The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Ochs, Adolph S.
OCHS, Adolph S., journalist and publisher, b. in Cincinnati, Ohio, 12 March, 1858, son of Julius and Bertha (Levy) Ochs, who came from Germany in 1844. He received his education in the common schools of Knoxville, Tenn., and there, while still a schoolboy, in 1869-70, he was a newsboy and carrier, delivering newspapers to subscribers. In 1871 he was employed for a time as clerk in his uncle's wholesale grocery in Providence, R. I., and at the same time attended night school. The next year he was a druggist's apprentice in Knoxville. In 1872 he set out to learn the printer's trade, and four years later he became assistant to the foreman in the composing room of the Knoxville “Tribune.” Mr. Ochs had now found his career, for a year later he joined the staff of the Chattanooga “Dispatch,” and was practically in charge of the paper — at the age of nineteen. In 1879 he bought the Chattanooga “Times,” of which he is still the owner. The “Tradesman,” a trade publication for many years well known throughout the South, was established by him in 1879. It was through his efforts that the Southern Associated Press was established, and he became its president. At the time he entered upon these ventures Mr. Ochs was still a young man, but his tireless industry, his couragee, his unusual abilities, already evident, had won for him many friends. They had confidence in him and were ready to aid him when he needed aid. For nearly twenty years he devoted all his attention to his Chattanooga publications. He won the confidence of the community, as he had won that of his friends. Chattanooga was then a small city, but he built up a very valuable newspaper property: he made the “Times” leading paper of the State. Then he sought a broader field, and again his courage, his trust in himself, and the good opinions he had earned by demonstrated capacity were made manifest when in 1896 he acquired the control and management of the New York “Times.” His aims and the principles that guided him have been set forth in his own words: “I thought there was an opportunity in this great city for a metropolitan newspaper conducted on ideal interior daily principles; a newspaper with all the news that's fit to print, honestly presented and fairly and intelligently interpreted; a newspaper for enlightened, thoughtful people; a newspaper conducted as a decent, dignified journal.” As an interesting chapter in newspaper history, it is worth while to put on record here the story of Mr. Ochs' purchase of a controlling interest in the “Times,” as it was told by him in an address before the National Editorial Association at its meeting in New York City on 21 June, 1916: “Now, right here I wish to make a statement, of interest to those of the curious who may wish to know how I came into possession of the controlling and majority interest of the New York ‘Times.’ I shall make no new disclosures, for the facts were not only known at the time, but widely published, and they are as follows: The George Jones Estate sold, in 1893, the name and good will of the New York ‘Times’ for one million dollars, cash, to the New York Times Publishing Company, a company made up largely of a number of very well-known men, actuated by the highest motives to preserve the ‘Times’ as an independent Democratic newspaper. The panic of 1893 and insufficient capital proved too great a burden, and the company came to grief in 1896. It was then I became acquainte with the situation and was encouraged t grapple the problem that many well-known and experienced publishers declined to tackle. Perhaps it was a case in which fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Part of the simile is true, for I certainly had no ‘angel’ with me. I organized a company under a new charter — the present New York Times Company — with 10,000 shares capital stock (par value $100.00) and $500,000 five-per-cent. bonds; took up the million dollars of stock of the old company by giving in exchange 2,000 shares of the new company; paid the debts of the old company dollar for dollar with $300,000 of the five-per-cent. bonds; and with some difficulty the remaining $200,000 of bonds I sold at par for cash by giving to every purchaser of a $1,000 bond 15 shares of stock as a bonus. I subscribed for $75,000 of the bonds and received 1,125 shares of stock as a bonus, and — as was stipulated in the articles of the organization plan — I received 3,876 shares of the capital stock as compensation when three years after its organization the company was placed on a paying basis. The value placed on the shares shortly after I assumed the management was indicated by a sale of some of them at ten cents on the dollar. So in this way I acquired the control, the majority stock of the New York Times Company (5,001 shares) as the result of my work and the investment of $75,000 in its bonds. And this majority and controlling interest, somewhat increased, I now own and possess, free, clear, and unencumbered in any shape, form, or fashion. Adding to my interest the shares held by others, there is nearly ninety per cent. of the capital stock of the New York Times Company owned in the office of the ‘Times’ by persons solely employed in producing the ‘Times.’ ” The growth and development of the “Times” in the first twenty years of Mr. Ochs' management furnish the best measure of his genius and capacity as a newspaper publisher. The circulation of the paper at the time he assumed its management, with the opportunity to make his way to the ownership of a majority of the shares of the company, was about 10,000 copies daily, and its advertising was correspondingly moderate in volume. It owned no real estate and its mechanical plant was of no great value. In June, 1916, when he made the statement above quoted, the “Times” had a circulation exceeding 325,000 copies per day; there were more than 1,200 employees on its pay roll; it consumed an average of 100 tons of white paper every day and one ton of printer's ink; it had an investment of over $4,000,000 in real estate and one million dollars' worth of printing machinery. When Mr. Ochs became the publisher of the “Times” it occupied its old quarters in the Times Building, then so called, at 41 Park Row, upon which site its business had been carried on since 1857. At the end of the year 1903 the plant and offices were transferred temporarily to 32 Park Row, pending the erection of the new Times Building in Times Square, the name given by the City Government to the open space along Broadway and Seventh Avenue between Forty-second and Forty-seventh Streets. In this new home, a building twenty-five stories high, one of the most beautiful in the city, the “Times” was installed on 1 Jan., 1905. When this building was erected it was thought that ample provision had been made for the needs of the paper for an indefinite number of years to come, but it was found that the facilities of the pressroom were