DEATH OF W.B. SHAW
Passing of Dean of the Washington Correspondents.
PEACEFUL AND SUDDEN END
Had been Engaged in Newspaper Work Here Since 1851.
FIRST TO WIRE HIS NEWS
Fought Spoils System in Appointments – First Accurate Story of First Bull Run
William Bigler Shaw, dean of the newspaper corps in Washington,
correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer, died at his home, 2574 University
place shortly after 6 o’clock last night from heart disease. Mr.
Shaw was in his eighty-second year.
The funeral will take place from the Shaw home Monday afternoon, the Rev. Dr. U. G. P. Pierce, pastor of the All Soul’s Church, officiating. The interment will be in the Shaw family lot at Rock Creek cemetery. The pallbearers are to be selected from among the deceased’s intimate associates in this city. Mr. Shaw leaves a wife and three sons, W. B. Shaw, jr.; Edmund Shaw, and Alexander P. Shaw.
Several months ago Mr. Shaw was injured by a fall, but was thought to have entirely recovered. The accident weakened his heart, however, and although he had been outdoors only two weeks ago, he never regained his lost vitality. Although Mr. Shaw had been indisposed, his condition was not regarded as serious. He had been in an armchair in his library talking to Mrs. Shaw. She left the room for about five minutes, and upon her return found her husband had expired in her absence.
First to Use Telegraph.
Mr. Shaw was the first newspaper man to induce his paper to establish a telegraphic news service from Washington, he was one of the first to attack the abuses of the spoils system and was the first to write an accurate account of the defeat of the Union troops at the first battle of Bull Run. These achievements in the newspaper world occurred while Mr. Shaw was in the employ of the New York Herald. His activity set a pace for other newspaper correspondents of the time, which eventually resulted in the high standard of journalism which exists in the National Capital today.
For a quarter of a century he represented the Boston Evening Transcript here. Mr. Shaw at one time or another was connected with the following other publications: New York Herald, Philadelphia Telegraph, Cleveland Journal, Pittsburg Dispatch, New York Commercial, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Chicago Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
His attractive personality won for him hosts of friends, and he was known practically throughout the entire eastern section of the country as a leader in journalism. In his later days when, because of his advancing age, he was not so actively engaged in his newspaper labors, he became the central figure of a circle of younger newspaper men, who enjoyed his intimate friendship and esteem.
Full of Reminiscences.
Mr. Shaw was rich in memories of early newspaper days in Washington and delighted in telling of his experiences with the public men of the nation. He knew every President of the United States personally from Franklin Pierce down. He had a wide acquaintance among public men, and undoubtedly had attended more national political conventions than any other man. He took pleasure in recounting the incidents of his journey from the Bull Run battlefield to Washington after the battle, when the Union soldiers, in their mad rush to reach a point of safety, upset a carriage in which “Bull Run” Russell, correspondent of the London Times, was riding. Mr. Russell promptly characterized the Federal soldiers as cowards.
It was Mr. Shaw’s story of the battle, printed in the New York Herald a day or so later, which corrected the erroneous impression in the north that there had been a victory for the Federal forces.
Native of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Shaw was born in Sheshequin, Pa., October 12, 1828, and at the age of sixteen went into the printing office of the Sheshequin Reporter. Seven years later he went to New York, where he remained about a year, and then obtained a position in one of the Philadelphia newspaper offices. Later he came to Washington and procured a position in the “public printing office.” It was while in this office that he acquired an intimate knowledge of the spoils system and the abuses resulting from it.
It was with the view of exposing these evils that he entered upon newspaper work in this city. His letters on the subject were so vigorous and effective that he was appointed Washington correspondent by the New York Herald. In 1856 he induced the Herald to establish a telegraphic news service to supplement his daily news letters. The first telegraphic news dispatch sent to a newspaper from Washington was written and filed by Mr. Shaw. The establishment of this service was quickly followed by others of the larger papers in the country.
Report of First Bull Run.
The day before the battle of Bull Run Mr. Shaw noticed Gen. Winfield Scott and Secretary Simon Cameron standing on the Long bridge watching the newly recruited Union Army advance into Virginia, and from them learned that a battle was to be fought the following day. He immediately hired a horse and carriage, and with Henry J. Raymond of the New York Times made his way to Centerville, Va., where a skirmish was already in progress. He and Mr. Raymond were the first newspaper correspondents to reach the battlefield.
Transcribed by Kevin and Jennifer Fosko on January 11th, 2004
Attached is the obituary of my wife's g-g-grandfather, William Bigler
Shaw, who, according to the obituary,was born Oct 12, 1828 in Sheshequin,
PA. Apparently he made quite a name for himself in the newspaper industry
of his day. He got his startworking as a printer for the Sheshequin
Reporter. The website is wonderful! I haven't found any reference
to him yet on the website in my preliminary research, nor any reference
to the Sheshequin