28 January 2008

The Mysterious Case of Long Island Star Editor Thomas H. Todd

Queens Crap reports that the handsome, four-square building that once housed the Long Island Star newspaper is coming down, down, down. Why? Just because the Queen political machine doesn't give a crap, and humanity needs another condo tower. That's why.

The developers can't be accused of ignorance of the building's past in this case. As QC points out, the building has a friggin' plaque on it, commemorating Star found Thomas H. Todd, who started the publication in 1865.

Wanna know about the Star and Todd? Why, sure you do. And you've come to the right place! The Star was founded before Long Island City was even incorporated. It was the only paper in the area at the time. Todd was schooled in journalism at the Flushing Journal. In 1876, the Star went daily. Its circulation grew from a few hundred to some twelve thousand per week by 1896. It also had a Greenpoint edition, the Greenpoint Daily Star.

And what of Todd? Well, here's the weirdness, and boy is it weird! The great citizen went missing in January 1901. Nothing was heard of the Long Islander until a body was found in Flushing Creek in June 1902 which Mrs. Todd and the two Todd sons identified as their husband and father. But, after hearing all the evidence at an inquest, the family decided they had been mistaken. It wasn't Todd after all. Meanwhile, other family members still swore is was Todd. But the inquest jury declared it wasn't and that was that.

By November 1902, there was a nasty battle of an "alleged will" presented by the two sons. It was opposed by the widow and her daughters. The sons charged that their mother was not competent to serve as administrator of the will. Ditto for the daughters (their sisters). Ooh, it was nasty.

But what did happen to Todd? No one knows. He was sick with "the grip" prior to his disappearance. The day he vanished, Todd reported for work in the morning, but looked so bad he was sent home. It was thought he would take the train to Flushing, where he lived, but instead he boarded a ferry bound for James Slip. One report portentiously noted, "He always carried one hundred dollars with him." Methinks Mr. Todd didn't want to be found.

The Star was bought by S.I. Newhouse in 1938. In continued on until 1968 at the Long Island Journal Star. A leading LIC citizen back in the day named Josiah M. Whitney once said "I would like to say that no man deserves more credit for the upbuilding and prosperity of Long Island City than Thomas H. Todd, editor of the Long Island City Star. He deserves great credit for public spirit and fair dealing since he first set his foot on Hunter’s Point soil."

Credit schmedit! Down with the edifice, plaque and all!


Michael Gershowitz said...

I worked on the paper from 1965 until its closing in 1968. It was called the Long Island Star-Journal. In the 1960s, it had a circulation of just under 100,000 and was published daily except Sunday. It covered the northern half of Queens (generally, north of Union Turnpike), as well as Greenpoint in Brooklyn. Following a citywide newspaper strike in 1968, the Star-Journal was merged into its sister publication, the Long Island Press, which had covered southern Queens as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The Press survived until 1977 when it, too, closed.

Teresa Wilber said...

I'm hoping you can help me in my search for a copy of the Long Island-Star Journal from Friday, August 26th 1944.

Are the papers stored on Micro-fiche somewhere?

My mother's cousin Ben Simonetti was killed in action in France. We have a copy of the paper but it is in great disrepair.

If you have any contacts or info. Please email me at rjwilber@comcast.net

With appreciation,
Teresa Wilber

Cathy McGarry said...

Hello, I am looking for a photo posted in the Long Island Star-Journal in 1954. It is of a NY policeman and his family, many of whom still live in the area. Can you tell me where to find the microfiche or photo library?
Thank you. Cathy McGarry luminprints@hotmail.com

Unknown said...

I was a bicycle delivery boy with the L.I. Star Journal for two years 1961-1963. It was my first job, and I learned how to sell door to door, and won a trip to Washington D.C., after selling 10 new subscriptions in one month; the first time I ever left New York City after Immigrating from Cuba. I would love to locate an old canvas delivery bag, like the one I used on my bike. Joe Perez, Miami, Florida.

steve kennevan said...

The Mystery continues re: Thomas H. Todd. I have discovered an article from 1904 where Mr. Todd gives a speech to his employees at a summer gathering of sports events, etc. at which my grandfather was a participant.

Steve Kennevan

Diane said...

I learned to read on the Long Island Star Journal. At first I only read the comics section. Then in fourth grade I discovered some of the other sections and began to read them avidly.

By the time I was 10 my father and I were actively battling over who got to the paper first. I was not in New York when it folded but was very sad to hear of its passing.