Herbert Bayard Swope

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Herbert Bayard Swope
Swope circa 1917
Swope circa 1917
BornJanuary 5, 1882
DiedJune 20, 1958(1958-06-20) (aged 76)
OccupationEditor, journalist
Notable awardsPulitzer Prize for Reporting
RelativesGerard Swope (brother)
Henrietta Hill Swope (niece)

Herbert Bayard Swope Sr. (/ˈbɑːrd/;[1] January 5, 1882 – June 20, 1958) was an American editor, journalist and intimate of the Algonquin Round Table. Swope spent most of his career at the New York World. He was the first and three-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting. Swope was called the greatest reporter of his time by Lord Northcliffe of the London Daily Mail.[1]


Herbert Bayard Swope was born on January 5, 1882, in St. Louis, Missouri, to German immigrants Ida Cohn and Isaac Swope,[1] a watchcase maker. He was the youngest of four children – the younger brother of businessman and General Electric president Gerard Swope.[1]


Time cover, January 28, 1924

Swope was the first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting in 1917 for a series of articles that year entitled "Inside the German Empire"[2] The articles formed the basis for a book released in 1917 entitled Inside the German Empire: In the Third Year of the War (ISBN 9781436646178), which he co-authored with James W. Gerard.

He is known for saying, "I can't give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time." He is also credited with coining the phrase "Cold War".[3]

Although standard editorial pages have been printed by newspapers for many centuries, Swope established the first modern op-ed page in 1921. When he took over as editor in 1920, he realized that the page opposite the editorials was "a catchall for book reviews, society boilerplate, and obituaries."[4] He wrote:

It occurred to me that nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting, so I devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America... and thereon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts.[5]

He hired the widowed Consuela Sheridan (nee Frewen), the maternal cousin of Winston Churchill, as a roving reporter in Europe, and she landed many scoops including interviews with the negotiating parties for Irish Independence.[6][7]

Swope served as the editor for New York World's 21-day crusade against the Ku Klux Klan in October 1921, which won the newspaper the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1922.[8] As an example of investigative journalism, it was ranked 81st of the top 100 journalism stories of the 20th century by New York University's journalism department.[9]

He was a legendary poker player, at one point winning over $470,000 in a game with an oil baron, a steel magnate, and an entertainer.[10] He was also a member of a social club, the precursor to the Algonquin Round Table known as the Thanatopsis Inside Straight and Pleasure Club. He was inducted into the Croquet Hall of Fame of the United States Croquet Association in 1979 and his son Herbert Bayard Swope, Jr. in 1981.[citation needed]


Swope died in 1958, aged 76, at his home, known as Land's End, Prospect Point, Sands Point, New York. He hosted parties with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx, Winston Churchill, Averell Harriman, Albert Einstein, Alexander Woollcott[11] – as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald. These associations, along with other similarities to the houses and events in The Great Gatsby, helped give rise to unsubstantiated reports that Fitzgerald had[11][12] modeled Daisy Buchanan's home in the 1925 novel after Swope's home.

However, Swope did not buy Land's End until late 1928. The more likely explanation that ties Swope to Fitzgerald is the time period of 1922–24, when Fitzgerald was living in nearby Great Neck. Prior to buying the Sands Point mansion, Swope had been renting a home since 1919 on East Shore Road in Great Neck, overlooking Manhasset Bay.[12] The property was directly north of 325 East Shore Road, the residence of sportswriter Ring Lardner. The two were good friends. David O. Selznick and Jock Whitney met at the home many times throughout the 20s and 30s and held meetings at the mansion that secured funding for Gone with the Wind.[12]

Other reports suggest the home, built in 1902,[12] had been designed by Stanford White[13] – although most sources dispute the claim.[13]

The clapboard colonial mansion included 15 bedrooms and 14 baths (eleven full baths), a seven-car garage, a tennis court with a tennis pavilion, a rose garden and a guest house – on 13.35 acres.[12] The 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) waterfront mansion had originally been built for clothing merchant John S. Browning Sr. in 1911 and originally named Kidd's Rocks. It was purchased in 1921 by Malcolm D. Sloane, whose wife renamed the estate "Keewaydin". The house had been a site for a Vanity Fair photo shoot with Madonna and had been a location for the 1978 shooting of The Greek Tycoon, a film on the life of Aristotle Onassis.[13]

Keith Richards' family lived there for a time in the early 1980s. Charles Shipman Payson and his wife, Virginia Kraft, purchased the house in the 1980s. In 2005 she sold the house to developer Bert Brodsky of Port Washington for $17.5 million. "They misrepresented themselves", Payson told The Observer, "I would not show it to any developer. He said that his life's ambition was to live in that manor, but it was very clear at the closing that they had no intention of living in it. They are the most awful people I have ever heard of, and that includes terrorists and dictators. They have taken a work of art and permitted it to be totally decimated. It was in pristine condition when I left ... He let it fall apart. He stripped everything out that he could sell, which is sacrilegious. I went by the house perhaps two years after we sold it, and that's when I realized how he was going to get around the town's objections. Broken windows, storming in—it's sinful". In 2011, the home was demolished and the property was subdivided.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d Herbert Bayard Swope Biography. Retrieved January 15, 2018. Herbert Bayard Swope was called the greatest reporter of his time by Lord Northcliffe of the London Daily Mail. The accolade is all the more impressive when one considers that Swope's illustrious colleagues included Walter Lippmann, Damon Runyon, Heywood Broun, Alexander Woollcott, Franklin P. Adams, William Henry Chamberlin, Arthur Brisbane, and Richard Harding Davis. That Swope had a special impact upon journalism in his time is undeniable. He rose rapidly from obscurity to become a journalistic legend
  2. ^ Pulitzer Prizes for Reporting, 1917–1947, pulitzer.org; accessed January 15, 2017.
  3. ^ Safire, William (October 2006). "Islamofascism Anyone?". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Meyer, Karl E. (1990). Pundits, poets, and wits: an omnibus of American newspaper columns. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506063-6.
  5. ^ Swope, H. B. as quoted in Meyer, K. (1990). Pundits, poets, and wits. New York: Oxford University Press, p. xxxvii.
  6. ^ Matthew, H.C.G.; Harrison, Brian (2004). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Vol 50 (Sharp-Smiles). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-861400-4.
  7. ^ Uglow, Jennifer (1998). The Macmillan Dictionary of Women's Biography. Revised by Maggie Hendry. Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-67442-1.
  8. ^ Harris, Roy (2007). Pulitzer's Gold: Behind the Prize for Public Service Journalism. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. pp. 131–35. ISBN 978-0-8262-1768-4.
  9. ^ Barringer, Felicity (March 1, 1999). "Journalism's Greatest Hits: Two Lists of America's Top Stories". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Press, Politics and Poker – Howard Bayard Swope by Byron Liggett, Poker Player (newspaper). April 4, 2005.
  11. ^ a b "Swope's Mansion at Lands End". Port Washington News. May 9, 2008. Archived from the original on March 12, 2011.
  12. ^ a b c d e Laura Mann (November 10, 2009). "Sands Point's Lands End goes on market for $30 million". Newsday.com.
  13. ^ a b c Tracie Rozhon (May 16, 2002). "A Whisper of White, a Hint of Daisy". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Sara Clemence (October 17, 2005). "East Egg Estate". Forbes.com.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kahn, E. J. The World of Swope: A Biography of Herbert Bayard Swope (1965)
  • Lewis, Alfred Allan. Man of the World: Herbert Bayard Swope, a Charmed Life of Pulitzer Prizes, Poker and Politics 1978)

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by Cover of Time magazine
January 28, 1924
Succeeded by