R.C. HOILES, THE EVERYMAN OF EXCELLENCE: HIS EARLY YEARS
By Wendy McElroy
Please do not reprint or circulate without permission from the author. If you use or quote material from the manuscript, then a citation and link back would be appreciated. A donation would also be valued. Thank you.
INTRODUCTION: This presentation is a final rough draft which requires a thorough and final pass-through as well as an edit. I reprint it here because I have held it back for close to a decade now and, with so little information being published about R.C. Hoiles, it seems wrong to keep the manuscript private.
The book includes a presentation of R.C.'s philosophy and early life, his importance and achievements. It presents a portrait of the physical man so that readers can envision him vividly as well as the evolution of his ideas. The book is written in a popular fashion to portray R.C.'s spirit rather than in a scholarly manner with footnotes and bibliography. I hope another writer provides such scholarship.
Chapter One: The Development of Character
“Somewhere, somehow, man must regain his faith in the fact that material profit when accompanied by spiritual profit is a blessing to all mankind and that in free enterprise the gain or profit of one is the gain of all.”--Raymond Cyrus Hoiles
A Man True to Himself
Raymond Cyrus Hoiles built the Freedom Newspaper chain – largest publishing venture that was devoted to promoting the principles of individual freedom. Its mastship was the Santa Ana Daily Register (1935), which quickly was renamed the Orange County Register. In a New York Times interview entitled “Hoiles, a Conservative Publisher, Expounds Views,” explained the core of the political philosophy he championed: "government should exist only to try to protect the rights of every individual, not to redistribute the property, manipulate the economy, or establish a pattern of society." In the same interview, R.C. identified himself as a Voluntaryist.
R.C. lived each day on the basis of the famous lines from Hamlet: “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” He considered the principle to be a welcomed challenge that every human being should bring to his own conscience and to every day of living. Thus, the facts of R.C.'s daily life reveal his spiritual philosophy as clearly as his explicitly expressed political beliefs. The truth of his life and of his actions converged on one conclusion: men had a God-given right to be free and act according to their own conscience. Mike Maloney, a long-time associate of Hoiles, explained, “R.C.'s whole life and being were just aimed at that one thing, the concept of the freedom of the individual, and I'm sure that's what kept him going and gave him the purpose for living.”
A Memorial book was issued on November 24, 1953 as a gift to R.C. on the occasion of his 75th birthday. The book referred to the maxim “to thine own self be true” as a golden thread that ran through the woof and warp of R.C.'s life. The compiler wrote, “It is impossible to recount his biography without taking into account his philosophy and outlook on life for, as one hand washes the other, his active and every-day life was inextricably bound up in his philosophy. And the catalytic agent that binds the two together is his singleness of purpose expressed over and over again in being true to himself.”
R.C.'s deep and abiding religious faith was grounded in and inextricably tied to his belief that each man required the freedom to live the truth according to his own nature. A key reason “why Christianity is successful when put into operation,” Hoiles explained, is because “it attempts to develop in each individual, as far as possible, his respect for other people's rights as well as his own...”
The following simple outline of R.C.'s early life reveals the specific self to which he was unswervingly true as well as the rare gifts he extended to every person he met: honesty and genuine respect.
He Is Born
Raymond Cyrus Hoiles was born into comfortable but not rich circumstances on November 24, 1878 on a farm two miles south of the section of Alliance, Ohio known as Mount Union. Located about 20 miles northeast of Canton, Alliance then boasted a population of some 4,000 souls. It was a railroad town at which two major tracks intersected: the Cleveland and Wellsville Railroad,and the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad. The town was organized around its railroad station, with Main Street laid out to shuttle traffic back and forth to the station, which is where the street ended or, arguably, began. For that reason, Alliance became known as "the town where Main Street is a dead end."
1878 was a different world than that of today. Only thirteen years earlier, the United States had emerged from the bloodiest conflict it has experienced to date: the Civil War. As a young and vigorous country, however, America quickly rebounded and it was now in the midst of what has been called 'The Gilded Age' – a period of galloping economic and population growth that followed the slaughter. During the 1870s and 1880s, America's economy grew faster than in any other prior period; even an extended depression in the '70s could not hold the economy back. The West was opening wide under the pressure of migration and the frantic pace of railroad construction; it is estimated that railroad mileage tripled between 1860 and 1880.
R.C. was born into a heady era in which the United States was becoming an economic leader of the world, surpassing Britain and Germany in production of essential and global goods like steel. Huge factories, especially in the Northeast, were engines driving the growth; immigrants flocked from Europe through Ellis Island to labor in the factories and workshops that sprang up like weeds. Indeed, the Gilded Age is credited with establishing the modern industrial society with a sharp division of labor and large-scale production methods that used power-driven machinery. Colleges across America began to offer the engineering courses that would later draw R.C.'s attention; the courses became popular career paths because of the high demand for engineering and technological expertise.
Along with the factories and railroads came the rise of huge fortunes – an era of tycoons in which businessmen amassed unprecedented empires, often through privileges from government. John D. Rockefeller dominated the oil industry; Jay Gould loomed large in railroads; Andrew Carnegie manufactured steel; J. Pierpont Morgan reaped vast profits from banking; Henry Ford eventually created the automobile industry. Along with riches came political and media influence which was used to encourage much of the American population to idealize or demonize the tycoons.
Not all tycoons were equal, however. Although some of the tycoons, such as Morgan, lived hedonistically on a grand scale and in a kingly manner, many others, especially Rockefeller and Ford, maintained what has been called “small town values.” That is, they believed success came from good personal values and characteristics – merit, hard work and thrift. (This is not an endorsement of the varying content of their personal values such as 'merit'.) The heirs of empire went on to create and maintain the largest philanthropic foundations and institutions in the United States. While shunning government privilege, it is into this second category that R.C.'s eventual empire would loosely fall: a fortune built on good character and values, which he handed along to heirs for safe-keeping.
