AS WE SEE IT
IN THOSE OLD DAYS of the Horse Review in Chicago, occasionally business reasons took us to the Masonic Temple offices where the staff of that memorable equine publication wrought its weekly issues. Sometimes, when actual business didn't offer an excuse for the trip, we invented some pretext or honestly resorted to the fact that we wanted to talk with somebody there. That spot was a magnet for celebrities in the horse world. Men from all quarters dropped in regularly for a stop with its interesting tenants. There one might most any time of daylight hours—and in pressure times in night hours—meet one or more of that capable literati whose combined efforts produced the most famed turf journal of all time. That staff outranked any similar group we knew.
There was the raven‑haired Markey, whose versatility and charm equalled his deepseated knowledge of all phases of the sport; there was Perrigo, the wonder‑working statistician; there was Walter Moore, with a rare combination of genius and business application, quite unique in his field; there was the talented "Bob" Dickey, whose equine portrayals were startingly lifelike, emphasized by a personality endearing and flavored by a Celtic wit that often lent descriptive accompaniment to the rich fruits of his easel there was John Bauer, the owner, whose place carried on into valued companionship, and whose writing too, was not devoid of merit.
Then, there was John Hervey! Perhaps, this humble bit should be qualified with the explanation that the group presented above was not the original one gathered there. But it was the Review family of our first visit there—and that date now seems almost in a foundation era. Prior to that time, other able men, versed richly in the lore and the facts of the harness turf, had labored in those Masonic Temple precincts, and wrought amazingly; then went their way—in some instances out of this thing we call life to that existing beyond the veil. But when we first had the pleasure—and profit—of tarrying within those familiar gates, where in truth the horse world was served with its newest tidings, with an obvious influence on the problems of the turf, the staff was mainly of those briefly listed above.
It was a fine journalistic family—and it possibly seemed more idealistic to a mind whose experience in that line had often been tinged with Utopian conceptions, that invariably were shocked with the hard facts of cold commercialism. Dreams flare brightly with youth, but the plunge carries often to despair when honest efforts are turned to Vie expediency that refutes all but the immediate financial return. So, it may be that the obvious combination of talent and camaraderie—of high ideals and pleasing cooperation—was marked in our remembrance a bit beyond its normal appraisal. Yet, that same conception of its idealistic phase and its practical application still persists with this mind, through that void of years.
. . . .
Columns—pages—many, many pages—carrying the nom de plume of Volunteer, had been absorbed before that, for even in those days John Hervey was nearing the phase when the thoughtless world would term him "veteran!" Already the facile phrases and well‑based proposals of the Review editor had become familiar to a great reading public, then, more than now, attuned to the clash of diverging minds, with "no punches pulled." Already he had overcome the embarrassing acceptance of a new editorial writer, with the quickwitted opposition only too ready for humiliating references to "kindergarten" graduates and the like. He was then respected and his writings read with serious attention.
Over the long period of his writing—this for the Review, for this magazine and others—he is doubtless best remembered as a constant and effective contributor on controversial subjects. On those his stand was well‑based, his reasoning logical; his action determined. In the long‑fought and persistently debated contention regarding the Bingen blood, he was bitterly loyal to the great founder, and in that consideration probably indulged in more unkind reflections on the opposition than in any other discussion of his career. But, whether or not his feelings mounted high, positively he never departed from his splendid prose form; his English was impeccable, and his phrasing pronouncedly clear.
Yet it was outside of those controversies, carried on so tenaciously and often bitterly—that admirers of the Hervey writings often gained their best returns, and happiest moments. Despite the fact that he was in reality a self‑educated man, his knowledge of the arts, the theater, and like fields of learning, was amazing. Some of his preparations on art—generally inclusive of the equine kind—were delightful and informative. An occasional diversion into the realm of equine sculpture was a source of importance to many whose development in that line had made them akin.
While often his comprehensive treatises on those subjects "went over our heads" there was always a delight in the Hervey prose conceptions—their clarity, gracefulness, and meticulous interpretations. Now and then he gleaned out of sources seemingly inconsequential a wealth of material which he turned into delightful hours for readers through his charming conceptions.
