Not likely sent: The Remington-Hearst "telegrams" Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Summer 2000
Hearst typically filled his telegrams with instructions


The pithy epigram of the purported reply to Remington seems uncharacteristic of Hearst's telegrams of the time. While not necessarily expansive or wordy in such messages, Hearst often included suggestions and instructions in telegrams to those whom he had assigned important tasks or missions. For example, Hearst's numerous telegrams to Creelman in Europe during the weeks before the Spanish-American War in 1898 were replete with instructions about coverage from the Continent. Those messages make it quite clear that Hearst was an engaged editor, closely managing one of his valued correspondents.


In the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the U.S. warship Maine in Havana harbor in February 1898, Hearst instructed Creelman, then in London, to "hold" an interview story that Creelman had evidently planned for the upcoming Sunday because "all interest now centered in Maine." Hearst also informed Creelman that the rival World and Herald were "printing good foreign interviews."57 In a separate message, Hearst urged Creelman to prod the Journal's correspondents in Europe, informing him for example, that "Madrid seems [to be] doing nothing. Herald has fine cable on attitude of Weyler. Maine is great thing. Arouse everybody."58 Hearst's deepening displeasure with reporting from Madrid prompted another cable to Creelman: "Stir up Madrid. World has cabled man there to get from Spanish government statement whether mines in Havana harbor. Should have something offset this."59 Finally, Hearst instructed Creelman to "proceed [to] Madrid immediately. Get big interviews on situation. Describe war feeling, etc."60


Few of Hearst's papers and letters from the late nineteenth century have been made public, including those for the months before, during, and after the Spanish-American War. Nevertheless, the available record suggests his clear propensity to send, via the telegraph, explicit and detailed instructions to his far-flung representatives. Had Hearst communicated with Remington by telegraph in January 1897, it is quite likely, therefore, his messages to the artist would have contained explicit instructions and suggestions. A pithy response of the sort he supposedly made to Remington -- "You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war" -- would have been out of character.


Remington left because he had enough material -- or was asked, or was frightened


The best contemporaneous record of Remington's assignment in Cuba is the correspondence of Davis, who wrote extensively about the mission in letters to his mother, Rebecca Harding Davis, and his family. Davis' letters show that he had little regard for the rotund, slow-moving Remington, whom he called "a large blundering bear."61 But the letters contain no reference to Remington's having wanted to leave Cuba because the artist believed "there will be no war." Rather, Davis in his correspondence offers no fewer than three other explanations for Remington's departure after the artist had been in Cuba just a week. They were:


  • Remington left because he had adequate material for illustrating Davis' articles. Davis wrote 15 January 1897 in a letter to his mother: "Remington has all the material he needs for sketches and for illustrating my stories so he is going home. I will go on further as I have not yet seen much that is interesting."62
  • Remington left at Davis' request. "I asked him to go as it left me freer," Davis wrote elsewhere in the 15 January letter. In a separate letter that day, Davis told his mother: "I am as relieved at getting old Remington to go as though I had won $5000. He was a splendid fellow but a perfect kid and had to be humored and petted all the time."63
  • Remington left because he was frightened by the prospect of crossing Spanish lines to spend time with the Cuban insurgents. "Remington got scared and backed out much to my relief and I went on and tried to cross the lines," but without success, Davis wrote later in January 1897.64

Davis' correspondence also indicates that Remington's departure came soon after they visited Jaruco, where they encountered unpleasant conditions. "There we slept off the barnyard," Davis wrote, "and cows and chickens walked all over the floor and fleas all over us."65 The hardships of that outing may have contributed to Remington's decision to cut short his stay. In all, the assignment was an exacting one for the artist. A friend, writing years later, said of Remington's time in Cuba in 1897: "The heat was terrible, the transportation bad, and his physical condition poor. He suffered."66


Whatever prompted Remington's departure -- and it appears that he was neither reluctant nor disinclined to leave -- none of Davis' letters suggest that the artist wanted to return to the United States on the pretense of having found "no war" in Cuba. Indeed, Davis wrote that Remington had become "very bitter over what he saw" during the assignment and intended "to stir up Washington" upon his return.67 Davis also described the artist as "very excitable and a firebrand"68 -- hardly an apt or fitting description for someone who supposedly had found "everything is quiet" in Cuba. Remington certainly seemed the firebrand in writing to the World about a month after returning from Havana. In the letter, Remington denounced the Spanish administration in Havana as "the woman-killing outfit down there in Cuba."69


The exchange meant that Hearst tolerated Remington's insubordination


If there had been such an exchange, then Remington clearly was insubordinate: He defied Hearst's supposed order to "remain" and instead returned to New York. Even so, Remington's work received prominent display, which suggests that if the telegrams were exchanged, Hearst ignored or overlooked undeniable insubordination by a wayward artist. Perhaps Hearst believed he had little choice but to use what illustrations Remington provided. But the variety of Remington's drawings, the prominence they received, and Hearst's recollections of the Remington-Davis assignment many years later all suggest that Hearst was scarcely displeased with the artist or his work.


