and the
printers, totally discouraged, abandoned the enterprise. The
editor--who felt that he had caught the public ear, as he
had--contrived, by desperate exertions, to "rake the Herald out of the
fire," as he said, and went on alone. Four months after, the great
fire laid Wall Street low, and all the great business streets
adjacent. Here was his first real opportunity as a journalist; and how
he improved it!--spending one half of every day among the ruins,
note-book in hand, and the other half over his desk, writing out what
he had gathered. He spread before the public reports so detailed,
unconventional, and graphic, that a reader sitting at his ease in his
own room became, as it were, an eyewitness of those appalling scenes.
His accounts of that fire, and of the events following it, are such as
Defoe would have given if he had been a New York reporter. Still
struggling for existence, he went to the expense (great then) of
publishing a picture of the burning Exchange, and a map of the burnt
district. American journalism was born amid the roaring flames of the
great fire of 1835; and no true journalist will deny, that from that
day to this, whenever any very remarkable event has taken place in the
city of New York, the Herald reports of it have generally been those
which cost most money and exhibited most of the spirit and detail of
the scene. For some years every dollar that the Herald made was
expended in news, and, to this hour, no other journal equals it in
daily expenditure for intelligence. If, to-morrow, we were to have
another great fire, like that of thirty years ago, this paper would
have twenty-five men in the streets gathering particulars.

But so difficult is it to establish a daily newspaper, that at the end
of a year it was not yet certain that the Herald could continue. A
lucky contract with a noted pill-vender gave it a great lift about
that time;[1] and in the fifteenth month, the editor ventured to raise
his price to two cents. From that day he had a business, and nothing
remained for him but to go on as he had begun. He did so. The paper
exhibits now the same qualities as it did then,--immense expenditure
and vigilance in getting news, and a reckless disregard of principle,
truth, and decency in its editorials.

Almost from the first month of its existence, this paper was deemed
infamous by the very public that supported it. We can well remember
when people bought it on the sly, and blushed when they were caught
reading it, and when the man in a country place who subscribed for it
intended by that act to distinctly enroll himself as one of the
ungodly. Journalists should thoroughly consider this most remarkable
fact. We have had plenty of infamous papers, but they have all been
short-lived but this. This one has lasted. After thirty-one years of
life, it appears to be almost as flourishing to-day as ever. The
foremost of its rivals has a little more than half its circulation,
and less than half its income. A marble palace is rising to receive
it, and its proprietor fares as sumptuously every day as the ducal
family who furnished him with his middle name.

Let us see how the Herald acquired its ill name. We shall then know
why it is still so profoundly odious; for it has never changed, and
can never change, while its founder controls it. Its peculiarities are
_his_ peculiarities.

He came into collision, first of all, with the clergy and people of
his own Church, the Roman Catholic. Thirty years ago, as some of our
readers may remember, Catholics and Protestants had not yet learned to
live together in the same community with perfect tolerance of one
another's opinions and usages; and there were still some timid persons
who feared the rekindling of the fagot, and the supremacy of the Pope
in the United States. A controversy growing out of these apprehensions
had been proceeding for some time in the newspapers when this impudent
little Herald first appeared. The new-comer joined in the fray, and
sided against the Church in which he was born; but laid about him in a
manner which disgusted both parties. For example:--

"As a Catholic, we call upon the Catholic Bishop and clergy
of New York to come forth from the darkness, folly, and
superstition of the tenth century. They live in the
nineteenth. There can be no mistake about it,--they will be
convinced of this fact if they look into the almanac....

"But though we want a thorough reform, we do not wish them
to discard their greatest absurdities at the first breath.
We know the difficulty of the task. Disciples, such as the
Irish are, will stick with greater pertinacity to
absurdities and nonsense than to reason and common sense. We
have no objection to the doctrine of Transubstantiation
being tolerated for a few years to come. We may for a while
indulge ourselves in the delicious luxury of creating and
eating our Divinity. A peculiar taste of this kind, like
smoking tobacco or drinking whiskey, cannot be given up all
at once. The ancient Egyptians, for many years after they
had lost every trace of the intellectual character of their
religion, yet worshipped and adored the ox, the bull, and
the crocodile. They had not discovered the art, as we
Catholics have done, of making a God out of bread, and of
adoring and eating him at one and the same moment. This
latter piece of sublimity or religious cookery (we don't
know which) was reserved for the educated and talented
clergy from the tenth up to the nineteenth century. Yet we
do not advise the immediate disturbance of this venerable
piece of rottenness and absurdity. It must be retained, as
we would retain carefully the tooth of a saint or the
jawbone of a martyr, till the natural progress of reason in
the Irish mind shall be able, silently and imperceptibly, to
drop it among the forgotten rubbish of his early loves, or
his more youthful riots and rows.

"There must be a thorough reformation and revolution in the
American Catholic Church. Education must be more attended
to. We never knew one priest who believed that he ate the
Divinity when he took the Eucharist. If we must have a Pope,
let us have a Pope of our own,--an American Pope, an
intellectual, intelligent, and moral Pope,--not such a
decrepit, licentious, stupid, Italian blockhead as the
College of Cardinals at Rome condescends to give the
Christian world of Europe."

This might be good advice; but no serious Protestant, at that day,
could relish the tone in which it was given. Threatening letters were
sent in from irate and illiterate Irishmen; the Herald was denounced
from a Catholic pulpit; its carriers were assaulted on their rounds;
but the paper won no friends from the side which it affected to
espouse. Every one felt that to this man _nothing_ was sacred, or
August, or venerable, or even serious. He was like an unbeliever in a
party composed of men of various sects. The Baptist could fairly
attack an Episcopalian, because he had convictions of his own that
could be assaulted; but this stranger, who believed nothing and
respected nothing, could not be hit at all. The result would naturally
be, that the whole company would turn upon him as upon a common foe.

So in politics. Perhaps the most serious and sincere article he ever
wrote on a political subject was one that appeared in November, 1836,
in which he recommended the subversion of republican institutions and
the election of an emperor. If he ever had a political conviction, we
believe he expressed it then. After a rigmarole of Roman history and
Augustus Caesar, he proceeded thus:---

"Shall we not profit by these examples of history? Let us,
for the sake of science, art, and civilization, elect at
this election General Jackson, General Harrison, Martin Yan
Buren, Hugh White, or Anybody, we care not whom, the EMPEROR
of this great REPUBLIC for life, and have done with this
eternal turmoil and confusion. Perhaps Mr. Van Buren would
be the best Augustus Caesar. He is sufficiently corrupt,
selfish, and heartless for that dignity. He has a host of
favorites that will easily form a Senate. He has a court in
preparation, and the Praetorian bands in array. He can pick
up a Livia anywhere. He has violated every pledge, adopted
and abandoned every creed, been for and against every
measure, is a believer in all religions by turns, and, like
the first Caesar, has always been a republican and taken
care of number one. He has called into action all the ragged
adventurers from every class, and raised their lands,
stocks, lots, and places without end. He is smooth,
agreeable, oily, as Octavianus was. He has a couple of sons,
also, who might succeed him and preserve the imperial line.
We may be better off under an Emperor,--we could not be
worse off as a nation than we are now. Besides, who knows
but Van Buren is of the blood of the great Julius himself?
That great man conquered all Gaul and Helvetia, which in
those days comprised Holland. Caius Julius Caesar may thus
have laid the foundation of a royal line to be transmitted
to the West. There is a prophecy in Virgil's 'Pollio'
evidently alluding to Van. But of this another day."

A man who writes in this way may have readers, but he can have no
friends. An event occurred in his first year which revealed this fact
to him in an extremely disagreeable manner. There was then upon the
New York stage a notoriously dissolute actor, who, after outraging the
feelings of his wife in all the usual modes, completed his infamy by
denouncing her from the stage of a crowded theatre. The Herald took
her part, which would naturally have been the popular side. But when
the actor retorted by going to the office of the Herald and committing
upon its proprietor a most violent and aggravated assault,
accompanying his blows with acts of peculiar indecency, it plainly
appeared, that the sympathies of the public were wholly with the
actor,--not with the champion of an injured woman. His hand had been
against every man, and in his hour of need, when he was greatly in the
right, every heart was closed against him. Not the less, however, did
the same public buy his paper, because it contained what the public
wanted, i.e. the news of the day, vividly exhibited.

The course of this curious specimen of our kind during the late war
was perfectly characteristic. During the first two years of the war he
was inclined to think that the Rebels would be successful so far as to
win over the Democratic party to their side, and thus constitute
Jefferson Davis President of the United States. If he had any
preference as to the result of the contest, it was probably this. If
the flag of the United States had been trailed in the mud of Nassau
Street, followed by hooting ruffians from the Sixth Ward, and the
symbol of the Rebellion had floated in its stead from the cupola of
the City Hall, saluted by Captain Rynders's gun, it would not have
cost this isolated alien one pang,--unless, perchance, a rival
newspaper had been the first to announce the fact. _That_ indeed,
would have cut him to the heart. Acting upon the impression that the
Rebellion, in some way, would triumph, he gave it all the support
possible, and continued to do so until it appeared certain that,
whatever the issue of the strife, the South was lost for a long time
as a patron of New York papers.

The key to most of the political vagaries of this paper is given in a
single sentence of one of its first numbers: "_We have never been in a
minority, and we never shall be_" In his endeavors to act upon this
lofty principle, he was sadly puzzled during the war,--so difficult
was it to determine which way the cat would finally jump. He held
himself ready, however, to jump with it, whichever side the dubious
animal might select. At the same time, he never for an instant relaxed
his endeavors to obtain the earliest and fullest intelligence from the
seat of war. Never perhaps did any journal in any country maintain so
great an expenditure for news. Every man in the field representing
that paper was more than authorized--he was encouraged and
commanded--to incur any expense whatever that might be necessary
either in getting or forwarding intelligence. There were no rigid or
grudging scrutiny of reporters' drafts; no minute and insulting
inquiries respecting the last moments of a horse ridden to death in
the service; no grumbling about the precise terms of a steamboat
charter, or a special locomotive. A reporter returning from the army
laden with information, procured at a lavish expense, was received in
the office like a conqueror coming home from a victorious campaign,
and he went forth again full of courage and zeal, knowing well that
every man employed on the Herald was advancing himself when he served
the paper well. One great secret of success the proprietor of the
Herald knows better than most;--he knows how to get out of those who
serve him all there is in them; he knows how to reward good service;
he knows a man's value to him. There is no newspaper office in the
world where real journalistic efficiency is more certain to meet
prompt recognition and just reward than in this. Not much may be said
to a laborious reporter about the hits he is making; but, on some
Saturday afternoon, when he draws his salary, he finds in his hands a
larger amount than usual. He hands it back to have the mistake
corrected, and he is informed that his salary is raised.

