Page images
PDF
EPUB

thirds vote, and with many hours available for dickering in secret corners. It was in these circumstances that Mr. Cobb printed, in typographic display unusual with World editorials, the solemn warning which had much to do with the nomination of Mr. Wilson in the first ballot taken Monday morning.

More than eight years later Mr. Cobb was to print, March 4, 1920, a long editorial article, afterward republished in pamphlet form, and now included in this volume, entitled "Woodrow Wilson-an Interpretation," which was perhaps the fairest and completest pen-picture ever presented of the great War President.

Since the close of military operations in 1918 Mr. Cobb had been sought by many organizations as a public speaker and his views on public affairs were often solicited by magazine editors. Such invitations were in most cases declined. Exceptions were made when in November, 1921, he printed an article in The Atlantic Monthly, detailing the shocking expenditures still made for warlike purposes, even with the example of the Great War before humanity for its guidance; when in January, 1920, he spoke before the City Club of New York, describing how freedom of press and speech and even thought had been curbed during the war and how freedom in peace was endangered by those who would continue such practices; as when, in Harper's Magazine for June, 1923, he pointed out that "of all the self-governing nations that emerged from the blood and welter of the World War, none of them fashioned its Constitution after that of the United States; all of them rejected Congressional Government in favor of Parliamentary Government"—and asked some pertinent questions why world fashions in constitution framing had changed.

Simple and unassuming, ready with sympathy and wise in the nature of his fellow men, Frank Cobb made friends without effort.

He loved music and understood it well. He read easily for recreation the fiction and the philosophy of Paris and Berlin as well as of New York and London. A quiet game of dominoes in a corner of the Manhattan Club or a bout at story-telling rested him for his exacting work. Part of his annual vacation was always spent on Moosehead Lake, Maine, where with 'Lijah, his faithful old guide, he caught big fish-squaretails, salmon, togue or lakers-often by sheer persistence for long hours, where others failed for lack of patience. "I am going fishing," he said as his life ended.

Some years ago he bought a farm in Westport, Conn., where during week-ends it was his pleasure to fuss about with practical work on the buildings or at the dam above which he harvested his annual crop of ice. It was to this farm that he returned in July, 1923, from his last trip to the Maine woods, where he had a wide circle of friends, when his fatal illness was already upon him. It was from this farm that, a few days later, he returned to his city home in order to be near his physicians for treat

ment.

Mr. Cobb was a director and the first vice president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Gov. Nathan Miller appointed him a member of the Board of Managers of the Manhattan State Hospital; he was chairman of the Publicity Committee of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and a member of various social organizations. His favorite haunt when off duty and away from his home was the Manhattan Club, where he was a leading promoter of mental athletics at "The Boarding House Table." When on duty, but roaming from his desk, he frequented, all day long, the news rooms, studying the news first hand as it came from the special correspondents, press associations and from reporters and rewrite men who had gathered it at the telephone.

In 1913 Cobb married Margaret Hubbard Ayer, her

self a World writer in former days and the daughter of Harriet Hubbard Ayer, whom all older readers of The World will remember. Of this union there are two chil'dren, Jane and Hubbard Cobb. Of civic honors Cobb was not one to make display. He was a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and the Belgian Order of Leopold, but probably nobody ever saw him display their ribbons upon his coat.

*

Frank Cobb would have regarded with pity and contempt one who wrote at his 'direction that which the writer 'did not himself believe to be true. Like an impatient general in employing his intellectual forces in battle, his sometimes brusque manner was merely evidence of the sincerity of his own belief. He had nothing but disgust for one who bent and trimmed opinions to meet time and circumstance and the pleasuring of an accidental authority.

Mr. Cobb would not write six lines about himself for "Who's Who," but he would spend hours and weeks preparing himself to spread and defend his theories of American destiny and human liberty and honesty, whether before an august assembly of publicists or a bewildered and groping neighborhood improvement society made up of newly mixed components in the East Side melting pot.

Mr. Watterson's estimate of Frank Cobb was made in attacking one of the policies to which Cobb gave all that was in him-that of the League of Nations. The impression left by Frank Cobb is to be found most firmly marked among people who disagreed with him while respecting and loving him. No man better enjoyed being loved; and no man would have less pardoned a sacrifice of honest opinion to that affection.

Frank Cobb was an inveterate conversationalist. He liked to be where others were talking; he was at his best when talking himself, whether with one listener, two or a hall full. But his enthusiasm for narrative and con

troversy and homily was for ideas, his own or those of others, and not at all for Frank Cobb the individual. What those close to him knew of his life came as off hand recollections of experiences or persons which he told to illustrate a situation or a character or to point a moral.

It was part of his nature to accumulate the attributes of culture as a forest tree draws stature from the air and from its native soil. He did not learn French or German in the district school or the normal school. But he had a facility in both. His love of classical music was critical and not a mere sense satisfaction of harmony. His scientific insight and his keeping pace with modern research were such that he was safe from the humiliation of finding he had blindly followed the glamorous lure of crackpot genius or sordid charlatan.

It was not in Frank Cobb to "talk down" to any man. The university bred intellectual met him on ground which Cobb had reached by another path; but the old crony from the lumber camp was no more conscious of the grasp of affairs and the arts which had come to his newspaper friend than was the editor himself. Frank Cobb's human philosophy was sound; he had to set up no artificial transmission lines for a mutual understanding with another man, whether friendly or unfriendly.

No man better enjoyed being friendly. His healthy good nature was such that unless he spoke in righteous anger-which could not be mistaken by the thickest-hided offender who ever lived-the boisterous exaggerations of his play of humor could not sting. Words which from another would have drawn an angry retort or a fight were accepted as affectionate demonstrations to be answered with a grin-or did the object of them dare a contest bound to be unequal, an essay to make reply in the same spirit.

His visits to the Evening World gave a zest to the 'day's work; he might be in his shirt-sleeves, hurrying to snatch a bit of information needed in a half-written edi

torial; he may have been running tumultuously to be the first to tell a story to one who would best appreciate it; he might come with what he believed to be an overpowering rejoinder to one with whom he had an argumentative difference; he might pass through to shout (for the edification of an executive) appreciation of good work 'done by the least considered of the staff; or it might be to express sympathy in misfortune by pausing to press a comforting hand upon a friend's shoulder. Wherever he moved, he radiated his warmth of friendship and cheer.

Was a precise and notably abstemious veteran out of sorts and testy? Frank Cobb would openly charge him with paying the penalty of a night of riotous living. Had the most emphatic advocate of immediate and universal recognition of Irish freedom, national and individual, appeared in new raiment? Frank Cobb would proclaim that the new clothes had been "bought with British gold." Saturday afternoons did not seem to end the week's work properly when his illness kept him from the office-because he did not appear in hat and overcoat, to make sure at the last moment nothing in the news had happened to interfere with his week-end trip to the farm and also to assure all present of his contempt for "poor wage-slave worms" who could not go out and play-quite oblivious to the contradiction exhibited by the worn traveling bag in which he took the material for his own labor to the country with him.

The energy generated by his enthusiasms exerted, sometimes, astonishing power for overcoming obstacles. A reporter, sent to Washington when a national railroad strike threatened in 1916, heard Woodrow Wilson read his message to Congress on the emergency. It was after the "dead line" hour, too late for any but a surprisingly novel and important despatch to be written, telegraphed, edited, headed and placed in type to catch the last edition of The Evening World.

« PreviousContinue »