Butler, Edward H - Erie County

EDWARD H. BUTLER is editor and proprietor of the Buffalo Evening News and the Buffalo Sunday News. The News has the largest circulation of any daily paper between New York and Chicago, and is recognized as one of the best newspaper properties in the country outside of two or three of the greatest cities. The Sunday News was established by Mr. Butler in 1873 and was the first successful Sunday paper published in Buffalo.

Mr. Butler's newspaper career is closely identified with his activities in every direction, both commercial and political. He is a staunch Republican and personal friend of Presidents and Governors, and intimately associated with the politics of the day. His success as a journalist is due to his business capacity, his intellectual force and his habit of being in touch with the people. His sympathies are warm, his friendships very numerous and his zeal for causes that are sound and worthy is no less remarkable than his ability in their advocacy.

In his capacity as an editor and as a citizen Mr. Butler has always promoted causes for the welfare of humanity and that make for good government. He is a firm believer in the value of sound culture; he is connected with many clubs and institutions exemplifying good citizenship, and he takes an active interest in everything that makes for the welfare of Buffalo.

Edward Hubert Butler was born in LeRoy, Genesee County, New York, September 5, 1850. He was educated in the public schools of LeRoy and also in private schools; on the completion of his academic education he entered the offices of the LeRoy

Gazette and after a short experience there he became a member of the staff of the Scranton Times and later was interested in the Scranton Press. Mr. Butler had, all the time of his work in Scranton, the idea in mind of establishing a paper in Buffalo, near his old home, which he regarded as a most favorable field for a modern high-class newspaper. In his 23d year he realized that dream, and coming to Buffalo established the Buffalo Sunday News. The venture was a bold one, yet not without precedent, for other papers had been unsuccessfully tried. His paper, however, prospered from the beginning. It represented independent journalism of the popular kind with an appeal to the people that was notable for its fair and straightforward character, its freedom from offensive matter and its purity of motive. He at once struck a chord of public approval which has never since ceased to vibrate actively. The circulation increased rapidly, the leading merchants became patrons of the paper and its advertising business became great and profitable. The Sunday News grew and was enlarged from time to time to meet the exigencies of the times and the demands of the business. It gave a striking demonstration of its strength in 1875 when it advocated the People's Ticket, and 14 of its candidates were elected.

In 1879 Mr. Butler established the Bradford Sunday News and conducted it for several years until it had become an important paper, requiring so much personal attention that rather than yield his Buffalo interests he disposed of his Bradford enterprise. While publishing a Sunday paper several years, Mr. Butler carefully worked out the project of establishing an afternoon paper at the price of one cent. On the 11th of October, 1880, the first issue of the Evening News, a 24 column quarto daily, appeared. On the first day of publication more than 7,000 copies were sold on the streets alone and the circulation at once jumped to more than 20,000 copies a day. The record of the News from that time to the present has been one of very great popularity. It is regarded as one of the finest newspaper properties in the United States. Its circulation is greater than that of any other paper between New York and Chicago, and it is believed to be the most widely circulated straight Republican newspaper in the United States, with a single exception. Its advertising patronage is known throughout the newspaper world as probably the most enviable possessed by any newspaper in the country, for it has much more than one-half the business of the City of Buffalo and vicinity. In editorial influence it stands easily at the head of all dailies in Western New York. Although a strong party newspaper, the News opens its columns to all discussions and expresses its own opinions on all questions wholly without waiting for directions or orders or intimations from any other source than the mind of its proprietor.

It stands always for sound maxims in business policies, and fearlessly applies them to both local and general interests. In municipal affairs it is insistent for practical administration; it advocates reform when it thinks reform is needed and it is a safe and conscientious guide in the choice of candidates and political policies. It is an exponent of doctrines of economy in government, but believes in liberal investment of public money in enterprises of improvement, which cannot be had on the basis of economy that goes to the length of absolute parsimony.

Mr. Butler has been identified with many movements in furtherance of large aims of reform and benevolence, and perhaps the News came to the front most conspicuously in that respect in the warfare which it waged for many years for a better means of discipline at the Elmira Reformatory, then under the superintendency of the famous Z. K. Brockway. In the commercial field the most conspicuous and illustrative triumph of the News was the campaign of the Barge Canal enterprise. The project of Canal improvement had been defeated in the Legislature of 1902 and was supposed to be dead. The following summer Mr. Butler took it up and in his paper advocated the enterprise on the largest scale and forced it into the Republican State platform. The Democrats had no alternative but to follow suit, both parties adopted the idea and pledged themselves to carry it out, but the great battle really occurred the following winter in the Legislature and afterwards by referendum to the people, so that the campaign was continued for 16 months continuously from the time the News took up the project and advocated it in the way that was finally adopted. Incidentally the News made a permanent gain of circulation to the extent of more than 20,000 during that campaign and entered the class of papers that are on the 100,000 mark.

In political warfare no more remarkable campaigns were ever conducted by a newspaper in this State that the campaign of the News for Governor Higgins in 1904, and that resulted in the re-election of Chauncey M. Depew to the United States Senate.

Mr. Butler has the distinction of being the most successful newspaper publisher in the United States, who is the founder, developer, sole proprietor and editor of his paper, and has retained these relations .from the beginning. No other man has built up so splendid a newspaper property all by himself. He has made his magnificent score entirely off his own back.

In 1896 Mr. Butler was Republican Presidential Elector at Large for New York State, in 1900 he was an elector and served as chairman of the Board of Electors. He is an active member of the Grade Crossing Commission of Buffalo, and is the only survivor of the original commission, after 18 years of service. He is president of the Buffalo Publishers' Association and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Grosvenor Library and of the Board of Trustees of the State Normal School at Buffalo; a director of the Buffalo Automobile Club, the largest resident membership of any club in the United States, and of the American Savings Bank and other financial institutions, both in Buffalo and in other cities. He was Vice-President of the United Press, and has been a director of the Associated Press. He has served as President of the State Editorial Association and of the Republican State Editorial Association. He is prominent in the social life of Buffalo and in LeRoy, where he has established a handsome country home. He belongs to the leading Buffalo clubs, to the Clover Club of Philadelphia, the Lotus Club and the Automobile Club of America in New York, and other leading clubs.

Mr. Butler married Mary E. Barber, deceased, of West Pittston, Pa. They were the parents of three children, of whom two, a daughter and son, survive.

Mr. Butler is as well known for his generosities as for his success in business and he is in every respect one of the most esteemed and respected citizens of Buffalo.

SOURCE:  Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York; Volume I