The Herald, too, systematically prepares the way for its reporters.
Some of our readers may remember how lavishly this paper extolled
General McClellan during the time of his glory, and indeed as long as
he held the chief command. One of the results of this policy was,
that, while the reporters of other papers were out in the cold,
writing in circumstances the most inconvenient, those of the Herald,
besides being supplied with the best information, were often writing
in a warm apartment or commodious tent, not far from head-quarters or
at head-quarters. As long as General Butler held a command which gave
him control over one of the chief sources of news, the Herald hoarded
its private grudge against him; but the instant he was removed from
command, the Herald was after him in full cry. If, to-morrow, the same
General should be placed in a position which should render his office
a source of important intelligence, we should probably read in the
Herald the most glowing eulogiums of his career and character.

What are we to think of a man who is at once so able and so false? It
would be incorrect to call him a liar, because he is wanting in that
sense of truth by violating which a man makes himself a liar. We
cannot call him a traitor, for his heart knows no country; nor an
infidel, for all the serious and high concerns of man are to him a
jest. _Defective_ is the word to apply to such as he. As far as he
goes, he is good; and if the commodity in which he deals were cotton
or sugar, we could commend his enterprise and tact. He is like the
steeple of a church in New York, which was built up to a certain
height, when the material gave out, and it was hastily roofed in,
leaving the _upper half_ of the architect's design unexecuted. That
region of the mind where conviction, the sense of truth and honor,
public spirit and patriotism have their sphere, is in this man mere
vacancy. But, we repeat, as far as he _is_ built up, he is very well
constructed. Visit him: you see before you a quiet-mannered,
courteous, and good-natured old gentleman, who is on excellent terms
with himself and with the world. If you are a poor musician, about to
give a concert, no editor is more likely than he to lend a favorable
ear to your request for a few lines of preliminary notice. The persons
about him have been very long in his employment, and to some of them
he has been munificently liberal. The best of them appear to be really
attached to his person, as well as devoted to his service, and they
rely on him as sailors rely on a captain who has brought them safe
through a thousand storms. He has the Celtic virtue of standing by
those who stand by him developed to the uttermost degree. Many a
slight favor bestowed upon him in his days of obscurity he has
recompensed a thousand-fold since he has had the power to do so. We
cannot assign a very exalted rank in the moral scale to a trait which
some of the lowest races possess in an eminent degree, and which
easily runs into narrowness and vice; nevertheless, it is akin to
nobleness, and is the nearest approach to a true generosity that some
strong natures can attain.

What are we to say of the public that has so resolutely sustained this
paper, which the outside world so generally condemns? We say this.
Every periodical that thrives supplies the public with a certain
description of intellectual commodity, which the public is willing to
pay for. The New York Ledger, for example, exists by furnishing
stories and poetry adapted to the taste of the greatest number of the
people. Our spirited friends of The Nation and Round Table supply
criticism and that portion of the news which is of special interest to
the intellectual class. The specialty of the daily newspaper is to
give that part of the news of the day which interests the whole
public. A complete newspaper contains more than this; but it ranks in
the world of journalism exactly in the degree to which it does _this_.
The grand object of the true journalist is to be fullest, promptest,
and most correct on the one uppermost topic of the hour. That secured,
he may neglect all else. The paper that does this oftenest is the
paper that will find most purchasers; and no general excellence, no
array of information on minor or special topics, will ever atone for a
deficiency on the subject of most immediate and universal interest.
During the war this fundamental truth of journalism was apparent to
every mind. In time of peace, it is less apparent, but not less a
truth. In the absence of an absorbing topic, general news rises in
importance, until, in the dearth of the dogdays, the great cucumber
gets into type; but the great point of competition is still the
same,--to be fullest, quickest, and most correct upon the subject
_most_ interesting at the moment.

But every periodical, besides its specialty on which it lives, gives
its readers something more. It need not, but it does. The universal
Ledger favors its readers with many very excellent essays, written for
it by distinguished clergymen, editors, and authors, and gives its
readers a great deal of sound advice in other departments of the
paper. It need not do this; these features do not materially affect
the sale of the paper, as its proprietor well knows. The essays of
such men as Mr. Everett and Mr. Bancroft do not increase the sale of
the paper one hundred copies a week. Those essays are read and
admired, and contribute their quota toward the education of the
people, and reflect honor upon the liberal and enterprising man who
publishes them; but scarcely any one buys the paper for their sake.
People almost universally buy a periodical for the special thing which
it has undertaken to furnish; and it is by supplying this special
thing that an editor attains his glorious privilege and opportunity of
addressing a portion of the people on other topics. This opportunity
he may neglect; he may abuse it to the basest purposes, or improve it
to the noblest, but whichever of these things he does, it does not
materially affect the prosperity of his paper,--always supposing that
his specialty is kept up with the requisite vigor. We have gone over
the whole history of journalism, and we find this to be its Law of
Nature, to which there are only apparent exceptions.

All points to this simple conclusion, which we firmly believe to be
the golden rule of journalism:--that daily newspaper which has the
best corps of reporters, and handles them best, _necessarily_ takes
the lead of all competitors.

There are journalists who say (we have often heard them in
conversation) that this is a low view to take of their vocation. It is
of no importance whether a view is high or low, provided it is
correct. But we cannot agree with them that this is a low view. We
think it the highest possible. Regarded as instructors of the people,
they wield for our warning and rebuke, for our encouragement and
reward, an instrument which is like the dread thunderbolt of Jove, at
once the most terrible and the most beneficent,--_publicity_. Some
years ago, a number of ill-favored and prurient women and a number of
licentious men formed themselves into a kind of society for the
purpose of devising and promulgating a theory to justify the
gratification of unbridled lust. They were called Free-Lovers. To have
assailed their nightly gatherings in thundering editorial articles
would have only advertised them; but a detailed _report_ of their
proceedings in the Tribune scattered these assemblies in a few days,
to meet no more except in secret haunts. Recently, we have seen the
Fenian wind-bag first inflated, then burst, by mere publicity. The
Strong Divorce Case, last year, was a nauseous dose, which we would
have gladly kept out of the papers; but since it had to appear, it was
a public benefit to have it given, Herald-fashion, with all its
revolting particulars. What a punishment to the guilty! what a lesson
to the innocent! what a warning to the undetected! How much beneficial
reflection and conversation it excited! How necessary, in an age of
sensation morals and free-love theories, to have self-indulgence
occasionally exhibited in all its hideous nastiness, and without any
of its fleeting, deceptive, imaginary charms! The instantaneous
detection of the Otero murderers last autumn, and of the robbers of
Adams's express-car last winter, as related in the daily papers, and
the picture presented by them of young Ketchum seated at work in the
shoe-shop of Sing-Sing Prison, were equivalent to the addition of a
thousand men to the police force. Herein lies the power of such a
slight person as the editor of the Herald. It is not merely that he
impudently pulls your nose, but he pulls it in the view of a million

Nor less potent is publicity as a means of reward. How many brave
hearts during the late war felt themselves far more than repaid for
all their hardships in the field and their agony in the hospital by
reading their names in despatches, or merely in the list of wounded,
and thinking of the breakfast-tables far away at which that name had
been spied out and read with mingled exultation and pity. "Those who
love me know that I did my duty,--it is enough."

Our whole observation of the daily press convinces us that its power
to do good arises chiefly from its giving the news of the day; and its
power to do harm chiefly from its opportunity to comment upon the
news. Viewed only as a vehicle of intelligence, the Herald has taught
the journalists of the United States the greater part of all that they
yet know of their profession; regarded as an organ of opinion, it has
done all that it was ever possible for a newspaper to do in perverting
public opinion, debauching public taste, offending public morals, and
dishonoring the national character.

The question arises, Why has not this paper been long ago outdone in
giving the news? It has always been possible to suppress it by
surpassing it. Its errors have given its rivals an immense advantage
over it; for it has always prospered, not in consequence of its
badness, but of its goodness. We are acquainted with two foolish young
patriots who were wrought up to such a frenzy of disgust by its
traitorous course during the first half of our late war, that they
seriously considered whether there was any way in which they could so
well serve their country in its time of need, as by slaying that
pernicious and insolent editor; but both of those amiable lunatics
were compelled occasionally to buy the paper. Of late, too, we have
seen vast audiences break forth into wild hootings at the mention of
its name; but not the less did the hooters buy it the next morning.
Nevertheless, as soon as there exists a paper which to the Herald's
good points adds the other features of a complete newspaper, and
avoids its faults, from that hour the Herald wanes and falls speedily
to the second rank.

Two men have had it in their power to produce such a
newspaper,--Horace Greeley and Henry J. Raymond. In 1841, when the
Herald was six years old, the Tribune appeared, edited by Mr. Greeley,
with Mr. Raymond as his chief assistant. Mr. Greeley was then, and is
now, the best writer of editorials in the United States; that is, he
can produce a greater quantity of telling editorial per annum than any
other individual. There never lived a man capable of working more
hours in a year than he. Strictly temperate in his habits, and
absolutely devoted to his work, he threw himself into this enterprise
with an ardor never surpassed since Adam first tasted the sweets of
honorable toil. Mr. Raymond, then recently from college, very young,
wholly inexperienced, was endowed with an admirable aptitude for the
work of journalism, and a power of getting through its routine
labors,--a sustained, calm, swift industry,--unsurpassed at that time
in the American press. The business of the paper was also well managed
by Mr. McElrath. In the hands of these able men, the new paper made
such rapid advances, that, in the course of a few months, it was
fairly established, and in a year or two it had reached a circulation
equal to that of the Herald. One after another, excellent writers were
added to its corps;--the vigorous, prompt, untiring Dana; George
Ripley, possessing that blending of scholarship and tact, that wisdom
of the cloister and knowledge of the world, which alone could fit a
man of great learning and talent for the work of a daily newspaper;
Margaret Fuller, whose memory is still green in so many hearts; Bayard
Taylor, the versatile, and others, less universally known.

