S. S. (Samuel Sidney) McClure.

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COPYRIGHT, 1913, 1914, BY

All rights reserved


May, 1914

Fhotognil^h by Arnold Gcntlie


TT WILL be seen from this narrative that to my
mother and to my wife I owe much. I am in-
debted to the cooperation of Miss Willa Sibert
Gather for the very existence of this book.

Throughout my life I have had the good fortune
to experience kindliness, consideration and helpful-
ness from many people. Among those whom I
remember with especial affection was the late
Mr. William M. Laffan, of the New York Sun,
a man singularly loyal and generous. I owe much
to Melville B. Anderson (formerly Professor of
English Literature at Knox College, now Professor
Emeritus of Leland Stanford) , who first encouraged
me to hope that I might find a place in the world.
I was fortunate in my three employers: Col. A. A.
Pope, Roswell Smith, and Theodore L. De Vinne.
I have told something of these three men in the
following pages, but have scarcely expressed my
appreciation of their high ability. I wish here to
emphasize my indebtedness to the consideration and
assistance of my long-time associates, Miss Ida M,
Tarbell and Mr. John S. Phillips.


I have said in this book very little of the last
fifteen years of my life. Much of that time has been
spent abroad, in travel and investigation in many
countries. The most important results of these
years I have tried to state briefly in the last

c^^P^^^- S. S. McClure.



Note v


My Early Childhood — The Road to Bally-
money — Peat Cutting — My Early School-
ing — My Father Dies — We Sail for Amer-
ica 1


My Mother's Courageous Efforts — My Moth-
er Marries Again — I Attend School in
Winter — My Work on the Farm — Val-
paraiso High School — I Work as a Chore-
boy — Charley Griffith — My Restlessness
— I Try for A College Education ... 35


Knox College — Working My W^\y as a Farm-
hand — Teaching Country School — Greek
the Most Important of My Studies — My
Return to Ireland when I was Nineteen —
Restless for America — I Determine to
Ship as a Stow-away — My Letter to the
First Officer — Working My Passage as
Mess-boy — My Engagement — A Winter in
Which I Nearly Perished of Cold and
Hunger — My Dismal Meals with the Di-
vinity Student » 64





Living on Eighteen Cents a Week — I Decide to
Peddle Coffee-pots — I Open a Restaurant
— I Have a Run of Bad Luck — The Dis-
couraging Side of a Peddler's Life —
Clerking in a Grocery Store — A Horse
Trade — My Mother Goes Peddling with
Me — My Friendship with Albert Brady —
Selling Microscopes Around the Great
Lakes — John Phillips and Robert Mather
— My First Experience as an Editor — My
Disappointing Graduation 99


My Arrival in Boston — I Go to Colonel Pope
and Ask for Work — Colonel Pope's Career
— A Job that I Had to Have — I Learn to
Ride a Bicycle — How I Accidentally Be-
came AN Editor — My Marriage — I Go to
New York and Apply for Work on the
*' Century Magazine" — The Launching of
My New Venture 142


Hard Sledding — Getting the Syndicate on Its
Feet — My First Authors — Henry Harland
and the "Yellow Book" — I Write a Series
of Articles on Cookery — Getting Syndi-
cate Ideas — My First Call upon Steven-
son — The Offer for "St. Ives" — We Plan



THE South Sea Cruise — Henry James and
Stevenson — Stevenson's Willingness to be
Edited — Stevenson's Wife 170


Help from an Unexpected Source — On the
Edge of Bankruptcy — George Meredith —
The New Writer 207


The "Muck-raking" Movement — The Stand-
ard Oil Articles — The Municipal Gov-
ernment Articles — Miss Stone's Story —
The Montessori Method — Mr. Turner's
Chicago Articles — The Commission Form
OF Government 237


S. S. McClure Frontispiece

Facing Pagk

S. S. McClure's Birthplace 4

The Road to Ballymoney 5

"Every Year, in July, We Went to the Bog

and Cut Peat for the Year" .... 34

S. S. McClure, About Ten Years Old (from a

Tintype) . 35

S. S. McClure, About Thirteen Years Old

(prom a Daguerreotype) 35

Professor Albert Kurd 68

Mrs. Albert Hurd and Her Daughter Harriet
Who Afterward Became Mr. McClure's
Wife 69