Days have flown in endless continuity since that time of our first meeting with John Hervey, and that amazing array of talent which he headed in the Review sanctum. Even now the group with its beloved chief loom in mind as the summit of accomplishment in turf literature—the apex of expert production in the field of the horse and his sport. At that time he was none too robust. Indeed, he was often borne down physically—this generally through those merciless self‑imposed burdens when endless editorial and statistical work called for terrifying incursions into midnight hours. Yet, strangely, the mental forces never let down. The keen insight to his work, the astonishing memory, the determination for exact and extended details—all bore up through the ruthless demands which the physical being commanded in his exacting pursuits. So it came about that from that timenear forty years ago—to this, this strangely mild‑mannered and physically frail turf writer saw those dear companions and coworkers of the olden days fall as from Beyond came the insistent call of the inevitable. Now, there is but one of them all—the loyal, patient Walter Moore—to bow in reverence as his chief of old passes forever from the stage.
. . . .
In the moment of his passing and in the clear appreciation of his superb mentality, loyalty and self‑effacement, one is constrained easily to place his niche in the gallery of equine writers too high in fairness to the mighty minds that have preceded him. It would hardly be possible to award him such precedence, especially by one of today utterly unacquainted with some giants who have been out of the world picture for a generation or more. But that he has a place, secure and unthreatened, as a mighty figure in the field he graced so long and well, is not to be doubted.
To resume the role of personal appraiser, there looms large and commanding the spiritual stature of the man, when in his intensely human relations with his fellows he gave of his graceful prose to pay tribute to their character. Not everyone pleased the dead scribe. Not always have we seen "eye to eye" with him in appraisal of turf figures. Yet, it comes back with emphasis that his loyal commendations, as the changing status of life actors drew them from his brain, were rarely misplaced. He actually loved humanity, and earthly position had no place in the imposition of his consideration or valuation.
John Hervey knew mankind—knew his fellows and their worth. Their frailities he considered characteristically with a scale well balanced for the good that is with men. It is months since we saw him last, and even then the grim specter of the inevitable shadowed the high, white brow, and blurred the soft lines of the kindly face. Yet, his complaints were not at all of his physical infirmities—which must have been distressing—but of his inability to drive harder the slim, delicate frame that was yielding before the life storms of more than seventy years. "I must have this finished," he said.
He was then in the most trying period of his work on his greatest trotting production, The American Trotter. Into it he had invested all the memories, all the skillful diversions, all the clear‑cut relation of facts that make the volume stand‑out as invaluable. This was not different with him from preceding trials, including the editorial page of the old Review. Always insistent on preparation, polish, finish—that was John Hervey. And it irked him when it seemed in his dwindling physical force he was missing the necessary reserve to complete it as he passionately desired it.
In this he was moved altogether by the feeling that the ones who awaited the book might be disappointed in their expectations—and this through his failings. There was no complaint of the personal troubles which assuredly beset him. In the Hervey code there was duty foremost. Personal considerations came later.
In the clear recollection of that short time at the Chicago home, it is positive that there was little hope in assuaging him by contention that his work was distinguished‑which it was. His acceptance of praise was not visible of sentiment. As we talked about great and loved ones along the way, the sense of his physical losses intruded. He spoke of many things along the life pathway that started in a little Ohio town only a brief time after the Civil War, and had carried beyond the scriptural allotment of humanity. It was as always, a delight to be his listener, for his English was more than faultless—it was rhythmic and charming, even in its simplicity. Rarely did he resort to the vernacular.
In some consideration of Mr. Hervey we have heard that he rejected the thought of a Supreme Being. In any conversation we had with him we never heard him express himself on this—that is, directly. But in this little spot where stumbling words must suffice, it is felt that reversion to something treating thereon may not be misplaced. For it was in times of poignant memory, when those very near and very dear had slipped away, that we experienced the largess of his great heart. And in that time with the true kindness of a Christian, and the comforting concern that was his invariably, he gave in his tribute to our loved ones the essence that an ancient and mighty church commends.
There is a confusion that such a man, with the finest of instincts, and the breadth of interest and attainment, should turn almost wholly to the field in which he served so well. The financial returns were assuredly not high; position in other fields positively awaited him. Assuredly he must have loved the horse—as he loved those about him.
Turf literature is not dependent on the ability of any single writer—or group of writers. But there are those, who knowing John Hervey and appreciating his greatness in the essentials, loved him devotedly. They will breathe a prayer that all is well with him as he goes from an earthly scene which he graced unmistakably.