Why, then, did not this powerful combination supplant the Herald? If
mere ability in the writing of a newspaper; if to have given an
impulse to thought and enterprise; if to have won the admiration and
gratitude of a host of the best men and women in America; if to have
inspired many thousands of young men with better feelings and higher
purposes than they would else have attained; if to have shaken the
dominion of superstition, and made it easier for men to think freely,
and freely utter their thought; if to have produced a newspaper more
interesting than any other in the world to certain classes in the
community;--if all these things had sufficed to give a daily paper the
first position in the journalism of a country, then the Tribune would
long ago have attained that position; for all these things, and many
more, the Tribune did. But they do not suffice. Such things may be
incidental to a great success: they cannot cause it. Great
journalism--journalism pure and simple--alone can give a journal the
first place. If Mr. Raymond had been ten years older, and had founded
and conducted the paper, with Mr. Greeley as his chief writer of
editorials,--that is, if the _journalist_ had been the master of the
journal, instead of the writer, the politician, and the
philanthropist,--the Tribune might have won the splendid prize. Mr.
Greeley is not a great journalist. He has regarded journalism rather
as a disagreeable necessity of his vocation, and uniformly abandoned
the care of it to others. An able man generally gets what he ardently
seeks. Mr. Greeley produced just such a paper as he himself would have
liked to take, but not such a paper as the public of the island of
Manhattan prefers. He regards this as his glory. We cannot agree with
him, because his course of management left the field to the Herald,
the suppression of which was required by the interests of

The Tribune has done great and glorious things for us. Not free, of
course, from the errors which mark all things human, it has been, and
is, a civilizing power in this land. We hope to have the pleasure of
reading it every day for the rest of our lives. One thing it has
failed to do,--to reduce the Herald to insignificance by surpassing it
in the particulars in which it is excellent. We have no right to
complain. We only regret that the paper representing the civilization
of the country should not yet have attained the position which would
have given it the greatest power.

Mr. Raymond, also, has had it in his power to render this great
service to the civilization and credit of the United States. The Daily
Times, started in 1852, retarded for a while by a financial error, has
made such progress toward the goal of its proprietors' ambition, that
it is now on the home stretch, only a length or two behind. The editor
of this paper is a journalist; he sees clearly the point of
competition; he knows the great secret of his trade. The prize within
his reach is splendid. The position of chief journalist gives power
enough to satisfy any reasonable ambition, wealth enough to glut the
grossest avarice, and opportunity of doing good sufficient for the
most public-spirited citizen. What is there in political life equal to
it? We have no right to remark upon any man's choice of a career; but
this we may say,--that the man who wins the first place in the
journalism of a free country must concentrate all his powers upon that
one work, and, as an editor, owe no allegiance to party. He must stand
above all parties, and serve all parties, by spreading before the
public that full and exact information upon which sound legislation is

During the present (1865-6) session of Congress we have had daily
illustration of this truth. The great question has been, What is the
condition of the Southern States and the feeling of the Southern
people? All the New York morning papers have expended money and labor,
each according to its means and enterprise, in getting information
from the South. This was well. But every one of these papers has had
some party or personal bias, which has given it a powerful interest to
make out a case. The World and News excluded everything which tended
to show the South dissatisfied and disloyal. The Tribune, on the other
hand, diligently sought testimony of that nature. The Times, also,
being fully committed to a certain theory of reconstruction, naturally
gave prominence to every fact which supported that theory, and was
inclined to suppress information of the opposite tendency. The
consequence was, that an inhabitant of the city of New York who simply
desired to know the truth was compelled to keep an eye upon four or
five papers, lest something material should escape him. This is
pitiful. This is utterly beneath the journalism of 1866. The final
pre-eminent newspaper of America will soar far above such needless
limitations as these, and present the truth in _all_ its aspects,
regardless of its effects upon theories, parties, factions, and
Presidential campaigns.

Presidential campaigns,--that is the real secret. The editors of most
of these papers have selected their candidate for 1868; and, having
done that, can no more help conducting their journals with a view to
the success of that candidate, than the needle of a compass can help
pointing awry when there is a magnet hidden in the binnacle. Here,
again, we have no right to censure or complain. Yet we cannot help
marvelling at the hallucination which can induce able men to prefer
the brief and illusory honors of political station to the substantial
and lasting power within the grasp of the successful journalist. He,
if any one,--he more than any one else,--is the master in a free
country. Have we not seen almost every man who has held or run for the
Presidency during the last ten or fifteen years paying assiduous and
servile court, directly or indirectly, or both, to the editor of the
Herald? If it were proper to relate to the public what is known on
this subject to a few individuals, the public would be exceedingly
astonished. And yet this reality of power an editor is ready to
jeopard for the sake of gratifying his family by exposing them in
Paris! Jeopard, do we say? He has done more: he has thrown it away. He
has a magnet in his binnacle. He has, for the time, sacrificed what it
cost him thirty years of labor and audacity to gain. Strange weakness
of human nature!

The daily press of the United States has prodigiously improved in
every respect during the last twenty years. To the best of our
recollection, the description given of it, twenty-three years ago, by
Charles Dickens, in his American Notes, was not much exaggerated;
although that great author did exaggerate its effects upon the morals
of the country. His own amusing account of the rival editors in
Pickwick might have instructed him on this latter point. It does not
appear that the people of Eatanswill were seriously injured by the
fierce language employed in "that false and scurrilous print, the
Independent," and in "that vile and slanderous calumniator, the
Gazette." Mr. Dickens, however, was too little conversant with our
politics to take the atrocious language formerly so common in our
newspapers "in a Pickwickian sense"; and we freely confess that in the
alarming picture which he drew of our press there was only too much

"The foul growth of America," wrote Mr. Dickens, "strikes
its fibres deep in its licentious press.

"Schools may be erected, east, west, north, and south;
pupils be taught, and masters reared, by scores upon scores
of thousands; colleges may thrive, churches may be crammed,
temperance may be diffused, and advancing knowledge in all
other forms walk through the land with giant strides; but
while the newspaper press of America is in or near its
present abject state, high moral improvement in that country
is hopeless. Year by year it must and will go back; year by
year the tone of public feeling must sink lower down; year
by year the Congress and the Senate must become of less
account before all decent men; and, year by year, the memory
of the great fathers of the Revolution must be outraged more
and more in the bad life of their degenerate child.

"Among the herd of journals which are published in the
States, there are some, the reader scarcely need be told, of
character and credit. From personal intercourse with
accomplished gentlemen connected with publications of this
class I have derived both pleasure and profit. But the name
of these is Few, and of the others Legion; and the influence
of the good is powerless to counteract the mortal poison of
the bad.

"Among the gentry of America, among the well-informed and
moderate, in the learned professions, at the bar and on the
bench, there is, as there can be, but one opinion in
reference to the vicious character of these infamous
journals. It is sometimes contended--I will not say
strangely, for it is natural to seek excuses for such a
disgrace--that their influence is not so great as a visitor
would suppose. I must be pardoned for saying that there is
no warrant for this plea, and that every fact and
circumstance tends directly to the opposite conclusion.

"When any man, of any grade of desert in intellect or
character, can climb to any public distinction, no matter
what, in America, without first grovelling down upon the
earth, and bending the knee before this monster of
depravity; when any private excellence is safe from its
attacks, and when any social confidence is left unbroken by
it, or any tie of social decency and honor is held in the
least regard; when any man in that free country has freedom
of opinion, and presumes to think for himself, and speak for
himself, without humble reference to a censorship which, for
its rampant ignorance and base dishonesty, he utterly
loathes and despises in his heart; when those who most
acutely feel its infamy and the reproach it casts upon the
nation, and who most denounce it to each other, dare to set
their heels upon and crush it openly, in the sight of all
men,--then I will believe that its influence is lessening,
and men are returning to their manly senses. But while that
Press has its evil eye in every house, and its black hand in
every appointment in the state, from a President to a
postman,--while, with ribald slander for its only stock in
trade, it is the standard literature of an enormous class,
who must find their reading in a newspaper, or they will not
read at all,--so long must its odium be upon the country's
head, and so long must the evil it works be plainly visible
in the Republic.

"To those who are accustomed to the leading English
journals, or to the respectable journals of the Continent of
Europe, to those who are accustomed to anything else in
print and paper, it would be impossible, without an amount
of extract for which I have neither space nor inclination,
to convey an adequate idea of this frightful engine in
America. But if any man desire confirmation of my statement
on this head, let him repair to any place in this city of
London where scattered numbers of these publications are to
be found, and there let him form his own opinion."

From a note appended to this passage, we infer that the newspaper
which weighed upon the author's mind when he wrote it was the New York
Herald. The direct cause, however, of the general license of the press
at that time, was not the Herald's bad example, but Andrew Jackson's
debauching influence. The same man who found the government pure, and
left it corrupt, made the press the organ of his own malignant
passions by bestowing high office upon the editors who lied most
recklessly about his opponents. In 1843 the press had scarcely begun
to recover from this hateful influence, and was still the merest tool
of politicians. The Herald, in fact, by demonstrating that a newspaper
can flourish in the United States without any aid from politicians,
has brought us nearer the time when no newspaper of any importance
will be subject to party, which has been the principal cause of the
indecencies of the press.

The future is bright before the journalists of America. The close of
the war, by increasing their income and reducing their expenses, has
renewed the youth of several of our leading journals, and given them a
better opportunity than they have ever had before. The great error of
the publishers of profitable journals hitherto has been the wretched
compensation paid to writers and reporters. To this hour there is but
one individual connected with the daily press of New York, not a
proprietor, who receives a salary sufficient to keep a tolerable house
and bring up a family respectably and comfortably; and if any one
would find that individual, he must look for him, alas! in the office
of the Herald. To be plainer: decent average housekeeping in the city
of New York now costs a hundred dollars a week; and there is but one
salary of that amount paid in New York to a journalist who owns no
property in his journal. The consequence is, that there is scarcely an
individual connected with a daily paper who is not compelled or
tempted to eke out his ridiculous salary by other writing, to the
injury of his health and the constant deterioration of his work. Every
morning the public comes fresh and eager to the newspaper: fresh and
eager minds should alone minister to it. No work done on this earth
consumes vitality so fast as carefully executed composition, and
consequently one of the main conditions of a man's writing his best is
that he should write little and rest often. A good writer, moreover,
is one of Nature's peculiar and very rare products. There is a mystery
about the art of composition. Who shall explain to us why Charles
Dickens can write about a three-legged stool in such a manner that the
whole civilized world reads with pleasure; while another man of a
hundred times his knowledge and five times his quantity of mind cannot
write on any subject so as to interest anybody? The laws of supply and
demand do not apply to this rarity; for one man's writing cannot be
compared with another's, there being no medium between valuable and
worthless. How many over-worked, under-paid men have we known in New
York, really gifted with this inexplicable knack at writing, who, well
commanded and justly compensated, lifted high and dry out of the
slough of poor-devilism in which their powers were obscured and
impaired, could almost have made the fortune of a newspaper! Some of
these Reporters of Genius are mere children in all the arts by which
men prosper. A Journalist of Genius would know their value, understand
their case, take care of their interest, secure their devotion,
restrain their ardor, and turn their talent to rich account. We are
ashamed to say, that for example of this kind of policy we should have
to repair to the office named a moment since.