S. S. McClure at the Age of Nineteen . . 74

S. S. McClure's Home in Which He Lived Until

He Left Ireland 75

(1) John S. Phillips, Now Editor of the
"American Magazine." (2) Robert Mather
(3) Albert Brady ........ 132

^Nox College with Glimpse of "West Bricks,"

Where S. S. McClure Roomed .... 133

Colonel Albert A. Pope 152

Mrs. Harriet Prescott Spofford .... 153



Facing Page

Harriet Hurd, Who Became Mr. McClure's

Wife After an Engagement of Seven Years 158

Roswell Smith, Owner of the "Century."
Theodore L. De Vinne, Founder of the De

ViNNE Press 159

S. S. McClure IN 1885 180

John S. Phillips 181

"Stevenson Received Us in Bed, in the Atti-
tude of the St. Gaudens Medallion". . 190

Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson; Robert Louis

Stevenson 191

Sir a. Conan Doyle 204

Rudyard Kipling 205

Mrs. S. S. McClure 216

S. S. McClure's Mother ....... 217

Professor Henry Drummond 232

George Meredith 233

Anthony Hope Hawkins 234

Booth Tarkington 235

Miss Ida M. Tarbell 240

Miss Viola Roseboro' 241

Miss Mary L. Bisland 252

Dr. Maria Montessori 253




My Early Childhood — The Road to Bally-
money — Peat Cutting — My Early School-
ing — My Father Dies — We Sail for

.-' I'''-
T WAS born in Ireland, fifty-six " years ago.

Antrim, the northeast county of the Province
of Ulster, was my native county. My mother's
maiden name was Elizabeth Gaston. Her people
were descended from a French Huguenot family
that came to Ireland after the revocation of the
Edict of Nantes, and they still bore their French
surname. My father's people, the McClures, were
from Galloway, Scotland. The family had come
across the North Channel about two hundred years
ago and settled in Ulster.

After the battle of the Boyne, as for hundreds of
years before, it was a common thing for the Protes-
tant kings of England to make large grants of Irish
land to Protestant colonists from England and
Scotland. Ulster, lying across a narrow strip of


water from the Scottish coast, was given over to
colonists from the Lowlands until half her popula-
tion was foreign. The injustice of this system of
colonization, together with the fierce retaliation of
the Irish, brought about the long list of reciprocal
atrocities which are at the root of the Irish question

With such a dark historical background, the
religious feeling on both sides was intense. There
had been very few instances of intermarriage be-
tween the Scotch Protestant colonists and the Irish
Catholics who were the original inhabitants of the
Province of Ulster. Among both Protestants and
Catholics the feeling against intermarriage was so
strong that, when such a marriage occurred, even
in my time, it was considered a terrible misfortune
as well as a disgrace. This state of feeling had kept
both races pure and unmodified, though they
mingled together in the most friendly fashion in all
the ordinary occupations of life. In Antrim the
Scotch colonists had retained much of their Low-
land speech. The dialect of Mr. Barrie's stories
was familiar to my ears as a child.

My grandfather, Samuel McClure, for whom I
was named, had seven sons. He lived at Drumaglea,
on a small farm, and in addition to farming did
carpentering, to which trade he brought up his boys.


My father, Thomas McClure, was working for my
grandfather as a carpenter at the time of his marriage
to my mother, and continued to work for him for
nearly a year after his marriage, living at his wife's
home at the Frocess, one mile up the county road,
and coming and going to and from his work every
day. In my mother's home there were many
sisters and brothers, fourteen in all — my grand-
father Gaston had been married twice — all farmers
or farmers' wives.

My mother was a girl of unusual physical vigor
and great energy, and had always done farm-work.
She was able to do a man's work and a woman's
work at the same time. After keeping up with the
men in the fields all day, she would come in and get
supper for them at night. After her marriage she
continued to work on her father's farm, and my
father continued as one of my grandfather McClure's
workmen. It was in my grandfather Gaston's
house at the Frocess that I, the first child of this
marriage, was born.

