Tag: FPA

F.P.A. Diary Entries For His Birthday

FPA
Franklin P. Adams and his second wife, Esther Root, on their honeymoon, 1925.
Franklin P. Adams wrote his diary from 1911-1941; by his estimate more than two million words. It began June 11, 1911, in the New York Evening Mail. The column was called Always in Good Humor. On January 1, 1914, F.P.A. joined the New York Tribune staff and changed the name to The Conning Tower. He remained there until December 31, 1921, when he joined The World. When The World folded, he moved to the New York Herald Tribune on March 2, 1931. His column appeared there until 1937. His column ended in the New York Post in 1941, by which time F.P.A. was a radio star on Information Please.

Editor’s note: These entries are taken directly from the collection The Diary of Our Own Samuel Pepys, published by Simon and Schuster in 1935. All of F.P.A.’s idiosyncratic spelling and grammar usage is left intact. Editorial notes in [brackets] are from the editor and in some cases F.P.A. himself. None of the entries have been altered.

Adams was born in Chicago on November 15, 1881, and died on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on March 23, 1960.

* * *
Sunday, November 16, 1919
All day in the country, and had a pleasant day, playing croquet. Home, when I find E. Ferber [Edna Ferber] and Janet Grant and Miss Rosalind Fuller [an English actress and singer]; and A. Woollcott [Alexander Woollcott], very grand in a silk hat, and H. Ross [Harold Rosss]; and we had a frugal supper, and all left before eleven. Read [William] Congreve’s poems, indifferent stuff.

* * *
Thursday, November 15, 1923
Up and to the office early away and met Mistress Beatrice Gunsaulus Merriman [spouse of Rev. Robert Noel Merriman], who has come from Bethlehem to have a birthday party with me to-day and to-morrow. So we to Dottie Parker’s, where was a great crowd gathered to honour me, and a great shower of presents, tyes, and kerchiefs and a neck-scarf. So now home with Beatrice [Kaufman] and thence to a great and gay gathering at Mistress Ruth Fleischmann’s [Quincy, IL, native, spouse of baking heir Raoul], where I had the merriest birthday party anyone ever gave me, but they told me it was H. Miller’s [Henry Wise Miller, banker, spouse of Alice Duer Miller] and G. Kaufman’s [George S. Kaufman] and A. Krock’s [Arthur Krock, newspaperman, won Pulitzer 1935] and Beatrice’s, and that Ruth and Raoul had been married this day three years, yet by 10 o’clock I was certain the party was entirely in my honor and was not disinclined to think that the universe had been constructed for the same delightful purpose. So home, despite all in the car counseling to drive with more caution, and we had to walk up the stairs, and Beatrice lost an earring, which distressed her, but I told her we should find it in the morning.

* * *
Sunday, November 15, 1925
For a walk in the warm sunshine, and to luncheon at L. Dodd’s [Lee Wilson Dodd, playwright, novelist, poet, died 1933], and my wife told a tayle of some children who, being warned not to express astonishment when the ice cream was borne upon the table, did carol forth, “We have it all the time! We have it all the time!” So by steam-train to the city, and thence to the office, and so to R. Fleischmann’s, to a great party, and met Miss Fay Compton the play-actress, as fair and sweetly spoke a lady as ever I saw.

* * *
Monday, November 15, 1926
This day my birthday, and my wife give me a fine golden knife and H. Miller give me some kerchiefs and A. Samuels [Arthur Samuels, composer, publicist, editor] some tyes, all of which I was very glad to get, not so much for the sentiment behind them as for the value and beauty of the gifts. This day Frank Sullivan back to work, and he come to see me, looking very handsome with his long rest. All day at my office, and so home and did some scrivening before dinner, and my wife telling me that I had misspelled our handmaiden’s name, calling her Dougherty instead of Doherty, so I asked her whether she were a relative of the great lawn tennis players, but she said she never had heard of them. But she is as skilful in her field as they were in theirs, and I would suggest that she would play in the final of any cooking tournament. So to the theatre in Florence Hammond’s [spouse of Herald-Tribune drama critic Percy Hammond] petrol-wagon, and saw Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” and enjoyed it all mightily, in especiall Miss Lynn Fontanne’s and Mr. Henry Travers’s acting. And I did make some vows, on this my birthday, such as to waste no more time in frivolity, and to be more kind to my fellows. Yet last night there was a discussion about murder, and some that they were incapable of killing anybody, and they thought I would be, too; but I thought there was none in that company that might not have murder in his heart at some time; and as for myself, I know many persons I would like to kill, if there were no penalty attached to the act. Lord! if I could murder those I pleased to kill, it would almost be impossible to get a taxicab in this city. So home, and read E. Pearson’s [Edmund Lester Pearson] “Murder at Smutty Nose,” a thrilling compilation, with things in it about the Parkman case, and Dr. Crippen [Hawley Harvey Crippen, the first criminal to be captured with the aid wireless], and others.

