My own master; My Own Master
In the core of my heart I was a country man. I detested city ways. This is a story. William Allen White. Editor author politician. Written by James Mitchell and presented by the Department of radio television film station KNU on the William Allen White School of Journalism of the University of Kansas as part of the celebration of the centennial year of his birth. It was late afternoon the end of May 1895 the Santa Fe train rumbled through the light green patches of Kansas farmland past the brim for ponds and streams heading west. A passenger on the train was a robust young newspaper reporter who had just quit his job with the Kansas City Star. His name was William Allen White red haired and
chubby white was on his way to employee at a bio rundown newspaper called the Gazette. He had in his pockets one dollar and twenty five cents. The purchase price of the Gazette was $3000 from friends and relatives. William Allen White had borrowed the money to buy the paper that someday would make him internationally famous. He was 27 years old. The state of Kansas was 34. This was the beginning of one of the most colorful careers in them. Written journal to many people White's decision to buy a country newspaper may have seemed on line in 1895 America had just crawled out of a severe depression. Four million people were straggling into the city in search of work. William island wide was going in the opposite direction back to the Kansas country he knew for the people he loved for the gold and wheat fields of the prairie to the closeness of the people who lived in little towns like employer where he was born in 1868
Council Grove cottonwood falls and Elder radio Elder radio where he grew up the son of a country guy. Who was surely even in the 1870s. But there was more religion in the classroom in those days. We sang gospel hymns every morning and the teacher read a chapter in the Bible. At noon we sang another gospel him and loved it. This spiritual indoctrination remained with white for his entire life permeated his philosophy and influenced his writing. As for playgrounds we had everything west of the school house to Denver. The prairie came within a hundred yards of the building. William Allen White Shirley School you know the radio was supplemented at home by his mother Mary happened quite. A schoolteacher before she married Willie's father. She read to young Willie every night. I wish it was only me that got put out Pip. I wish there weren't no template for you old chap.
I wish I could take it all myself but this is the up and down and straight on it Pip and I hope you'll overlook that it was the beginning the foundation of William Allen White's future prairie religion and Victorian literature authors like Elliot and Dickens poets like Kipling and Tennyson. Books and words. Words and books was. The key. Was. In 1886 will enter the University of Kansas. Headlines White was described this way by Vernon Kellogg a classmate and lifelong friend. He was a little taller than a middle sized boy with a long neck and what would be called a chunky body. Yet a broad wide forehead and reddish hair topped a new crown with a rather wide white hat with a narrow black band. The type of head gear worn by Western cowman and gamblers will white
college was anything but a place to study. Yeah good old son. Why I'd like to have a good time. Your play the piano at parties went to dances and picnics took part in college politics all the while working part time as a reporter for the Lawrence Journal I was an industrious energetic young follower but no great shakes as a student. I continued to be a library hound reading the essayists and poets of big men like Carlyle steel and jobs. In 1889 a restless William Allen White dropped out of K U and on January 1st 1890 he went to work for BET Murdock of the operate a Republican for $18 a week. White's first day of work pointed to his future. He sat down at the biggest desk. And morning Mr. Murdoch. Well Billy Allen you sure are a chip off the
old block. Your father never hesitated to boss things. And where do you think I'm going to see it. Bill White was changing. He got rid of his white broad rimmed gambler's hat and a black and gold blazer and white trousers. He was changing in other ways too. White was learning about prairie politics and country newspapers about selling advertisements and writing editorials. He became the radio correspondent for The Associated Press in the Kansas City Star and somehow he found time to write his first piece of fiction. Story by story article by article the name of William Allen White was becoming known in Kansas Journal and soon job offers started coming in one from the Kansas City Journal no Republican paper another from the Kansas City Star an independent
now a staunch republican white shows the Kansas City Germ. His old boss Mr. Murdoch tried to keep young We'll widen out a radio in the time you have there like a mule and treadmill and you grow old and grey in the city hired hand from nobody when you get your belly full. Come on back. And pay money while blanks were on the table the margins were having trouble collecting debts. Farms were collapsing. These things didn't bother Well wife. He was too young and alive too busy adjusting to the ways of a big city newspaper. At the Kansas City Journal Bill White pursued his assignments with the energy of youth in search of experience writing news stories and reporting political events at the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka helped to mature him as a journey. In 1992 a feud with his city editor caused white to quit the journal and
join the Kansas City Star owned by Colonel William Rock Hill Nelson. Nelson was my idol although I saw him every day most casually I did work with him nor know him well for nearly a year. But he began to mold my life if I wrote nonsense the managing editor carefully explained why it was nonsense. I wrote my head off and from the man who chopped my copy competent free honest editors I learned every day much that helped me get to that second day. What he learned at work quite shared at home with his wife Sally Lindsay whom he married in 1893. They were a happy couple who revel in the responsibilities of buying furniture budgeting money and planning for the future. And as these plans blossomed Bill White's interest in the city began to weather.
