Franklin Pierce Adams
, Chicago, Illinois
– March 23
, New York City, New York
) was an American columnist
(under the pen name FPA
) and wit, best known for his newspaper column, "The Conning Tower", and his appearances as a regular panelist
on radio's Information Please
. He was a member of the Algonquin Round Table
of the 1920s and 1930s.
New York newspaper columnist
The son of Moses and Clara Schlossberg Adams, he graduated from the Armour Scientific Academy in 1899 and attended the University of Michigan
for one year. He first worked for the Chicago Journal
in 1903. The following year he moved to the New York Evening Mail
, where he worked from 1904 to 1913 and began his famed column. In 1913, when he moved his column to the New York Tribune
, where it was given the title, "The Conning Tower".
During his time on the Evening Mail he wrote what remains his best known work, Baseball's Sad Lexicon, a tribute to the Chicago Cubs double play combination of "Tinker to Evers to Chance".
During World War I, Adams was in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Stars and Stripes, where he worked with Harold Ross, Alexander Woollcott and other literary lights of the 1920s. After the war, Adams returned to New York. He went to the New York World, in 1921, writing there until that paper closed in 1931. He returned to his old paper, renamed the New York Herald Tribune, staying until 1937 when he went to the New York Post. He ended his column in September 1941.
During its long run, "The Conning Tower" publicized the work of such writers as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart, Edna Ferber and Deems Taylor. Having one's work published in "The Conning Tower" was enough to launch a career, as in the case of Dorothy Parker and James Thurber. Parker quipped, "He raised me from a couplet."
FPA often included parodies in his column. His satire of Edgar Allan Poe
's poem "Annabel Lee
" was later collected in his book Something Else Again
- Soul Bride Oddly Dead in Queer Death Pact
- High-Born Kinsman Abducts Girl from Poet-Lover--Flu Said to Be Cause of Death-- Grand Jury to Probe
- Annabel L. Poe of 1834½ 3rd Ave., the beautiful young fiancee of Edmund Allyn Poe, a magazine writer from the South, was found dead early this morning on the beach off E. 8th Street. Poe seemed prostrated and, questioned by the police, said that one of her aristocratic relatives had taken her to the "seashore," but that the cold winds had given her "flu," from which she never "rallied." Detectives at work on the case believe, they say, that there was a suicide compact between the Poes and that Poe also intended to do away with himself. He refused to leave the spot where the woman's body had been found.
As a panelist on the radio's Information Please
(1938-48), he was the designated expert on poetry, old bar-room songs and Gilbert and Sullivan
, which he always referred to as Sullivan and Gilbert. A running joke on the show was that his stock answer for quotes that he didn't know was that Shakespeare
was the author.
John Kieren was the real Shakespearean expert and could quote from his works at length.
His books include Tobogganning on Parnassus
(1911) and Answer This One
(a 1927 trivia book with Harry Hansen). His final volume, The Melancholy Lute
(1936), featured Adams' selections from three decades of his work. He also was a translator of Horace
and other classical authors, and he collaborated with O. Henry
, a musical comedy.
"I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way."
"To err is human; to forgive, infrequent."
"Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody."