M. H. de Young, editor and proprietor of the San Francisco Chronicle, is one of the best-known newspaper men in the country. In his chosen vocation he has achieved a success such as has fallen to the lot of but few men. Mr. de Young was born in St. Louis in 1849, and when a lad removed with his family to San Francisco. In that city he grew up and very early manifested a predilection for journalism. He and his brother Charles made several essays, more or less amateurish in character, and finally started a paper known as the Dramatic Chronicle. It made its first appearance on the 16th of January, 1865, and was a success from the beginning. It was a diminutive four-page sheet, but the news instinct asserted itself in the first issue, which, in addition to a record of affairs theatrical, contained several interesting bits of intelligence and some well-written comment on current matters.
The first publication office of the Chronicle was a cramped room on a narrow down-town street, but after a short career of prosperity a suitable building was erected on Kearny street, which was the leading thoroughfare of the city in 1879.
In 1880 the death of his brother, Charles, left M. H. de Young the sole editor and proprietor of the Chronicle, positions which were assumed with so much ability and such readiness to successfully cope with every problem, that before the decade had passed it became evident that the quarters at Bush and Kearny streets would soon prove inadequate, and that more extensive accommodations were an imperative necessity. Steps were accordingly taken to meet the emergency, the result being that in June, 1890, the present magnificent building at Market, Kearny and Geary streets was occupied, thus giving the Chronicle the finest newspaper building west of Chicago, and affording ample room for the rapid growth that now, as always, rewards the energy and enterprise with which it has been conducted, and which has made the Chronicle the universally acknowledged leader in Pacific Coast journalism.
But besides devoting himself to the upbuilding of his great journal Mr. de Young has found time to render many public services of no small importance. A thorough-paces Republican from principle, and believing that the principles of his party are best adapted for the welfare and growth of his country, he has at all times, both through his paper and by personal endeavor, sought to advance the best interests of the party. He was chosen as delegate-at-large to two national Republican conventions, and served twice as a member of the Republican national committee. He was vice-chairman of the latter body during one term, and was greatly esteemed by his associates for his energy and suggestiveness.
At the session of the California legislature in 1892 Mr. de Young's political services were recognized by the bestowal upon him of the honor of the nomination for the United States senatorship, as successor of the late George Hearst. His friends stook stanchly be him, but after balloting for nearly two weeks Mr. de Young withdrew his name from the contest and gave his strength in support of Charles N. Felton, thus ending the prolonged deadlock and giving that gentleman the coveted honor.
In 1889 he was appointed commissioner from California to the Paris Exposition, and he devoted much time to a study of that affair. His criticism of the manner in which this country was represented, or rather mis-represented there, attracted much attention, and at the same time enabled him and others to perceive what would be necessary to make our own exposition a success. He left no detail of construction, arrangement or plan unstudied, and consequently, when appointed a member of the National World's Fair Commission, he brought to the task a thorough knowledge of what was essential. This was quickly recognized, and he was made a member of the board of control, and subsequently chosen vice-president of the National Commission. In 1900 President McKinley appointed him as a national commissioner to represent the United States at the French exposition in that year. He was chosen as president of the commission by his associates and at the conclusion of the fair received the decoration of the Legion of Honor from the president of the French Republic.
He made his mark at the outset when the question of classification came up. He saw at a glance the fatal defects of the system proposed and that was on the point of being adopted by his colleagues, and lost no time in pointing them out and exposing their faults. Challenged to produce a better system of classification, he quickly did so, and so successfully explained its valuable features that it was adopted. California can, therefore, claim with just pride that the classification system of the fair is due to one of her own citizens, and to him should be awarded the honor of having been primarily instrumental for whatever success was achieved.
The next matter that engaged his attention was the grouping and arrangement of the various principal buildings. It is now a matter of history that this, too, as originally proposed, was defective in the extreme. The experience of Mr. de Young enabled him to suggest a remedy in this direction also, and his plans were adopted and carried out.
The California Midwinter International Exposition owed its conception to M. H. de Young. On May 31, 1893, he disclosed his plan to a number of leading Californians in the California Club in Chicago. It met with instant favor. Reports of the meeting were sent all over the continent. Organization was begun at once. The project was looked upon as a daring piece of impudence, and found at first the least encouragement where it was to do the most good. It was revived in Chicago by the originator of the idea. Thousands of dollars were raised at once. The people of San Francisco took it up again. Mayor Ellert appointed preliminary committees of organization, and after a few weeks of active work a permanent board of directors was chosen, with M. H. de Young as president and director-general of the exposition.
He was then in Chicago, but went at once to San Francisco, where he assumed control of the great enterprise. Aided by his experience in similar undertakings, particularly as vice-president of the Columbian Exposition, he soon had the Winter Exposition well on the road to realization. All the great mass of details necessary to the administration of an international exposition was at his command, and advancement was made more rapidly than had been done in any other similar enterprise ever undertaken.
The director-general drafted the rules and regulations to govern the exposition, made the classification of all exhibits, and superintended every step in the enterprise, which proved successful in every particular. The exposition was opened on the 1st of January, 1894, in Golden Gate Park, 300 acres of which were set aside for the purpose, and over 150 buildings for the housing of exhibits and other uses were erected at a cost of nearly $2,000,000. The exposition lasted six months, and during the time it was in progress it was visited by 904,018 persons. On some days the attendance reached 90,000. The total receipts from all sources were 41,260,112.19. At the conclusion of the exposition, when all accounts were settled, the director-general was able to turn over to the park authorities property valued at $194,051.49. This surplus served to create an enduring monument in the shape of the Midwinter Fair Memorial Museum, which is now one of the attractions of the city.
It was the verdict of competent critics that the California Midwinter Exposition took high rank as a world's fair, meeting all the requirements of such an undertaking. Its exhibits represented the best productions of the leading nations of the globe. There were 758 medals awarded to foreigners, in addition to a large number obtained by domestic exhibitors, and the enterprise enjoys the unique distinction of being the only affair of the kind which absolutely paid its way, and left a surplus to forward a project designed to benefit the people who had given the exposition their encouragement and support.
The success achieved by Mr. de Young in his conduct of the Midwinter Exposition caused him to be selected by Governor Budd as commissioner-general to represent the state of California at the Omaha Transmississippi Exposition.
Mr. de Young has for over twenty years been a director of the Associated Press, and has always since his active connection with that body devoted a great deal of attention to its workings and contributed not a little to its success.
Besides his phenomenally successful newspaper business, Mr. de Young has been fortunate in other ventures in which he has engaged, and long since had earned the right to be classed among the millionaires of the Pacific Coast. But the possession of large wealth has not divorced him from the energy and attention to detail which gave him that wealth, and every department of his great business is still subject to his personal attention. He exercises close supervision over the columns of the great journal which he has built up and every issue bears the impress of his individuality and strength of character. That it will continue so to do, and that it will grow in importance and influence under his management for many years to come, is as certain as is the fact that it has attained its present unrivaled position under his control.
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