But the Poultney newspaper was obliged to suspend soon after Horace had learned his trade, and, penniless,—for every cent of his earnings beyond what furnished the bare necessaries of life had been sent home to his parents in the wilderness,—he faced the world once more.
After working in different small towns wherever he could get a “job,” reading, studying, enlarging his knowledge all the time when not in the office, he made up his mind to go to New York, “to be somebody,” as he put it.
When he stepped off the towboat at Whitehall, near the Battery, that sunny morning in August, 1831, with only the experience of a score of years in life, a stout heart, quick brain, nimble fingers, and an abiding faith in God as his capital, his prospects certainly were not very alluring.
“An overgrown, awkward, white-headed, forlorn-looking boy; a pack suspended on a staff over his right shoulder; his dress unrivaled in sylvan simplicity since the primitive fig leaves of Eden; the expression of his face presenting a strange union of wonder and apathy: his whole appearance gave you the impression of a runaway apprentice in desperate search of employment. Ignorant alike of the world and its ways, he seemed to the denizens of the city almost like a wanderer from another planet.”
Such was the impression Horace Greeley made on a New Yorker on his first arrival in that city which was to be the scene of his future work and triumphs.
He tramped the streets all that day, Friday, and the next, looking for work, everywhere getting the same discouraging reply, “No, we don’t want any one.”
At last, when weary and disheartened, his ten dollars almost gone, he had decided to shake the dust of New York from his feet, the foreman of a printing office engaged him to do some work that most of the men in the office had refused to touch. The setting up of a Polyglot Testament, with involved marginal references, was something new for the supposed “green” hand from the country. But when the day was done, the young printer was no longer looked upon as “green” by his fellow-workers, for he had done more and better work than the oldest and most experienced hands who had tried the Testament.
But, oh, what hard work it was, beginning at six o’clock in the morning, and working long after the going down of the sun, by the light of a candle stuck in a bottle, to earn six dollars a week, most of which was sent to his dear ones at home.
After nearly ten years more of struggle and privation, Greeley entered upon the great work of his life—the founding and editing of the New York Tribune. He had very little money to start with, and even that little was borrowed. But he had courage, truth, honesty, a noble purpose, and rare ability and industry to supplement his small financial capital. He needed them all in the work he had undertaken, for he was handicapped not only by lack of means, but also by the opposition of some of the New York papers.