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Obituary for Oscar Odd McIntyre

McIntyre, Oscar Odd

     Oscar Odd McIntyre, newspaper columnist, to whom millions of Americans looked for their impressions of New York City , died Monday in his Park Avenue apartment.
     One of the famous newspapermen of the nation, he came to New York from a small Ohio town, and always boasted that he never lost the naïve curiosity of the “home town boy.” For a quarter of a century his daily column, “New York Day By Day,” gained increasing fame, and in recent years was published in almost 500 newspapers.
     McIntyre, who would have been 54 on Friday, died at 2 o’clock in the morning, apparently of a heart attack. His health had not been good for some time. He was taken ill Saturday.
     McIntyre’s friendships ran through all classes and types of people – Broadway’s great, the big city’s ordinary people, each alike claimed his attention.
     He lived much alone in recent years doing his work in his richly-furnished apartment, aided in great measure by his wife, the former Maybelle Hope Small of Gallipolis, Ohio .
     Friday, which would have been McIntyre’s birthday, also would have been his 30 th wedding anniversary.
     The first man to write a syndicated New York column, forerunner of the many present-day gossip writers, McIntyre began his newspaper career on the Gallipolis Journal in 1902.
     Broadway was still far from his deft pin. He left Gallipolis to become a feature writer on the East Liverpool , O., Tribune, then became managing editor of the Dayton, O., Herald, and later assistant managing editor of the Cincinnati Post.

To New York in 1912
    The “big town” lure finally brought him to New York as associate editor of Hampton ’s Magazine in 1912. In a few months he had started the brisk-phrased jottings of the Gotham scene which brought him fame and fortune as one of the highest-paid newspaper writers in the world.
     The sledding was hard, at first. McIntyre began the column as a press agent “blurb” for a New York hotel, in return for his room and board. He gave it away free, eagerly seeking to have it circulated. Gradually it caught on until it was syndicated from coast to coast-read over thousands of breakfast tables by newspaper subscribers who felt they knew New York even if they had never seen it, through the daily jottings of “O. O.”
     In later years he was accused of portraying a New York which no longer existed but which represented the idea of “ Baghdad on the Subway” to the nation’s hinterland millions.
     He never faltered at his daily stint, although he frequently complained that it was the most soul-trying task in the world. His regular column, written in the Samuel Pepys manner he sometimes assumed, appeared yesterday morning.
     By coincidence, the opening paragraph spoke of his beloved Gallipolis, where he had built a fine home in the oft-repeated hope of some day “going back.”
     Thus he wrote: “Then palavering with Ward Morehouse about his recent stop-over in Gallipolis.”

Small Town Boy
    Although McIntyre typified the “typical New Yorker” to his legions of readers, he never pretended to the veneer of New York sophistication. He took pride, rather, in being a “small town boy” who was forever fascinated by the passing scene of the “big city.”
     A master of both crisp and whimsical phrase-making, McIntyre, delighted in one or two-word descriptions of the countless celebrities who became his friends. Among them were Irvin S. Cobb, the late Ray Long, Gene Fowler, Major Bowes and almost every shining star of the Broadway firmament.

Sartorially Perfect
    Appropriately, his Monday column dealt extensively with sartorial splendor – an art he cultivated himself with almost fabulous effect. The final stanza, a contribution, read:
    “How neckties do accumulate!
    “I buy each gorgeous one I see.
    “Now I have over 98,
    “But I always wear the same old three.”
     McIntyre himself had hundreds, and he confessed that he could never resist buying vivid-hued “screamers” he saw in store windows. He had one of the largest wardrobes in New York , with scores of suits, dressing gowns, brilliant-toned pajamas, neckties, handkerchiefs and he disliked crowds. Much of his material he gathered while being driven in his big limousine by his chauffeur, on nocturnal sorties through the narrow, twisted streets of Chinatown a scene he loved to depict with imaginative shudders.
     A shy man, frankly admitting he was “scared to death” of trying to warm up a conversation with many of the celebrities he wrote about he remained in comparative seclusion with his wife and his beloved dogs.
     Not infrequently his daily column contained a heart-moving paragraph or two on some tragic story of dogdom, and each time he received thousands of letters in response.
     In turning out his daily stint, approximately 800 words, or about 292,000 words a year, McIntyre started work after breakfast with the blinds drawn and the lamps lit-because he hated sunlight and carried on until the job was done, usually about 5:30 p.m.
His columns followed a loose-flowing design, mostly idle descriptive chatter about all manner of things and people, which he variously labeled “bagatelles,” “thingumbobs,” “thoughts while strolling,” “look-alikes” or “purely personal piffle.”

7,000,000 Readers
     A recent article in the Saturday Evening Post estimated that McIntyre devotees numbered somewhere about 7,000,000 readers. The column was released simultaneously to 508 newspapers in every state and in Mexico and Canada , through the McNaught Syndicate. His average “fan mail” was 3,000 letters a week.
     He made much money from the column, and declined fabulous offers to appear on radio programs and other entertainments.
     McIntyre’s death marks the passing of a second famous long-time New York columnist in recent ______(missing from the article.)

Gazette and Bulletin,
Williamsport, Pennsylvania
February 15, 1938
Contributed by Joyce Robinson