When I was about a year old, my father bought
from my grandfather McClure a little farm of nine
acres at Drumaglea, and we moved into a home of
our own. This is the first home I can remember.
It was a two-room stone house, with an earth
floor and a thatch roof, set on a long, gently sloping


hillside, about an eighth of a mile back from the main
road that ran between Belfast and Derry. At
Drumaglea we w^ere midway between these two sea-
ports, twenty-six miles from Belfast and the same
distance from Derry. Eight miles to the south of
us was Ballymena, a town of about four thousand
population then; and eight miles to the north, on
the same road, was Bally money, a considerably
smaller town.

This county road was one of the important facts
of our lives. Not many years before my time, a
man in Belfast named MacAdam had originated and
introduced the method of metaling roads now
commonly called by his name. All our roads were
macadamized and kept in excellent condition, a
very important thing in a country as wet as Ireland.
Through the long, rainy winters these highways
and the paved lanes that led out from them were
hard and firm, even where they ran through great
stretches of bog-land, such as that from which we
gathered our peat. On either side of the county
road, sloping back from it, were dikes about three
feet high, and on these dikes grew the hawthorn
hedges that marked the line of the roadright. It
was along these dikes that we children, on our way
to school, used to rind the first signs of spring —
yellow primroses, and violets of a deeper color than

3 9 3 3 5 3 5


grow in countries where the air is less saturated
with moisture.

Our cottage, though it had but two rooms and
no ceiling under the thatch, was a comfortable
enough dwelling. The rooms seemed large — about
twelve by fifteen feet — and the kitchen served for
dining-room and living-room. There was a large
stone fireplace at one end, with pots and cranes,
where the cooking was done. In the sleeping-room
were two beds; in one slept the children — three
boys of us, in time — and in the other my mother
and father. This room served also as a parlor, and
in it was kept the best household furniture. It
was called "the room," and was never used in the
daytime except when we had company. Formai
visitors were always taken there and served with
tea and eggs.

In that part of the country a caller can not es-
cape tea. Even if you go to see several people in
the same afternoon, you must have tea at each
house. In larger houses than ours the parlor was
a separate room, kept shut up all the time and used
only when visitors of quality appeared. Neighbor
women, who ran in for a few minutes with their
shawls over their heads, and men who dropped in
of an evening, in their workaday corduroys, were
received in the kitchen, and talked there, seated by


the big fireplace. It was no hardship to use the
kitchen as a sitting-room. The cooking was so
simple that, after the meal was over, there was no
smell of food, and the ventilation was excellent.
There was always the draught of the chimney, and
the kitchen door was a half-door, that is, a door in
halves, like the sashes of a window, swinging out-
ward, and the upper half was nearly always open.
The temperature was seldom low enough to make the
outside air unpleasant, and on either side of the
fireplace were high-backed settles to protect any one
who was sensitive to drafts.

This house always seemed very fine to me; every-
thing about it seemed interesting and beautiful and
just as it ought to be. I remember asking my
mother once whether there was anywhere in the
world a more beautiful house than ours. The earthen
floors would sometimes get out of repair and have
to be filled in; but the house was warm and com-
fortable, and my mother kept it exceedingly neat.
The yard about the house and the stable was
paved with stone, so that even in the wet, soggy
winters the place was never muddy, and the barn-
yard was always kept clean.

My father kept on with his carpenter work after
he bought his farm. He could hire men to work
the fields for sevenpence a day, and use his own time


to better profit working at his trade. My father
was only twenty-five when I was born. I remember
him as a young man with a brown beard — a rather
quiet man with a gentle face and manner. We
children were not at all afraid of him, for he was
never impatient with us. He was naturally open-
hearted and oj>en-handed. If any one in need came
to him, he would give away the last shilling in his
pocket. I can remember several times when
friendless women, alone or with their children, who
were walking the road to some distant part of
Ireland, were taken in and fed and kept overnight.
We could always make a shake-down bed for people
who needed shelter. Such hospitality was usual in
our neighborhood; nobody thought anything of it.