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JOHN LEWIS HERVEY
Born in Jefferson, Ohio, in 1870. Lived there until about his seventeenth year.
Took his first public position with the Fasig Sales Company, and engaged mostly in statistical work, cataloguing, etc.
Engaged with the Horse Review of Chicago, Ill., in 1892, and started a career on that turf journal that lasted to its final issue in 1932.
Occupied the editorial chair of the Review from 1899 until its final issue.
In 1934 began in a special editorial capacity for HOOF BEATS and continued articles therein to his death.
Joined the staff of the Harness Horse in 1935, to which he contributed until his passing.
Prepared the extended work on trotting, The American Trotter, which came out in August, 1947.
During his extended period of writing he also contributed voluminously to Thoroughbred publications, including the Thoroughbred Record, the Blood Horse and others of note. In addition to his work in that special field he prepared annual publications of a historical and statistical type.
Died in Chicago, on December 31, 1947, in a home he had occupied since his early work for the Horse Review.
Buried in Jefferson, Ohio, January 5, 1948.
Vol 13 No. 12 January 7, 1948
THE DEATH OF JOHN HERVEY
JOHN HERVEY, a valued member of the Staff of The Harness Horse since its inaugural issue in November, 1935, and who for a full half‑century was generally regarded as the foremost writer on matters pertaining to the Standardbred, passed away last week at his home in Chicago, Ill., following a brief illness, he dying as he wished, practically in harness, having contributed a lengthy and, as always, a very interesting article. "Great American Reinsmen," in our recent Christmas Number.
A native of Ashtabula County, having been born near Jefferson, O., he grew up in a strong harness horse atmosphere. Such one‑time prominent 19th century sires as Atlantic 2:21, Reveille 2:213/4, St. Lookout 2:26 and Oakbourne 2:271/2, being owned in that locality, later the remarkable pacing stallion and sensational campaigner and sire, Hal B. 2:041/2, and lastly. The Hambletonian Stake winner, Peter Astra 2:011/2.
A son of an enthusiastic lover of the sport, it was only natural that John Hervey was interested from his earliest days and being an unusually bright and observing lad, and being privileged to attend many meetings in his immediate locality as well as see the stars at the old Glenville course in Cleveland, O., he absorbed first hand a great store of knowledge which later proved so valuable and provided him with an intimacy with trotting families, which made his writings so interesting to us all.
When still a young man he made the acquaintance of the then very prominent ''Bennie'' Fasig and the latter taking a particular fancy to him and appreciating his knowledge as well as his ability to bring out the qualifications of horses, employed him in his sales organization, and John Hervey then entered upon the particular line of work which had been his ambition in life. In due time he joined the Staff of The Horse Review and continued as Editor of that splendid weekly publication until its discontinuance. Under the pseudonym of "Volunteer" 'he contributed articles which were real masterpieces, profound and historical, yet in a vein which made them both enjoyable and enlightening, consequently highly prized.
In late years while his health prevented him witnessing many meetings, he kept in close touch with the progress of events, and his weekly contributions to The Harness Horse proved regular features and were eagerly looked forward to by thousands of our readers.
It was our good fortune to know John Hervey intimately over quite a period when in the competitive field on different publications and it was customary to settle differences of opinions in the editorial columns, yet our strong friendship never weakened in the slightest, there being frequent exchanges of courtesies and the willingness to help one another on each and very occasion. He was unquestionably without a peer not only as regards knowledge of the history of the Standardbred, but in his method of expressing his thoughts, the lucid manner in which he passed them on to his many readers. Unfortunately, as we view the situation, there is no one to take his place, our field having failed to attract and develop one with such an intimate knowledge of the history of our great sport, hence his passing is the more regrettable, as if not only severs a strong friendship which many of us prized so highly, but it removes from one and all followers of the light harness horse industry its most enlightened advocate and historian.
It is furthermore most unfortunate that at this particular time, our Editor, Walter Moore, who spent many years as a member of the Staff of The Horse Review and knew Mr. Hervey more intimately than any one else, suffered a great loss at practically the same time that Mr. Hervey died, Mrs. Moore passing away on New Year's Day, consequently this very regrettable task necessarily was assigned to the writer who lacking in similar associations is unable to do full justice to such a fine character who devoted his entire life to the betterment of our sport.
Obituary on John Hervey from February 1948 United States
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