- Historic Sites
The National Police Gazette
A Little Visit to the Lower Depths via
October 1972 | Volume 23, Issue 6
But, you know, they were our own. History, as History, was not for them or for their Police Gazette . There was never the slightest mention of History in the pink pages upon which the paper was printed. (Why pink pages? Nobody knows for sure. It was a Fox inspiration, and it worked, it caught the eye and imagination.) History was our immigration policy, or foreign affairs, or the tariff issue. It was the little printed phrases in the left-hand corners of school textbooks—The Currency Issue, The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, Federal Grants to Western States. None of that will you find here in what used to be called “The Pinky.” The readers might have guffawed at “Prominent Banker Pushes Peanut With Nose For a Mile to Pay Off Election Bet,” but if they wanted to know about Grover Cleveland’s policies, they would have to seek elsewhere. That must have been the way they wanted it. Otherwise the paper wouldn’t have sold.
Great-grandmother and great-grandfather have now gone to dust under cemetery stones. We have pictures of them in old albums, and in those pictures he is sitting sternly, wearing, always, a coat and tie. She is straight-backed and staring at the camera with her hand placed on his shoulder. She buried half her brood because the sickness carried them off, and he slaved like a dog in the fields or along the railroad line, but you would never know it from the prim picture taken by a studio photographer, telling them not to move for the long period it would take for an exposure to be made. But beyond those unsmiling faces and his whiskers and her hairdo and long skirt you can sense, if you take the Police Gazette for what it was, that these stern, heroic figures were, after all, real. Like us. Their country lanes are superhighways now, and so much of it all is gone—kerosene lamps, the stoves, sleds, saws for cutting the ice, stickpins, and needle workshops … everything. But something of it all is in the pages of the Police Gazette to say that once upon a time these our own breathed, yelled, fought, made love, had great and terrible passions, laughed—that they lived.
Richard Kyle Fox died in 1922, a multimillionaire. By then his paper had been in decline for twenty years. Hearst and Pulitzer and McCormick long afterward admitted their debt to him, saying that the New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune were his heirs. Their time began when his ended. He had less than twenty-five years for his run. Then, around the turn of the century, the dailies, copying him, outsensationalized and out-yellow-journalized him. On top of which, they had photographs, too.
Fox, no longer young, tried to hang on through the days just before and after the First World War. But the life and the spirit weren’t there any more. The dailies had sports sections and theatrical columns, too. By the time he died, his paper was as dull and lifeless as it had been when he began.
Ten years after his death the Police Gazette , trapped by the Great Depression, was sold for a bankrupt. A few years later, Harold Roswell took it over. He breathed some life into it, bringing it out as a monthly. Then a Canadian outfit bought it. You see it on your newsstand, sometimes. I do not believe it will come back big again.