This subject, however, is beginning to be understood, and of late
there has been some advance in the salaries of members of the press.
Just as fast as the daily press advances in real independence and
efficiency, the compensation of journalists will increase, until a
great reporter will receive a reward in some slight degree
proportioned to the rarity of the species and to the greatness of the
services of which he is the medium. By reporters, we mean, of course,
the entire corps of news-givers, from the youth who relates the
burning of a stable, to the philosopher who chronicles the last vagary
of a German metaphysician. These laborious men will be appreciated in
due time. By them all the great hits of journalism have been made, and
the whole future of journalism is theirs.

So difficult is the reporter's art, that we can call to mind only two
series of triumphant efforts in this department,--Mr. Russell's
letters from the Crimea to the London Times, and N.P. Willis's
"Pencillings by the Way," addressed to the New York Mirror. Each of
these masters chanced to have a subject perfectly adapted to his taste
and talents, and each of them made the most of his opportunity.
Charles Dickens has produced a few exquisite reports. Many ignorant
and dull men employed on the New York Herald have written good reports
_because_ they were dull and ignorant. In fact, there are two kinds of
good reporters,--those who know too little, and those who know too
much, to wander from the point and evolve a report from the depths of
their own consciousness. The worst possible reporter is one who has a
little talent, and depends upon that to make up for the meagreness of
his information. The best reporter is he whose sole object is to
relate his event exactly as it occurred, and describe his scene just
as it appeared; and this kind of excellence is attainable by an honest
plodder, and by a man of great and well-controlled talent. If we were
forming a corps of twenty-five reporters, we should desire to have
five of them men of great and highly trained ability, and the rest
indefatigable, unimaginative, exact short-hand chroniclers, caring for
nothing but to get their fact and relate it in the plainest English.

There is one custom, a relic of the past, still in vogue in the
offices of daily papers, which is of an absurdity truly exquisite. It
is the practice of paying by the column, or, in other words, paying a
premium for verbosity, and imposing a fine upon conciseness. It will
often happen that information which cost three days to procure can be
well related in a paragraph, and which, if related in a paragraph,
would be of very great value to the newspaper printing it. But if the
reporter should compress his facts into that space, he would receive
for his three days' labor about what he expended in omnibus fare. Like
a wise man, therefore, he spreads them out into three columns, and
thus receives a compensation upon which life can be supported. If
matter must be paid for by the column, we would respectfully suggest
the following rates: For half a column, or less, twenty dollars; for
one column, ten dollars; for two columns, five dollars; for three
columns, nothing; for any amount beyond three columns, no insertion.

To conclude with a brief recapitulation:--

The commodity in which the publishers of daily newspapers deal is
news, i.e. information respecting recent events in which the public
take an interest, or in which an interest can be excited.

Newspapers, therefore, rank according to their excellence as
_newspapers_; and no other kind of excellence can make up for any
deficiency in the one thing for which they exist.

Consequently, the art of editorship consists in forming, handling, and
inspiring a corps of reporters; for inevitably that newspaper becomes
the chief and favorite journal which has the best corps of reporters,
and uses them best.

Editorial articles have their importance. They can be a powerful means
of advancing the civilization of a country, and of hastening the
triumph of good measures and good men; and upon the use an editor
makes of his opportunity of addressing the public in this way depends
his title to our esteem as a man and fellow-citizen. But, in a mere
business point of view, they are of inferior importance. The best
editorials cannot make, nor the worst editorials mar, the fortune of a
paper. Burke and Macaulay would not add a tenth part as many
subscribers to a daily paper as the addition to its corps of two
well-trained, ably-commanded reporters.

It is not law which ever renders the press free and independent.
Nothing is free or independent in this world which is not powerful.
Therefore, the editor who would conquer the opportunity of speaking
his mind freely, must do it by making his paper so excellent as a
vehicle of news that the public will buy it though it is a daily
disgust to them.

The Herald has thriven beyond all its competitors, because its
proprietor comprehended these simple but fundamental truths of his
vocation, and, upon the whole, has surpassed his rivals both in the
getting and in the display of intelligence. We must pronounce him the
best journalist and the worst editorialist this continent has ever
known; and accordingly his paper is generally read and its proprietor
universally disapproved.

And finally, this bad, good paper cannot be reduced to secondary rank
except by being outdone in pure journalism. The interests of
civilization and the honor of the United States require that this
should be done. There are three papers now existing--the Times, the
Tribune; and the World--which ought to do it; but if the conductors of
neither of these able and spirited papers choose to devote themselves
absolutely to this task, then we trust that soon another competitor
may enter the field, conducted by a journalist proud enough of his
profession to be satisfied with its honors. There were days last
winter on which it seemed as if the whole force of journalism in the
city of New York was expended in tingeing and perverting intelligence
on the greatest of all the topics of the time. We have read numbers of
the World (which has talent and youthful energy enough for a splendid
career) of which almost the entire contents--correspondence,
telegrams, and editorials--were spoiled for all useful purposes by the
determination of the whole corps of writers to make the news tell in
favor of a political party. We can truly aver, that journalism, pure
and simple,--journalism for its own sake,--journalism, the
dispassionate and single-eyed servant of the whole public,--does not
exist in New York during a session of Congress. It ought to exist.

[Footnote 1: We copy the following from Mr. Gowan's narrative:

"Dr. Benjamin Brandreth, of well and wide-spread reputation,
and who has made more happy and comfortable, for a longer or
shorter time, as the case may be, by his prescriptions than
any other son of Aesculapius, hailed me one day as I jumped
from a railroad car passing up and along the shores of the
Hudson River, and immediately commenced the following
narrative. He held in his hand a copy of the New York
Herald. 'Do you know,' said he, holding up the paper to my
face, 'that it was by and through your agency that this
paper ever became successful?' I replied in the negative.
'Then,' continued he, 'I will unfold the secret to you of
how you became instrumental in this matter. Shortly after my
arrival in America, I began looking about me how I was to
dispose of my pills by agents and other means. Among others,
I called upon you, then a bookseller in Chatham Street.
After some conversation on the subject of my errand, a
contract was soon entered into between us,--you to sell and
I to furnish the said pills; but,' continued he, 'these
pills will be of no use to me or any one else unless they
can be made known to the public, or rather the great herd of
the people; and that can only be done by advertising through
some paper which goes into the hands of the many. Can you
point out to me any such paper, published in the city?'
After a short pause I in substance said that there had
lately started a small penny paper, which had been making a
great noise during its existence; and I had reason to
believe it had obtained a very considerable circulation
among that class of people which he desired to reach by
advertising, and so concluded that it would be the best
paper in the city for his purpose, provided he could make
terms with the owner, who, I had no doubt, would be well
disposed, as in all probability he stood in need of
patronage of this kind. 'I immediately,' continued the
doctor, 'adopted your advice, went directly to Mr. Bennett,
made terms with him for advertising, and for a long time
paid him a very considerable sum weekly for the use of his
columns, which tended greatly to add to both his and my own
treasury. The editor of the Herald afterwards acknowledged
to me that but for his advertising patronage he would have
been compelled to collapse. Hence,' said he, 'had I never
called on you, in all probability I should not have had my
attention turned to the New York Herald; and, as a
consequence, that sheet would never have had my advertising;
and that paper would have been a thing of the past, and
perhaps entirely forgotten.'"]


The copy before us, of Mr. Goodyear's work upon "Gum-Elastic and its
Varieties," presents at least something unique in the art of
book-making. It is self-illustrating; inasmuch as, treating of
India-rubber, it is made of India-rubber. An unobservant reader,
however, would scarcely suspect the fact before reading the Preface,
for the India-rubber covers resemble highly polished ebony, and the
leaves have the appearance of ancient paper worn soft, thin, and dingy
by numberless perusals. The volume contains six hundred and twenty
pages; but it is not as thick as copies of the same work printed on
paper, though it is a little heavier. It is evident that the substance
of which this book is composed cannot be India-rubber in its natural
state. Those leaves, thinner than paper, can be stretched only by a
strong pull, and resume their shape perfectly when they are let go.
There is no smell of India-rubber about them. We first saw this book
in a cold room in January, but the leaves were then as flexible as old
paper; and when, since, we have handled it in warm weather, they had
grown no softer.

Some of our readers may have heard Daniel Webster relate the story of
the India-rubber cloak and hat which one of his New York friends sent
him at Marshfield in the infancy of the manufacture. He took the cloak
to the piazza one cold morning, when it instantly became as rigid as
sheet-iron. Finding that it stood alone, he placed the hat upon it,
and left the articles standing near the front door. Several of his
neighbors who passed, seeing a dark and portly figure there, took it
for the lord of the mansion, and gave it respectful salutation. The
same articles were liable to an objection still more serious. In the
sun, even in cool weather, they became sticky, while on a hot day they
would melt entirely away to the consistency of molasses. Every one
remembers the thick and ill-shaped India-rubber shoes of twenty years
ago, which had to be thawed out under the stove before they could be
put on, and which, if left under the stove too long, would dissolve
into gum that no household art could ever harden again. Some decorous
gentlemen among us can also remember that, in the nocturnal combats of
their college days, a flinty India-rubber shoe, in cold weather, was a
missive weapon of a highly effective character.

This curious volume, therefore, cannot be made of the unmanageable
stuff which Daniel Webster set up at his front door. So much is
evident at a glance. But the book itself tells us that it can be
subjected, without injury, to tests more severe than summer's sun and
winter's cold. It can be soaked six months in a pail of water, and
still be as good a book as ever. It can be boiled; it can be baked in
an oven hot enough to cook a turkey; it can be soaked in brine, lye,
camphene, turpentine, or oil; it can be dipped into oil of vitriol,
and still no harm done. To crown its merits, no rat, mouse, worm, or
moth has ever shown the slightest inclination to make acquaintance
with it. The office of a Review is not usually provided with the means
of subjecting literature to such critical tests as lye, vitriol,
boilers, and hot ovens. But we have seen enough elsewhere of the
ordeals to which India-rubber is now subjected to believe Mr.
Goodyear's statements. Remote posterity will enjoy the fruit of his
labors, unless some one takes particular pains to destroy this book;
for it seems that time itself produces no effect upon the India-rubber
which bears the familiar stamp, "GOODYEAR'S PATENT." In the dampest
corner of the dampest cellar, no mould gathers upon it, no decay
penetrates it. In the hottest garret, it never warps or cracks.

