Adventures and Letters
First Newspaper Experiences
In the late summer of 1886 Richard returned from Cuba and settled down in Philadelphia
to write an article about his experiences at Santiago and to look for regular newspaper
work. Early in September he wrote his mother:
I saw the Record people to-day. They said there was not an opening but could give me
"chance" work, that is, I was to report each day at one and get what was left over. I said I
would take it as I would have my mornings free to write the article and what afternoons I
did not have newspaper work besides. This is satisfactory. They are either doing all they
can to oblige Dad or else giving me a trial trip before making an opening. The article is
progressing but slowly. To paraphrase Talleyrand, what's done is but little and that little
is not good. However, since your last letter full of such excellent "tips" I have rewritten it
and think it is much improved. I will write to Thurston concerning the artist to-morrow.
He is away from B. at present. On the whole the article is not bad.
Richard's stay on The Record, however, was short-lived. His excuse for the brevity of the
experience was given in an interview some years later. "My City Editor didn't like me
because on cold days I wore gloves. But he was determined to make me work, and gave
me about eighteen assignments a day, and paid me $7. a week. At the end of three months
he discharged me as incompetent."
From The Record Richard went to The Press, which was much more to his liking, and,
indeed it was here that he did his first real work and showed his first promise. For nearly
three years he did general reporting and during this time gained a great deal more
personal success than comes to most members of that usually anonymous profession. His
big chance came with the Johnstown flood, and the news stories he wired to his paper
showed the first glimpse of his ability as a correspondent. Later on, disguised as a crook,
he joined a gang of yeggmen, lived with them in the worst dives of the city, and
eventually gained their good opinion to the extent of being allowed to assist in planning a
burglary. But before the actual robbery took place, Richard had obtained enough
evidence against his crook companions to turn them over to the police and eventually
land them in prison. It was during these days that he wrote his first story for a magazine,
and the following letter shows that it was something of a milestone in his career.