The prosperity and opportunity of the Gilded Age created a fluid class-structure within American society through which the average person was able to rise from the lower class into comfort or even wealth. In Europe, a strong stigma still attached to being in 'commerce' or the trades; but, in America, business success was respected and something to which most people aspired.
Not everyone was enthusiastic about the surge of corporations and industry, however. With the tycoons and factories came a surge of labor unions which R.C. would often confront and condemn as a newspaperman. By 1886, the Knights of Labor boasted a membership of 700,000. The railroads, such as those that ran through Alliance, were a popular target for strikes and other labor actions which involved a substantial amount of violence.
1878, the year of R.C.'s birth, was also a time of new possibilities and amazing discoveries that must have created a boundless sense of optimism about what man could accomplish. It was the year Thomas Edison patented the phonograph and the light bulb was invented. America was quickly becoming global leader in technology and inventions, as well as economic progress, with some 500,000 patents being issued between 1860 and 1890. The explosion of discoveries and technology, along with the industries they engendered, was so great that the process was called the Second Industrial Revolution.
In short, R.C. was born into an optimistic age that expected hard work and traditional Yankee values, like thrift, to be rewarded with financial success. It was an era bursting with the same sort of energy R.C. would display throughout his life.
Few things in the circumstances of R.C.'s family background or childhood upbringing, however, indicated that R.C.'s later career would lead him to build a publishing empire and establish the most powerful voice of individual freedom in America.
The roots of R.C.'s family tree are German and New England American. Born near Stuttgart, Germany in 1665, One of R.C.'s ancestors, John Jacob Aister (1665-1745), arrived in America along with his wife Catherine, two sons and four daughters in 1717. He is buried in the New Hanover Church graveyard, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. John Jacob's son John George Aister (1706-1789) produced a son named Samuel (1734-1767), with the last name Americanized to 'Oyster'. Samuel begat a son, John Oyster (1755-1844). In turn, with his wife Margaret, John had a son who was given the family name of Samuel (1784-1846). He married Barbara Keller (?-1838).
From this last union, R.C.'s grandmother Barbara Oyster (1816-1894) was born. On October 25, 1838, Barbara married James Hoiles (1812-1888) whose parents were Levi and Catherine (Estep) Hoiles. Together Barbara and James lived in Columbiana County, Ohio and they produced three children: Kate, Henry Clay (1844-1921) and Samuel Harrison, who became R.C.'s father.
[INSERT SKETCH OF EXTENDED FAMILY TREE HERE.]
Samuel Harrison Hoiles was born on November 12, 1839 in North Germantown, Ohio. He was a industrious and prosperous farmer who got his start through the grueling work of ramrodding cattle drives from Indiana to Ohio. At one point, hearing there was good money to be made by going Northeast, he drove a flock of sheep to New York state. Soon he was able to purchase a farm where he intended to settle and raise a family with his young bride. Phoebe Ann Ladd (called Ann) had been born on June 27, 1842 to Ann and James Ladd who were Quakers; indeed, she was born in Quaker Hill, which was four miles east of Alliance. Samuel and Ann married on October 15, 1863. Before the marriage could occur, however, Samuel received an attractive offer for his property and immediately sold it for a profit, taking his bride to live in a rented home instead. Eight months later, the Hoiles purchased from a Mrs. Hilles the property and farmhouse in which R.C. would be born and where he would live until marrying at the age of 26.
In their 1863 marriage photograph, [INCLUDE PHOTO] the young Samuel and Ann stare directly into the camera in a straight-forward, no-nonsense manner. The seated Samuel has his hands clasped together in his lap as though it were difficult for them not to be moving, not to be active in labor. His legs are crossed with one of them sticking out an awkward angle. This was not a man who wasted time on making an impression. His face bears a strong resemblance to photographs of the later R.C. with the hawk-like nose, close-set eyes and tapering face. It is an unforgiving and unsmiling face but the type you instinctively trust to tell the truth; he is a man with whom you would seal a contract by shaking his restless hand.
In the photo, Ann stands to the side, with one hand resting on Samuel's shoulder, the other resting comfortably on her billowing dark skirt. A handsome woman with black hair parted in the middle and drawn back from her face, she gives off an air of intelligence and poise. Her face is softer than Samuel's but there is no girlishness about it, no levity or sentimentality. It is impossible to imagine her leaning over a back fence to gossip with a neighbor or otherwise while away an hour in leisure instead of work.
A more complete psychological portrait of R.C.'s parents is elusive. Mrs. Hilles remembered Samuel as “very good in math and spelling but not much of a reader” even though he had some college education, which was not common at the time. By contrast, she described Ann as being “quite philosophical.” R.C. described his mother as “a reader and a very good woman”; he ascribed his own insatiable reading habits to her example. Mrs. Hilles agreed, commenting, “it is from his mother's side that Ray gets the reading and arguing quality.” The “arguing quality” as likely came from Ann's three brothers as from the gentle, soft-spoken woman. Her brothers were known as fierce arguers who never, ever backed down. One of them was “a political boss in his community in Iowa” and he was particularly given to intense political debate. Mrs. Hilles passed on an infamous family story of how some friends of the Hoiles decided to test how long Ann's brother would argue before giving up in defeat, disgust or exhaustion. They took on the task in shifts but, after the entire night had passed in debate, it was the friends who gave up.
Although Ann gave birth to eight children in all, only four of them survived. Two children died before reaching the age of one. Two sons, Lawrence and Howard, died at the ages of four and six within 18 days of each other during an epidemic of scarlet fever. (Scarlet fever was one of leading causes of death in infants and young children during this period.) R.C. Was the seventh child born to the Hoiles and he grew up with a younger sister Effie along with two older brothers, Frank Austin and Roland Lewis.
