The Success of William T. Dewart
Canadian Who Has Had a Remarkable Career
Erman J. Ridgway
Kin TOR s Noth—William T. Dewart is a Canadian and a member of the uell-known Dewart family of Ontario. Born in Fenelon Falls he early moved to New Fork, and, although still a young man, fills very successfully the important position of general manager of the Frank A. Munsey Co. Erman J. Rid g way is the former owner and publisher of Everybody’s Magazine.
IF OLD PROVERBS, old saws were wholly true instead of being half true or less, the hero of this tale would be a lumberman; because the first job he had was in a saw mill.
“The boy is father to the man.” But usually the boy-father is unconscionably slow about revealing the kind of a man he is going to be. In fact he doesn’t know. His mates may think they know. His elders may hazard a guess. His earthly father least of all knows. Earthly fathers commonlv spare no effort to make a third class professional man or artist out of a first-class b"sine«s trían or artisan.
Or the othe^ way round.
Frank A. Munsey gives us a new proverb: “You can’t get out of a man what the Almighty didn’t put into him.” It is flawless. Put in the reverse it sums up all the truth there is in the old boyfather saw. What comes out of the man was latent, potential in the boy. But there were half a dozen other men latent in that same bov. He was potential father to a large family of boys. Else free-will goes by the board and all our effort for a right environment is spendthrift The boy who makes a man of himself could have made a beast of himself and all the grades between. But he chose to make a man. Therein lies his glory and his inspiration.
Any man who lives a clean life, who lives up to his talents whatever they are has made great effort and sacrifices. He is a real success even though he has but one talent and lives unknown. The man with many talents or with one towering talent must make effort ahd sacrifice in proportion before he can claim his honors.
Caruso we think of as a genius singing his way into the hearts of the multitude freely, as a bird. The hours of drudgery, the care of his voice, the life of self-denial, the colossal labor of memorizing so many roles—what a price he has paid and pays for hrs triumph.
Gladstone, the Grand Old Man of Britain. How “easy” it all seemed from outside, and yet as you read Morley’s life your he*d fairly aches with the strain he put upon himself and your heart aches too with his bitter defeats and self-lashings.
AM to paint a picture of my friend and I remind you that effort must be in proportion to talent in any success so that
you and I will view the portrait from the same angle and in the same light.
I greatly admire William T. Dewart, both because of his talents and because he has made efforts, sacrifices to develop them. I believe he is going a long way.
Certainly he has come a long way.
Usually we measure a man against his rivals without knowing their relative resources, talents and handicaps.
This man is here, that one there — therefore. Whereas the one who at the time of the comparison is not so
far advanced, may have travelled a much harder, longer road. The fairest way to judge anybody, especially oneself, is to look back at his milestones. Thát is the just and often comforting way.
I do not know a great deal about Mr. Dewart’s boyhood and I have not troubled to look it up. Boyhoods tell very little. I knew him first at the age of twenty-two and most of our talk since has been about the present and future. Rarely about the past. Out of the few reminiscences he and I have taken time to exchange I rather vaguely recall that the father lost his>*nflney and, as he had 4 large family, thebbws went to work. I think that Williany^vas a delicate boy. But he must have gotten through it at adolescence for he was doing a man’s work in a planing mill before he was sixteen. That would seem to preclude a complete high-school education, but maybe it was vacation work. I believe he did patronize the high schools. You see it is all hazy in my mind. I remember that he was foreman in a button factory before he voted. And he must have picked up the fundamentals of accounting somewhere along the way, for when I first heard from him he applied for the position of bookkeeper.
I was then general manager for Frank A. Munsey, the position which Mr. Dewart now holds, although the position
is vastly larger now because Mr. Munsey’s enterprises are vastly greater. MrHMunsey had built a huge printing plant in New London, Connecticut, to escape I labor annoyances in New York and to give his employees the opportunity to own their own homes in a beautiful environment. But the skilled printers longed for the “flesh-pots in New York” and made trouble. Mr. Munsey in disgust unleaded the ungrateful crew overnight and moved baek to New York. A dramatic story, but not in place here. Then, not to leavt the building idle, to make it earn its keen Mr. Münsey started a department store on the first floor and a hotel in the upper stpries with a dining-room on top.
