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A moment in time

What U.S. publishing pioneer was one of the first editors of The American Legion Magazine?

Harold Ross, an early editor of The American Legion Weekly. Born in Colorado in 1892, Ross knew as a teenager that he wanted to be in the newspaper business, and spent several years crisscrossing the country as a reporter for different publications.

He served in the Army in France during World War I and eventually rose to become the editor of Stars and Stripes. He attended the Legion’s Paris Caucus in March 1919, serving on the American Expeditionary Force Executive Committee and the Committee on Constitution. It was fitting, then, that he should be hired as editor of The American Legion Weekly in 1920, after a weekly newspaper Ross had launched for returning veterans was absorbed by the Legion.

Ross stayed in the position until 1924. For part of that time, the editorial as well as the business/advertising offices of the Weekly were in New York. Ross and his first wife, a New York Times reporter he had met in France named Jane Grant, were associated with the famed Algonquin Round Table, and several of the towering literary figures he met served as either contributors or contacts in helping to get his greatest venture off the ground: The New Yorker, the weekly news, humor and literary magazine that debuted in 1925. Dorothy Parker was an early contributor. E.B. White, famous for both "Charlotte’s Web" and "The Elements of Style," was a staff member for years. James Thurber, also a longtime staff member who contributed both stories and cartoons to the magazine, wrote an entire book about Ross and their relationship – "The Years With Ross," published in 1958. And even after their 1929 divorce, Grant continued to work with him.

Ross had personally edited every issue of The New Yorker. Under his leadership, 20th-century pillars of literature like Thurber’s "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (March 1939) and Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery" (June 1948) had debuted in the magazine. But Ross developed lung cancer and died in December 1951 after an operation to remove a tumor. He was 59. The final count of the issues he edited: 1,399, right up until his death. The New Yorker, now part of the Condé Nast publishing empire, continues its tradition of wit, fine journalism and fiction. The Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan, where the Round Table met decades ago, gives free copies of the magazine to its guests.

Why was a 1932 dinner given by Post 754 in New York for John Philip Sousa especially meaningful?

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