Although R.C. would become one of the foremost iconoclasts of his age, his parents were relatively conventional in their ideas. They were Methodist in religious affiliation and well-respected within the community. Indeed, his father sat on the Board of the public school system that R.C. would later attack as the most harmful institution of society. R.C. did recall, however, hearing his father refer to government schools as “socialistic.”
The primary legacy his parents passed on to R.C. were the invaluable personality traits that would define his personality and his career. The values included a deep love of family, an unshakable belief in God (though not in organized religion), a persistence that bordered on mule-headed stubbornness, absolute self-confidence, an enthusiasm for hard work, the acceptance of personal responsibility and self-reliance, intellectual courage, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
Decades later, one of R.C.'s columnists, Paul W. Travis, offered an apt description of their legacy. R.C., he declared, was “an end product of the character building practiced by the American pioneers, bearing the marks of frugal, self-reliant, thrifty, pious, Bible-believing, farmer, Quaker parents.” (Actually, his mother had abandoned Quakerism upon marrying a Methodist; nevertheless, the values passed on reflected both.)
As he grew up, R.C. was far closer to Rolland (“Roll”) and Effie than he was to Frank, who had been the second child born to the Hoiles. Because of a twelve year difference in age, Frank left the farm to marry when R.C. was only nine years old; the two brothers would not become close companions until they later worked together years later in the newspaper business. It was with Effie, who was closest in age, that R.C. formed the closest bond. She later recalled, “He used to come to me occasionally and say, 'I'd like a little sisterly advice'....I could always depend on him for help of any kind when necessary.”
Effie (who became Mrs. Ross P. Hilles) gives us a glimpse of the young R.C.:
“Ray...went to grammar school across the road from the family home. He was not too robust as a child and was fond of pets, particularly sheep and horses. He had a work horse he raised which, when hitched with a mated horse of his father's, made the best team, so the rural mail man said, on his route.”
In terms of animals, the Hoiles farm raised mostly pigs and sheep, with some cows and horses as well. The sheep were raised for their wool but it was not used by the family itself to make clothing. Much later in life, R.C. explained, “We'd sell the wool, and they'd card it, clean it, and so forth. We used to take the sheep down to the creek and go in with 'em up to here (waist) and wash the dirt out of the sheep. Then you'd get more for the wool. In the spring of the year, getting in up to here was kind of cool. But at that time your circulation was good.”
It was an uncomplicated life, before automobiles, radios or motion pictures; when farm and other work were done, the family tended to have potlucks or to go on picnics. R.C. and his siblings played with their cousins. Of one cousin, Effie recounted, “she and Ray could never play together without a fight or an argument so he must have been a little combative when a child.”
Already the characteristics that would define his life were evident. An absolutely devoted and affectionate son, R.C. learned hard work from his father on the farm. R.C. later reflected, “That's something that is inherent in a farmer boy. You work during the week, but you also put to with your chores on Saturdays, through the weekend. I've always put into philosophy the dictum that you work hard and you realize some of your ambitions. Maybe not all of them, but eventually you'll get what you're driving after.”
A typical morning: in the early sunlight hours, R.C.'s father would let the cows out on the road, and it was the young boy's chore to put them into the pasture. If R.C. did not scramble out of bed in a timely manner, the cows would wander and he would have to spend as long as it took to track them down and herd them. Only then would R.C. Be able to sit down to breakfast, which often consisted of fried mush.
In an interview with Phoebe Adams, who later became his secretary and devoted friend, R.C. described the shrewd work habits he learned from his father. At that point in time, it was not common practice to plant rows of corn a few feet apart, as it is now. Nevertheless, Samuel “used to plant corn in the rows instead of the hills because he figured he'd get more corn from it.” R.C. and his brothers would “hoe one row and keep a little ahead of him, and he'd watch and see that we got the weeds all out.”[Adams interview.] Soon R.C. Was innovating himself, for example, by selling strawberries to the grocery store or on the street when the store wouldn't take them.
Another key principle R.C. reported learning from his father: “The sense to know that you don't ask any man to do anything that you wouldn't do yourself.” This one principle alone could have accounted for why R.C. later viewed each employee as an equal because he was willing to do every task he himself assigned.
At the school house across the way from the Hoiles farmhouse, R.C. Continued to learn the value of a dollar. He recalled “I took care of the school house – built the fire and cleaned out the school house, swept it out – for five dollars for four months. So I knew what a dollar meant.”
A later profile, written by the Gazette-Telegraph staff writer Ray Broussard, expanded on the importance of 'the dollar' earned in childhood, which R.C. called “a real dollar, a shiny one. Not the inflated brand.” In his article, Broussard commented that R.C. “never got over the pride instilled in him by the feel of earning a shining, silver dollar at the age of eight.” He felt a similar pride in the $13 gold watch he bought one summer during his high school years, using the wages he earned from two months of farm work. R.C. kept the watch with him until he died.
Perhaps imitating his father, the young R.C. also took to more complicated business ventures as though they were second nature. For example, Effie explained, “One venture at this was to borrow $1,000 from a neighbor at four per cent and loaning it [sic] out to someone else at six per cent.” (Presumably his father endorsed the note.)
Nothing in his own education foreshadowed his later vehement opposition to public schooling, however. Effie recalled that R.C. seemed eager to attend public school, “He drove a horse and buggy, or, in winter a sleigh, to high school three miles distant. While it was pleasant driving to school with a nice horse and buggy he did freeze his ears twice in one week shoveling snow to get through. All the girls were envious of the girls he asked to ride to school with him, though it was usually the same one.”