In the core of my heart I was a countryman. Ever since I touched that Keith and Perry building and looked at my fingers to see if it was really built of coal the city had disturbed me. I detested city ways. My heart was in Kansas and I wanted to be my own master. William Allen White stepped off the train an employee to take over a dog eared newspaper whose circulation was just over 500 advertisements were practically nothing. Many outsiders buying the Gazette was like betting on a three legged cow in the Kentucky Derby a white elephant of the newspaper printed from a water motor press. It had to be hand cranked during droughty seasons. A newspaper that had for its office a stuffy little cubby hole tucked away
on Sixth Street. But despite these things White was confident optimistic in his first editorial. He told his readers the new editor hopes to live here until he's the old editor. He hopes always to sign from Emporia after his name when he's abroad. This was white the ambitious dreamer already talking about going abroad while still wondering where he was going to get $45 to meet his first week's pay roll. The new editor of The Gazette is a young man now full of high purposes and high ideals but he needs the close touch of older hands. His Endeavor will be to make a paper for the best people in the city. But to do that he must have their help. This was White's 10 years of experience speaking an experience that had taught him to tread lightly on customs and traditions to win friends before they became enemies. The new editor of The Gazette is a Republican and will support Republican nominees first last and all the time in this paper while the politics will be straight. It will
not be obtrusive. It will be confined to the editorial page where the gentle reader may venture at his peril. White stated that he wasn't running a newspaper to gain a political poll or to receive a political office. He simply wanted to run a country newspaper and though he was indeed idealistic he was also pragmatic. It's a plain business proposition. The new editor is in the newspaper business as he would be in the dry goods business to make an honest living and to live an honest name behind. William Allen White struggled the first year to keep the Gazette going. For 12 hours a day day in and day out he hustled advertising job work and subscriptions. He wrote editorials and ran the telegraph and all the guys that operated in the red much of the time wife's efforts were successful because that survive one bright and free silver and Rosario all
things going really. Really really right. Presidential campaign 1896 candidates where William McKinley a Republican president and William Jennings Bryan the eloquent populist who had won the Democratic nomination. The issues were free silver and government regulation of business many Kansans lined up behind Brian the great commoner the spellbinding orator who articulated the agonies of tightlipped farmers being smothered by industry debts mortgages high freight rates low income in Emporia William Allen White even though surrounded by fervent populace opposed Bryan and supported McKinley shell American institutions as they have been since the beginning stand or shall they be changed. The American idea is today in balance the Republicans are opposing it. The populists and their allies are denouncing it. The election will sustain Americanism or it will plant socialism.
White opposed to government regulation of business. He had not yet been exposed to the oppressing results of the new machine age drab living conditions child labor low pay. He fought to preserve what he felt was a vanishing spirit of the pioneers in this American government paternalism plays no part. It's every man for himself. It's free for all and in the end the keenest most frugal and most industrious when you know the populace wanted to chase white out of employ They staged protests parades and carried huge placards denouncing the young editor of Ford criticizing their party. White retreated to his editorial desk where he counted with one verbal volley after another. All out hot summer the young man who wanted to be his own boss stood his ground against the populace. And then one Saturday in August of
1896 a group of populace surrounded Why don't employ a street corner. It was a petty incident but it was to have historic impact. Why here comes that newspaper editor what's his name again. Why William Allen why he ne a pretty sad look at those vans he does. They were older man shabbily dressed and it was no pose with them. They were struggling with poverty and I was rather spic and span. Exit they all she added And I think you know that Mr Ed.. And then we play an exam for chickens and you say you don't like Mr Brime would you look good then. Well I mean to do you almost got away says biggest words you use. Finally I broke through the cordon and stalked down the street to the office. I slapped the bundle of mail on the desk and sat down to write an editorial for Monday's paper. I gave it the title. What's the Matter With Kansas. It was a bittersweet editorial that blame the populace for Kansas not having more people and more industry.
