Colonel Jones

A Globe-Democrat cartoon published the day after Jones was ousted as editor of the St. Louis Republic.

“Journalists who take themselves seriously, who regard the work of moulding public opinion as a high vocation, who believe in duty and are willing to accept responsibility, who would rather champion the rights of the many than defend the privileges of the few, are finding it more and more difficult either to enter or to remain in the newspaper field, whether as employees or proprietors.” – Col. Charles Henry Jones, Feb. 23, 1899 [From “Charles H. Jones 1848-1913: Editor and Progressive Democrat” (1974)]

Veteran newspaperman Charles H. Jones was given full editorial and managerial control of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1895 under a five-year contract signed by founder Joseph Pulitzer. But his relationship with Pulitzer, who was still majority owner, soon soured because Jones was, among other things, an advocate of free silver, while Pulitzer was pro-gold. Pulitzer tried to oust him, but Jones prevailed in the courts.

Ultimately, health concerns — his and his wife’s — caused Jones in 1897 to sell his one-sixth stake back to Pulitzer. (The Post-Dispatch was again “an organ of gold-buggery,” The Herald of Jasper, Indiana, snarked.)

Jones’ short tenure may have been the only time until the sale in 2005 to Lee Enterprises that Pulitzer or his heirs surrendered editorial control of the Post-Dispatch.

Breaking the pattern

When we produced the “Tipping Point” stories for the Post-Dispatch in 2018-2019, I was struck by how there was a familiar pattern to decades of news coverage of housing abandonment, segregation, disinvestment and population loss: every now and then, the newspaper or the civic leadership would recognize the problem, express outrage and try to marshal public opinion into taking action.

Vacant in the snow, 2018

Sometimes, there would be an earnest response – committees created, programs announced, headlines generated – and then all would quietly fade for a few years. Just like a roaring fire eventually turns to ash.

The passage of time, of course, ensured that the responsible individuals and institutions would not be held to account. Not the city and state leaders whose actions, or lack of action, a generation ago may have undermined public schools. Not the leaders of cultural and educational institutions, awash in wealth and yet somehow exempt from many taxes. Not the real-estate developers along the prosperous central corridor, all beneficiaries of government subsidies.

So St. Louis would continue on, quietly and slowly circling the drain, until something would spark public interest – a spike in gun violence, a police killing, a rash of arsons, a new population estimate. And then it would begin again. The handwringing. The outrage. And the same, familiar calls for incremental change.

Breaking this pattern is possible, but it will require different approaches – including better local journalism. A journalism with the capability and resources to dig beneath the surface of things, find connections, question everything. A journalism with an understanding of history and places, yet fiercely independent. A journalism in which reporting and facts drive the coverage, not platitudes and personal opinion.

This is an old principle, one articulated by Post-Dispatch editor O.K. Bovard: “Never be satisfied with the surface of the news.”

Depressingly consistent

In 2015, I wrote about a century-old insurance industry study that examined murder in selected U.S. cities, including St. Louis. The study linked high homicide rates, in large part, to the “unrestrained sale of firearms.” It also found rates tended to be higher in cities with “persons of color.”

That theme – guns as a cause, minority communities as victims – has remained depressingly consistent for more than a century, especially in St. Louis.

That was true in 1920, when St. Louis had a homicide rate of 12.6 per 100,000 people. And it was true in 1980, when the rate reached 50 per 100,000 and The Associated Press described St. Louis as the nation’s “murder capital.”

Forty years ago, then-state Rep. Fred Williams told the AP: “The law enforcement agencies take the attitude that, ‘Well, there’s another Black killed, that’s one less Black we have to deal with.’” And reflecting the indifference that seems to be part of the DNA of the city’s entrenched leadership, Police Chief Eugene Camp responded: “You can’t patrol against murder. If someone wants to kill somebody, how can we stop it?”

This year, the city’s homicide rate will exceed 87 per 100,000 – an all-time record.

As of Dec. 30, the number of murders stood at 262, just five shy of matching the record set in 1993. The number of deaths from complications of COVID-19 was 297.

If gun violence and racism are public health issues, then one would expect a public health response at least equivalent to the one mounted to fight the novel coronavirus. But that hasn’t happened.

It’s easier, it seems, to fight a deadly virus than the gun lobby.

