What was in reporters’ pockets in 1920, according to Ernest Hemingway

This week the Toronto Star launched a micro-site dedicated to a reporter who wrote for them nearly a century ago. His name was Ernest Hemingway. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

The Hemingway Papers includes contemporary reports about Hemingway’s time at the Star — including how it shaped his writing style and what he thought of Toronto — as well as samples of his work for the paper on culture, sport, war and other subjects.

Among his stories about what was happening at home in Toronto is a story called “Newspapermen’s Pockets.” He wrote it in reaction to an alarmed story about how much cash some factory workers were carrying around: $28.50, according to one survey. Riffing on that subject, Hemingway tells his readers what they could expect to find in local reporters’ pockets:

A cub reporter’s pockets contain:

One large collection of clippings. These are stories written by the reporter himself which have actually appeared in a real newspaper. They show his splendid ability to handle such vital stories as an unidentified Negro being struck by a motortruck while crossing Dundas Street. There is usually some short feature story by the reporter describing how the wind blows up and down King Street. This was inserted in the paper by the city editor one Monday when copy was short and because he was once a cub reporter himself.

When the police find a dead body with a pocket full of clippings they know it is either a cub reporter or an actor. As reporters never die, it is always an actor.

He concludes with an assurance that “As long as there are newspapermen, bond salesmen, automobile salesmen, bank employees and similar occupations, there will be a great enough lack of pocket money to balance the excess of the factory employees.”

Read the full story here.

It’s all very charming, but just how empty were Hemingway’s pockets?

A payroll ledger posted with “Newspapermen’s Pockets” shows the Star paid Hemingway $75 a week in 1923 (he was 24 years old); according to the Bank of Canada’s Inflation Calculator, that $75 would have the same buying power as $814.96 per week or a little over $40,000 per year. By today’s standards, not too shabby for a budding reporter.

Posted on May 8, 2012 at 8:28 pm by editor · · Tagged with: , , , , , ,

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