Later that same day white left employee to join his wife in Colorado to edit a collection of short stories you'll soon. While the young editor worked in the Rockies his pungent editorial was arousing the attention of America's top Republicans especially Mark Hanna. The boss of McKinley's a national campaign and I was so impressed with the editorial that he ordered and distributed more than a million reprint. Suddenly I was the editor of the Emporia Gazette a country paper with little more than 500 circulation. I was a somebody. The dimensions of my world were enlarged papers from all over the country asked for exchanges. I had to hire a part time Stone Naga for to handle my correspondence in the fall of 1896 White's first book. The real issue became a popular seller. Soon after he received an order from a Clippers magazine for six short stories at $500
each White was now an author as well as an editor and becoming distinguished for both his newfound success prompted him to make his first trip east to Chicago and then to Washington where Charles Curtis congressman from Kansas showed him around. Well there was a man down in the Navy Department that's been asking for you you know if you are my constituent young fellow named Roosevelt. You read What's the Matter With Kansas. You heard you were in town and wants to meet you. I met Theodore Roosevelt in the hour or two we spent that day at lunch he poured into my heart such visions such ideals such hopes such a new attitude toward life and patriotism in the media of things as I had never dreamed men had. I had never known such a man as he. As the Gay Nineties waved a gilded farewell over the 19th century
America prospered. Gold was flowing in from the Klondike. Factories were shipping new products to all parts of the country. In Emporia the Gazette was sharing in this prosperity the hardware dealers were realizing that advertising would bring results. So they told about their buggies and farm implements and kitchen gadgets and a quarter and a half page lots. The newspaper business and county towns pass definitely in those latter years of the 19th century out of its character is beggar and blackmailer and became one of the major industries of little towns. Why use the royalties from his writings to construct a new visit building a gasoline engine pressed replace the old water motor press line and type machines eliminated the need for 16 girl composite. When I walked into that office in 1895 I could do everything I asked anyone else to do.
I had swept the floor. I had set type. I made up the typed forms I had put it on the press and fed the press. Ten years later when I walked over the threshold of the mechanical room of the Gazette I could not do one process that led from the copy desk to the printed page. The Machine Age brought problems as well as prosperity. Many Americans no longer accepted the status quo. All over the land and a score of states and more young men of both parties were attacking things as they were in that day. Notably Mark Hanna's plutocracy in the political machinery that kept it moving magazines and novels denounced the centralization of power in the United States Senate. William Allen White was forced to re-evaluate his own political line. He himself was a not an both man and a Mark Hanna machinery in the McKinley brand of Republicanism. On the other hand white was becoming a close friend of Teddy Roosevelt an enemy of Hannah and McKinley.
Theodore Roosevelt and his attitude toward the powers that be the status quo the economic social and political order certainly did begin to penetrate my heart through their personal visits and letters. Roosevelt inoculated white with his conceptions of government and his plans for reform. As their friendship grew it became inevitable that White would shift his loyalty from Mark Hanna to Rose about. The Special president Kelly's been done no. Wars affairs around Buffalo New York September 5th 19 what McKinley had been assassinated by a Polish anarchist whose only motive was that he wanted to murder a great river McKinley died nine days later. Roosevelt was now the twenty sixth president of the United States.
In New York I had received word from Theodore Roosevelt that he would be in Washington the next night after McKinley's funeral with him on why dined with Roosevelt that night. The young president was to go to the White House the next morning. I was filled with curious excitement to know a president as well as I knew Theodore Roosevelt. The young president was a most candid man. And I was shocked at the casual way in which he considered affairs of state. He fared Hannah and was frankly out to beat him for the nomination in 1940. He was worried about what he would do when he left the White House he would be barely 50. I walked back to my hotel on clouds of moonshine in amazement that I could see such things as I had seen and hear such tall talk as I had heard. Why 905 William Allen White had written four books and numerous articles.
