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Mirror History

Frances Barnett Roper

By W.A. Kelsoe

One of the few women writers on the Star in the early years of its existence and the only one when I worked on the paper in 1890 was Mrs. Frances Barnett Roper, who had joined City Editor Reedy’s staff in 1888. She was a graduate of Pritchett Institute, Glasgow, Mo.,…The Mirror, founded by Michael Angelo Fanning and James Galvin early in the [Eighteen] Nineties, soon claimed her service and she continued to write for the new literary weekly after William M. Reedy became manager of it; in fact, until her marriage in 1896 to Thomas Davis Porcher. While with the Mirror she also did considerable special writing for the Star and some for the Globe-Democrat, Republic and Post-Dispatch.
(Originally published in the St. Louis Reference Record in 1927).

Became Reedy’s Mirror.

By the mid-1890s, the Mirror "was discovering writers others overlooked or underestimated. Reedy printed Emily Dickenson long before she was widely recognized; Kate Chopin, who now lived in St. Louis; and Alice French, who signed herself Octave Thanet. He printed Ambrose Bierce in 1894, and later was delighted to discover his 'Tales of Soldiers and Civilians' in a paper-backed edition sold by a news butcher on a train. And he acquired translators who could acquaint his readers with the exotic literary wares of France, Russia, and Germany...
"Reedy kept reducing the amount of space assigned to gossip of 'society' and altering the format, the content, and the subtitle of his magazine each year. What had been 'A Journal Devoted to Literature, Art, Society, the Drama,' became 'A Journal of Comment on Anything of Human Interest,' and by the turn of the century 'A Weekly Journal Reflecting the Interests of Thinking People.' Later the subtitle became 'Reedy's Paper,' and finally it was absorbed like the polywog's tail, and the title became simply Reedy's Mirror."...
(In October 1896, the Mirror was bankrupt.) "When the magazine failed and was put up for auction to satisfy its creditors, it was Reedy;s friend James Campbell who saved the day. He bought it in, went over its financial position, and three weeks later gave the Mirror to Reedy with enough working capital to keep it in business...And Campbell seemed to expect nothing from Reedy, who said that buying the Mirror in a fit of absent-mindedness was Campbell's only bad investment, and later remarked that even though the magazine seemed to have stood for everything that menaced his position, Campbell 'never in sixteen years said a word' to influence the editor's policy.
"By [the following] May he could claim 13,000 paid-up subscribers...Soon he could boast that local subscriptions had quintupled within a year, while those from out of town had increased tenfold in only six months...Sales reached a peak of 32,250, which put the Mirror far ahead of the Nation, the Atlantic, and most established journals of opinion."
(From The Man in the Mirror by Max Putzel, 1963).

The Mirror was founded March 1, 1891, by M.A. Fanning - who was its first editor - and James M. Calvin. It underwent several changes of ownership until it fell into the hands of William Marion Reedy, a bright and aggressive young journalist, whose command of language and faculty of discrimination has given it "a name and a local habitation." It is published weekly with the subtitle of "a journal of comment upon anything of human interest," which is almost Baconian in its scope. The principal feature of the paper is the fearless manner in which it expresses its opinion upon all questions at issue. It strives to realize the higher ideal in practical matters. The Mirror, while it has a decidedly literary flavor, is devoted principally to local and social interests.
(From the Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri by Alexander N. De Menil, 1901).

Of the many literary journals which flourished around the turn of the century, none was more renowned than the Mirror, a weekly published at St. Louis by native son William Marion Reedy. Born in 1862 in Kerry Patch, as the city's Irish quarter was known, Reedy worked briefly as a newspaper reporter, but soon turned to broader fields of writing, and in 1893 took over editorship of the magazine which was to bring him and his city such tremendous literary prestige. Endowed with unusual gifts of selectivity and criticism, Reedy was a discoverer and recognizer of new talent, encouraging young writers as well as introducing to local audiences the writings of such already established foreign writers as Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham and John Galsworthy.
St. Louis poet Sara Teasdale found early recognition in the pages of the Mirror, as did Zoe Akins, a Humansville, Missouri, girl who went on to New York to become one of the foremost playwrights of the '20s; Fannie Hurst, another St. Louis girl, whose novels include "Humoresque" and the much-filmed "Back Street;" Shirley Seifert, well-known St. Louis historical novelist; Homer Croy, north Missouri humorist and novelist, and Edgar Lee Masters. "Spoon River Anthology," the classic collection of free-verse epitaphs with which Masters achieved lasting literary eminence, appeared bit by bit during 1914 and 1915 in the Mirror, its creation carefully encouraged and supervised by the great editor himself.
The Mirror was not just a literary clearing house, however. Reedy's forceful personality was felt in its strong editorials, which ranged from scathing indictment of the city's government in the scandals of the century's first few years, to mellow and erudite writings about the art and literature of the time. Reedy's sudden death in 1920 put an end to a great talent and a great literary medium, for, although the Mirror continued to be published for some years, it descended quickly from its position of greatness, becoming in its last days little more than a local gossip sheet. Its early fame endures, however.  
(From St. Louis From Laclede to Land Clearance by Frances Hurd Stadler, 1962).