‘Someday, someday …’

‘Freedom of the Press’

Art Young, “Freedom of the Press” (1912)

Sycophant, n. One who approaches Greatness on his belly so that he may not be commanded to turn and be kicked. He is sometimes an editor.” – Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary” (1911)

‘Zweierlei Rechte’

“… Das wissen natürlich bei euch die Guten ganz genau. Der Rest hat von Blasen und Tuten keine Ahnung. Hört nur den Schmeichelchor seiner news-papers …” (“Bei uns in Europa,” )

Kurt Tucholsky

‘The corrupter’

“Damn the war”

White riot, 1920

The East St. Louis Massacre of 1917, a series of riots triggered by white labor’s reaction to the employment of Black workers as strikebreakers, left dozens, if not hundreds, of Black residents dead and thousands homeless. But workplace-related racist violence continued in the region for years, albeit on a smaller scale.

08-17-1920 negro's home burned smallOn Friday, Aug. 13, 1920, the owners of a coal mine in Coulterville, Illinois, faced with a shortage of white workers, decided to make a Black worker, William Morrison, work in a pit hitherto reserved largely for whites. But the white miners refused to work with Morrison. And they again refused  on Saturday, Aug. 14.

On Monday, Aug. 16, the mine operators waited until the whites were underground before attempting to send Morrison below. But the operator of the cage declined to take Morrison down the shaft – and was promptly discharged. When word spread, the white miners quit working and within hours, they burned Morrison’s house down. Read more of this post

Regula Mühlemann: Exsultate Jubilate

Reading list

global-biodefense-sars-cov-2-covid-19-niaid-5-1024x709Since mid-March, I’ve plowed through five new books:

Anne Case and Angus Deaton, “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism

Heather Cox Richardson, “How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America”

Sarah Kendzior, “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America”

Walter Johnson, “The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership

At this rate, I may not survive the pandemic.

‘No longer will policemen beat the heads off malefactors’

marshallIn April 1911, voters in Granite City — a company town founded by steelmakers near St. Louis — elected Marshall E. Kirkpatrick, a 28-year-old shearer at the Niedringhaus mills, as mayor. Kirkpatrick, a Socialist, would prove to be a capable administrator, serving nearly two decades in that office, until his death in 1942.

In an introduction to the new mayor — he enjoyed dancing and “ball playing” — the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Kirkpatrick wanted a municipal-owned coal yard and ice house, which would sell fuel and ice to residents at cost. He also promised a new approach to law enforcement under Police Chief Adolph White, also a Socialist.

The Post-Dispatch reported, “No longer will policemen beat the heads off malefactors, and it is going to be bad form for a Granite City policeman to kick a prisoner in the ribs.

“’Prisoners will not be beaten up by policemen while I am Mayor,’ said Mayor Kirkpatrick, telling what it is going to be like in the only city that has a Socialist Chief of Police and two or three Socialist policemen, as well as a Socialist Mayor. ‘And all prisoners will be treated alike. A poor man will have just as much consideration as a rich man.’”

Kirkpatrick promised a “clean administration.” No more slot machines and gamblers. Saloons would have to close at midnight. And government appointments would be based on qualifications. “We Socialists believe in the merit system,” he said.

Kirkpatrick was defeated in 1915, but reelected in 1917.  During his tenure, the city built its public library, city hall and a 151-unit housing project.

Kirkpatrick was one of more than 1,000 members of the Socialist Party of America elected to public office. A map produced by the Mapping American Social Movements Project at the University of Washington shows some of the places they were successful.

100 years of disappointment

04-13-1920 a1 editedThe 1920 Census bumped St. Louis out of fourth place, launching a century-long quest to undo the Great Divorce of 1876. And though its population would climb for a few decades – peaking at 856,796 in 1950 – St. Louis kept sliding in the rankings and dropped out of the top 10 in 1970.  (Most recent estimates indicate the population is hovering just above 300,000 – below the 1870 count.)

Reaction to the preliminary census results, published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 13, 1920, was predictable:

Read more of this post

Patricia Janečková

Laudate Dominum omnes gentes
Laudate eum, omnes populi
Quoniam confirmata est
Super nos misericordia eius,
Et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.

