theTimes, Ahead of theTimes
Before the Pentagon Papers, the Pulitzers, and the motto all the news thats fit to print, The New York Times was known for its founder, Henry Jarvis Raymond, University of Vermont class of 1840. Raymond was the papers editor and advocate and perhaps the first truly modern newspaperman. Now, as the Times celebrates its sesquicentennial, we celebrate Raymond: Vermonter and New Yorker, journalist and politician, family man and rogue.
Raymonds importance requires some historical context, which may
be why he is one of the least-known great American journalists. Most newspapers
in Raymonds day read like talk-radio political rantings combined
with scandals lurid enough to embarrass the National Enquirer. Enter Raymond,
who shunned gossip and refused to consistently advocate a single political
view. This was revolutionary for newspapers, but personally difficult
for Raymond. Such a course, he said ruefully, offends
all by turns.
Raymond died in 1869, at age 49, under unclear circumstances. One story holds that he had a heart attack at the apartment of his lover, actress Rose Eytinge, who, a contemporary reported, used Raymonds love letters against him as instruments of torture when their affair soured. Another version has Raymond taken home from a party after becoming unduly affected by a glass of champagne. His companions mistook the symptoms of a stroke for intoxication and dragged him home, where he died before morning.
Despite Raymonds mysterious demise ironically, it became a scandal of the sort he wouldnt have written about his legacy extends far beyond founding a newspaper that has prospered for 150 years. There can be no question of the extraordinary merit of Raymond the editor, writes William Rentschler, an eight-time Pulitzer Prize nominee. He set a pattern for journalism to which thoughtful, conscientious editors seek to adhere today. [He] was the prophet and progenitor of the best of modern journalism.
Henry? Just as theres a bit of mystery surrounding Henry Jarvis Raymonds death, so it goes with his memorial bust at UVM. For years, (since 1947 at least, according to Professor Emerita Betty Bandel) the bust pictured has been displayed at the university above a brass plaque with the name and achievements of Henry Jarvis Raymond. But, upon closer inspection, a sticker on back identifies the sculpture as a likeness of Chester A. Arthur, 21st president of the United States and a native son of Vermont. Tracing a Fleming Museum ID number yields the same name. But then theres that hairline, which seems to whisper, Raymond, and how did a president get on a journalists plinth in the first place?
Unravel the mystery for us and the VQ staff will take the lucky winner on an all-expenses-paid tour of the Waterman Buildings Memorial Lounge to view Henry or Chester in person.