Graduating from high school in 1897, he returned to take classes in order to perfect his English and Latin grammar. Indeed, he thought well enough of the country school to teach a couple of terms there, working his teaching schedule around his college courses. At that time, as R.C. later explained, in order to teach “you had to have a certificate was all you had to do. You had to pass an examination to have a certificate.”
Later, in a 1955 column entitled “My Handicap,” R.C. indicated how deep his reversal ran on the value of public education. “I want to explain how my attending government schools and getting a high school diploma and then graduating from a Methodist college handicapped me in developing my moral and mental faculties. How, in short, it retarded my education.”
But the younger R.C. vigorously pursued a traditional education. Along with his sister Effie who became a fellow-student, he studied at the Methodist Mount Union College, which lay three miles from the front door of his farm home. He attended for four years. Effie sketched her brother's college life, “In Mt. Union college he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. He was a good but not an A student. Language was of no interest — very good in math — took everything he could get in it. In fact he even considered going on and taking a course in electrical engineering.” He also became business manager of the senior class year book, the Unionian, which flourished under his watch.
An incident at college demonstrated an independence and rebelliousness that would blossom to border on intransigence. The Methodist college did not permit dancing – an activity of which R.C. was quite fond. In response, he organized a “sneak dance” in the gymnasium to which about eight couples attended. Knowing he could be expelled for the stunt, he warned Effie not to attend because one expulsion would be more than enough for the Hoiles family. Effie must have been as stubborn as R.C. She remembered her reply, “I said he needn't think that he could go and I not, so we both were there.” Refusing to stay away, she reported having “had lots of fun”; moreover, the dance must have been well planned and executed because no one was caught.
R.C.'s self-reliant streak also manifested itself at Mount Union. “I wanted to make it in college on my own,” he later stated, “paying my own way. I didn't want someone else paying for my college.” Beginning in 1898, and working around his schedule at Mount Union College, R.C. taught a few terms in the local country school that paid him a total of $20 a month. The rest of the time, he earned money by working for the Alliance Review, a daily newspaper which was owned by his brother Frank; the Review still publishes today. R.C.'s job at the Review was to collect money for existing subscriptions and to sell new ones; he literally peddled by bicycle down dirt roads to isolated farm houses and sold newspapers.
After graduating college, R.C. considered continuing on with courses on electrical engineering but, instead, he made the explicit decision to join his brother in the newspaper publishing business at the Alliance Review. Effie remembered, “While my father and mother and I were traveling in California we got a long letter from him telling of all the opportunities he was about to give up since he had decided to go into the Review as a printer's devil.”
And, so, R.C. began to work full time as a printer's devil or apprentice for $2 a week in wages. R.C. recalled, “That was $2 a week for a 54-hour week, mind you. Try to compare that with what people get today. But I didn't mind, because I was learning the printer's trade and that probably was all I was worth. Never did get it learned because the bookkeeper died and they asked me to take over. There were no adding machines then, and when the bookkeeper died things were pretty much in a mess. I kinda think they believed I was too dumb to get a trial balance, but I worked nights and nights at it and finally I got the books to balance.”
Always good at math, R.C. went on to become business manager of the Review. His wages soared to $75 a month, a substantial amount in the day. It was at that point, R.C. claimed, “I began to get the fever. I wanted to get into business for myself.” Flushed with the success that came from hard work, it was then R.C. discovered what became a lifelong and consuming passion -- newspapers. Indeed, he must have wondered whether his college education had been wasted. Later in life, he complained of the common perception that “going through the public schools and colleges is education” and claimed to spend most of his life erasing the lessons taught by the traditional system.
By 1905, R.C. owned a one-third interest in the thriving newspaper; Frank owned the remainder.
There was another reason for R.C. to be enthusiastic and to push himself ever harder to succeed. During this period, the up-and-coming businessman had met Mabel Myrtle Crumb, daughter of Clarence D. and Mary Ellen Crumb of Quaker Hill, Ohio. Their meeting had been an arranged one. His brother 'Roll' was a dentist in Cuyahoga Falls some 35 miles away. Upon learning that R.C. would be visiting him over the weekend, Roland set up a blind date between his brother and a secretary of whom he thought well. Since R.C. loved to dance, the couple's first date was to attended a dance together. R.C. described Mabel as having “beautiful eyes” and a “splendid voice” that she “used” to good advantage “in the Church choir.” In a photograph taken in 1910, Mabel's truly beautiful eyes stare out from a composed and highly intelligent face. [INCLUDE PHOTO] It is a private face, however, that did not promise to reveal emotions easily. The reserved expression is in accord with the observation often made that she never shared R.C.'s passion for business or argumentation. Her dark hair is pulled modestly back to slightly frame her face and her head is held high.
A traditional courtship followed, by which each one of the couple visited the other's family home for dinners. R.C. and Mabel married on February 16, 1905.
The couple moved into a large, two-story house that the frugal R.C. bought outright because he refused to lose money by paying interest. Then, Mabel rented out the four upstairs rooms, and provided light housekeeping duties for a fee. Ever private about their family life, the young married couple built an extra bathroom so they no longer needed to share facilities with renters and, then, they lived downstairs.
Four children would be born to the R.C. and Mabel: Clarence Harrison (1905), Raymond Crumb (1912), Harry Howard (1916) and Mary Jane (1922). Raymond would die of pneumonia in 1920 at the age of eight. Each of R.C.'s remaining children also produced heirs. Clarence married Mabelle Scheiber from which union came James, Judith, Patricia and Mary Elizabeth Hoiles. Harry married Barbara Clark and produced Pamela, Penelope and Timothy Hoiles. Mary Jane married Robert Hardie and gave birth to Douglas, Melissa and David Hardie.