Enters young Dewart. We had a (succession of managers for the hotel, successively poorer, and I was in New London trying to unsnarl the bookkeeping tangle left by the latest failure when I got Mr. Dewart’s letter applying foij the position of bookkeeper. Our head! accountant in New York was engaged on
more important work and, liking___
Dewart’s letter and the words of his sponsors. I wrote him to come on for an interview. This proving satisfactory l( set him to work on the tangle and went to New York.
A few weeks later Mr. Munsey . up to New London taking along
head accountant and when he returned, he told me, quite by accident, that the head accountant did not like the work of the man I had left on the tangle and had let him go. I give theae details to show by what slender ropes life/s elevator rises. The head accountant had our confidence and ordinarily I would have accepted his judgment without a thought. But unconsciously to myself the youth had impressed me, for I promptly said to M r. Munsey,
"Oh, I’m sorry.
I think that was a mistake.” Mr.
Munsey had accepted the head bookkeeper’s judgment just as I ordinarily would have done but, valuing my instinct for good points in men, he said promptly: “If you feel that way about it, don’t let him go.” That day or the next I got a letter from Mr. Dewart. “He had been cut off in his hey day/’ he said, or words to that effect. 'He knew he could make good. He liked the house. He wanted to work for us. “What did we have for him in New York?” he asked.
In the distributing branch of our publishing business we had eight or ten bookkeepers. I gave him a set of these books, the head accountant being lukewarm, and the head of the department neutral. In a very short time Mr. Dewart was getting his own balances so quickly that he had time to help the other bookkeepers—and did.
MR. MUNSEY, like most of the big men I have known, carries practically everything in his head. He knows about where everything is “at” all the time. Not having this rare gift I invented a record book which I carefully consulted before each interview with Mr. Munsey in .order that I might not be wholly at a disadvantage. Mr. Dewart made the book for me and kept it up to date. It was done at night and helped to satisfy his insatiable hunger for work. This night work brought us very close together. It gave me confidence in the accountant and a desire to advance the man. It began our friendship.
I hope I am not tiring you with details. They bring warm memories to me. And they show that Mr. Dewart started out to get somewhere. That he would not be shunted; that he did not shy at a hostile superior; that he had confidence in himself; that he had no engagements when the business could use him; and he found no fun so alluring as the fight to get ahead.
Mr. Munsey knew what was going on— superfluous comment—and it was not long before he advanced Mr. Dewart to the
main books and, when the head accountant died, he got the place. He had already been doing the work for months. The business meantime was branching out. Newspapers had been bought and reorganized, a chain of markets started and new periodicals launched. A fast, hard pace. Mr. Dewart bent his back to each new load and marched off with it smiling. His dream was coming true. When I left Mr. Munsey’s employ Mr. Dewart automatically advanced to the position of general manager because he was ready. He had been doing the overflow of his own.
my work along with
I PAUSE again to point out that Mr.
Dewart had employed the years so intelligently that he was ready for the big jobs when they came. Also that he had worked so tactfully that everybody wanted him to have the big jobs when they came. That means -an immense amount of kindliness on the way, and helpfulness. At the bottom of it all was intelligence. ’ If he had! not been big enough for the jobs as ffhiey came along, if the Almighty had not put exceptional brains in his head all his work arvd all his tact could not have lifted him above his fellows. But after giving humble thanks to the Almighty for his inheritance he is entitled to a great big credit mark on his own account. His credit for the hours of work when others played or lounged; for the hours given to helping the less able and less fortunate; for the strict life in keeping fit; for nerve in tackling the untried; for courage in the teeth of failure; for poise in the hours of triumph. All of these even the man of superior gifts must show who wouldxome as far as Mr. Dewart has come.
It is a habit of failures to complain that their rivals had all the luck. The Burmese have a proverb, “the more you know the more luck you have.” Mr. Dewart, not trusting to luck, set out to make his own good fortune. He made it in the house of Munsey. If he had not made it there he would not have tarried. He furnished the initiative and the steam. Have you ever noticed how the aimless pedestrians on the sidewalk get out of the way of the man who is going some place? The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going. If the head accountant had not died Mr. Dewart would have adadvanced over him just the same. If 1 had not departed the two of us working together would have helped Mr. Munsey to make our jobs large enough to satisfy us or he would have departed and made himself larger elsewhere. The man with
the initiative and the steam cannot be kept from his goal.