Robert Lemen

Joseph Robert LemenJoseph Robert Lemen (1890-1955) was born in St. Louis, went to art school at Washington University, married in 1912, joined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as an artist a couple years later and remained with the paper until sometime in the 1920s when he took off for California.

In the 1930 Census, his wife, Constance Andrews Lemen, and their two children are living on Orchard Avenue in Webster Groves. Constance is listed as widowed, and three years later she remarried. She died in 1970.

Lemen, who was not dead, signed a draft registration card in 1942, giving his address as 4013 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. He’s buried at Bellefontaine in St. Louis. (There’s more about him at Stripper’s Guide.)

Here are a couple examples of his work on the theme of Easter, from 1920 and 1921.

03-22-1921 lemen easter      04-04-1920 lemen easter parade


03-31-1920 goldberg profiteer


03-28-1920 freedom cartoon

‘Policies and practices’

awlee“In order that one may understand exactly what the Lee Syndicate is, it is necessary that certain policies and practices of the Lee Syndicate be disclosed…. They descended largely from Mr. (Alfred Wilson) Lee himself …. ¶ The first of these ideas … was to promote your own men, to delegate authority freely, and place upon authority strict responsibility…. ¶ Another policy of the Lee Syndicate has to do with the management of the several papers. From the outset the original trio, Messrs. Lee, (E.P.) Adler and (James F.) Powell, came to the conclusion that there must be no dictation from any central authority controlling the policy of the individual papers of the syndicate. They felt these papers must be of and for the cities which they sought to serve …. ¶ There is one feature of the syndicate newspapers, or most of them, that is rather exceptional. It is a thing many publishers would say could not be done. That is an entire separation in authority and responsibility between the editor and the business manager. The editor is supreme in all matters of policy, which the business manager is a czar of the business office. The underlying thought in this was that it never could be said that editorial policy was influenced by business considerations ….” (A.M. Brayton, “Publisher Tells Facts About the Lee Syndicate,” The Wisconsin State Journal, March 21, 1926)

12-06-1910 muscatine journal

‘Another party’

reedy mugWilliam Marion Reedy: “The cry of the politicians is ‘Down with the Bolshevists.’ In Russia a Bolshevist is a man who insists that he who will not work shall not eat. In America a Bolshevist is any man who dares disagree with the schoolmaster and who dares assert the right of free speech and a free press.”                             ———>

Duncan McDonald: “Every time you create a millionaire you also create hundreds of paupers. There are 465,000 school children in America who go to school without having breakfast, who are so undernourished they cannot study. And yet they call one a Bolshevist if he dare comment on these things. The workingman gets the work, the other fellow gets the worry.”

Robert N. Owens:  “The only difference between the treatment of negroes by the two old parties is that a Democrat points his gun at us and says, ‘You cannot vote,’ while the Republican points his gun at us and says ‘Vote, but damn you, vote my way.’” – Liberal Speakers Discuss Need of Another Party,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 20, 1920

Read more of this post

Art criticism

“Henri Matisse’s ‘Girl Who Has Just Passed Through a Wringer’ is good. …  Cummings’ ‘Soft Shell Crab Defending Its Mother’ is a striking bit of post-impressionism…. Alexander Couard’s ‘Battle Between a Varicose Vein and a Septic Flush’ is a trifle complicated, but he’s put a lot of feeling in his work, especially in the vein.” (“Exhibit Shows Independent Artists Deserving of Name,” March 12, 1920) Read more of this post

‘Land of opportunity’

ST. LOUIS – Somebody was emptying the poor box at the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, so the Rev. Father Joseph R. Watson rigged the box, wiring it to an electric buzzer that would sound in his study.

On Feb. 3, 1920, the alarm went off, and Father Watson, accompanied by a nearby store clerk, ran into the church and caught a man who said his name was Vaclav Krejci, a 35-year-old immigrant artist. When police officers searched the suspect, they found tools, skeleton keys and three slugs that Father Watson had placed in the box.

Krejci was sentenced to the City Workhouse for a year, but was paroled less than two months later despite the fact he was facing a separate felony charge of stealing from a different St. Louis church. Police caught up with the newly freed Krejci in Chicago.

the-wallsOur hapless thief was sentenced to 10 years at the Missouri State Penitentiary –  his prison record gives his name as Wenzel A. Krejci – and it’s there he scored a positive headline for a change.