The Seed of a Publishing Empire is Sown
In 1919, the opportunity to buy the Lorain Times Herald (Ohio) newspaper arose and the two publishing brothers grabbed it. But, this time, R.C. owned a two-thirds share and became a hands-on publisher. He moved Mabel and his sons to Lorain, which was located in Northeast Ohio on Lake Erie about 30 miles west of Cleveland. It was here, at the Herald, where R.C. ceased to work primarily behind the scenes, and must have discovered the joy of having a published voice – a joy that never seemed to diminish.
When a potential buyer approached him two years later, the ever-negotiating R.C. countered by asking if the would-be purchaser had another paper that was anywhere near as good as the Herald. If he did, then R.C. said he would turn the tables by buying it. Thus, he acquired a one-third interest in the Mansfield News (Ohio); Frank also assumed a one-third interest with the remainder being purchased by Emil Jenkins, the man who had succeeded R.C. as the business manager at the Alliance Review. R.C.'s family now followed the scent of newspaper print and moved to Mansfield in North-Central Ohio near the Allegheny Plateau, about 80 miles southwest of Cleveland.
Thus, in 1921, R.C. and Frank owned two newspapers outright (the Alliance Review and the Lorain Times Herald) and had a controlling interest in a third newspaper (Mansfield News). Fortunately, each paper was a separate legal entity. This was fortunate because soon the brothers would disagree significantly and split the businesses to go their separate professional ways.
A main cause of the split was R.C.'s growing passion for editorializing. He prided himself on the controversial editorials that later became the hallmark of a 'Hoiles' newspaper. R.C. explained, “I got tired of reading the wishy-washy editorials being turned out by the papers. I believed that a paper should stand for something and let everybody know what it stood for and stick to that.”
Now a successful publisher with the then-princely income of $10,000 a year, R.C. increasingly asserted his own opinions, whether or not Frank objected. An associate of R.C.'s from those days recalled, “During these hectic time, all of those who worked with Mr. [R.C.] Hoiles did so because they knew he had guts and because he inspired loyalty, hard work and admiration. Almost at once, Mr. Hoiles could be the most lovable yet the most exasperating type of man; the most stimulating and the most depressing, depending upon the current stage of operation of his exceptionally active mind and intellectual pursuits.”
Given the differences in their personalities and their approach to the newspaper business, a serious conflict between the two brothers may well have been inevitable. The proximate cause of their split would be R.C.'s vigorous opposition to labor unions, an opposition which Frank did not wish to have expressed in the Mansfield News.
Why did R.C. so adamantly oppose organized labor? After all, he was an egalitarian in his treatment of people and an advocate for the common man. For example, he insisted upon calling his employees by the term “associates” because they were full partners, not merely links in a hierarchy. He consistently demonstrated nothing but respect for people who earned a livelihood through the sweat of their brows. Harry L. Graham, a later associate at the Orange County Register observed, “No believer in class distinctions, Hoiles was 'R.C.' to all of his friends and employees, whom he called associates. There were no Misters at his newspapers. Women, however, were addressed by their first names, or as Miss or Mrs.”
People did not work 'for' him but 'with' him, R.C. insisted. Indeed, R.C. did not see himself as a 'boss' at all. He explained, “I'm actually a broker. The people I have with me turn out a product, be it news story or editorial, and I take that product they've manufactured and I put it into the open market—the market place and try to make a profit of it. That's sound business.
“But with me it's a question of a person working for himself as well as working with me. I'd like to feel that every reporter and editorial writer...thinks of himself as being his own boss. It's your own initiative that makes you want to do things, not somebody issuing a directive or a jurisdictional order to you.”
From editors to secretaries, from writers to janitors, he treated employees as intellectual equals and never failed to engage them in conversation or to proffer a book, urging them to read it and get back to him with feedback. Often he would reach into pockets that bulged with pamphlets; indeed, he later had his pockets sewn with extra deep linings in order to accommodate the large quantity of pamphlets he liked to carry. Then, R.C. would read the material aloud or point out a passage. He delighted in what he called “close reasoning,” which meant gleefully grilling everyone he encountered as to the consistency of their beliefs. No one was exempt or treated as a member of the elite. He once refused to stand up in a courtroom after the judge had declined to define his terms and defend his values.
In short, R.C. was utterly non-elitist and pro the working man. And, yet, he held labor unions in contempt and consistently moved to ensure that all of his newspapers were open shop. He later stated, “I don't believe in unions, in a closed-shop. Never did and never will. Oh, I don't object to the principle of someone representing an employe [sic] if that employe wants representation. But that's not how unions work. They force the representation on you whether you want it or not. And I didn't want it.”
It is useful to dwell upon the underlying reason why R.C. rejected unions because it captures much about the typical manner in which he approached issues and events. It explains the content of the editorials that upset Frank so deeply that he severed a long-term business relationship with his brother.
R.C. rejected labor unions on two grounds. First, they violated the Golden Rule, which was a foundation of his moral code; and, second, they invited government intervention or force into human relationships.
The Golden Rule is stated in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (King James Version). R.C. called upon workers to treat employers as they themselves wished to be treated; in other words, they should engage in free negotiation that acknowledged each party’s right to say “no.” Of equal importance, union members should respect the rights of the nonunion workers who were willing to assume the jobs and contracts the unions rejected. By demanding a monopoly on jobs, union members were claiming a right they denied to others, which meant they were claiming a privilege.
The demand for privilege led union members into a de facto partnership with government, which was the second reason R.C. rejected labor unions. In short, to enforce an all-union shop, the union needed the force of law to prevent employers from hiring whomever they wanted among those who were willing to work for them. One result of the union-government partnership: a manufacturer had the right to refuse to negotiate working conditions with an individual employee but he had no similar right regarding the group of individual employees called “a union.” The law forced him to negotiate. This was the double standard by which a group is 'allowed' to act in a manner that is improper for individuals.