My father, though he was generous, was a thrifty
man, and would have got ahead in the world had
he lived. After he finished the public school as a
boy, he hired a tutor to come to his home and give
him lessons every evening for a shilling a night.
He learned surveying, in addition to thoroughly
mastering his own trade. A first-rate carpenter
then was able to do the work that now is divided
up among several trades. My father could build a
house, do the finer finishing work on the interior,
and he could also build a cart and make furniture.
All our furniture at home was his handiwork.


We were poor, but we were of the well-to-do poor.
We were always properly dressed on Sundays. We
always had hats and shoes and stockings and warm
clothes in winter. We had plenty of fuel, too. On
the way to my grandfather Gaston's at Process,
the road ran through a great green bog many miles
in extent. As one looked off over it from the road
he could see many places where there were deep
holes, some of them twenty feet deep, cut down into
the bog like the shafts in a quarry, where the peat
had been cut deep. Some of these holes were full
of water. Every year, in the month of July, we,
with our neighbors, went to the bog and cut peat
for the year. It was a regular part of the farm-
work, like harvesting or potato-planting, and every-
thing else was set aside for it. It was always done
in July — I suppose because the bog was drier then
than at any other time of the year. In the depths of
this bog were many rich fat pine roots, left there
from immemorial forests and preserved in their
original fibrous state. These, along with the peat,
made the most excellent fuel.

Our food, like that of our neighbors, was ex-
tremely simple. Potatoes were the staple, with a
sparing use of bacon and plenty of butter-milk.
We did not use bread, but oat-cakes, made of oat-
meal and baked on a griddle. These were very


crisp and tasty when they were well made. My
mother occasionally varied them with f adge, a dough
made of wheat flour with an infusion of potatoes
and baked like pan-cakes. Fresh meat we seldom
had, but we sometimes ate dried or fresh herrings,
broiling them on the tongs over the peat fire. I can
remember when the use of white bread and tea
began to be general among the people, and I recall
hearing the old people deplore the change in food
and its effect upon the teeth of the people, which
at once deteriorated.

Our house was only an eighth of a mile from my
grandfather McClure's, and there I had a little
aunt and uncle not much older than myself, with
whom I used to play. I used to run along the little
lane that connected the two farms at all hours of
the night and day. It was in that lane, after dark,
that I remember being first overtaken by the sen-
sation of fear. I remember first thinking that one
might be afraid out there, and then thinking how
glad I was that I was not; then, all at once, I was
afraid, though I did not know of what. It was
not of the devil that time, though I always carried
in mind the feeling that I might meet him.

When I was four years old I began to go to school.
That was the first important event in my life. It
was then that I first felt myself a human entity, and


my first clear memories date from then. Every-
thing before is made up of vague random impres-
sions. The nearest National School was about a
mile from our house. The schoolhouse was a well
built stone building, excellently equipped. There
was one room downstairs for the boys, another up-
stairs for the girls. In our room there were six
benches, or forms, with a long desk in front of each,
running from one side of the room to within three
feet of the opposite side. On each of these long
benches sat one class. The boys of the highest form
sat on the front bench nearest the teacher. I, of
course, was put with the little boys in the form at
the back of the room.

I remember my distress at being put next to
some very dirty children, and I remember how
tired I got in the afternoon. For the first three
days, toward four o'clock in the afternoon, I had a
long crying spell from sheer fatigue, from sitting
up on the bench, and the long hours, perhaps. I
distinctly remember how kind the teacher, Mr.
Boyd, was to me when these crying-fits came on,
and how considerate the other boys were, big and
little, not making fun of me, nor teasing me at all.

For the next six months my recollections about
my school life are vague. I saw that if I learned
my letters fast I would soon be able to get away from


the dirty children with whom I had to sit, and pass
into the next form, which I did in a few months.
From then on my school life was one of unalloyed
happiness. My life, the pleasant part of it, has
always been made up of interests, and my school/
was my first live interest.

School lasted six hours a day, fifty weeks of the
year, and there was only a half-holiday on Satur-
days. I was always a little sad to see Saturday
come around, because there were more interesting
things to do at school than there were at home. I
liked everything about going to school. I liked the
teacher and the boys and girls. The girls were
taught in classes of their own on the second floor of
the building; but we all came and went and played
on the road together. At noon we played in the
triangular playground in front of the school, with
a little brook running beside it. The boys of our
school were all well mannered and likable. I do
not remember any fights or quarrels. Some of my
dearest friends were Catholic children. I love
some of those boys to this day. We were all like
brothers together.

