“ Sunset ” Cox had a way with the words as a newspaper owner
Samuel Sullivan Cox was a man of extraordinary ability.
Cox lived in Ohio during his formative years and through a bloody Civil War before moving to New York City later in life and represented his part of town well in Congress.
Along the way, he made enemies and friends as a classic conservative War Democrat who lamented the Civil War but supported the Union.
Today, a statue of him stands in Tomkins Park on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City.
But that’s not why he’s considered one of the most important figures in American journalism.
For that, we have to go back to Columbus and an editorial flight of fantasy.
Cox was born in Zanesville in 1824. His family had been in America since the beginning of the colonial period.
Like many other young men of his generation, Cox’s father Ezekiel left the family home in New Jersey and came to Ohio to seek his fortune. He married Maria Matilda Sullivan, the daughter of a local judge in Zanesville, and became editor and publisher of a few local newspapers.
The Cox family consisted of 13 children. Samuel was the second son and attended Zanesville schools before attending the College of Athens for two years and spending two years at Brown University, where he graduated in 1846 with a bachelor’s degree, which was a fairly advanced education. for this time.
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Back in Ohio, Cox studied law in Zanesville, then moved to Cincinnati to complete his studies.
In 1849 he returned to Zanesville and married Julia Buckingham. After a long honeymoon in Europe, the couple returned to Ohio. Convinced that his future lay in journalism rather than law, Cox bought a controlling stake in the Ohio Statesman newspaper in Columbus. The Statesman was the official voice of the Ohio Democratic Party and staunch opponent of the Whig and later the Republican Ohio State Journal.
Cox entered the political fray by defending Democratic positions and attacking opposing views. In this he was of course not alone.
At that time, it was not that expensive to start or continue a journal. All that was needed was a printer capable of setting the type and a press to print. Cox had both and left.
But it was not his political or economic views that earned him lasting fame. It was his description of the end of a day.
On May 19, 1853, the Ohio Statesman published an editorial by Cox, which became somewhat of a classic. It all started with a blossoming:
“What a stormy sunset last night! How glorious is the storm and how splendid the sun sets! We don’t remember ever having seen the same thing on our round globe… ”
The editorial continued like this for a few paragraphs and then continued to talk a bit about the clouds.
“Currently, a cloud has appeared in the Azure Belt in the form of a crenellated city. It became more alive, revealing strange forms of incomparable fame and rare and awe-inspiring alabaster temples and glories in this mundane sphere… ”
After quoting Wordsworth at length, Cox went on to describe the storm’s conclusion.
“The candles are lit. The piano knocks. We think it is good to have a home, good to be on the earth where such revelations of beauty and power can be made. And since we can’t help but remind our readers of all that is wonderful about our city, we have started and ended our faint engraving of a sunset that comes so rarely that its glory should be devoted to the immortal type.
And that was just that.
Many newspapers – national, state and local – scoffed at the editorial and offered parodies of it.
Other newspapers and a number of readers have appreciated both the editorial and its author. From all of this, the author earned the nickname “Sunset”, and it stuck with it for the rest of his life.
Cox sold his newspaper in 1855 and moved to New York City and pursued a career in local and national law and politics.
By gaining some influence in Congress as a legislator, he was instrumental in the admission of Washington, Montana, and the Dakotas into the Union as states. It has also worked to improve the remuneration and benefits of postal workers.
After his death in 1889, postal workers remembered him and raised $ 10,000 – a huge sum at the time – to order a statue of him in New York City. When it opened in 1900, approximately 2,500 postal workers marched down Broadway to Astor Place for ceremonies.
The statue was moved in 1924 to Tomkins Square, where it remains as a tribute to the man they called “Sunset” Cox.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for News from the ThisWeek community.