The principal object of the work is to relate how this remarkable
change was effected in the nature of the substance of which it treats.
It cost more than two millions of dollars to do it. It cost Charles
Goodyear eleven most laborious and painful years. His book is written
without art or skill, but also without guile.

He was evidently a laborious, conscientious, modest man, neither
learned nor highly gifted, but making no pretence to learning or
gifts, doing the work which fell to him with all his might, and with a
perseverance never surpassed in all the history of invention and
discovery. Who would have thought to find a romance in the history of
India-rubber? We are familiar with the stories of poor and friendless
men, possessed with an idea and pursuing their object, amid obloquy,
neglect, and suffering, to the final triumph; of which final triumph
other men reaped the substantial reward, leaving to the discoverer the
barren glory of his achievement,--and that glory obscured by
detraction. Columbus is the representative man of that illustrious
order. We trust to be able to show that Charles Goodyear is entitled
to a place in it. Whether we consider the prodigious and unforeseen
importance of his discovery, or his scarcely paralleled devotion to
his object, in the face of the most disheartening obstacles, we feel
it to be due to his memory, to his descendants, and to the public,
that his story should be told. Few persons will ever see his book, of
which only a small number of copies were printed for private
circulation. Still fewer will be at the pains to pick out the material
facts from the confused mass of matter in which they are hidden.
Happily for our purpose, no one now has an interest to call his merits
in question. He rests from his labors, and the patent, which was the
glory and misery of his life, has expired.

Our great-grandfathers knew India-rubber only as a curiosity, and our
grandfathers only as a means of erasing pencil-marks. The first
specimens were brought to Europe in 1730; and as late as 1770 it was
still so scarce an article, that in London it was only to be found in
one shop, where a piece containing half a cubic inch was sold for
three shillings. Dr. Priestley, in his work on perspective, published
in 1770, speaks of it as a new article, and recommends its use to
draughtsmen. This substance, however, being one of those of which
nature has provided an inexhaustible supply, greater quantities found
their way into the commerce of the world; until, in 1820, it was a
drug in all markets, and was frequently brought as ballast merely.
About this time it began to be subjected to experiments with
a view to rendering it available in the arts. It was found useful
as an ingredient of blacking and varnish. Its elasticity was
turned to account in France in the manufacture of suspenders and
garters,--threads of India-rubber being inserted in the web. In
England, Mackintosh invented his still celebrated water-proof coats,
which are made of two thin cloths with a paste of India-rubber between
them. In chemistry, the substance was used to some extent, and its
singular properties were much considered. In England and France, the
India-rubber manufacture had attained considerable importance before
the material had attracted the attention of American experimenters.
The Europeans succeeded in rendering it useful because they did not
attempt too much. The French cut the imported sheets of gum into
shreds, without ever attempting to produce the sheets themselves.
Mackintosh exposed no surface of India-rubber to the air, and brought
no surfaces of India-rubber into contact. No one had discovered any
process by which India-rubber once dissolved could be restored to its
original consistency. Some of our readers may have attempted, twenty
years ago, to fill up the holes in the sole of an India-rubber shoe.
Nothing was easier than to melt a piece of India-rubber for the
purpose; but, when applied to the shoe, it would not harden. There was
the grand difficulty, the complete removal of which cost so much money
and so many years.

The ruinous failure of the first American manufacturers arose from the
fact that they began their costly operations in ignorance of the
existence of this difficulty. They were too fast. They proceeded in
the manner of the inventor of the caloric engine, who began by placing
one in a ship of great magnitude, involving an expenditure which
ruined the owners.

It was in the year 1820 that a pair of India-rubber shoes was seen for
the first time in the United States. They were covered with gilding,
and resembled in shape the shoes of a Chinaman. They were handed about
in Boston only as a curiosity. Two or three years after, a ship from
South America brought to Boston five hundred pairs of shoes, thick,
heavy, and ill-shaped, which sold so readily as to invite further
importations. The business increased until the annual importation
reached half a million pairs, and India-rubber shoes had become an
article of general use. The manner in which these shoes were made by
the natives of South America was frequently described in the
newspapers, and seemed to present no difficulty. They were made much
as farmers' wives, made candles. The sap being collected from the
trees, clay lasts were dipped into the liquid twenty or thirty times,
each layer being smoked a little. The shoes were then hung up to
harden for a few days; after which the clay was removed, and the shoes
were stored for some months to harden them still more. Nothing was
more natural than to suppose that Yankees could do this as well as
Indians, if not far better. The raw India-rubber could then be bought
in Boston for five cents a pound, and a pair of shoes made of it
brought from three to five dollars. Surely here was a promising basis
for a new branch of manufacture in New England. It happened too, in
1830, that vast quantities of the raw gum reached the United States.
It came covered with hides, in masses, of which no use could be made
in America; and it remained unsold, or was sent to Europe.

Patent-leather suggested the first American attempt to turn
India-rubber to account. Mr. E.M. Chaffee, foreman of a Boston
patent-leather factory conceived the idea, in 1830, of spreading
India-rubber upon cloth, hoping to produce an article which should
possess the good qualities of patent-leather, with the additional one
of being water-proof. In the deepest secrecy he experimented for
several months. By dissolving a pound of India rubber in three quarts
of spirits of turpentine, and adding lampblack enough to give it the
desired color, he produced a composition which he supposed would
perfectly answer the purpose. He invented a machine for spreading it,
and made some specimens of cloth, which had every appearance of being
a very useful article. The surface, after being dried in the sun, was
firm and smooth; and Mr. Chaffee supposed, and his friends agreed with
him, that he had made an invention of the utmost value. At this point
he invited a few of the solid men of Roxbury to look at his specimens
and listen to his statements. He convinced them. The result of the
conference was the Roxbury India-rubber Company, incorporated in
February, 1833, with a capital of thirty thousand dollars.

The progress of this Company was amazing. Within a year its capital
was increased to two hundred and forty thousand dollars. Before
another year had expired, this was increased to three hundred
thousand; and in the year following, to four hundred thousand. The
Company manufactured the cloth invented by Mr. Chaffee, and many
articles made of that cloth, such as coats, caps, wagon-curtains and
coverings. Shoes, made without fibre, were soon introduced. Nothing
could be better than the appearance of these articles when they were
new. They were in the highest favor, and were sold more rapidly than
the Company could manufacture them. The astonishing prosperity of the
Roxbury Company had its natural effect in calling into existence
similar establishments in other towns. Manufactories were started at
Boston, Framingham, Salem, Lynn, Chelsea, Troy, and Staten Island,
with capitals ranging from one hundred thousand dollars to half a
million; and all of them appeared to prosper. There was an
India-rubber mania in those years similar to that of petroleum in
1864. Not to invest in India-rubber stock was regarded by some shrewd
men as indicative of inferior business talents and general dulness of
comprehension. The exterior facts were certainly well calculated to
lure even the most wary. Here was a material worth only a few cents a
pound, out of which shoes were quickly made, which brought two dollars
a pair! It was a plain case. Besides, there were the India-rubber
Companies, all working to their extreme capacity, and selling all they
could make.

It was when the business had reached this flourishing stage that
Charles Goodyear, a bankrupt hardware merchant of Philadelphia, first
had his attention directed to the material upon which it was founded.
In 1834, being in New York on business, he chanced to observe the sign
of the Roxbury Company, which then had a depot in that city. He had
been reading in the newspapers, not long before, descriptions of the
new life-preservers made of India-rubber, an application of the gum
that was much extolled. Curiosity induced him to enter the store to
examine the life-preservers. He bought one and took it home with him.
A native of Connecticut, he possessed in full measure the Yankee
propensity to look at a new contrivance, first with a view to
understand its principle, and next to see if it cannot be improved.
Already he had had some experience both of the difficulty of
introducing an improved implement, and of the profit to be derived
from its introduction. His father, the head of the firm of A. Goodyear
and Sons, of which he was a member, was the first to manufacture
hay-forks of spring steel, instead of the heavy, wrought-iron forks
made by the village blacksmith; and Charles Goodyear could remember
the time when his father reckoned it a happy day on which he had
persuaded a farmer to accept a few of the new forks as a gift, on the
condition of giving them a trial. But it was also very fresh in his
recollection that those same forks had made their way to almost
universal use, had yielded large profits to his firm, and were still a
leading article of its trade, when, in 1830, the failure of Southern
houses had compelled it to suspend. He was aware, too, that, if
anything could extricate the house of A. Goodyear and Sons from
embarrassment, it was their possession of superior methods of
manufacturing and their sale of articles improved by their own

Upon examining his life-preserver, an improvement in the inflating
apparatus occurred to him. When he was next in New York he explained
his improvement to the agent of the Roxbury Company, and offered to
sell it. The agent, struck with the ingenuity displayed in the new
contrivance, took the inventor into his confidence, partly by way of
explaining why the Company could not then buy the improved tube, but
principally with a view to enlist the aid of an ingenious mind in
overcoming a difficulty that threatened the Company with ruin. He told
him that the prosperity of the India-rubber Companies in the United
States was wholly fallacious. The Roxbury Company had manufactured
vast quantities of shoes and fabrics in the cool months of 1833 and
1834, which had been readily sold at high prices; but during the
following summer, the greater part of them had melted. Twenty thousand
dollars' worth had been returned, reduced to the consistency of common
gum, and emitting an odor so offensive that they had been obliged to
bury it. New ingredients had been employed, new machinery applied, but
still the articles would dissolve. In some cases, shoes had borne the
heat of one summer, and melted the next. The wagon-covers became
sticky in the sun, and rigid in the cold. The directors were at their
wits' end;--since it required two years to test a new process, and
meanwhile they knew not whether the articles made by it were valuable
or worthless. If they stopped manufacturing, that was certain ruin. If
they went on, they might find the product of a whole winter dissolving
on their hands. The capital of the Company was already so far
exhausted, that, unless the true method were speedily discovered, it
would be compelled to wind up its affairs. The agent urged Mr.
Goodyear not to waste time upon minor improvements, but to direct all
his efforts to finding out the secret of successfully working the
material itself. The Company could not buy his improved inflator; but
let him learn how to make an India-rubber that would stand the
summer's heat, and there was scarcely any price which it would not
gladly give for the secret.

