Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PORTER, William Trotter, journalist, born in Newbury, Vermont, 24 December. 1809; died in New York city, 20 July, 1858. He was educated at Dartmouth, but was not graduated. In 1829 he became connected with the "Farmer's Herald" at St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and the following year he became associate editor of "The Enquirer" at Norwich. His ambition for a wider field of action led him to New York city, where he first found employment as foreman in a printing-office. He engaged as a compositor Horace Greeley, who had recently arrived in the city, and a life-long friendship ensued. Mr. Porter's cherished project was put into effect on 10 December, 1831, when he issued the initial number of the "Spirit of the Times," the first sporting journal in the United States. It was a novel undertaking, and was not at first successful. In a few months it was merged with " The Traveller," with Mr. Porter in charge of the sporting department. The following year he resigned and took charge of "The New Yorker" for a short time, and then of "The Constellation." As these journals gave only a subordinate place to sporting topics, he purchased "The Traveller, and Spirit of the Times" from C. J. B. Fisher, who had united the two, and on 3 January, 1835, the paper was issued again under its original name. At this period the sports of the turf and field were held in disrepute, especially in the New England states, and the task of correcting deep-rooted prejudices called into play all the perseverance, tact, and talent of the editor, who was thoroughly imbued with love of the work. The paper was progressive, and was soon supported by a host of wealthy patrons and versatile contributors. Among the latter were Albert Pike, Thomas B. Thorpe, " Frank Forester," George Wilkins Kendall, Charles G. Leland, and Thomas Picton. The popularity of Mr. Porter was great. Nearly all his correspondents, and the majority of his subscribers, were personal friends. His sobriquet of " York's Tall Son" was bestowed not less in recognition of his social qualities than of his lofty stature--six feet and four inches. A writer says of him: " His mind was comprehensive, his perception keen, his deductions clear and concise, whilst his judgment and decisions in all sporting matters were more reliable and more respected than any other man's in this country. He was the father of a school of American sporting literature, which is no less a credit to his name than it is an honor to the land that gave him birth. Many of his decisions and sporting reports will be quoted as authority for generations to come. He possessed a fund of sporting statistics unequalled by any other man in America." In February, 1839, he purchased the "American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine" from John S. Skinner, of Baltimore, and the periodical was thenceforth published in New York until it was finally suspended in 1844. After conducting the old " Spirit "--as it was familiarly termed--for nearly twenty-five years, he withdrew from the editorial management, and with George Wilkes established " Porter's Spirit of the Times" in September, 1856. Failing health prevented close application to the new field of labor. He edited three collections of tales that had appeared in his journal, entitled "The Big Bear of Arkansaw, and Other Tales" (Philadelphia, 1835);" A Quarter Race in Kentucky, and Other Sketches" (1846); and " Major T. B. Thorpe's Scenes in Arkansaw, and Other Sketches" (1859); and also issued an American edition, with additions, of Colonel Peter Hawker's "Instructions to Young Sportsmen" (1846). At the time of his death he was engaged in preparing a biography of Henry William Herbert (" Frank Forester "). See " Life of William T. Porter," by Francis Brinley (New York, 1860).
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