Most surviving likeness of the New-York Tribune editor Horace Greeley (1811-1872) are either caricatures or photographs taken in his later years. In political cartoons, he is often depicted wearing tiny spectacles, a top hat, and a voluminous overcoat with bulging pockets (one of his sartorial trademarks). In the post-Civil War photographs, Greeley is plump and sports a fringe of white beard, a little like Santa Claus but with beady eyes.
Now a group portrait of Greeley with his editorial staff (above) has surfaced. The photograph, in the Library of Congress’s collections, dates from before the Civil War and captures the influential newspaperman’s appearance when he was fairly young. Greeley is seated second from the right. He is clean-shaven, slope-shouldered, slight, and un-bespectacled. Like his associates, he has a rumbled and rakish appearance. What hair he has hangs down in locks; he is already going bald.
Greeley’s story was well-known to his contemporaries: how he had left his impoverished parents, who were farmers in upstate New York, to become a printer’s apprentice at an early age. How, after learning the trade, he had followed the path of the Erie Canal east and, from Albany, eventually reached New York City. How he had risen to power publishing papers that supported the interests of William Seward and his brilliant political manager Thurlow Weed. And how Greeley had built the New-York Tribune from nothing into one of the most widely read papers in the United States. This he did by assembling great talent around him, as well as by writing voluminously himself. Supposedly, he wrote standing at a lectern rather than sitting at a desk. In 1872, distressed with the low condition of the political parties, he allowed himself to be persuaded to run for the presidency. Aside from a few months’ service as a US congressman in 1848-9, he had never held political office. Even before his defeat became official, Horace Greeley died.
Image: Courtesy of the Library of Congress
via this source
Seated (left to right) with Greeley in the front row are financial editor George M. Snow, noted author Bayard Taylor, and literary editor George Ripley. Standing, left to right, are music editor William Henry Fry, Greeley’s right-hand man Charles Anderson Dana, and Henry J. Raymond, who would go on to found a competing paper, The New York Times. Mathew Brady, or someone who worked for him, took the picture.