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#0034: Willa Cather to Will Owen Jones, January 15 [1897]

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Dear Mr. Jones1;

I may not be able to get my stuff3 in this week. "This is our busy week." But I had an experience with the managing editor of the "Times"4 and "News"5 that I thought might interest you, so I'll take time to tell you. It is W. A. Magee6, you know, the man who "owns" Pittsburgh. I have known his sister in law but had not met him. He is also the political "boss" here, President and Chief stock-holder of the Consolidated Street Car Company7 that owns 8000 miles of track, an is a multimillionair and is managing editor of two papers. Of course he did'nt 2dont do much editing. Well, I have been thinking for a good while that it would be a good thing to be working into some solid newspaper in case the Monthly8 should collapse9. So last Friday with merely a note of introduction from my actress friend Miss Craigen10 I went to his office. I expected There were more people there than I ever saw in an office; poor women who wanted work for their husbands on the car line; men who had been fired for drunkenness and wanted to "try again", men who wanted to sweep the streets, and seedy looking newspaper men in last summer's tan 3 shoes and red neckties whose appearance told plainly why they were there. Well, we wasted two hours and at last Magee came in. He was a little ugly man carelessly almost shabbily dressed with an intensely nervous manner. When all those people began at him I thought it was simply no use to try and was about to go away, for here were all these hungry looking people "wanting jobs." But I stayed just for the pleasure of seeing this millionair's manner with the poor devils. He had a kind word for every one of them and it was'nt unctious patronizing kindness, just the simple sort that a man whose 4 heart was good might let drop to his less fortunate fellows as he hurried through the thousand gigantic plans of his busy life. He knew most of the women by names, gave them letters to the engineers, often encouraged the men, & gave them letters. and At last it was my turn. Well, I had never asked a stranger for a "job" before, so I did'nt say I knew his family, I wanted to talk business only. Like a fool I had'nt thought just what I wanted to ask for or what I would say I could do. But I told him what I had done and that I had only a limited amount of time for newspaper work & that I was on the magazine. He was 5 as nice to me as to the rest, helped me to say what I wanted an and got my whole history out of me in five minutes by the clock. Then he said he'd look up my case and asked me to come again today. I went back this afternoon not expecting anything but to see and wonder at this queer nervous little fellow again. Why there were ten experienced newspaper men in his office begging for a job. I just went because the fellow was a wonder to me. He asked me into his library—both of his offices were literally full of people—His library is a palace, though he says he seldom reads. He got to the point right away, remembered my name and 6 said he "took to me." Told me to go ahead11 and do some special [illegible] articles as things struck me and he'd take them. Said there was a vacancy on the evening paper and he would see that my chance chance was good there. Then he said, "Now there is one thing I should have asked you the other day, but I was really very much exhausted then. Sometimes when people strike a new town they are laid up. I've been that way myself. If you're fixed that way I'd be glad to tide you over." I cant tell you how nicely he said it, Mr. Jones, it did'nt hurt my pride a bit. Of course I told him I did'nt need anything, but I added "You're a 7 white man sure." He goes to New York12 tomorrow, gets back Monday, made an engagement with me for Thu Wednesday and Friday goes to New York Chicago13. I'd work work for the fellow just to study him, this queer fellow who controlls the politics of Pennsylvania14, "owns Pittsburgh", edits two papers, rides in a carriage, lives in a palace, wears dirty collars and shoes shoes run down at the heel, and talks to street car conductor's wives like they were his friends and picks up poor lone maidens he has never [illegible] seen before and does the big generous by them. How can he do it all? I should 8 think he'd just drop from exhaustion. He left me to meet with the architects to examine plans for an immense new bank bank he is president of.

Well I did'nt mean to write you a volume, and of course nothing may come of it. But my admiration for W. A. Magee will be just the same. I thought it might interest you to hear about such a giant, we dont see much of that sort of thing in the west. Say, Mr. Jones, if you'd drop me a line about your New York adventures I'd greatly appreciate it.

Sincerely Willa Cather