The worst apprehensions of the directors of this Company were
realized. The public soon became tired of buying India-rubber shoes
that could only be saved during the summer by putting them into a
refrigerator. In the third year of the mania, India-rubber stock began
to decline, and Roxbury itself finally fell to two dollars and a half.
Before the close of 1836, all the Companies had ceased to exist, their
fall involving many hundreds of families in heavy loss. The clumsy,
shapeless shoes from South America were the only ones which the people
would buy. It was generally supposed that the secret of their
resisting heat was that they were smoked with the leaves of a certain
tree, peculiar to South America, and that nothing else in nature would
answer the purpose.

The two millions of dollars lost by these Companies had one result
which has proved to be worth many times that sum; it led Charles
Goodyear to undertake the investigation of India-rubber. That chance
conversation with the agent of the Roxbury Company fixed his destiny.
If he were alive to read these lines, he would, however, protest
against the use of such a word as _chance_ in this connection. He
really appears to have felt himself "called" to study India-rubber. He
says himself:--

"From the time that his attention was first given to the
subject, a strong and abiding impression was made upon his
mind, that an object so desirable and important, and so
necessary to man's comfort, as the making of gum-elastic
available to his use, was most certainly placed within his
reach. Having this presentiment, of which he could not
divest himself under the most trying adversity, he was
stimulated with the hope of ultimately attaining this

"Beyond this he would refer the whole to the great Creator,
who directs the operations of mind to the development of the
properties of matter, in his own way, at the time when they
are specially needed, influencing some mind for every work
or calling.... Were he to refrain from expressing his views
thus briefly, he would ever feel that he had done violence
to his sentiments."

This is modestly said, but his friends assure us that he felt it
earnestly and habitually. It was, indeed, this steadfast conviction of
the possibility of attaining his object, and his religious devotion to
it, that constituted his capital in his new business. He had little
knowledge of chemistry, and an aversion to complicated calculations.
He was a ruined man; for, after a long struggle with misfortune, the
firm of A. Goodyear and Sons had surrendered their all to their
creditors, and still owed thirty thousand dollars. He had a family,
and his health was not robust. Upon returning home after conversing
with the agent of the Roxbury Company, he was arrested for debt, and
compelled to reside within the prison limits. He melted his first
pound of India-rubber while he was living within those limits, and
struggling to keep out of the jail itself. Thus he began his
experiments in circumstances as little favorable as can be imagined.
There were only two things in his favor. One was his conviction that
India-rubber _could_ be subjugated, and that he was the man destined
to subjugate it. The other was, that, India-rubber having fallen to
its old price, he could continue his labors as long as he could raise
five cents and procure access to a fire. The very odium in which
business-men held India-rubber, though it long retarded his final
triumph, placed an abundance of the native gum within the means even
of an inmate of the debtor's prison, in which he often was during the
whole period of his experimenting. He was seldom out of jail a whole
year from 1835 to 1841, and never out of danger of arrest.

In a small house in Philadelphia, in the winter of 1834--35, he began
his investigations. He melted his gum by the domestic fire, kneaded it
with his own hands, spread it upon a marble slab, and rolled it with a
rolling-pin. A prospect of success flattered him from the first and
lured him on. He was soon able to produce sheets of India-rubber which
appeared as firm as those imported, and which tempted a friend to
advance him a sum of money sufficient to enable him to manufacture
several hundred pairs of shoes. He succeeded in embossing his shoes in
various patterns, which gave them a novel and elegant appearance.
Mindful, however, of the disasters of the Roxbury Company, he had the
prudence to store his shoes until the summer. The hot days of June
reduced them all to soft and stinking paste. His friend was
discouraged, and refused him further aid. For his own part, such
experiences as this, though they dashed his spirits for a while,
stimulated him to new efforts.

It now occurred to him, that perhaps it was the turpentine used in
dissolving the gum, or the lampblack employed to color it, that
spoiled his product. He esteemed it a rare piece of luck to procure
some barrels of the sap not smoked, and still liquid. On going to the
shed where the precious sap was deposited, he was accosted by an
Irishman in his employ, who, in high glee, informed him that he had
discovered the secret, pointing to his overalls, which he had dipped
into the sap, and which were nicely coated with firm India-rubber. For
a moment he thought that Jerry might have blundered into the secret.
The man, however, sat down on a barrel near the fire, and, on
attempting, to rise, found himself glued to his seat and his legs
stuck together. He had to be cut out of his overalls. The master
proceeded to experiment with the sap, but soon discovered, that the
handsome white cloth made of it bore the heat no better than that
which was produced in the usual manner.

It is remarkable, that inventors seldom derive direct aid from the
science of their day. James Watt modestly ascribes to Professor Black
part of the glory of his improvements in the steam-engine; but it
seems plain from his own narrative, that he made his great invention
of the condenser without any assistance. Professor Black assisted to
instruct and form him; but the flash of genius, which made the
steam-engine what we now see it, was wholly his own. The science of
Glasgow was diligently questioned by him upon the defects of the old
engine, but it gave him no hint of the remedy. It was James Watt,
mathematical-instrument maker, earning fourteen shillings a week, who
brooded over his little model until the conception of the condenser
burst upon him, as he was taking his Sunday afternoon stroll on
Glasgow Green. Goodyear had a similar experience. Philadelphia has
always been noted for its chemists and its chemical works, and that
city still supplies the greater part of the country with manufactured
drugs and chemists' materials. Nevertheless, though Goodyear explained
his difficulties to professors, physicians, and chemists, none of them
could give him valuable information; none suggested an experiment that
produced a useful result. We know not, indeed, whether science has
ever explained his final success.

Satisfied that nothing could be done with India-rubber pure and
simple, he concluded that a compound of some substance with
India-rubber could alone render the gum available. He was correct in
this conjecture, but it remained to be discovered whether there was
such a substance in nature. He tried everything he could think of. For
a short time he was elated with the result of his experiments with
magnesia, mixing half a pound of magnesia with a pound of gum. This
compound had the advantage of being whiter than the pure sap. It was
so firm that he used it as leather in the binding of a book. In a few
weeks, however, he had the mortification of seeing his elegant white
book-covers fermenting and softening. Afterwards, they grew as hard
and brittle as shell, and so they remain to this day.

By this time, the patience of his friends and his own little fund of
money were both exhausted; and, one by one, the relics of his former
prosperity, even to his wife's trinkets, found their way to the
pawnbroker. He was a sanguine man, as inventors need to be, always
feeling that he was on the point of succeeding. The very confidence
with which he announced a new conception served at length to close all
ears to his solicitations. In the second year of his investigation he
removed his family to the country, and went to New York, in quest of
some one who had still a little faith in India-rubber. His credit was
then at so low an ebb that he was obliged to deposit with the landlord
a quantity of linen, spun by his excellent wife. It was never
redeemed. It was sold at auction to pay the first quarter's rent; and
his furniture also would have been seized, but that he had taken the
precaution to sell it himself in Philadelphia, and had placed in his
cottage articles of too little value to tempt the hardest creditor.

In New York,--the first resort of the enterprising and the last refuge
of the unfortunate,--he found two old friends; one of whom lent him a
room in Gold Street for a laboratory, and the other, a druggist,
supplied him with materials on credit. Again his hopes were flattered
by an apparent success. By boiling his compound of gum and magnesia in
quicklime and water, an article was produced which seemed to be all
that he could desire. Some sheets of India-rubber made by this process
drew a medal at the fair of the American Institute in 1835, and were
much commended in the newspapers. Nothing could exceed the smoothness
and firmness of the surface of these sheets; nor have they to this day
been surpassed in these particulars. He obtained a patent for the
process, manufactured a considerable quantity, sold his product
readily, and thought his difficulties were at an end. In a few weeks
his hopes were dashed to the ground. He found that a drop of weak
acid, such as apple-juice or vinegar and water, instantly annihilated
the effect of the lime, and made the beautiful surface of his cloth

Undaunted, he next tried the experiment of mixing quicklime with pure
gum. He tells us that, at this time, he used to prepare a gallon jug
of quicklime at his room in Gold Street, and carry it on his shoulder
to Greenwich Village, distant three miles, where he had access to
horse-power for working his compound. This experiment, too, was a
failure. The lime in a short time appeared to consume the gum with
which it was mixed, leaving a substance that crumbled to pieces.

Accident suggested his next process, which, though he knew it not, was
a step toward his final success. Except his almost unparalleled
perseverance, the most marked trait in the character of this singular
man was his love for beautiful forms and colors. An incongruous
garment or decoration upon a member of his family, or anything tawdry
or ill-arranged in a room, gave him positive distress. Accordingly, we
always find him endeavoring to decorate his India-rubber fabrics. It
was in bronzing the surface of some India-rubber drapery that the
accident happened to which we have referred. Desiring to remove the
bronze from a piece of the drapery, he applied aquafortis for the
purpose, which did indeed have the effect desired, but it also
discolored the fabric and appeared to spoil it. He threw away the
piece as useless. Several days after, it occurred to him that he had
not sufficiently examined the effect of the aquafortis, and, hurrying
to his room, he was fortunate enough to find it again. A remarkable
change appeared to have been made in the India-rubber. He does not
seem to have been aware that aquafortis is two fifths sulphuric acid.
Still less did he ever suspect that the surface of his drapery had
really been "vulcanized." All he knew was, that India-rubber cloth
"cured," as he termed it, by aquafortis, was incomparably superior to
any previously made, and bore a degree of heat that rendered it
available for many valuable purposes.