With R.C. refusing to back down on his outspoken and moral stand against unions, the two brothers agreed to dissolve their partnership amiably. Frank assumed R.C.'s interest in the Alliance Review; R.C. received Frank's interest in the Lorain and Mansfield newspapers; he bought out Jenkins' remaining share in the latter. Frank returned to the newspaper that had started R.C.'s career; R.C. now owned two newspapers outright.
An Independent Publisher
R.C. reveled in the independence and freedom that ownership brought and bought. He declared, “When I was working on a newspaper that I did not control, I used to wish that I was in another line of business. I thought it was much more important to be manufacturing something of a national nature than producing a local newspaper. The newspaper I was connected with at that time did not particularly stand for any principle, so it was difficult to be enthusiastic about the newspaper business. Now I believe that the newspaper business is one of the most important of all business. It is a business that can do a lot of good or a lot of harm. It cannot do very much good unless it is consistent and stands for the principles that are in harmony with natural, moral law.”
Then, in 1927, R.C. purchased the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum (Ohio) from J. Frank Burke with whom he would later form another publishing relationship. His eldest son Clarence (known as C.H.), then 22 years old, moved to Bucyrus to become manager under his father's supervision. This was the beginning of decades worth of a productive partnership between father and son. It could have been the beginning of a publishing empire...but wasn't. Not yet.
Shortly after acquiring the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum, R.C. was plunged into a ferocious, violent clash that has been called “one of the bitterest newspaper fights in the history of the publishing business in Ohio.”
The conflict began when the Times Herald (Lorain) published an exposé
of alleged government corruption concerning a paving contract that was awarded to the Highway Contracting Company of Cleveland by the City Council of Lorain. Apparently, a lower bid had been reject out-of-hand by the council. The exposé stirred up a hornet's net of popular outrage and the city council finally decided it was prudent to accept the lower bid after all. Seeking revenge, the owner of the displaced paving company, S.A. Horwitz (often misspelled as Horowitz), set up a rival newspaper in Lorain, called the Journal, with the intent of driving R.C. out of business. When R.C. was able to offset his losses from the rivalry within Lorain by drawing upon profits from the Mansfield paper, the unforgiving and vengeful Horwitz set up a competing newspaper in that city as well. With neither side willing to back down, the Horwitz-Hoiles feud lasted three long and eventful years.
The most dramatic moment during the feud occurred at 11 p.m. on a cold November night in 1928. The moment: an explosion blew the front porch off the Hoiles home in Mansfield. Fortunately, no one was injured. Neither was anyone officially charged.
Then, in the following September, there was another bomb incident. After picking up his car from the parking lot of the Mansfield Country Club where he enjoyed playing golf, R.C. noticed that the car's motor was misfiring and, so, he took it into his garage mechanic the next day. Upon lifting the hood, the amazed mechanic discovered several sticks of dynamite had been wired to the starter mechanism and might well have exploded when R.C. turned the key. In an article entitled “Bomb in Publisher's Car,” the New York Times quoted Hoiles as claiming the two bombs came from “the same agencies” but no specific names were stated. Again, no charges were laid.
At this point, most men would have walked away from the feud. But R.C. was never one to back down from a fight and his physical courage was notorious. A story captures the latter. On one occasion, R.C. attended a speech by William Green, then-president of the American Federation of Labor. R.C.'s questions from the audience must have been ignored, so he jumped up on the speaker's platform to challenge Green about labor unions. The fact that several muscular union bodyguards stood at Green's side did not seem to give R.C. pause. Neither did a dud bomb that was found by staff in the newspaper office of the Mansfield News.
As a later associate, D.R. Segal, observed, “Controversy was soap on his paddle, the elixir of his life. It kept him humming for all the days of his 90-year-life.” Or, as R.C. later said of the Horwitz conflict, “I didn't much like the idea of someone trying to run me out of business.” Accordingly, R.C.'s respond to the bomb in his car was to purchase a bullet-proof vehicle, make sure it had a lock on its engine, and hire an armed guard to accompany him in the passenger seat. He continued publishing.
In the end, however, his ever hard-nosed business sense won out. The simple fact was that neither Lorain nor Mansfield could financially sustain two daily newspapers. As his son Harry later recalled, R.C. realized that the competition was “too rich for his blood.”
And, so, in 1931, R.C. convinced Brush-Moore, a large Ohio newspaper organization, to buy both of his papers. He retained the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum, however. Eventually, Brush-Moore sold the newspapers to Horwitz.
R.C. had paid a staggeringly high price for reporting as his conscience demanded but he never second-guessed his choice to publish the truth and damn the consequences, then or later.
R.C.'s Philosophical Awakening
Until 1931, R.C.'s focus had been upon family and achieving financial success in the publishing world. Now, at the age of 53, he took a four year hiatus from the demands of business. Most men would have taken time to relax and recover from the incredible stress of the last years and such a response would not have been entirely out of step with R.C.'s character. Despite being labeled a workaholic, he enjoyed many activities which occupied time that could been otherwise spent in an office. He regularly played nine courses of golf, for example. Moreover, as an avid family man, he and Mabel liked to travel extensively, and even enjoyed a leisurely Mediterranean cruise. During their marriage, they crossed the country several times on family trips, some of which lasted for months. In fact, R.C. did travel extensively in the years following the newspapers' sale.
But, clearly, he was a man unable to shut off his mind. His main preoccupation and passion during the hiatus was reading, which he did voraciously. He wanted to create a world view that explicitly integrated the sometimes implicit principles upon which he had been living his life.