Sometimes I walked to school alone, and some-
times with my young aunt and uncle. I always
enjoyed the walk, whatever the weather. In win-
ter the fields got soft, but the grass fields and the


grass along the hedges stayed green, and there was
only an occasional flurry of snow. Rain we did not
mind. The roads were always firm underfoot.
Potatoes were planted in March, and spring began
early. When the spring flowers came on and the
hawthorn hedges bloomed, the walk to school
became such a delight that I could scarcely wait to
set off in the morning.

Children feel such things much more than grown
people know. I can remember what pleasure and
comfort I took, even then, in every morning looking
up and seeing the blue of distant mountains on the
horizon. There was something reassuring to me as
a child about that vague line of purple hills, and
I thought it an indispensable feature of horizons.
Some years later, on the prairies of Illinois, I learned
that it was not, and I used to long for those far-
away mountains very bitterly.

My eagerness to be off to school in the morning
was attended by one sad consequence. I was not
a strong child, and always had to be coaxed to eat
my breakfast. I was never hungry for it. Eggs
were a luxury and we could not afford them, but my
father used to have one egg for his breakfast every
morning. When he cut the top off his egg to eat
it from the shell, I can remember being given that
little piece of the white as a special appetizer. But


usually I ate very little for breakfast. After I had
set off on the road to school, however, and met
other children, and wakened up to the sights and
smells of the morning, then I began to feel happy
and to get very hungry. With firm resolution I
would open the package of oat-cake that was to
serve for my school luncheon, and I would nibble a
very little of it. Then I would wrap it up again.
But the farther I walked the better I felt, and I
would make all sorts of excuses to myself to justify
another attack on the oat-cake — such as that it
would be pleasanter to eat it under the hawthorn
hedge than in the schoolhouse; that disposing of
the oat-cake now would give me all the more time
for play or study at noon; or — most improbable of
all — that very likely at noon I should not be hungry
at all! However I reasoned, I always ate the oat-
cake, to the last crumb. The same thing happened
over and over, every day, for months and years.
I was always lunchless and terribly hungry at noon,
and I always ate my cake on the way to school
again the very next day. I enjoyed my cake, too,
unless I let my conscience trouble me too much
about the irregularity of my conduct.

The road to school led through a beautiful
country; it ran, indeed, among those same pleasant
fields of oats and beets and potatoes over which we


looked out from our own door. The flax-fields,
with their beautiful blossoms, were the prettiest.
The linen industry is one of the principal resources
of the North of Ireland, and these flax-fields, with
their sky-blue flowers, were a conspicuous feature of
the landscape. In August the flax stalks used to
lie for weeks in ditches full of water, until the softer
matter had rotted away from the fibers.

In the spring and summer we passed by great
patches of yellow gorse which we called whin bushes.
The road led over a fine stone bridge with a single
arch, which I always liked to cross, as the stream
below it was very clear. But this bridge had its
terrors, too. Just beyond it there was a public
house where they kept geese and very fierce ganders
that used to come squawking and thrusting out
their beaks at us children. We little fellows were
very much afraid of them indeed. I used to look
forward to those geese with uncomfortable appre-
hension. The next landmark on the road was a
church. It was not the church we attended; I
don't know that I ever saw the inside of it. But it
was a fine old stone church, and the church-yard
was grown up with dark, luxuriant green bushes;
they may have been rhododendrons. Passing this
church always gave me a sense of great pleasure.

The school-room was not quiet, as schools are


now. As you approached it you heard a hum of
voices. While one form recited, the other forms
studied, many of the boys going over their lessons
aloud. Physical punishment was a very live fact
in school then. Occasionally a boy was ferruled
over the hand, and we believed that if you could
manage to put two hairs from your head across
your palm before you held out your hand to the
ruler, the pain of chastisement would be greatly

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Online LibraryS. S. (Samuel Sidney) McClureMy autobiography → online text (page 1 of 15)