He was again a happy man. A partner, with ample capital, joined him.
He went to Washington and patented his process. He showed his
specimens to President Jackson, who expressed in writing his approval
of them. Returning to New York, he prepared to manufacture on a great
scale, hired the abandoned India-rubber works on Staten Island, and
engaged a store in Broadway for the sale of his fabrics. In the midst
of these grand preparations, his zeal in experimenting almost cost him
his life. Having generated a large quantity of poisonous gas in his
close room, he was so nearly suffocated that it was six weeks before
he recovered his health. Before he had begun to produce his fabrics in
any considerable quantity, the commercial storm of 1836 swept away the
entire property of his partner, which put a complete stop to the
operations in India-rubber, and reduced poor Goodyear to his normal
condition of beggary. Beggary it literally was; for he was absolutely
dependent upon others for the means of sustaining life. He mentions
that, soon after this crushing blow, his family having previously
joined him in New York, he awoke one morning to discover that he had
neither an atom of food for them, nor a cent to buy it with. Putting
in his pocket an article that he supposed a pawnbroker would value, he
set out in the hope of procuring enough money to sustain them for one
day. Before reaching the sign, so familiar to him, of the three Golden
Balls, he met a terrible being to a man in his situation,--a creditor!
Hungry and dejected, he prepared his mind for a torrent of bitter
reproaches; for this gentleman was one whose patience he felt he had
abused. What was his relief when his creditor accosted him gayly with,
"Well, Mr. Goodyear, what can I do for you to-day?" His first thought
was, that an insult was intended, so preposterous did it seem that
this man could really desire to aid him further. Satisfied that the
offer was well meant, he told his friend that he had come out that
morning in search of food for his family, and that a loan of fifteen
dollars would greatly oblige him. The money was instantly produced,
which enabled him to postpone his visit to the pawnbroker for several
days. The pawnbroker was still, however, his frequent resource all
that year, until the few remains of his late brief prosperity had all

But he never for a moment let go his hold upon India-rubber. A timely
loan of a hundred dollars from an old friend enabled him to remove his
family to Staten Island, near the abandoned India-rubber factory.
Having free access to the works, he and his wife contrived to
manufacture a few articles of his improved cloth, and to sell enough
to provide daily bread. His great object there was to induce the
directors of the suspended Company to recommence operations upon his
new process. But so completely sickened were they of the very name of
a material which had involved them in so much loss and discredit, that
during the six months of his residence on the Island he never
succeeded in persuading one man to do so much as come to the factory
and look at his specimens. There were thousands of dollars' worth of
machinery there, but not a single shareholder cared even to know the
condition of the property. This was the more remarkable, since he was
unusually endowed by nature with the power to inspire other men with
his own confidence. The magnates of Staten Island, however, involved
as they were in the general shipwreck of property and credit, were
inexorably deaf to his eloquence.

As he had formerly exhausted Philadelphia, so now New York seemed
exhausted. He became even an object of ridicule. He was regarded as an
India-rubber monomaniac. One of his New York friends having been asked
how Mr. Goodyear could be recognized in the street, replied: "If you
see a man with an India-rubber coat on, India-rubber shoes, an
India-rubber cap, and in his pocket an India-rubber purse, with not a
cent in it, that is he." He was in the habit then of wearing his
material in every form, with the twofold view of testing and
advertising it.

In September, 1836, aided again by a small loan, he packed a few of
his best specimens in his carpet-bag, and set out alone for the cradle
of the India-rubber manufacture,--Roxbury. The ruin of the great
Company there was then complete, and the factory was abandoned. All
that part of Massachusetts was suffering from the total depreciation
of the India-rubber stocks. There were still, however, two or three
persons who could not quite give up India-rubber. Mr. Chaffee, the
originator of the manufacture in America, welcomed warmly a brother
experimenter, admired his specimens, encouraged him to persevere,
procured him friends, and, what was more important, gave him the use
of the enormous machinery standing idle in the factory. A brief,
delusive prosperity again relieved the monotony of misfortune. By his
new process, he made shoes, piano-covers, and carriage-cloths, so
superior to any previously produced in the United States as to cause a
temporary revival of the business, which enabled him to sell rights to
manufacture under his patents. His profits in a single year amounted
to four or five thousand dollars. Again he had his family around him,
and felt a boundless confidence in the future.

An event upon which he had depended for the completeness of his
triumph plunged him again into ruin. He received an order from the
government for a hundred and fifty India-rubber mail-bags. Having
perfect confidence in his ability to execute this order, he gave the
greatest possible publicity to it. All the world should now see that
Goodyear's India-rubber was all that Goodyear had represented it. The
bags were finished; and beautiful bags they were,--smooth, firm,
highly polished, well-shaped, and indubitably water-proof. He had them
hung up all round the factory, and invited every one to come and
inspect them. They were universally admired, and the maker was
congratulated upon his success. It was in the summer that these fatal
bags were finished. Having occasion to be absent for a month, he left
them hanging in the factory. Judge of his consternation when, on his
return, he found them softening, fermenting, and dropping off their
handles. The aquafortis did indeed "cure" the surface of his
India-rubber, but only the surface. Very thin cloth made by this
process was a useful and somewhat durable article; but for any other
purpose, it was valueless. The public and signal failure of the
mail-bags, together with the imperfection of all his products except
his thinnest cloth, suddenly and totally destroyed his rising
business. Everything he possessed that was salable was sold at auction
to pay his debts. He was again penniless and destitute, with an
increased family and an aged father dependent upon him.

His friends, his brothers, and his wife now joined in dissuading him
from further experiments. Were not four years of such vicissitude
enough? Who had ever touched India-rubber without loss? Could he hope
to succeed, when so many able and enterprising men had failed? Had he
a right to keep his family in a condition so humiliating and painful?
He had succeeded in the hardware business; why not return to it? There
were those who would join him in any rational under-taking; but how
could he expect that any one would be willing to throw more money into
a bottomless pit that had already ingulfed millions without result?
These arguments he could not answer, and we cannot; the friends of all
the great inventors have had occasion to use the same. It seemed
highly absurd to the friends of Fitch, Watt, Fulton, Wedgwood,
Whitney, Arkwright, that they should forsake the beaten track of
business to pursue a path that led through the wilderness to nothing
but wilderness. Not one of these men, perhaps, could have made a
reasonable reply to the remonstrances of their friends. They only
felt, as poor Goodyear felt, that the steep and thorny path which they
were treading was the path they _must_ pursue. A power of which they
could give no satisfactory account urged them on. And when we look
closely into the lives of such men, we observe that, in their dark
days, some trifling circumstance was always occurring that set them
upon new inquiries and gave them new hopes. It might be an _ignis
fatuus_ that led them farther astray, or it might be genuine light
which brought them into the true path.

Goodyear might have yielded to his friends on this occasion, for he
was an affectionate man, devoted to his family, had not one of those
trifling events occurred which inflamed his curiosity anew. During his
late transient prosperity, he had employed a man, Nathaniel Hayward by
name, who had been foreman of one of the extinct India-rubber
companies. He found him in charge of the abandoned factory, and still
making a few articles on his own account by a new process. To harden
his India-rubber, he put a very small quantity of sulphur into it, or
sprinkled sulphur upon the surface and dried it in the sun. Mr.
Goodyear was surprised to observe that this process seemed to produce
the same effect as the application of aquafortis. It does not appear
to have occurred to him that Hayward's process and his own were
essentially the same. A chemical dictionary would have informed him
that sulphuric acid enters largely into the composition of aquafortis,
from which he might have inferred that the only difference between the
two methods was, that Hayward employed the sun, and Goodyear nitric
acid, to give the sulphur effect. Hayward's goods, however, were
liable to a serious objection: the smell of the sulphur, in warm
weather, was intolerable. Hayward, it appears, was a very illiterate
man; and the only account he could give of his invention was, that it
was revealed to him in a dream. His process was of so little use to
him, that Goodyear bought his patent for a small sum, and gave him
employment at monthly wages until the mail-bag disaster deprived him
of the means of doing so.

In combining sulphur with India-rubber, Goodyear had approached so
near his final success that one step more brought him to it. He was
certain that he was very close to the secret. He saw that sulphur had
a mysterious power over India-rubber when a union could be effected
between the two substances. True, there was an infinitesimal quantity
of sulphur in his mail-bags, and they had melted in the shade; but the
surface of his cloth, powdered with the sulphur and dried in the sun,
bore the sun's heat. Here was a mystery. The problem was, how to
produce in a _mass_ of India-rubber the change effected on the surface
by sulphur and sun? He made numberless experiments. He mixed with the
gum large quantities of sulphur, and small quantities. He exposed his
compound to the sun, and held it near a fire. He felt that he had the
secret in his hands; but for many weary months it eluded him.

And, after all, it was an accident that revealed it; but an accident
that no man in the world but Charles Goodyear could have interpreted,
nor he, but for his five years' previous investigation. At Woburn one
day, in the spring of 1839, he was standing with his brother and
several other persons near a very hot stove. He held in his hand a
mass of his compound of sulphur and gum, upon which he was expatiating
in his usual vehement manner,--the company exhibiting the indifference
to which he was accustomed. In the crisis of his argument he made a
violent gesture, which brought the mass in contact with the stove,
which was hot enough to melt India-rubber instantly; upon looking at
it a moment after, he perceived that his compound had not melted in
the least degree! It had charred as leather chars, but no part of the
surface had dissolved. There was not a sticky place upon it. To say
that he was astonished at this would but faintly express his ecstasy
of amazement. The result was absolutely new to all experience,
--India-rubber not melting in contact with red-hot iron! A man must
have been five years absorbed in the pursuit of an object to
comprehend his emotions. He felt as Columbus felt when he saw the
land-bird alighting upon his ship, and the driftwood floating by. But,
like Columbus, he was surrounded with an unbelieving crew. Eagerly he
showed his charred India-rubber to his brother, and to the other
bystanders, and dwelt upon the novelty and marvellousness of his fact.
They regarded it with complete indifference. The good man had worn
them all out. Fifty times before, he had run to them, exulting in some
new discovery, and they supposed, of course, that this was another of
his chimeras.

He followed the new clew with an enthusiasm which his friends would
have been justified in calling frenzy, if success had not finally
vindicated him. He soon discovered that his compound would not melt at
any degree of heat. It next occurred to him to ascertain at how low a
temperature it would char, and whether it was not possible to _arrest_
the combustion at a point that would leave the India-rubber elastic,
but deprived of its adhesiveness. A single experiment proved that this
was possible. After toasting a piece of his compound before an open
fire, he found that, while part of it was charred, a rim of
India-rubber round the charred portion was elastic still, and even
more elastic than pure gum. In a few days he had established three
facts;--first, that this rim of India-rubber would bear a temperature
of two hundred and seventy-eight degrees without charring; second,
that it would not melt or soften at any heat; third, that, placed
between blocks of ice and left out of doors all night, it would not
stiffen in the least degree. He had triumphed, and he knew it. He
tells us that he now "felt himself amply repaid for the past, and
quite indifferent as to the trials of the future." It was well he was
so, for his darkest days were before him, and he was still six years
from a practicable success. He had, indeed, proved that a compound of
sulphur and India-rubber, in proper proportions and in certain
conditions, being subjected for a certain time to a certain degree of
heat, undergoes a change which renders it perfectly available for all
the uses to which he had before attempted in vain to apply it. But it
remained to be ascertained what were those proper proportions, what
were those conditions, what was that degree of heat, what was that
certain time, and by what means the heat could be best applied.

