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Benjamin Perley Poore
File:Benjamin Perley Poore, circa 1850.jpg
Born 2 November 1820
Newburyport, Massachusetts
Died 30 May 1887
Washington, D.C.

Benjamin Perley Poore (2 November 1820 – 30 May 1887) was a prominent American newspaper correspondent, editor, and author in the mid-1800s. One of the most popular and prolific journalists of his era, he was an active partisan for the Whig and Republican parties.


Poore was born near Newburyport, Massachusetts to parents Benjamin and Mary Perley (Dodge) Poore on the family estate, Indian Hill Farm. His father's family were long-time residents of the area; his mother had been born in 1799 in Georgetown, a small incorporated community in the newly defined District of Columbia.

When Poore was seven, his parents took him to Washington, D.C. for the first time, during the administration of another man from Massachusetts, President John Quincy Adams. About this time, he enrolled in Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts to prepare for a West Point appointment. When he was eleven years old he was taken by his father to England, where saw Walter Scott, Lafayette, and other notables. Poore was subsequently expelled from Dummer Academy for misbehavior and apprenticed himself to a printer in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Poore's father purchased a paper in Athens, Georgia, the Southern Whig, which Poore edited for two years. In 1841 he visited Europe again as attache of the American legation at Brussels, remaining abroad until 1848. During this period he was the foreign correspondent of the Boston Atlas. After editing the Boston Bee and Sunday Sentinel, Poore returned to the national capital in 1854 as a Washington correspondent. His colorful letters to The Boston Journal and other newspapers over the signature of "Perley" made his national reputation.

File:Benjamin Perley Poore - Brady-Handy.jpg

Benjamin Perley Poore, between 1870 and 1887.

A widely reported anecdote concerns his support for Millard Fillmore in the election of 1856. Poore declared that he would wheel a barrel of apples from his home town of Newburyport to Boston if Fillmore failed to carry Massachusetts - a promise he fulfilled in a two-day journey, cheered on by crowds who lined his route.

In additional to his newspaper writing, Poore served as clerk of the committee of the United States Senate on printing records, where he edited the Congressional Directory and the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. During the Civil War he organized a battalion of riflemen at Newbury that formed the nucleus of a company in the 8th Massachusetts volunteers, in which Poore served as major for a short time, retaining the title of Major Poore for the rest of his life.

In 1885, Poore organized the Gridiron Club and served as its first president. Designed as social events to bring reporters and politicians together to repair the ill-will sometimes generated by news stories, Gridiron dinners featured satirical songs and skits performed by Washington's leading journalists. The Club's annual white-tie dinners continue to attract presidents and other dignitaries, functioning much as Poore anticipated.

Poore died in Washington, D.C.



For further reading[]

  • James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos, eds., Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887–1889).
  • Joseph P. McKerns, "Benjamin Perley Poore of the Boston Journal: His Life and Times as a Washington Correspondent" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1979).
  • Donald A. Ritchie. Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).

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