Notable Newsies Series – No. 3

Adolph Ochs

Today – March 12 – is the anniversary of Adolph Ochs’ birth in 1858.

Adolph Ochs (1858-1935). Painting by Philip de László (1869-1937)  National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Adolph Ochs (1858-1935). Painting by Philip de László (1869-1937)
National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Before becoming the renowned publisher of the New York Times, Ochs’ newspapering journey began right here in Tennessee. I came across this (recently acquired) portrait of Mr Ochs on a visit to the National Portrait Gallery in DC last year. I was thrilled that they chose to mention his start as a newsboy in Knoxville. Here is the portrait’s caption:

Adolph Ochs caption

National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

The story goes that, later, when Ochs worked as a printer’s devil for the Knoxville Chronicle, he gained invaluable printing experience by putting in extra hours after his shift ended at 11:30pm. It was not just his enthusiasm for the job that kept the young Ochs from leaving, but a morbid fear of passing the graveyard of the First Presbyterian Church at midnight.* The extra work paid off and, at the age of just 19, Ochs purchased a majority share of the Chattanooga Times, and in 1896, purchased the New York Times.

Note about the portrait: a portrait–by the same artist–of “Effie” Ochs, Adolph’s wife, was also acquired by the NPG and hangs on the wall alongside Mr Ochs. See it on the NPG website here.

* Faber, D. (1996). Printer’s devil to publisher : Adolph S. Ochs of the New York Times. Hensonville, N.Y. : Black Dome.