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...

Starting in 1914, at the age of 62, Charles W. Smith decided to give his poor eyesight a tryout. At the urging of Howard P. Lovecraft, he published the first issue of Tryout . It ran the course of almost 300 issues until Smith's death in 1948.

Smith first learned of printing as a hobby eight years before the present NAPA was born, but it was not until many years later that he learned of its existence. Before his affiliation with the organized hobby, he and his brother published a series of assorted titles on a 13xl9 Cottage press.

He left school at 13 to work as a stock clerk, later in a box factory which he eventually owned. He retired because of poor health in 1903, lived with his daughter where he fashioned a printshop in a cellar behind a coal bin, unheated in harsh New England winters and subject to flooding during thaws.

In 1912 he moved to Haverhill, Mass., where he luxuriated in a 10x12 den, walls covered with stamps, pictures, postcards and material that Lovecraft called "delightful accumulations." Few amateurs ever met him. Because of deafness he never attended NAPA conventions, but expressed lively interest in elections and association affairs. In later years, type and press were moved to his bedroom.Younger members were often critical of Tryout's numerous typographical errors, but his deference was characteristic, "Sometimes I fear the word care is not in my vocabulary and that inattentiveness and indifference have marked me for their own. Tryout will continue to be printed and bound in the same old way." The same way meant typos unseen by deteriorating eyesight, the use of newsprint stock and wallpaper covers, side stapled.

During the lean years, Tryout was the trusty "old reliable, " printing a multitudinous number of poems, short articles and miscellany tinged with comment. It must have been exasperating to a careful writer to see his masterpiece with a glaring error, but all were not aware of the condition of Smith's sight and his advanced age.

The C. W. part of his name was gradually and affectionately replaced with Tryout in unitalicized mode, and so he was addressed until his last days in 1948.

    Last updated: 01/16/2000