A friend of mine asked Mr. Edison if the difference between a failure and a success was the difference between going up a by-path and sticking to the main road. “O, no,” said Mr. Edison, “every man gets off the main road into the woods and swamps, but the successes, splash round until they find the main ‘ road again.”
I N THE business world there are three groups of talents—talents for organization, talents for manufacturing, talents for merchandising. I want to tell you about Mr. Dewart’s talents, about his place in the Munsey house, about his work there; but, in order to keep the proportions, a word about Mr. Munsey himself is necessary.
Briefly, Mr. Munsey has exceptional talent for origination. The cheap magazine was his idea. The fiction magazine was his idea. The list fa long. He has unusual talent for manufacturing. His plant turns out a better grade of work and more of it for the money than any bther plant. He has a remarkable talent for merchandising. He is the closest buyer I ever knew and one of the best sellers. Munsey's Magazine could make money without carrying advertising. That is unique. Mr. Munsey has marked talents outside the business field. He is an editor, an author. He builds strong, beautiful buildings and loves it. And he is a financier. He has other talents. In fact if he were ever tempted to imitate the slothful servant of the parable and lay away his talents in a napkin, he would need a tablecloth.
Now talents are live, imperious things. They possess their possessors. I can fancy a group crowding around Mr. Munsey every morning, climbing upon his knees, clamoring to be used. He uses them all by ones and threes and groups. And his general manager helps him or substitutes for him. That means, between chief and manager, mutual understanding, confidence, esteem, a delicate relationship for which both must have talent. And it means handling a kaleidoscope variety of highly complex business problems of all colors, shapes and sizes and handling them successfully.
It* is time to give you a more definite idea of the Munsey enterprises. The parent is the magazine publishing business—four national magazines, I think, with their problems of editing, illustrating, manufacture, distribution and sale. Their annual profits have averaged close to a million for years. Next is the Mohican Hotel at New London, a superb plant, making good money. Then there are the Mohican stores, a chain of 40 or 50 markets, which net over half a million a year. There is a group of businesses in Washington, D.C., consisting of a huge officebuilding, a daily newspaper and a bank and trust company; the group in'"Baltimore consisting of a beautiful office building, a newspaper and a bank and trust company, all of which have lately been sold, but on terms I fancy which make it agreeable to kgep a telescopic eye on them. Then there are a bank and trust company in New York,'and, finally, the great New York Sun which Mr. Munsey with a characteristically bold stroke bought, merged with it his New York Press, and in a ffw months turned it from a financial loser into a winner. There are a number of
minor interests, but these are the big ones and in addition to them there are enormous transactions in Wall Street. I don’t know the details, but I heard at one time from the outside *hat Mr. Munsey was the largest individual holder of steel stocks in the world.
JUST a reading of that list will give you some idea of the colossal effort, the unremitting application, the numberless intricate complications, the host of delicate decisions the men responsible must have made through the years. And Mr. Dewart has come through eighteen years at this terrific pace, thirteen years as general manager with mounting power and improving health until he is at fortyone as fine a physical and mental specimen as you are likely to know.
He is above the average height with wide shoulders and deep chest, straight, supple, tireless. But not thin. The nerves are comfortably insulated. He diets for efficiency’s sake and to keep his weight down to 180. He has clear grey eyes and the Dewart head, big and impressive. You would look at him twice in a crowd. His voice is a bit high in argument, otherwise there is no suggestion of tenseness. To the onlooker he goes through his vast labor with perfect naturalness and almost ridiculous ease. His mind is remarkably keen and quick. It shoots through and round a subject like lightning, but the onlooker only sees a strong, untroubled, kindly face not overly concerned.