Remington's illustrations were prominently displayed in the Journal. His sketches of a bedraggled Spanish scouting party, and of pro-Spanish guerrillas escorting captured rebel sympathizers, dominated the newspaper's first news pages Sunday, 24 January 1897.70 A headline that introduced the sketches referred to Remington as "the gifted artist" who had been assigned to Cuba "especially for the Journal."71 A few days later, the Journal devoted its entire second page to a sketch by Remington that depicted Cuban troops firing at small Spanish fortifications that dotted the landscape. The illustration appeared beneath a headline that read: "Frederic Remington Sketches A Familiar Incident of the Cuban War."72


In recollections written years later, Hearst commented favorably about the artist's work for the Journal. Hearst noted that he had sent Davis and Remington to Cuba "—to describe and depict the atrocities which the cruel Spaniards were inflicting upon the courageous Cubans, struggling for their liberties. These correspondents did their work admirably and aroused much indignation among Americans against "Butcher" Weyler, the bloodthirsty Spanish general, but no urge to war.'"73


Remington, though, was none too pleased with the reproduction quality of his illustrations from Cuba. "Davis will write and I will draw," he wrote after returning home in January 1897, "but can't do much in a Yellow Kid journal Ð printing too bad."74 Nevertheless, he appears to have remained on favorable terms with Hearst. For example, Remington assured his publisher in 1898 that Hearst would not object to the use in a forthcoming book of several illustrations that the artist had drawn for the Journal. 75


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57 William Randolph Hearst, trans-Atlantic cablegram to James Creelman, 19 February 1898; Ohio State University library, Creelman Collection.
58 Hearst, trans-Atlantic cablegram to Creelman, 19 February 1898; Ohio State University library, Creelman Collection.
59 Hearst, trans-Atlantic cablegram to Creelman, 23 February 1898; Ohio State University library, Creelman Collection.
60 Hearst, trans-Atlantic cablegram to Creelman, 24 February 1898; Ohio State University library, Creelman Collection.
61 Davis, letter to Rebecca Harding Davis, 4 January 1897; Alderman Library, Davis Collection. 62 Davis, letter to Rebecca Harding Davis, 15 January 1897; Alderman Library, Davis Collection.
63 Davis, letter to Rebecca Harding Davis, 15 January 1897; Alderman Library, Davis Collection. Davis also said in the letter: "I was very glad he went for he kept me back all the time and I can do twice as much in half the time. He always wanted to talk it over and that had to be done in the nearest or the most distant cafe, and it always took him fifteen minutes before he got his cocktails to suit him. He always did as I wanted [in] the end but I am not used to giving reasons or traveling in pairs."
64 Davis, undated letter to Gus [Thomas?] [20? January 1897]; Alderman Library, Davis Collection.
65 Davis, letter to Rebecca Harding Davis, 15 January 1897, Alderman Library, Davis Collection.
66 Augustus Thomas, "Recollections of Frederic Remington," Century Magazine 86, 3 (July 1913): 357. A Remington scholar, Allen P. Splete, also said that the artist, because of his heft, probably found the assignment to Cuba demanding. Splete, interview with author, Washington, DC, 8 June 1999.
67 Davis, undated letter to Rebecca Harding Davis, [January 1897]; Alderman Library, Davis Collection.
68 Davis, undated letter to Rebecca Harding Davis, [January 1897]; Alderman Library, Davis Collection
69 Frederic Remington, "Frederic Remington Writes to the World about Scovel," New York World (21 February 1897): 1. Remington's letter was written to support the release of Sylvester Scovel, the World correspondent then in jail in Cuba. Remington's reference to "the woman-killing outfit" reflected the theme, common in the U.S. press, that Spanish authorities routinely mistreated Cuban women.
70 "Cuban War Sketches Gathered in the Field by Frederic Remington," New York Journal (24 January 1897): 31-33.
71 "Cuban War Sketches," 31.
72 "Frederic Remington Sketches A Familiar Incident of the Cuban War," New York Journal (29 January 1897): 2.
73 "The Spanish-American War," in Edmond D. Coblentz, ed., William Randolph Hearst: A Portrait in His Own Words (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952), 58.
74 Frederic Remington, letter to Poultney Bigelow, 28 January 1897, in Allen P. Splete and Marilyn D. Splete, Frederic Remington -- Selected Letters (New York: Abbeville Press, 1988), 219.
75 Frederic Remington, letter to [?] Harper, [16 September 1898?], Alderman Library of American Literature, University of Virginia Alderman Library, Remington Collection. Remington, referring to Hearst, wrote, "There is no doubt that I can get his permission."