According to his son Harry, until 1931, R.C. “wasn't really so awfully interested in philosophy.” He had “read some philosophy before that, but not a great deal.” R.C.'s plunge into reading was an attempt to understand with crystal clarity the world around him and, again, to make explicit the principles that must guide a moral man.
To the extent R.C. Might have been forced into a political allegiance, he would have probably identified himself as a conservative Republican. Even then, however, he was out of step with many in those ranks, if only because of his unshakable commitment to absolute free trade. In 1931, that political background and framework must have seemed inadequate to explain what was happening in and around him. The passion with which he wished to understand and guide circumstances can be judged from one fact. Although he was suspicious and critical of government and politics, in 1932, R.C. made a run for state office in a local election but never got past the primary.
What were the social circumstances that led R.C. to reach for a philosophy with which to integrate the world?
The early 1930s in America was a period of monumental change – politically, economically, and socially. The Great Depression was a deep economic downturn that started around 1929 and lasted at least into the late 1930s. On October 29, 1929 – a day known to history as Black Tuesday -- the stock market collapsed. Some view this as the cause of the Great Depression; others view it as a symptom. Certainly, the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve – especially the easy credit policies – played a crucial role by creating a credit bubble that burst. Those policies would soon have a disastrous impact on R.C. himself.
As people across America panicked, there were runs on banks and bank failures; in the ten months following the crash, over 700 banks across America shut their doors, often wiping out people's life savings. An estimated 9,000 banks closed during the Depression's span. Unemployment reached as high as 25% while the personal income of those still employed fell. Large cities were hard hit, especially those dependent upon heavy industries. Rural areas were devastated as crop prices tumbled and a severe drought turned millions of acres of farmland into dust, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes in search of any work. Still other people left because the banks foreclosed on homes and businesses.
R.C.'s home state of Ohio was especially ravaged by the Great Depression. In 1932, Ohio's general unemployment rate reached 37.3 percent. By 1933, approximately forty percent of factory workers and sixty-seven percent of construction workers were unemployed. In Cleveland, approximately fifty percent of industrial workers were unemployed; in Toledo, the rate was eighty percent. Cities depopulated as the unemployed gravitated toward rural areas where they could grow the food necessary to feed their families. The unemployed who stayed often relied on soup kitchens to eat.
Although the Hoiles family did not suffer the worst consequences of the Great Depression, R.C. must have watched in dismay and fascination as the political, social and economic assumptions of the society he knew changed around him.
Much of the change was in attitudes toward politics. Prior to the Great Depression, American society had a general bias in favor of economic liberalism -- the economic expression of classical liberalism, which champions free trade. Government did not necessarily express this laissez-faire philosophy – for example, it implemented the monetary policies that created a credit bubble – but the marketplace remained relatively free from government regulation, especially by modern standards. During the Great Depression, however, popular opinion began to blame laissez-faire capitalism for the economic crisis, which allowed another paradigm to arise and offer an alternate explanation of economic causes and cures.
The Republican Herbert Hoover was President when the Great Depression swept America. The government scrambled to contain and to reverse the economic devastation. For example, with the stated goal of protecting American jobs, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 raised tariffs to record levels on over 20,000 goods. International free trade slowed to a trickle. But neither the Act nor other government interventions stemmed the Depression.
From Britain, the economist John Maynard Keynes explained the Great Depression in new terms. Keynes argued that decisions made by the private sector lead to negative and widespread outcomes that required an aggressive policy response by government in order for society to stabilize. In short, he suggested massive government intervention into the marketplace. The free market and free trade that R.C. zealously championed would become increasingly unpopular, not merely in theory but in practice as well.
In March 1933, Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt became President with the promise of delivering a “New Deal” for the American people. The New Deal was a series of interlocking economic programs that were implemented between 1933 and 1936. Indeed, during his "First Hundred Days" in office, Roosevelt issued a staggering number of laws and executive orders that were aimed at achieving the 3 Rs: relief, recovery, and reform. The federal government's regulation of business and trade soared.
As R.C. watched and read newspapers, American society shifted on its axis; the shift was away from what he believed was fundamentally true of man's nature and of a proper society. R.C.'s reaction could only have deepened as he himself fell victim to Roosevelt's New Deal and one policy in particular that came in response to the monetary crisis. R.C. would later say that the world would have been better off if FDR had never learned to read or write. (Note: he was later misquoted as saying that FDR should never have been allowed to learn to read or write but, as close associates remarked, R.C. did not believe in denying education to anyone.)
What was the policy that bit R.C. so sharply?
The Lorain and Mansfield newspapers had been sold in 1931, well before Roosevelt's Presidency but, by the terms of sale, R.C. would not receive the full proceeds until 1935. As a private contract, the sale included a 'gold clause', which was common practice at the time. The clause gave R.C. the option to receive payment in gold or gold equivalent. Such clauses were included in contracts as a protection against inflation or any other problems with paper currency which might occur when payments were extended over a long period.
On April 5, 1933, however, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102. He commanded the American people (with a few exceptions) to hand over to the Federal Reserve all but a small permitted amount of whatever gold coins, gold bullion and gold certificates they owned. In exchange, they would receive $20.67 per troy ounce. The price of gold for international trade was set at $35, thus providing the government with huge profits from the forced exchange. After a court case unsuccessfully called the validity of Executive Order 6102 into question, Roosevelt's gold policies were cemented into the legal system by the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 which outlawed gold clauses in contracts. R.C. never received anywhere close to the true value for which he had sold his newspapers.
Decades later, in private correspondence with libertarian Robert LeFevre, R.C. Would later proclaim, “I lost $240,000”.