Handling in the same morning a multiplicity of problems concerning half a dozen businesses never seems to confuse him or irritate him. They would drive many men frantic. Mr. Dewart goes through them as if they made a pleasant garden through which he is privileged to stroll, stopping here to prune a broken stem, and there to prop a one-sided shrub ; meantime gathering posies. You know people for whom flowers just love to grow. Businesses are like that with him. They will do most anything for him. In the Munsey gardens the flowers that cannot be made to grow are pulled up by the roots. a
To date Mr. Dewart has shown his greatest talents in the field of business, in the merchandising and manufacturing sections of that field and pre-eminently merchandising. His keenest joy is to buy and sell. Soon after the war started he bought for the Mohican stores all the flour they could handle and all the sugar and all of everything else that was likely to go out of sight Of course he made a killing. When the paper famine hit the publishers the Munsey house had contracts well ahead. Mr. Dewart would make a capital success of any merchandise business he cared to enter. He can buy right, sell right, organize, manage, finance, spend right, save right, treat his associates right. Men trust him, like to work with him. He is keen and sound. On principle he gives a dollar’s worth. He will go a long wày—only 41, sturdy, able, competent and divinçly discontented.
So much for business. Now for the woman in the case.
Kind, kind and gentle is she,
Kind is my Mary;
The fairest blossom on the tree, Cannot compare with Mary.
That was a popular song when Mary Wheeler and Billy Dewart were married,
and Billy’s friends sang it with gusto at his bachelor dinner with Billy’s voice o n top.
Billy used to sing in the choir back home, and later at St. Bartholomew’s i n New York. At his bachelor dinner Billy sang, the rest of us did our best. And we all meant it Mary Dewart is a darling. She leaves a trail of tenderness, wherever she goes.
They have two fine boys and a baby daughter.
Their apartment is luxurious, but the home atmosphere is “the same that mother used to make,” cosy, cordial with
welcome written everywhere but on the door mat. They have lots of music, Mary playing Billy’s accompaniments, and showing him off as a good wife should. Both have the talent for friendship. Both are making new friends all the time and neither gives up the old ones. There is nothing ingrowing about the Dewarts.
For recreation they have in winter the usual round of dinners, dances, the theatre, the opera, with walking and motoring for out of doors. In summer they have a place at the Thousand Islands with sailing and golf and all the rest. Mr. Dewart was a good ball player back home. If he played golf regularly he would play it well. He is a natural athlete. .The common mistake of golfers is to think of “stance” and “grip” and “swing” and “eye” and then forget that the game is to get the ball to the pin. Mr. Dewart while thinking of the means never forgets the object. He goes for the pin, with the result that he “follows through” and rarely gets off the line of play. Golf reveals character more than
any 4ther out door arne. Th~ Dewart tribe i~ clannish. With 4hem blood is thitker than ordin~y. The brothe~s and sisters( seven of them I~ think, stand by and boost e~ch other. The Ihie I know have tije Dewart head. I Robert, older t~~an Wil liam, h~.a a fine broo4 back home IA stal wart I citizen. Hugh~, the younge$t, man agea th~ Mohi n chlsin of storeL I H. has brillianti pro mise.
KI OWIFOR A 1'~ fe4 last touches f color and •adings and this portrait of my is fimihè~
In money matters Mr..De4art is thrifty. `lIe has never spent his Isalary. He always has money and share~ when his friends need. In keeping coi4dences he is safe as the Sphinx. In loy~Ity he holds the finest balance I ever knlw. He goes to church. Religion is bred I in the Dewarts. He is a week day Chtistian, too. He finds abundant opportui4ty for helpfulness in the eases that come Ito him through his daily work. But he not emotional. His heart like his headj works fast and true with never an outwar$I sign. I have been with him through deep talleys when his heart was torn and he g~ve no sign. No protest. No tears. Ije has been with me through deep vjlley4 His sympathy is quick and not strainjd, ex pressed in thoughtful attentions a4d few words. It does not flood and soon Talter, but flows evenly as long as the n4d en dures. He remembers anniversari4 both happy and sad, and as the happ~4 ones recur his friends are likely to~ heaij from him. Billy Dewart has a taler$ for friendship. U
Young Writer the Front
Arthur Beverly Baxter. whose clever story "The Man Who Scoffed" appears in this issue, has gone overseas with the Engineering Signaling Corps. He will, however, con tinue to contribute to MAC Lr.~4N's, and the best story he has yet done is scheduled to appear in an early issue.