August/September 2005 | Volume 56, Issue 4
He brought that same grace to his editing, and the same energy that built a railroad to his editorship. In the office he was a great, intimidating, inspiriting power— tall, buoyant, querulous, amused, fizzing with ideas. He would arrive like a line squall, outraged by something he’d read in the Times and seeking historical precedents to refute it, then be enchanted by a 90-year-old trade card that depicted the Brooklyn Bridge with its deck supported by strands of “Schuyler’s patent twine,” conceive a cluster of future stories founded on a forthcoming election, and then pause to squint briefly at a caption on the blue-gridded copy paper of those days and unfailingly change the almost-right word to the right word. The difference between the two, as Mark Twain said, is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
More than any other person, Oliver built the editorial house his successors at American Heritage inhabit today. It feels empty indeed just now.