The difficulty of all this may be inferred when we state that at the
present time it takes an intelligent man a year to learn how to
conduct the process with certainty, though he is provided, from the
start, with the best implements and appliances which twenty years'
experience has suggested. And poor Goodyear had now reduced himself,
not merely to poverty, but to isolation. No friend of his could
conceal his impatience when he heard him pronounce the word
India-rubber. Business-men recoiled from the name of it. He tells us
that two entire years passed, after he had made his discovery, before
he had convinced one human being of its value. Now, too, his
experiments could no longer be carried on with a few pounds of
India-rubber, a quart of turpentine, a phial of aquafortis, and a
little lampblack. He wanted the means of producing a high, uniform,
and controllable degree of heat,--a matter of much greater difficulty
than he anticipated. We catch brief glimpses of him at this time in
the volumes of testimony. We see him waiting for his wife to draw the
loaves from her oven, that he might put into it a batch of
India-rubber to bake, and watching it all the evening, far into the
night, to see what effect was produced by one hour's, two hours',
three hours', six hours' baking. We see him boiling it in his wife's
saucepans, suspending it before the nose of her teakettle, and hanging
it from the handle of that vessel to within an inch of the boiling
water. We see him roasting it in the ashes and in hot sand, toasting
it before a slow fire and before a quick fire, cooking it for one hour
and for twenty-four hours, changing the proportions of his compound
and mixing them in different ways. No success rewarded him while he
employed only domestic utensils. Occasionally, it is true, he produced
a small piece of perfectly vulcanized India-rubber; but upon
subjecting other pieces to precisely the same process, they would
blister or char.

Then we see him resorting to the shops and factories in the
neighborhood of Woburn, asking the privilege of using an oven after
working hours, or of hanging a piece of India-rubber in the "man-hole"
of the boiler. The foremen testify that he was a great plague to them,
and smeared their works with his sticky compound; but, though they all
regarded him as little better than a troublesome lunatic, they all
appear to have helped him very willingly. He frankly confesses that he
lived at this time on charity; for, although _he_ felt confident of
being able to repay the small sums which pity for his family enabled
him to borrow, his neighbors who lent him the money were as far as
possible from expecting payment. Pretending to lend, they meant to
give. One would pay his butcher's bill or his milk bill; another would
send in a barrel of flour; another would take in payment some articles
of the old stock of India-rubber; and some of the farmers allowed his
children to gather sticks in their fields to heat his hillocks of sand
containing masses of sulphurized India-rubber. If the people of New
England were not the most "neighborly" people in the world, his family
must have starved, or he must have given up his experiments. But, with
all the generosity of his neighbors, his children were often sick,
hungry, and cold, without medicine, food, or fuel. One witness
testifies: "I found (in 1839) that they had not fuel to burn nor food
to eat, and did not know where to get a morsel of food from one day to
another, unless it was sent in to them." We can neither justify nor
condemn their father. Imagine Columbus within sight of the new world,
and his obstinate crew declaring it was only a mirage, and refusing to
row him ashore! Never was mortal man surer that he had a fortune in
his hand, than Charles Goodyear was when he would take a piece of
scorched and dingy India-rubber from his pocket and expound its
marvellous properties to a group of incredulous villagers. Sure also
was he that he was just upon the point of a practicable success. Give
him but an oven, and would he not turn you out fire-proof and
cold-proof India-rubber, as fast as a baker can produce loaves of
bread? Nor was it merely the hope of deliverance from his pecuniary
straits that urged him on. In all the records of his career, we
perceive traces of something nobler than this. His health being always
infirm, he was haunted with the dread of dying before he had reached a
point in his discoveries where other men, influenced by ordinary
motives, could render them available.

By the time that he had exhausted the patience of the foremen of the
works near Woburn, he had come to the conclusion that an oven was the
proper means of applying heat to his compound. An oven he forthwith
determined to build. Having obtained the use of a corner of a factory
yard, his aged father, two of his brothers, his little son, and
himself sallied forth, with pickaxe and shovels, to begin the work:
and when they had done all that unskilled labor could effect towards
it, he induced a mason to complete it, and paid him in bricklayers'
aprons made of aqua-fortized India-rubber. This first oven was a
tantalizing failure. The heat was neither uniform nor controllable.
Some of the pieces of India-rubber would come out so perfectly "cured"
as to demonstrate the utility of his discovery; but others, prepared
in precisely the same manner, as far as he could discern, were
spoiled, either by blistering or charring. He was puzzled and
distressed beyond description; and no single voice consoled or
encouraged him. Out of the first piece of cloth which he succeeded in
vulcanizing he had a coat made for himself, which was not an
ornamental garment in its best estate; but, to prove to the
unbelievers that it would stand fire, he brought it so often in
contact with hot stoves, that at last it presented an exceedingly
dingy appearance. His coat did not impress the public favorably, and
it served to confirm the opinion that he was laboring under a mania.

In the midst of his first disheartening experiments with sulphur, he
had an opportunity of escaping at once from his troubles. A house in
Paris made him an advantageous offer for the use of his aquafortis
process. From the abyss of his misery the honest man promptly replied,
that that process, valuable as it was, was about to be superseded by a
new method, which he was then perfecting, and as soon as he had
developed it sufficiently he should be glad to close with their
offers. Can we wonder that his neighbors thought him mad?

It was just after declining the French proposal that he endured his
worst extremity of want and humiliation. It was in the winter of
1839--40. One of those long and terrible snow-storms for which New
England is noted had been raging for many hours, and he awoke one
morning to find his little cottage half buried in snow, the storm
still continuing, and in his house not an atom of fuel nor a morsel of
food. His children were very young, and he was himself sick and
feeble. The charity of his neighbors was exhausted, and he had not the
courage to face their reproaches. As he looked out of the window upon
the dreary and tumultuous scene, "fit emblem of his condition," he
remarks, he called to mind that, a few days before, an acquaintance, a
mere acquaintance, who lived some miles off, had given him upon the
road a more friendly greeting than he was then accustomed to receive.
It had cheered his heart as he trudged sadly by, and it now returned
vividly to his mind. To this gentleman he determined to apply for
relief, if he could reach his house. Terrible was his struggle with
the wind and the deep drifts. Often he was ready to faint with
fatigue, sickness, and hunger, and he would be obliged to sit down
upon a bank of snow to rest. He reached the house and told his story,
not omitting the oft-told tale of his new discovery,--that mine of
wealth, if only he could procure the means of working it! The eager
eloquence of the inventor was seconded by the gaunt and yellow face of
the man. His generous acquaintance entertained him cordially, and lent
him a sum of money, which not only carried his family through the
worst of the winter, but enabled him to continue his experiments on a
small scale. O.B. Coolidge, of Woburn, was the name of this

On another occasion, when he was in the most urgent need of materials,
he looked about his house to see if there was left one relic of better
days upon which a little money could be borrowed. There was nothing
except his children's school-books,--the last things from which a
New-Englander is willing to part. There was no other resource. He
gathered them up and sold them for five dollars, with which he laid in
a fresh stock of gum and sulphur, and kept on experimenting.

Seeing no prospect of success in Massachusetts, he now resolved to
make a desperate effort to get to New York, feeling confident that the
specimens he could take with him would convince some one of the
superiority of his new method. He was beginning to understand the
causes of his many failures, but he saw clearly that his compound
could not be worked with certainty without expensive apparatus. It was
a very delicate operation, requiring exactness and promptitude. The
conditions upon which success depended were numerous, and the failure
of one spoiled all. To vulcanize India-rubber is about as difficult as
to make perfect bread; but the art of bread-making was the growth of
ages, and Charles Goodyear was only ten years and a half in perfecting
his process. Thousands of ingenious men and women, aided by many happy
accidents, must have contributed to the successive invention of bread;
but he was only one man, poor and sick. It cost him thousands of
failures to learn that a little acid in his sulphur caused the
blistering; that his compound must be heated almost immediately after
being mixed, or it would never vulcanize; that a portion of white lead
in the compound greatly facilitated the operation and improved the
result; and when he had learned these facts, it still required costly
and laborious experiments to devise the best methods of compounding
his ingredients, the best proportions, the best mode of heating, the
proper duration of the heating, and the various useful effects that
could be produced by varying the proportions and the degree of heat.
He tells us that many times, when, by exhausting every resource, he
had prepared a quantity of his compound for heating, it was spoiled
because he could not, with his inadequate apparatus, apply the heat
soon enough.

To New York, then, he directed his thoughts. Merely to get there cost
him a severer and a longer effort than men in general are capable of
making. First he walked to Boston, ten miles distant, where he hoped
to be able to borrow from an old acquaintance fifty dollars, with
which to provide for his family and pay his fare to New York. He not
only failed in this, but he was arrested for debt and thrown into
prison. Even in prison, while his father was negotiating to secure his
release, he labored to interest men of capital in his discovery, and
made proposals for founding a factory in Boston. Having obtained his
liberty, he went to a hotel, and spent a week in vain efforts to
effect a small loan. Saturday night came, and with it his hotel bill,
which he had no means of discharging. In an agony of shame and
anxiety, he went to a friend, and entreated the sum of five dollars to
enable him to return home. He was met with a point-blank refusal. In
the deepest dejection, he walked the streets till late in the night,
and strayed at length, almost beside himself, to Cambridge, where he
ventured to call upon a friend and ask shelter for the night. He was
hospitably entertained, and the next morning walked wearily home,
penniless and despairing. At the door of his house a member of his
family met him with the news that his youngest child, two years of
age, whom he had left in perfect health, was dying. In a few hours he
had in his house a dead child, but not the means of burying it, and
five living dependants without a morsel of food to give them. A
storekeeper near by had promised to supply the family, but,
discouraged by the unforeseen length of the father's absence, he had
that day refused to trust them further. In these terrible
circumstances, he applied to a friend upon whose generosity he knew he
could rely, one who had never failed him. He received in reply a
letter of severe and cutting reproach, enclosing seven dollars, which
his friend explained was given only out of pity for his innocent and
suffering family. A stranger, who chanced to be present when this
letter arrived, sent them a barrel of flour,---a timely and blessed
relief. The next day the family followed on foot the remains of the


Back to Full Books