Sitting in Cell 45 in the Essex County jail, he announced his candidacy for mayor and continued to write humorously sarcastic editorials which were set up and published by the faithful printer, his only assistant, whose onerous duties included every department from managing editor to printer's devil. Then released on bail put up by a wealthy friend won by his fearless attacks on the conduct of the city affairs, Howard launched a spectacular, unprecedented campaign. Without spending a cent himself he forced his four opponents to the mayoralty to spend money like water, and at the election received such an avalanche of votes that the other candidates were completely buried. - G.A. Thompson, F. H. Thompson, "New England Magazine" (1910)
"I was through; and I knew I was through. It had been months coming, and I had settled it once and for all. I had taken one more plunge in Wall Street; it was one grand and glorious dip, and it went against me. I was long some five thousand shares; that is, the brokers had five hundred thousand dollars par of stocks for me. They sold me out and I was done….
I was thirty-eight years old and a failure. I had had my day. In the past twenty years I had had money left me three times. And now I was leaving it all. Behind me were debts of nearly one hundred thousand dollars more; my assets were the contents of my travelling-bag and the remnants of the twentyfive dollars from my father."
Arthur Platt Howard, born on Washington Square in New York City, December 16, 1869, was a child of privilege. His father, Joseph P. Howard, built a great New York jewelry firm, Howard & Co., which in 1871 became the first retail store on 5th Avenue. Educated as a young boy in private schools, at age 15 Arthur began to work for his father.
For most of his youth Arthur lived like royalty, a devotee of expensive clothing, nights on the town, the best restaurants–he later related that his bills at Sherry's dining establishment had added up to over seven thousand dollars over three years.
In 1893, Arthur married Annie Legg of New York, and with her had a daughter. He left his father's firm to found his own Arthur Howard Company, Shipping Agents; this lasted two years, and he tried again with a manufacturing business, selling silverware and "novelties." Two years later, he was back at his father's company. Once again, in 1906, he founded his own company (in London) but when the panic of 1907 hit he was wiped out.
His wife and daughter began a restless journey around Europe, and Howard came back to the States, penniless. He could not turn to his father for more bailouts; that pattern had worn itself out long ago. He landed in Boston in desperate straits. Taking up residence in a boardinghouse he began a painful adjustment to his changed circumstances.
Attempting one thing after another, he was down to his last two dollars when he decided to try his hand at writing for newspapers–a longtime interest of his, and, with a background which included several self-published tomes, he felt hopeful. He was waved aside, though he did have one piece of luck.
"I found a vacant seat near the Frog Pond, and there in the presence of the splashing fountain I wrote a poem that I called "Sunshine and Rain." I took it to an evening newspaper and they gave me six dollars for it. That night I spent a good share of it on a dinner with Lee at the Parker House. Then for three days I was the same old Arthur Howard." ("Lee" was Ralph Lee, a job printer who had the room next to Arthur's at the boarding house.)
Money, of course, ran out quickly.
"In no time I was strapped again, and for the first time in my life I went to bed hungry, reading in an evening paper the poem that I had written a few days before."
"....There is some one living somewhere
Who is lonesome, sad, but true;
All his thoughts are turning homeward,
Little woman, just of you.
And in exile there comes daily
A remembrance and refrain,
That she loved him in the sunshine,
But she left him in the rain."
He pawned his wardrobe of expensive clothes; and as October blew across the Common, he received word that his house in New York had sold in foreclosure, but he was entitled to $25.30 from the rebate on his insurance. This kept him fed and housed a little while longer. Ralph Lee helped him learn the ropes of poverty; Arthur discovered that popcorn balls, squash pie, and coffee could keep the stomach filled cheaply and starvation at bay.
"A few days after this, as Lee and I were eating breakfast together in silence, my eye fell on the following item in the Boston Post: SALEM "GAZETTE" CLOSES OLDEST PAPER IN THE STATE ENDS ITS CAREER Salem, Mass. —The Salem Gazette, founded in 1768, ceased publication to-day. It has been recently issued as a daily. There are no assets or liabilities. It died a natural death. The old plant is now doing job work.
The old newspaper in the town of my ancestors! The suggestion which had come to me when I talked with the editor of the [Boston] Globe returned to my mind. I could go back again, perhaps, and find a living in the place my people had sprung from. I took the first train for Salem. It was noon before I arrived in the town of my fathers."
To be continued
Musician, educator and lecturer, Maggi Smith-Dalton is the president of the Salem History Society. Author of “Stories and Shadows from Salem’s Past: Naumkeag Notations” (The History Press, 2010), she is working on her second book of Salem history for 2012. She and her husband, Jim Dalton, are also co-authoring a book on music in Salem's history and have released two new recordings of 19th-century music. Reach her at http://singingstring.org. For information on joining the Salem History Society, go to http://salemhistorysociety.org.