Mutual Benefit Amateur Press Association, 1890


IN 1890 a somewhat similar campaign to that of the International Amateur Authors Lyceum resulted in the organization of the Mutual Benefit Amateur Press Association. Those who engineered it, however, were younger and more inexperienced, and possessed far less literary reputation and ability than the sponsors of the Literary Lyceum. And they did not stress so greatly the literary angle, seeking not the complete divorce of litera­ture and politics, but rather the reformation of the latter. The evils they professed to fight were impure politics, corruption, trickery, misrepresentation and slander. And as they charged that the National Amateur Press Association was a breeding place of these abuses they set out to wage ruthless war on the N.A.P.A. and destroy it.


The guiding spirit in the movement was Otto A. Kamber, of Indianapolis, Ind., publisher and editor of the Illuminator. This paper, and others published by Kam­ber, were chiefly noted for being profusely illustrated with original engravings and cartoons. Many of these were crude in design and execution, although some were genuinely artistic. Kamber was one of the first, and by far the most liberal, users of the cartoon to enforce a point or cast ridicule upon an opponent. Combining the arts of designer, engraver, printer and editor, he made his publications of unusual interest.


At an informal gathering of a number of amateur journalists, including Kamber, in February, 1890, the condition of amateur affairs was discussed, and the con­clusion reached that a concerted effort should be made to improve matters. They decided to give their support to Walter E. Mellinger for President of the N.A.P.A. at the coming convention at Indianapolis. But as Mellinger was defeated by Will S. Dunlop, the Kamber group were convinced a new organization was necessary.


Lacking the literary skill of the founders of the Lyceum, those engaged in the later enterprise were much greater versed in the arts of organization and political management. Before a call for a meeting went out the whole field was canvassed, and the aid of amateurs in all sections of the country was quietly secured. So effectively was this work done that when a formal announcement of an organization meeting was made October 1, 1890, over 60 amateurs from 12 States had been pledged to its support.


George H. Huss, of the St. Louis Amateur, was made Acting President. He was an organizer of unquestioned ability, untiring and ceaseless in his work. Not many well-known amateurs joined their ranks, but many new recruits to amateur journalism were brought in. Huss was compelled to retire, owing to ill health, and the new organization found itself suffering from some of the very troubles it was formed to fight in the older body. A spirited campaign was engaged in, and George F. Munsa, of St. Louis, was eventually made President. So effectively had the work of organization been made that the Association in the Fall of 1891 had a membership list of 117, with 36 regular publications.


A 16-page issue of an official organ, the Mutual Amateur, was printed, with portraits of the official board, engraved by Kamber. But at that time negotiations were in progress looking to the amalgamation of the Mutual with the Schermerhorn faction of the National, and as the Mutual organ contained a severe attack upon some of the Schermerhorn supporters it was suppressed.


Kamber in his Illuminator took the ground that the aims of the two organiza­tions were practically the same; that “one concurred with the other in what it pronounced undesirable.” President Munsa and Secretary Albert H. Snyder of the Mutual agreed, their approach to the N.A.P.A. division was favorably received, and at the Buffalo convention the entire Mutual membership was unanimously received into the National body. In the election of officers, supporting President Hochstadter, Snyder was made Secretary and Kamber an Executive Judge. When the two factions of the N.A.P.A. entered into an agreement for union, as related in the previous chapter, one of the provisions was that the Mutual members should be accepted as members upon paying dues at the Chicago convention. And in the reorganized board of officers Snyder was made Secretary of the united body. So passed out of existence the Mutual Benefit A.P.A., but Kamber continued his campaign against acknowledged evils, making effective use of cartoon and picture.


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