Frank Ernest Gannett

Frank Gannett 1953 by Yousuf Karsh
Frank Ernest Gannett (Sept. 15, 1876 - Dec. 3, 1957), journalist and publisher, was born in Bristol, N.Y., the son of Joseph Charles Gannett, a farmer who later became proprietor of several hotels, and Maria Brooks. He won a scholarship to Cornell University, where he worked on the college newspaper but in his junior year concentrated on a paying job as the campus correspondent for the Ithaca Journal. During the summer following his junior year, he worked for the Syracuse Herald. Gannett graduated from Cornell with the B.A. degree in 1898. The following year he served as secretary to Cornell president Jacob G. Schurman, chairman of the first Philippine Commission (1899). Gannett was asked to serve as secretary to William Howard Taft, chairman of the second Philippine Commission, but instead became editor of the Cornell Alumni News (1900). In the same year he was hired as city editor of the Ithaca Daily News, and shortly afterward was named managing editor and business manager. For some months he served as editor of the Pittsburgh Index, then became part owner of the Elmira (N.Y.) Gazette (1906), which subsequently merged with the Elmira Evening Star.

In 1912 Gannett purchased the Ithaca Journal, which he consolidated with the Ithaca News in 1919. With his associates from the Elmira Star-Gazette he bought the Union and Advertiser and the Evening Times of Rochester, N. Y., which became the Rochester Times-Union. In 1921 the group purchased two Utica papers that merged as the Utica Observer-Dispatch, and two years later they acquired the Elmira Advertiser and its Sunday edition, the Elmira Telegram. By 1924 Gannett had purchased the interests of his associates and, mainly in the next decade, acquired many more papers, largely in upstate New York (Newburgh, Olean, Ogdensburg, Albany, Malone, Saratoga, Massena, Niagara Falls) but also downstate (Brooklyn) and in New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut. Over a period of forty years he acquired twenty-seven newspapers and tried, unsuccessfully, to buy others, including the Indianapolis News, the Detroit Free Press, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Boston Herald, and the Chicago Daily News. However, he never founded a newspaper.

On Mar. 25, 1920, Gannett married Caroline Werner; they had two children. He made Rochester, N. Y., the headquarters for his chain, and the Rochester Times-Union became the paper to which he devoted most of his time. Although Gannett kept an eye on all of his papers, he was prone to leave management and editorial policy largely to the local staff--at least when they did not stray too far from his standard of efficiency and his own editorial policy.

At first Gannett was not warmly received in Rochester. He was frequently viewed as too vigorous--even brash. He supported the Democratic position on the League of Nations in 1920 and the Democratic candidate for president, James M. Cox. Also, he frequently took on Rochester's Republican boss, George W. Aldridge. In addition, Gannett supported labor unions and public ownership of utilities. His eventual acceptance by the city leaders, including George Eastman, probably was influenced by his vigorous stand in favor of Prohibition and particularly by his purchase of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle before it was snapped up by the Hearst chain of newspapers. Gannett was one of the first in Rochester to back pioneer radio. He devoted much of his time to the development of Rochester's Unitarian Church.

Although Gannett and his papers were normally Republican, he praised the New Deal in its first months (and lamented the intransigence of Republican opposition). In time, however, he turned against the New Deal, especially its labor and agriculture policies. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to pack the Supreme Court in 1937, Gannett opposed him strongly. He organized the Committee to Uphold Constitutional Government, which probably was the foremost pressure group in the nation that successfully opposed the plan. Gannett further used the organization to oppose Roosevelt's national government reorganization plans in 1939. Throughout the New Deal years he criticized the alleged Keynesian influence on the administration in Washington.

Bitten by the political bug, Gannett deluded himself into seeking the Republican nomination for president in 1940. In the process he garnered the support of Congressman James W. Wadsworth, of his congressional district, who nominated him at the national convention. When the convention selected Wendell Willkie, however, Gannett and most of his papers supported him. For a short time in 1942, Gannett served as vice-chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Gannett died in Rochester, N.Y. He left a legacy of vigorous newspaper management marked by efficiency and professionalism. Although his papers lacked the Úlan of big city publications, they did bring to their readers the wire services and syndicated columns of the large metropolitan areas. His professionalism was felt beyond his own newspapers, for he served as a director of the Associated Press and president of the New York State Publishers Association, New York Associated Dailies, and New York Press Association. The Frank E. Gannett Newspaper Foundation upon his death became the controlling stockholder of the Gannett Company, continued the publication of the Gannett papers, and allocated a portion of its profits for education and philanthropic organizations.

text by Martin L. Fausold in "Frank Ernest Gannett."Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 6: 1956-1960. American Council of Learned Societies, 1980. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2005.



Gannett wrote Industrial and Labor Relations in Great Britain (1939), Britain Sees It Through (1944), The Fuse Sputters in Europe (1946), and Winging Round the World (1947). Also see Samuel T. Williamson, Frank Gannett, a Biography (1940); Blake McKelvey,Rochester, the Quest for Quality, 1890-1925 (1956), pp. 313-373, passim.; Rochester, an Emerging Metropolis, 1925-1961 (1961), passim.; Rochester on the Genesee, the Growth of a City (1973), pp. 166, 169, 184, 200, 202, 210, 247; and an obituary in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Dec. 4, 1957.

revised 1/29/05 by Schoenherr | Songs | Films | Maps