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Frederick William Allsopp was a newspaperman, book collector, and bookstore owner who was an important player in the history of the Arkansas Gazette. Though he never held the title of editor or publisher, he shaped the development of the Gazette—and of Arkansas newspapers at large—for the duration of his career.
Fred W. Allsopp was born on June 25, 1867, in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England. When he was twelve, his family moved to Prescott (Nevada County). Shortly thereafter, he entered the “newspaper business” by selling newspapers. In 1884, he worked for thirteen weeks setting type and working in the printing department of the Nevada County Picayune. He did not receive any pay, but he gained invaluable experience.
With dreams of someday becoming an editor or publisher of a major newspaper, in 1884, at the age of seventeen, he applied for a job at the Gazette. He was hired, and he started in the mailroom. As soon as he learned shorthand and typing, he was transferred to the business office as a stenographer and subscription clerk.
While Allsopp considered himself not much more than an office boy, his new position did allow him to polish his office and writing skills—writing letters, filing, taking dictation, and writing copy (special news articles, telegrams, advertisements, etc.). Allsopp’s manager represented several out-of-state newspapers, and, later in his career, Allsopp became a newspaper correspondent for several large city dailies.
After several months working in the business office, the humdrum daily routine pushed him to quit his job one morning and move to the news department that afternoon. However, he had several bad reporting experiences and decided that he did not have a “nose for news.” Before long, he returned to his old job in the business department.
Allsopp joined two men in publishing a society and literary weekly, the Saturday Bee, in 1895. He dropped to half time at the Gazette and took a one-third interest in the new publication, but it was a financial disaster. He became the sole owner and then sold it, returning to his former job at the Gazette.
On May 11, 1896, James Newton Smithee became the majority stockholder of the Gazette, taking the positions of president and editor. Allsopp was appointed secretary and assistant business manager. Before long, he became the full business manager. In 1899, a new company of 100 stockholders bought the Gazette, and Allsopp was asked to stay on as business manager. In 1902, the Gazette was sold again, this time to Judge Carrick W. Heiskell of Memphis, Tennessee, and his sons, John Netherland and Fred. Allsopp remained business manager, but this time as a minority stockholder. Sometime later, the Heiskells bought out Allsopp’s share.
Allsopp developed a reputation for his penny-pinching ways. He insisted on keeping advertisements on the front page long after that went out of style. He dragged his feet on virtually every new proposal, from daily and color comics to going to a seven-day publication. But in 1906, the newspaper added a Monday edition, becoming a seven-day-a-week publication, and the newspaper added color comics in 1908, a first in the state.
A lifelong lover of books, Allsopp recognized that he had a book-publishing opportunity within easy grasp with his newspaper’s printing department and bindery. In addition to publishing books, he collected them and opened a bookstore; Allsopp and Chapple the leading bookstore in Little Rock (Pulaski County). He wrote two books on newspapers: Little Adventures in Newspaperdom and History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More, both published in 1922. Among his other books were The Life Story of Albert Pike (1920), Albert Pike: A Biography (1928), and Folklore of Romantic Arkansas (1931).
In 1922, the president of the Arkansas Press Association (APA), J. C. Jolly, endorsed a code of professional ethics and created a Committee on a Code. He named Allsopp as chairman. Allsopp also was named the APA historian “for life.”
Allsopp presided over the business of the Arkansas Gazette for more than forty years. He died on April 9, 1946. Allsopp Park in Little Rock is named after him. He is buried in Little Rock’s Mount Holly Cemetery.
For additional information:Allsopp, Fred W. History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Pub. Co., 1922.
———. Little Adventures in Newspaperdom. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Pub. Co., 1922.
Dougan, Michael. Community Diaries: Arkansas Newspapering, 1818–2002. Little Rock: August House, 2002.
Harper, Clio. History of the Arkansas Press Association. Little Rock: Arkansas Press Association, 1930.
Meriwether, Robert W. A Chronicle of Arkansas Newspapers Published Since 1922, and the Arkansas Press Association, 1930–1972. Little Rock: Arkansas Press Association, 1974.
Reed, Roy, ed. Looking Back at the Arkansas Gazette: An Oral History. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2009.
C. Dennis SchickNorth Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 10/6/2009
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