Edgar Watson Howe, journalist and author, was born at Treaty, Wabash county, Indiana, May 3, 1854, son of Henry and Elizabeth (Irwin) Howe. In 1857 the Howe family moved to Harrison county, Missouri, where Edgar was educated in the common schools until twelve years of age, when he began working in his father's printing office. Henry Howe, a Methodist minister, was described as a "fierce abolitionist" and published a paper at Bethany, Mo. At the age of fourteen the strict discipline of his erratic father became too much for the spirit of the boy, and he left home. E. W. Howe is next heard of in Golden, Col., as editor and publisher of the "Weekly Globe," at the age of eighteen. A year or two afterward he was connected with a paper at Falls City, Neb., where, in 1875, he married Miss Clara L. Frank. Five children were born to them, and three are living. In 1877 Mr. Howe came to Atchison, Kan., where he established the "Atchison Globe." This paper was not long in finding its way to recognition among the newspapers of Kansas, on account of the personality injected into it by its editor, and for more than thirty-four years it has been one of the most widely quoted publications in the whole country. The recent edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica refers to it. Mr. Howe has the happy faculty of being personal in his comments without giving offense. The informal way of dealing with matters in his paper has always been relished by Kansans and has attracted favorable comment in the more conventional parts of the country. The magazines, in reproducing some of his refreshing paragraphs, have referred to "Ed." Howe as the best countrytown newspaper reporter in America. He has the faculty of seeking the points overlooked by the majority and of working them up into paragraphs having a combination of sarcasm and good humor that is irresistible.
Mr. Howe's first work of fiction was "The Story of a Country Town," published in 1882, which has been for more than a quarter of a century among the standard books of America. It has been classed by such eminent critics as William Dean Howells as one of the ten best American novels. The "Chicago Times-Herald," in a mention of this book, pronounced Mr. Howe the strongest American novelist, and even the conservative "Edinburgh Review," which never allows itself to be guilty of flattery, contained highly complimentary notices of "The Story of a Country Town" and its author. This book did not run its course, as the average popular novel does; its human interest has given lasting hold on the public. Other works of fiction which Mr. Howe has since written are: "The Moonlight Boy," "The Mystery of the Locks," "An Ante-Mortem Statement" and "The Confession of John Whitlock." His "Lay Sermons" contain a great deal of good sound philosophy of life, and from the pages of this book may be deducted a very practical code of ethics. In 1900, at the time Dr. Sheldon edited the "Daily Capital," in Topeka, for a week, in the way he thought Christ would do, Mr. Howe added to the gaiety of nations by accepting an invitation from the "Topeka State Journal" and running it for a week the way he thought the Devil would run a newspaper.
In 1906 Mr. Howe made a long trip abroad, which resulted in "Daily Notes of a Trip Around the World," in two volumes, which has been praised as highly as any other book of travel in recent years. Two years later he wrote "The Trip to the West Indies," as a result of a winter cruise. His latest book is "Country Town Sayings," a collection of his paragraphs in the "Atchison Globe."
Mr. Howe's country home at Atchison is one of the most carefully and artistically arranged homes in the state. It is a bungalow, overlooking what is said to be one of the three finest views in Kansas. It was built by its owner as a place to retire when he became old, as he believes that too many old people stand around in other people's way. True to his instinct for the unusual he named it "Potato Hill." At the early age of fifty-six he concluded that he was old, made an announcement to that effect through the press, retired from the management and editorship of the "Atchison Globe," and went to Potato Hill. It was predicted by those familiar with his tireless energy as a newspaper man that he would soon be back at his desk in the "Globe" office, but such was not the case. After revising "The Story of a Country Town" for the stage, he began the publication of "Howe's Monthly," which, within a few months, became the western rival of the "Phillistine," published at East Aurora, and is considered by many to have outclassed Elbert Hubbard's magazine. The Ed. Howe paragraphs have been syndicated and appear in the leading dailies of the country. In an attempt to account for the popularity of these paragraphs and the other writings of Mr. Howe, Walt Mason, in the "American Magazine," says: "There is always, in everything Ed. Howe writes, the element of the unexpected. It is present in all his booksone of which ranks with the best in American fictionand it is in his briefest paragraph, and that is why he is inimitable. Others may adopt his style and mannerisms, but they can't borrow the strange, original intelligence that eternally ignores the obvious and seizes upon the bizarre, showing how much of the bizarre there is in everyday commonplace life."
The personality of Mr. Howe, as described by those who know him best, is that of a quiet, courteous gentleman, amiable and kind to all. His patience in teaching the young reporter, and his indulgent ignoring of the mistakes of his office force, have been frequently remarked upon. It is said that he never discharged anyone, but always assisted them to make good. To those who have been associated with him he is a greater man than he is to those who only know him through the printed page, and the longer and closer the acquaintance, the more remarkable seems his genius.Pages 803-805 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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