In 1922, an Associated Press story reported the Krejci was painting landscapes – “running brooks and … green meadows” – with the goal of selling his art to support his widowed mother, widowed sister and his sister’s two children. Krejci, who said he studied art in Prague before coming to the United States, said he was earning an average of $12 a month. He said his family didn’t know he was in the pen. Read more of this post

‘Stop This Flame’

‘Simply a business proposition’

Roy Simpson RauschkolbWhen Presbyterians decided to sell their church at 910 N. Newstead to Lane Tabernacle, Roy S. Rauschkolb, a 34-year-old Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. salesman, organized a “protective association” to block the sale and keep African Americans from moving into the neighborhood. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 25, 1920)

Rauschkolb said: “This is not a race question, and there is no prejudice in it. it is simply a business proposition. Most of us have worked hard to build or buy our homes, and we don’t propose to see their value depreciated.”

Rauschkolb didn’t “build” or “buy” his home, though: Census records show he was renting an apartment on Enright when he organized the “Delmar-Enright Protective and Improvement Association.”

Later that same year, Rauschkolb was “loaned” by Firestone to the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce to help promote a $60 million bond issue. He became a Chamber official in the 1920s, represented laundry owners during a bitter strike in the ‘30s and in the ‘40s and ‘50s ran the Granite City-based Tri-State Chamber and served on the Bi-State Development board.

A footnote: Rauschkolb, who moved frequently, was politically active as a young man, briefly serving on the Webster Groves board of aldermen, helping organize Republicans in that conservative south St. Louis County community. His father, Louis Rauschkolb, was an inspector for the St. Louis sewer department, but killed himself in 1914, after he was demoted to cleaner.

Roy S. Rauschkolb’s obituary in 1963 made no mention of his activities in 1920; his death certificate said he worked as a “Public Relation Man.”

Remember me



muglife (2)muglife (4)muglife (3)muglife (5)IMG_0054IMG_0070muglife (1)

(Top, left to right) Willie Kane, Concordance in Cairo, detail of a Memphis tombstone, unknown First Nations warrior. (Bottom, left to right) from the collections of the Saint Louis Art Museum, Joseph Pulitzer, National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

Händel Festspiele 2019 Vivica Genaux und Lawrence Zazzo

‘No feeling of jubilation manifested’

the lynching of c.j. millerA black man was arrested in Sikeston, Missouri, taken across the Mississippi River to Bardwell, Kentucky, and lynched, burned and mutilated by a mob looking to avenge the murder of two white girls.

C.J. Millers story, retold by journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, was published on July 29, 1894 — 125 years ago — by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

From her account: “They told him they would not burn him if he would confess. His reply was that to kill him he would burn on earth only an hour, but if he told a lie he would burn forever.”

The lynching, which took place on July 7, 1893, was covered when it happened, including by the St. Louis papers. The Globe-Democrat’s account on July 8, for example, included graphic details and noted that the father of the murdered girls believed Miller was probably innocent.   Read more of this post

‘Going against escapism’

“It may sound cheesy, like new wave shit, but it’s not escapism. It’s going against escapism. We should dream together to make war against the evil, the fascists, the crazy guys around the world who are spreading like cancer.” — Gaye Su Akyol

Uncle Sam: How to spot a U.S. fascist


clipping_33985435On March 24, 1945, the U.S. War Department released Program 64, which was designed to explain to soldiers why they were fighting.

Here’s an excerpt from its publication titled “Three Ways to Spot U.S. Fascists.”

“Fascists in America may differ slightly from fascists in other countries, but there are a number of attitudes and practices that they have in common. Following are three. Every person who has one of them is not necessarily a fascist. But he is in a mental state that lends itself to the acceptance of fascist aims.

“1. Pitting religion, racial, and economic groups against one another in order to break down the national unity is a device of the divide and conquer technique used by Hitler to gain power in Germany and in other countries.

“With slight variations, to suit local conditions, Read more of this post

A ‘powerful weapon of defense’

“Exposure is a disagreeable duty of decent journalism, but how vital it is to the welfare of St. Louis! What would happen to this city at the hands of crooks if no newspaper stood guard?” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 12, 1915