He had turned a faltering newspaper into a booming success. He had met America's great leader men like Grover Cleveland Benjamin Harrison William Jennings Bryan. And his friend Theodore Roosevelt had become president. Achievement recognition financial freedom. At last. Unshackle white from plutocratic domination. But in acquiring this independent white it also gained a new sense of maturity and social awareness. Dead of resting on his laurels. The country editor now organizes energies in a fresh direction toward reform. Ten years it's seen a complete revolution in my attitude toward government and organized society. I no longer believe that whatever it is is right. But I did believe that it could be right. I spent much time in Topeka working for the Kansas reforms. I was the problem child of the state Republican Committee.
And so all the rebellion began with compatriots like Roosevelt in Washington love followed in Wisconsin and Norris in Nebraska from New Jersey to Missouri from the Great Lakes to California. America began to challenge industrial tyranny in January 19 eight governor Hoke under pressure of the left wing Republicans of whom I was one called the legislature together to enact a primary law. The fight at Topeka was lively at the times and bettered. But the primary law came and Kansas had her first direct vote for a member of the US Senate. There I entered the game of politics as a leader but if I was a boss I had no desire to be one. I was not the least interested in patronage and I cared nothing for organization. But I did believe in mass appeal.
In 1900 the amount on White's first novel a certain rich man succeeded impressively that same year white with his family visited Europe for the first time. He was now the father of two children William Lindsay who later graduated from Harvard and became a prominent journalist in his own right and marry who later fell from a horse and died just a few weeks before her 17th birthday. Mary's tragic death affected William Allen White profoundly then and in the years to follow back from Europe white plunged into national politics playing the roles of a compromiser messenger and glorified go between. The Congo 1912 the Republican National Convention body divided against itself the aggressive shouted for the return of Colonel
Roosevelt. But conservatives voted victoriously for the nomination of president they progressives including William Allen White folded and formed their own party. I had been for the boat. I decided the new party only because I believed it was the fair and honest thing to do to leave the Republican organization which was hopelessly reactionary. I reasoned that if we had Roosevelt running against Wilson the country was sure of a progressive president. And in my heart loyal as I was to Roosevelt It made no great difference to me whether Roosevelt or Wilson won. Throughout his life White's passionate dedication to truth and justice regardless of party confused Republicans confounded Democrats and aroused criticism from his fellow journalists. And. White organized the new party in Kansas and then returned to Chicago to help write the progressive platform and to repair what was now being called
the Bull Moose convention. Ah prize exam. But was Jane Addams up Hollands. I had something to do with bringing the convention. Cried No not for many years was about. Because when you and I know I was responding to you and you would come to think of it and. The modern moment it was a middle class revolt against the injustices of our society our industrial organization our economic establishment our political institutions. It expressed a big brother's pity to implement mercy toward the lesser and weaker members of his tribe and clan. But despite the efforts of the Bull Moose Party Wilson and the Democrats won the election and for the next four years White and other progressives rallied to preserve the renegade party. It was not to be. The
demands of World War One pushed the hopes of progressives into the background. At the end of World War One White went to York to report the peace meeting at Versailles. While there he travelled through defeated Germany and wrote these observations. Germany is the same Germany. Changing the government and sending the Kaiser to Holland is not enough. The fellows here along the Rhine the Americans feel that the whole democratic movement in Germany is a mere trusteeship for the autocracy which will come back in a few months or a few years. In 1921 American currency was deflated. The result was tight credit among those hurt where the ranchers of the Midwest and one cattle trains slowed to a trickle. Railroad men were laid off.
- My own master
- My Own Master
- Producing Organization
- University of Kansas
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Series Description
- Documentary-drama commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of journalist William Allen White.
- Media type
Producing Organization: KANU
Producing Organization: University of Kansas
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-Sp.4-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “My own master; My Own Master,” 1968-10-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 4, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rn30754k.
- MLA: “My own master; My Own Master.” 1968-10-28. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 4, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rn30754k>.
- APA: My own master; My Own Master. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-rn30754k