not adequate for the issue of an edition much exceeding 200,000 copies daily, and the circulation of the “Times” had already passed that figure when, in 1911, a plot of land was purchased with a front of 143 feet on Forty-third Street near Times Square, on which the Times Annex Building, a structure of eleven stories entirely devoted to the use of the “Times,” was erected, and to this new home, the third in Mr. Ochs' administration, the business was removed in February, 1913. Three years later, as a provision for future expansion, an additional plot of land was purchased, with a frontage of 100 feet on Forty-third Street, adjoining the Annex Building on the west side. The business of a large modern newspaper includes many branches undreamed of by Benjamin Franklin. One of these is the picture supplement, now so generally issued with Sunday editions in the chief cities of the country. A supplement containing photographic illustrations in half-tone had been already for some years issued by the “Times” when, in 1913, Mr. Ochs bought and installed the first rotogravure press used by any American newspaper. Of these presses the “Times” now has half a dozen. By this process photographic reproductions are printed from a copper cylinder, replacing the old flat-press method, thus making possible much greater speed in the presswork to meet the requirements of a Sunday newspaper of large circulation; and pictures of a far higher degree of delicacy, depth, and beauty are produced by the process. This was but one of the evidences of Mr. Ochs' genius for advancing the art of newspaper making. The “Times,” under his management, has put forth several associated publications, like satellites revolving around the central luminary. In 1896 the Saturday Review of Books and Art was established, devoted to literary and art news and criticism. It was for several years issued with the Saturday morning edition of the paper, but later became a part of the Sunday edition. The “Annalist,” a weekly financial review of affairs in the money market, the banking and investment field, appeared in 1911. The “Times” also publishes a very complete classified index, making possible ready reference to any editorial or news article printed in its columns. The European War furnished the occasion and the material for two new publications, the Mid-Week Pictorial, and the Current History. From the very beginning of the war, in August, 1914, the “Times” received every week a large number of photographs illustrating war scenes, far more than could be used in the Sunday Supplement. To meet the public demand for war pictures the Mid-Week Pictorial was established, containing many pages of reproductions of war photographs in rotogravure. Issued from the “Times” office, but sold separately, it has become an established publication. The Current History was the outcome not only of the war, but of a discovery, or, rather, of a demonstration. When the several belligerent powers published the diplomatic correspondence that immediately preceded the outbreak of hostilities, the letters of the ministers, ambassadors, and secretaries of foreign affairs were printed as a part of the day's news by the “Times” and other American newspapers. Mr. Ochs conceived the idea of assembling this mass of dispatches in one publication as a convenient reference manual for the information and use of multitudes of Americans who were eager to gain exact knowledge upon the question of responsibility for the war, then much discussed. They were, indeed, a multitude. Of the pamphlet called the “White Papers,” containing this official correspondence, the “Times” printed and sold over 200,000 copies. The dispatches of diplomats are not reading for the mindless, and the very widespread demand for the “White Papers” was another demonstration of the soundness of the belief and principles upon which the “Times” itself had risen to its high place in American journalism — the conviction that there is a vast intelligent public interested in the serious things of this world and always appreciative of the efforts of those who serve its need. The Current History, first issued in the beginning of the year 1915, appearing as a monthly magazine, and semi-annually as bound volumes, is a compilation not only of official documents and correspondence, but it has printed also the public utterances of statesmen of all the powers at war, the addresses of organized bodies, such as the German university professors, the chief documents of the great propaganda on both sides, as well as the writings of private individuals, notable press comments, all constituting a running history of the war, with accounts of its progress in text and maps. Again Mr. Ochs showed himself to be a sure judge of the public need and desire, for the Current History has come into high favor as a storehouse of information about the war from the beginning. Although Mr. Ochs was the proprietor and publisher of the Philadelphia “Times” from May, 1901, when he purchased the property, until he decided to discontinue its publication, and also the principal owner of the Philadelphia “Public Ledger” from July, 1902, until he sold his controlling interest in 1912, his energy and attention have been almost exclusively directed to the New York “Times,” his Chattanooga paper having been managed by his brother, Milton Ochs, while his brother, George W. Ochs, was the publisher and manager of the Philadelphia “Public Ledger.” Mr. Ochs' ambition and ideals of the making of a newspaper, as formulated early in his career, have been faithfully applied in the development of the New York “Times.” He said in an address before the National Editorial Association in St. Paul, Minn., in June, 1891, that the day of the newspaper as an organ was passing: “The people, as they gain culture, breadth of understanding, and independence of thought . . . more and more demand the paper that prints a history of each day without fear of consequences, the favoring of special theories, or the promotion of personal interests.” The “Times” has been conducted in accordance with this principle. Although usually described as an independent Democratic newspaper, it is bound to no party, is independent in no limited sense of the word. It supported Republican candidates for the presidency against Mr. Bryan in his three campaigns. As it is pre-eminently a newspaper it treats both parties with equal fairness in its reports of political campaign activities and utterances. So far as it is possible and necessary to give “All the News that's Fit to Print,” Mr. Ochs strives to apply the principle embodied in that motto of the paper, printed every day at the head of its columns. In its zeal for the presentation of the day's news from all parts of the world and its independence of political or other influences, in its fairness and candor, in its avoidance of sensationalism and in its standard of conduct it reflects his newspaper ideals and bears the impress of his character.