Everyone seems to know and like the extremely popular “Humans of New York” (HONY) blog by Brandon Stanton. Intriguingly, another man was putting an equally human face on the people of New York City, both celebrities and ordinary folks, nearly 100 years ago.
O.O. McIntyre (Wikipedia article here) was a small-town boy from southern Ohio who brought America’s faraway big city to the readers of small town and rural newspapers across the country. His syndicated column featured relatively short slice-of-life essays that captured snapshots of New York’s daily dramas large and small. “New York Day by Day” was hugely successful, due not only to people’s curiosity about life in New York but also (probably primarily) to McIntyre’s voice. Whether written about a shopkeeper or baseball legend Babe Ruth, McIntrye’s column read like a daily letter home from a local boy who had somehow turned out to live an interesting life in an exciting place.
I have a collection of 25 “selected” stories of O.O. McIntyre published in 1929 by Cosmopolitan Magazine, which McIntyre wrote a monthly column for in addition to his syndicated newspaper columns. The book was “not for sale” but was a gift for subscribers. (Cosmopolitan was a very different magazine in the 1920s than it is today 🙂 )
Despite the fact that he was one of the highest-paid writers in the world at the height of the Depression, today McIntyre is largely forgotten. When McIntyre’s widow died in the 1980s, found among her papers was a statement showing that her husband’s income for the month of December 1937 was $12,204.12. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Inflation Calculator, that would be worth $201,226.45 in 2014.
Imagine: $201,226.45 for the month of December alone! So times 12 months, if December was representative of McIntyre’s usual monthly income, that would equal $2,414,717.40 for the year.
For more information, if you’re interested, this article on O.O. McIntyre ran in the Smithsonian Magazine in April 2011. Here’s an excerpt:
By the early 1920s, O. O. (for Oscar Odd) McIntyre was perhaps the most famous New Yorker alive—at least to people who didn’t reside there. His daily column about the city, “New York Day by Day,” reportedly ran in more than 500 newspapers throughout the United States. He also wrote a popular monthly column for Cosmopolitan, then one of the country’s largest general-interest magazines. His annual output totaled some 300,000 words, the bulk of them about New York. In return for all that time at the typewriter, he was reputed to be the most widely read and highly paid writer in the world, earning an estimated $200,000 a year.
[Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/odd-mcintyre-the-man-who-taught-america-about-new-york-2317241/#x2tJ0Uk2odxW6eIQ.99
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McIntyre’s prose seems very dated today. But it’s interesting to get a glimpse of New York during the 1920s and ’30s and to get a feel for the kind of newspaper column that Americans liked to read back then.
Given the popularity of HONY, it appears to have been basically the same kind of thing we like to read today 🙂