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Samuel Hopkins Adams

Samuel Hopkins Adams
Adams in 1922
Born January 26, 1871
Dunkirk, New York
Died November 16, 1958(1958-11-16) (aged 87)
Beaufort, South Carolina
Cause of death Heart attack
Education Hamilton College
Known for
  • Elizabeth R. Noyes
  • Jane Peyton Van Norman

Samuel Hopkins Adams (January 26, 1871 – November 16, 1958) was an American writer, best known for his investigative journalism and muckraking.


  • Background 1
  • Career 2
  • Literary Works 3
  • Later life 4
  • Selected filmography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Adams was born in Dunkirk, New York. Adams was most famously known for exposing public health issues, this is how he became known as a muckraker. He was the son of Myron Adams, Jr., a minister, and Hester Rose Hopkins. Adams attended Hamilton College in Clinton, New York from 1887-1891, he also attended a semester at Union College. In 1907 Adams divorced his wife, Elizabeth Ruffner Noyes, after having two daughters. Eight years later Adams married an actress, Jane Peyton. Adams was a close friend of both the investigative reporter Ray Stannard Baker and District Attorney Benjamin Darrow.[1]


From 1891 to 1900, he was a reporter for the New York Sun where his career began and then joined McClure's Magazine, where he gained a reputation as a muckraker for his articles on the conditions of public health in the United States. In 1904 Adams became an editorial staffer with McClure’s Magazine working with Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, and Ray Stannard Baker. Adams considered himself a freelance writer and used his writings to support himself. In 1905 Adams was hired by Collier’s Weekly, he prepared articles on patent medicines.[1] In a series of eleven articles he wrote for Collier's Weekly in 1905, "The Great American Fraud", Adams exposed many of the false claims made about patent medicines, pointing out that in some cases these medicines were damaging the health of the people using them. The series had a huge impact and led to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. In 1911, the Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of falsifications referred only to the ingredients of the medicine. This meant that companies were again free to make false claims about their products. Adams returned to the attack, and in another series of articles in Collier's Weekly, Adams exposed the misleading advertising that companies were using to sell their products. Linking his knowledge of newspapers with patent medicines, he wrote The Clarion (1914), which was critical of newspaper advertising practices and led to a series of consumer-protection articles in the New York Tribune. His service during World War I for the Committee on Public Information led to Common Cause (1919), a novel on a newspaper's battle against pro-Germans in Wisconsin.[1]

Literary Works

Adams was a prolific writer, who wrote fiction as well. "Night Bus", one of Adams's many magazine stories, became the basis for the film It Happened One Night. Adams's first solo novel was in 1908, Flying Death, which added to his mystery collection.[1] His best-known novel, Revelry (1926), based on the scandals of the Harding administration, was later followed by Incredible Era (1939), a biography of Harding.

Among his other works are articles on quackery The Great American Fraud in Judy Garland), Canal Town (1944), Plunder (1948), Grandfather Stories (1955), and Tenderloin (1959). The Clarion and Success are studies of modern journalism. Average Jones is a series of stories about a detective investigating fraudulent or unusual advertisements. In addition to his many books, Adams also wrote 415 short stories and articles.[1]

Tenderloin described the battle between Jerome Weidman and songs by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, the team that had created Fiorello! Tenderloin ran for 216 performances. New critic Howard Taubman praised the songs, but complained about a "dragging book" and said "The wages of virtue, alas, are largely dullness."

In the 1920s Adams wrote two novels, Flaming Youth and Unforbidden Fruit, dealing with the sexual urges of young women in the Jazz Age. These novels had a sexual frankness that was shocking for their time, and Adams published them under the pseudonym "Warner Fabian" so that his other works would not be tainted by any scandal accruing to these novels. Both of the Warner Fabian novels became best-sellers, and both were filmed: the latter as The Wild Party (not related to a work of the same title by Joseph Moncure March). Adams also published a biography of Alexander Woollcott (1945) and three books for the Landmark Series, The Pony Express (1950), The Santa Fe Trail (1952), and The Erie Canal (1953).

The printing of his 1947 novel Banner by the Wayside is the subject of an Encyclopædia Britannica documentary on the manufacture of hardback books (see external links).

Later life

Adams last book, Tenderloin (1959), was a novel about Adams’ newspaper days and was published after his death. This novel was later made into a Broadway musical.

Adams's papers are still used in libraries of colleges and universities such as Syracuse University, Hamilton College, and Harvard University. A significant portion of Adams collections are in the American Antiquarian Society located in Worcester, Massachusetts. He died in Beaufort, South Carolina on November 16, 1958.[1]

Selected filmography


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kennedy, Samuel V. "Adams, Samuel Hopkins"; (Kennedy)American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.

External links

  • Works by Samuel Hopkins Adams at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Samuel Hopkins Adams at Internet Archive
  • Works by Samuel Hopkins Adams at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Samuel Hopkins Adams Collection (Syracuse University Library)
  • Banner by the WaysideEncyclopædia Britannica film on the printing of his book on YouTube
  •  "Adams, Samuel Hopkins".  
  • "Samuel Hopkins Adams". American Author, Journalist.  
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