|Harold Wallace Ross|
November 6, 1892|
|Died||December 6, 1951
Boston, United States
Harold Wallace Ross (November 6, 1892 – December 6, 1951) was an American proprietary journalist who founded The New Yorker magazine and served as editor-in-chief of the publication from its inception until his death.
Born in Aspen, Colorado, Ross was the son of Irish immigrant George Ross and schoolteacher Ida (Martin) Ross. When he was eight, the family left Aspen because of the collapse in the price of silver, moving to Redcliff and Silverton, Colorado, then to Salt Lake City, Utah. In Utah, he worked on the high school paper (The West High Red & Black) and was a stringer for The Salt Lake Tribune, the city's leading daily newspaper. The young Ross had journalism in the blood. He dropped out of school at thirteen and ran away to his uncle in Denver, where he worked for The Denver Post. Though he returned to his family, he did not return to school, instead getting a job at the Salt Lake Telegram, a smaller afternoon daily newspaper.
By the time he was twenty-five he had worked for at least seven different papers, including the Marysville, California Appeal; the Sacramento Union; the Panama Star and Herald; the New Orleans Item; the Atlanta Journal, the Hudson Observer in Hoboken, New Jersey; the Brooklyn Eagle; and the San Francisco Call.
In World War I, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Eighteenth Engineers Railway Regiment. In France, he edited the regimental journal and went to Paris to work for the Stars and Stripes, serving from February 1918 to April 1919. On the Stars and Stripes, he met Alexander Woollcott, Cyrus Baldridge, Franklin Pierce Adams, and Jane Grant, who would become his first wife and helped back The New Yorker.
After the war, he returned to New York City and assumed the editorship of a magazine for veterans, The Home Sector. It folded in 1920 and was absorbed by the American Legion Weekly. He then spent a few weeks at Judge, a humor magazine.
The New Yorker
It was while editing these magazines that Ross envisioned a new journal of metropolitan sensibilities and a sophisticated tone. This would be The New Yorker. The first issue was dated February 21, 1925. It was a partnership between Ross and yeast heir Raoul Fleischmann; they established the F-R Publishing Company to publish it.
Ross was one of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table. He used his contacts in "The Vicious Circle" to help get The New Yorker started.
Ross, said to resemble "a dishonest Abe Lincoln," attracted talent to his new publishing venture, featuring writers such as James Thurber, E. B. White, John McNulty, Joseph Mitchell, Katharine S. White, S. J. Perelman, Janet Flanner ("Genet"), Wolcott Gibbs, Alexander Woollcott, St. Clair McKelway, John O'Hara, Robert Benchley, and Dorothy Parker.
Ross worked extremely long hours and ruined all three of his marriages as a result. He was a careful and conscientious editor who strived to keep his copy clear and concise. One famous query to his writers was "Who he?". Ross believed the only two people everyone in the English-speaking world was familiar with were Harry Houdini and Sherlock Holmes. He was notorious for overusing commas. Very aware of his limited education, Ross treated Fowler's Modern English Usage as his bible. He edited every issue of the magazine from the first until his death — a total of 1,399 issues. He would be succeeded as editor by William Shawn.
He died in Boston, Massachusetts, during an operation to remove a tumor.
He kept up a voluminous correspondence, which is preserved at the New York Public Library.
- Thomas Kunkel. Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of the New Yorker. New York: Random House, 1995. ISBN 0-679-41837-7.
- James Thurber. The Years With Ross. Boston: Little, Brown, 1959. ISBN 0-06-095971-1 (2001 reprint).
- Ben Yagoda. About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made. New York: Scribners, 2000. ISBN 0-684-81605-9.
- Top Hat and Tales: Harold Ross and the Making of the New Yorker (movie) (Carousel Film and Video, 2001, 47 minutes)
- The Years With Ross, quoted in: Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, p. 68 (That'll do, Comma)
- James, Caryn (13 May 2001). "Neighborhood Report: CRITIC'S VIEW; How The New Yorker Took Wing In Its Larval Years With Ross". The New York Times.
- Quick Vids by Gary Handman, American Libraries, May 2006, page 66
- Ross biography and career analysis
- Algonquin Round Table Walking Tours
- Algonquin Round Table page at the Algonquin Hotel's web site
- Algonquin Circle Links
|Editor of The New Yorker