AJ History

First 100 Years


The first volume of The National Amateur

Excerpts from accounts 1879 convention

In 1891 at Philadelphia

NAPA's first permanent constitution

Pillow fight

Almost fatal doldrums

1926 marked the semi-centennial

Little remembered giant

The Torpedo

The Mailing Bureau

Library of Amateur Journalism

Ralph Babcock

Presidents' Field

Tryout Smith

Thrift & Edkins


Amateur Press Clubs

Philadelphia Connections

National Amateur Press Association
The First 100 Years: Flashbacks...

Excerpts from accounts of the Washington, D. C., 1879 convention, about a presidential race between J. Edson Briggs and J. Austin Fynes: "Briggs never stepped out of his way to make a friend. He was incapable of flattery or guile. The youth who grasped his hand knew at once whether he was liked or disliked....

"Fynes differed in many respects. He never hesitated to confess his desire for the presidency, his personal participation in the campaign and his determination to win.

"Arriving in Washington, Fynes had only three supporters. Aware of this, most everyone ridiculed his chances. But Fynes was a giant, a politician, a Herculean amateur demagogue. He gained friends where Briggs made enemies. He mingled freely with all, spent money promiscuously, joked, laughed, chatted. Sympathy then began to take the place of ridicule."

There were charges of bribery, bought votes (one delegate claimed he was offered $5). Some boasted Fynes had brought $300 to buy the convention. This was never proven, but some Fynes supporters may have been overexuberant.

"Briggs was invited to take the chair. Innocently did he fail to realize the impropriety of remaining or the propriety of vacating. Fynes moved the proxy votes be rejected and the convention elect the officers. Briggs rejected the motion on constitutional grounds and was rewarded by an appeal in which Fynes' supporters was so vociferous that many could not gain recognition. Eventually the appeal was not sustained.

"A recess was taken to allow the committee time to count the proxy votes.The report the committee made was ludicrous, if not remarkable. It had been given a full hour to count the votes, but reported that more time was needed and even hinted that the task could not be performed during the week. A motion to throw out the proxy votes was repeated, and prevailed. The few on either side dissenting were powerless. There was every indication that the country-at-large was in favor of Briggs.

"Briggs occupied the chair, almost unconsciously. No obstacle remained in the way for the convention to elect the officers. No sooner had Briggs been nominated for the presidency when it was moved to close the nominations. The excitement became intense. Fynes grew pale and was unable to conceal his agitation. Many of his friends arose excitedly and gesticulated wildly but protestingly. But the motion received no second. Fynes and Arthur J. Huss were then nominated." The vote: Briggs, 17; Fynes, 12; Huss, 3; Oswald L. Williams, 1. Total, 33. Necessary to elect, 17.

"The tellers communicated the result. Silence following the count was broken by cheers for Briggs amid intense excitement. A sharp dialogue occurred between Fynes and Williams. It is said unpublishable words passed, but all remarks were drowned by the hue and cry for reconsideration or another ballot."

    Last updated: 01/16/2000