* * *
Saturday, November 15, 1930
Early up, it being my birthday, and my wife give me a crimson sweater to wear next summer, and I got letters from my sisters Amy and Evelyn, and so did my work in the morning, and in the afternoon to H. Miller’s to listen to how badly the Yales would beat the Princetons, but they scarcely beat them at all, and so we to Manhasset, to a giant birthday celebration given for me at R. Fleischmann’s, very merry and gay, and I had a pleasant time with Mrs. Delehanty [née Margaret E. Rowland, spouse of John Bradley Delehanty, noted architect], who tells me she is a girl from Phillips, Wis., and she very gifted, shewing me how she can stand on her head, and I had a talk with A. Barach [Dr. Alvan L. Barach, founder of pulmonary rehabilitation and inventor of the oxygen tent] the physician, of clairvoyancy and fortune-telling and palm-reading, we telling each other of the great success we had at these charlatanries, what with the subjects telling us all that we wanted to know, and then being astonished at our magickall powers. But it is a dangerous thing to do, forasmuch as I never shall forget the trouble that I got into by telling a girl that she did not have confidence enough in herself, which is a thing that everybody believes about himself, especially those that have more confidence than they should have. It is also safe to tell people that they are too generous and too tender-hearted. So late to bed, and waked my wife, albeit I was quiet as a million mice.

* * *
Sunday, November 15, 1931
Lay mighty late, and so up and wondering what would be happening on November 15, 1981, I then being 100 years of age, but I fear that this will be the last time that there will be a legal holiday on my birthday, and so read the newspapers with great misgivings about what is going on in Manchuria, and would forecast that a year from now matters will be more troubled and unpeaceful than they are now, and so talked with A. Krock and R. Fleischmann about history and its teachings, and Krock said that he was proficient in its study when he was a boy forasmuch as it was taught with a stress upon dates of wars and deaths of kings and history made so little impression upon me that I forget how it was taught. But I feel that it ought to be taught backwards; that is, that the study should begin with the front page of today’s newspaper and go on from there to last year, and that it might then seem important and personal to the student to read about the Spanish Armada and Eric the Red and the Battle of Stirling and Ticonderoga and General P. T. G. Beauregard and Bannockburn and Themistocles and Hadrian and Ypres and Rutherford B. Hayes and Aguinaldo and the Guelphs and the Franco-Prussian War. So in the afternoon my wife and I beat H. Miller and R. Fleischmann two deuce sets, and in the evening had a very merry birthday party, almost everybody having been born a few years ago today, yesterday, and tomorrow; and so A. Woollcott drove me to the city in a cab, and told me many fascinating things, he being no less laconic than ever, and about how Herbert Wells, the author, had come to see him, and of many other things.

Crazy for Games, Sports, and Puzzles

Woollcott and Ferber
Alexander Woollcott and Edna Ferber, at the home of Margaret Leech and Ralph Pulitzer (Photo courtesy of Kate Pulitzer Freedberg)

Sports and leisure were important to the Round Table. They loved professional sports—with baseball and boxing being the chief attractions. F.P.A. was an amateur tennis star. Their leisure time was taken up with parlor games, mind-benders, word play, and gambling. Their poker games were soul-crushing feats of gambling (Broun won and lost his house at a poker table). Charades and croquet consumed them.

Neysa McMein was credited with “inventing”—or at least popularizing—Scavenger Hunts. F.P.A. wrote about it in “The Conning Tower” on July 28, 1925:

“To Jane Grant’s, where was a party for Alice Miller’s birthday, and had a merry time of it, save for a silly treasure hunt, a craze that hath become widespread while I was not here to crusade against it.”

While playing I Can Give You A Sentence, Dorothy Parker was tasked to use “horticulture” which led to the oft quoted, “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” Baseball was a passion, especially New York Giants games at the Polo Grounds. F.P.A. wrote “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” one of the most famous baseball poems of all time following a Giants game. Broun is in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s sportswriters wing in Cooperstown.

The friends were crazy for crossword puzzles; they even wrote a book of them together. On January 4, 1925, the first Intercollegiate Cross Word Puzzle Tournament was held in the auditorium of the Hotel Roosevelt, 45 East 45th Street. With hundreds of cheering fans in the audience, Yale edged out Harvard, Princeton and the City College of New York. On the Harvard team were Broun (who never really graduated) and Robert E. Sherwood. Poet Stephen Vincent Benet and Jack Thomas made up the Yale team. The contest was held in rounds and each word was tackled individually. First Broun won a round by correctly guessing the name of a German poet with five letters (Heine). Then Sherwood backed him up with a seven-letter word meaning “honest in intention” (sincere). However, a foul play was called when the judge, Ruth Hale, sat beside her spouse, Broun.