In 1937, R.C addressed the essence of the New Deal when he wrote, “The whole question now facing the American people is: Are we intelligent enough ourselves to decide what kind of work we want, how much we should be paid, and how much we should be charged for what we buy, or shall we permit the professional politicians to make these decisions for us? It would seem that the combined foresight of the American people would be greater than the foresight of a few grasping politicians who were drunk with their own power!”
Several years later (1944), he added, “those who are perturbed about the end result of the New Deal's politics might well be. Those policies are just the forerunners of a Fascist state.”
In this environment, R.C. began to read and to make explicit the principles upon which he had implicitly based his life to date. In doing so, he discovered what he called his greatest “handicap.”
In a 1955 editorial entitled “My Handicap,” R.C. explained that it was the lack of one specific piece of knowledge, the knowledge of the clear, uncluttered difference between right and wrong, between liberty and the use of aggressive force or fraud. He wrote, “It seems to me that it's almost impossible for any individual in a Protestant family and a Protestant community attending public schools to realize his handicap unless he comes in contact with real libertarians; with individuals that really understand the ideologies as set forth in the Declaration of Independence.” (Note: I expect R.C. would extend the insight to non-Protestant communities as well.)
R.C. explained the genesis of his awakening. “Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of the first libertarians who aroused my interest in liberty and how a government should be limited. I bought his complete works and was fascinated with them. His essay on 'Compensation, Politics and The Uses of Great Men' stimulated my desire for better understanding.
“Then I ran across Herbert Spencer's works that started me to question the morality of government schools and the myths that existed in most of the organized religions. He whetted my curiousity, but some of Spencer's writings he later disavowed...”
R.C. went on to detail his next and most profound revelation, “Then a socialist told me that Frederic Bastiat made the best explanation of the disadvantages that come from protective tariff. That interested me. I got his Sophisms and was so fascinated that I bought his Harmonies of Political Economy, and even had some of his essays translated into English.
“He was the first man who awakened me to the errors taught in government schools and most Protestant colleges, that the State doing things that were immoral, if done by an individual, made these acts become moral. In other words, he was the first man that pointed out that there was only one standard of right and wrong—the same standard for the state that government the standard for the individual. He also clearly explained to me that in creating wealth in a free economy the gain of one was the gain of all. He explained the primary cause of modern wars. He explained that where goods and services do not freely cross border lines, soldiers will and was will eventually follow.”
“Bastiat so impressed me,” R.C. wrote, “that I republished his Social Fallacies (Economic Sophisms) and his Harmonies of Political Economy in two volumes, and his essay entitled The Law.”
Why had he not encountered Bastiat in his high school or college libraries, R.C. wondered. When the answer was fully formulated, it would form part of the motivation for a passion that drove the rest of R.C.'s life: exposing the immorality of the public school system.
As he read without cease, R.C. developed the thoroughly conscious moral code that would be published in November 1953 under the title "A few of the things I have faith in." They remain the single most compact and eloquent expression of his core beliefs. Composed shortly before R.C's 75th birthday, the Articles of Faith offer a clear sense of the vision of the man who, in 1935, was about to embark on a remarkable adventure. He was about to build one of the powerful platforms for individual liberty and dignity that the world has produced: the Freedom Newspaper chain. The younger and the elder R.C. would have agreed on every comma and adjective but the elder man held each principle consciously.
A resoundingly positive rather than negative expression of faith, the style of the Articles appears to be modeled after the Ten Commandments and particularly after what R.C. called the human relations commandments, for example, “Thou shalt not covet.”
• “I have faith in principles, in truth, in sequence, in order, in cause, in action and reaction, in the Commandments, in the Golden Rule, in Natural Law, or God.
• “I have faith that the Commandments and the Golden Rule will promote good will and peace to the degree they are obeyed.
• “I have faith that whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.
• “I have faith that to the degree we have free trade and no immigration quotas will we have peace and good will amongst men.
• “I have faith that our country would be better protected by voluntary soldiers rather than by drafted soldiers.
• “I have faith that our government would better protect every person’s inalienable rights if it was supported on a voluntary basis rather than by taxes.
• “I have faith in the immortality of influence and the immortality of the race.
• “I have faith that in free enterprise the gain or profit of one is the gain of all.
• “I have faith in free competition.
• “I have faith that we will be better educated by voluntary, competitive schools than by government schools.
• “I have faith that competition will create both material and spiritual development.
• “I have faith that free competition or an unhampered market in both material things and ideas is a blessing to all mankind.
• “I have faith in myself and my wife and children and grandchildren, and in all men who will answer questions without evasion about what they are advocating.
• “I have faith that man is perfectible even if he is fallible.
• “I have faith that man lives a more abundant life when he lives by the sweat of his brow than by gifts.
• “I have faith in work.
• “I have faith it is more blessed to give than to receive.
• “I have faith that there shall ever be friendship among the good, but never be friendship among the evil.
• “I have faith that life is good.
• “I have faith that men would more nearly reap all they produce and more nearly approach justice under the competitive, free, private, enterprise system than under any other system.
• “I have faith that a government is a good government that only does what each and every individual has moral and ethical and just right to do.
• “I have faith that men who have faith in moral principles live more abundantly than those who believe there are no eternal, moral, just principles that govern human relations.
• “I have faith that gaining understanding of nature’s laws is the best way to be useful to one’s self and to his fellow man.
“These are a few of the things I have faith in.
“If an atheist is an individual who contends there are no eternal principles and everything happens by chance, it is hard to conceive then how an atheist can believe that he has any inalienable God-given rights. The only philosophy he could possibly have would be that might makes right and that the end justifies the means.”
“In looking up the word ‘faith’ in the Concordance I was surprised to find that it was only used once in the Old Testament and was used 234 times in the New Testament.
“Yes, I have faith. I do not see how man can live without faith.”
In plain language, what was the content and logical flow of R.C.'s philosophy and faith?
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