John Forney was a Lancaster printer's apprentice who became one of the nation's most influential newspaper publishers. His biography is the story of a Pennsylvania printer who becames one of the state's premier power brokers.
John graduated from the pressroom to the boardroom in one giant leap of ambition. By age 22 he owned the Lancaster newspaper where he had first learned to set type as a teenaged apprentice.
By age 40 he led the political campaign that placed President Buchanan in the White House. John Forney transformed his personal friend, James Buchanan, into America's 15th president.
The best descriptons of John Forney are the 19th century praises penned by his colleagues.
- "There were giants in his day, and he was one of them. None was more to be honored than the young Pennsylvanian who came from his Lancaster home to found and direct a policy which was to sway the nation..." (John Russell Young) Link
- "He wielded one of the most fertile pens in the whole country. ...He is a tower of strength in the editorial profession, and his rare mental vigor and complete mastery of the pen, justly entitle him to be regarded and styled the journalistic Achilles of the Western Continent." (Alexander Harris) Link
- "Col. Forney ...is one of the princes of American journalism. No editor in Pennsylvania has made a deeper impression on the public mind." (Philadelphia Record. ) Link
- "...he was the foremost editor of Pennsylvania." (Philadelphia Inquirer.) Link
- "He belonged to a class of men who build themselves into the civilization of their times..." (John Thomas Scharf.) Link
- "Personally, to me, he was always noble, gracious, conciliatory;" (Walt Whitman) Link
John W. Forney: A Timeline:
- 1817: John is born in Lancaster into a Pennsylvania German / French Huguenot family. By age 13 he leaves school to help support his widowed mother.
- ca. 1830: John becomes a printer's apprentice for the Lancaster Journal newspaper, owned by Hugh Maxwell. (William Hamilton founded this newspaper in 1794.)
- 1837: John purchases Lancaster's Intelligencer newspaper.
- 1839: At age 22, John purchases the Lancaster Journal, where he had been an apprentice. He merges that newspaper with his Intelligencer newspaper, and renames it the Intelligencer & Journal. (In 1866, Andrew Jackson Steinman becomes a co-owner of this newspaper, which eventually morphs into today's Intelligencer Journal.)
- 1845: John leaves Lancaster and relocates to Philadelphia. He purchases half interest in the Pennsylvanian, a Democratic newspaper, which he owns for 8 years.
- 1851: John is elected clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, so he and his family move to Washington D.C., where he becomes the presiding officer of the House.
- 1852: John becomes an editor of the Democratic party's Washington Daily Union newspaper.
- 1855: John leaves his job as clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is chairman of Pennsylvania's Democratic party, and leads the state's presidential campaign of his personal friend and fellow Lancastrian, James Buchanan.
- 1856: James Buchanan is elected U.S. President, and John Forney is given most of the credit for Buchanan's campaign victory.
- 1857: John campaigns to be a U. S. senator, but he loses to another former Lancaster printer, Simon Cameron. John returns to Philadelphia where he starts a Democratic newspaper, the Press.
- 1861: John returns to Washington D.C., after becoming a Republican, and serves as secretary of the U.S. Senate for 7 years. He creates the Washington Sunday Morning Chronicle, to support President Abraham Lincoln.
- 1861 to 1868: John is Secretary of the U.S. Senate.
- 1870: John sells his Washington newspaper, and returns to Philadelphia, where he creates and edits a weekly magazine Progress. John switches political parties again, to Democrat, for the last years of his life.