Pulitzer Landmarks Tied to the Algonquin Round Table

This guest blog was written for Literary Manhattan.

I love literary landmarks. I seek them out whenever I possibly can. I’m the kind of person who can’t pass a plaque or historical marker and not stop for a look, and when the site is tied to an author or book, it’s even better. When I was writing my new book, The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide, I decided to make it a guidebook to everything related to the Vicious Circle in New York: their homes, offices, speakeasies, theaters, and related locations.

Several of the locations in my book have ties to the Pulitzer family that are shared here. If you have never been to Woodlawn Cemetery, take a trip to the beautiful landmark in the Bronx. The Pulitzer graves are incredibly touching to see placed there.

Here are two in Manhattan that you might want to visit if you get the opportunity. I enjoyed putting them in the book because they show that even though there is no longer a Pulitzer newspaper in the city, his literary landmarks are still around us.

The New Yorker has a long history of sticking its nose into matters of frivolity around New York City, and the magazine loves a good crusade. E. B. White complained vociferously about advertising in Grand Central Terminal, and editor Harold Ross, a commuter, testified at a city hearing against public address announcements in the terminal.

The magazine also took up the cause of the dirty bronze statue of Pomona, goddess of abundance, outside the Plaza Hotel in Grand Army Plaza. When New York World publisher Joseph Pulitzer died in 1912, he bequeathed $50,000 to build it. Carrere & Hastings designed the Italian Renaissance-style fountain, which was dedicated in 1916. But in The New Yorker of April 18, 1931, poet Arthur Guiterman complained that the fountain was a mess. The last stanza of “Letter to Mr. Pulitzer” reads:

One hates to speak this way about a lady,
But she is obviously much too shady;
Though still quite young, a good bit under thirty,
No nymph was ever quite so black and dirty
In all New York; so you, sir, as her guardian
(You see I’m Mid-Victorian, not Edwardian),
Should personally scrub her form and face in
The sudsy foam of her own fountain basin.

A few weeks later the magazine published a response by Pulitzer’s son, Ralph, publisher of the World:

For know! The lady’s guardians ad litem,
Aroused by her attempts to mock and spite ’em,
Have joined the city in a contribution
To give her an immaculate ablution;
To scrub her from her head, with all its wet locks,
Clear down her contours to her very fetlocks.

Ralph Pulitzer donated $30,000 to restore the statue. Doris Doscher, the model who posed for sculptor Karl Bitter as Pomona, wrote to the New York Times: “I want to take this opportunity to offer my thanks to Mr. Pulitzer for enabling me to again stand exalted—and scrubbed—above the grounds on Fifth Avenue, generously spurting precious, clear water—flush, in these times of dried-up prosperity.”

The saga of the statue and Pulitzer Fountain is a long-running city drama. It was renovated in 1971 but, due to faulty plumbing, went dry for six years in the 1980s. In 1989, $3.3 million was raised privately to restore it yet again.

The World stood at 63 Park Row, with editorial offices on the eleventh floor of a tower that Pulitzer erected in 1890. A golden dome topped the 309-foot tall building. Pulitzer died in 1911, and the paper ran along for twenty more years.

Star reporter Herbert Bayard Swope became executive editor in 1921 and brought in the best talent, increasing high-quality reporting and also hiring New York’s first black reporter. By the time the Round Table came to it, the highly respected World was the “newspaperman’s newspaper.” Swope receives credit for creating the page opposite the editorial page—the “Op. Ed.”—a phrase he coined. Onto this page he brought a lively mix of writers, most from the Vicious Circle. Among the first of them to write for the World was Robert Benchley a month after he quit Vanity Fair in 1920. Benchley’s book reviews often had nothing to do with the books themselves and could easily contain ruminations on train schedules.

Swope stole both Heywood Broun and Franklin P. Adams (known as F.P.A.) from the Tribune in 1921. The 33-year-old Broun could write anything, from a play review to a recap of the Harvard-Yale football game. He had free rein in his column “It Seems to Me,” which ran for six years, to discuss books, sports, movies, or politics. The last of these landed him in hot water. When F.P.A. brought his famous “Conning Tower” to the Op. Ed. Page, it caused a sensation. Ralph Pulitzer and his brothers broke the family trust by court order in 1931 and sold the newspaper. It put more than 3,000 people out of work.

Today no plaque or monument marks the former Pulitzer Building and its wonderful gold dome. Before it was razed in 1955, Swope and F.P.A. toured the deserted newsroom one last time. It is now a highway approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. The stained glass windows from the city room were moved to Columbia University’s Journalism School building, 2950 North Broadway, where, each year in the World Room, the Pulitzer Prize winners are announced.