Manly Stearns Mumford was born on January 26, 1898, near Tescott, Kansas, (a
village that no longer exists) somewhere near Russell. His father, Manly Jacob Mumford was
a Methodist minister and his mother, Emily Stearns Mumford, was a teacher. She had little
faith in the public schools in rural Kansas and taught her son at home; so he had very little
formal education before high school. As his mother's subjects had been English and history,
those were the areas in which he was best prepared; mathematics beyond arithmetic, science,
geography and foreign languages were not a significant part of his early education.
Manly S. Mumford
Once, while walking on a farm in Kansas he kicked a white object and was told by his
companion that it was the skull of a buffalo. Many years later MSM wrote a paper titled "The Skull of a Buffalo" for
The Chicago Literary Club; it described the vast herds that had roamed over the plains and
how the white men, partly as a means of subjugating the plains Indians, exterminated them
When MSM was a boy his parents moved to southern Illinois, Marissa (35 miles
southeast of St. Louis) being one of the towns in which his father located and preached for a
few years before being moved by the church to another small town. He, his sister, Florence,
and three brothers, Quayle, Maurice and Milton (all younger than he), being the minister's
children were expected to be better in all respects than everyone else in town, especially in
avoiding temptations to drink, smoke, dance or play cards. In later life MSM yielded
cheerfully to all four. He told on one occasion when he was to go to a church supper in the
early evening after he had been drinking beer with some friends. He had been told that eating
ice cream after drinking beer would make him sick, but he knew that refusing to eat ice
cream at the church supper would rouse suspicion, so he ate the ice cream anyway, expecting
to made ill. He was happy to learn that this particular folk myth was, like so many, false.
When he was 16 the family moved again, but MSM, having a job where they then
lived, did not move with them, and was on his own ever since, though he may have gotten
some help from his father when going to college. Part of his reason for not moving was his
dislike of the strict regime imposed by his father. Some time later he moved west to Pueblo,
Colorado, where he worked in a steel mill owned by Colorado Fuel and Iron. While there,
working on the hot rolling mill, he learned of the dangers of that occupation close at hand
when a guide broke and a red hot iron rail headed for his belly. MSM was able to grasp it
with his tongs and deflect the rail between his legs; he once showed me the scar it left on the
inside of his right knee. He published an account of this employment several years later in a
magazine, and the article was reprinted by the Reader's Digest and then by a high school text
book on writing.
Late in World War I MSM enlisted in the Navy, and spent some time at Great Lakes
Naval Station. He was never sent to sea, nor out of the country.
MSM had graduated from high school and obtained some college education in
southern Illinois and, after being discharged from the Navy, enrolled in the School of
Journalism at Northwetern University. At this time he had an apartment in Evanston and was
rescued by a friend who found him just in time to keep him from being killed by gas that had
leaked from the stove. Also at this apartment his father dropped in for an unannounced visit
and poured all his liquor down the drain.
After graduating he got a job with the City News Bureau in Chicago and in a few
years went to work for the Chicago Tribune, starting as a reporter and eventually becoming
acting day city editor. This was at the height of the prohibition era gangsters' activities.
Someone who had intimate knowledge of Al Capone's gang acted as a voluntary source of
information and gave MSM many tips about where to look for what. Most spectacular of
these was on one February 14 when MSM was advised to send a reporter to a garage on
North Clark Street. The reporter arrived before or very shortly after the police at the scene of
the St. Valentine's Day Massacre when the Capone gang machine-gunned most or all
members of a rival gang. Later, when the mysterious caller talked with him again, MSM
mentioned that some of the killers were said to be dressed in police uniforms; he was told,
"Don't be too sure some of 'em weren't cops!"
MSM married Helen Whitman of Evanston on May 10, 1924. They had met when she
was working for the Evanston News Index and he on the City News Bureau. They had two
children: Manly Whitman Mumford born February 25, 1925 and Alice Mason Mumford born
January 5, 1928.
MSM had been promoted to the level at which the owner and publisher of the Tribune
paid some attention to him. On one occasion Col. McCormick asked MSM to write a
newspaper article in a way the the latter considered misleading, and respectfully asked the
boss to ask some other reporter to write it. He was fired in the middle of the depression.
However, a rising young Democratic politician named Edward J. Barrett had just been elected
Illinois State Treasurer needed someone to handle public relations for him. MSM got the job
and it paid more than he was making at the Tribune. Barrett had several political advantages
that helped him to beat the regular Democratic organization candidate in the primary -- many
connections to the American Legion he made while in a hospital recovering from being
gassed in World War I, an engaging personality, and a name that Irish recognized as Irish and
MSM worked for the State Treasurer's office until campaign time, when he went on
unpaid leave and worked (for pay) as the head of the campaign office of the Democratic
Party of Illinois. This arrangement made him many contacts over the State and gave him a
modest amount of political influence. He used this to persuade many county chairmen to
nominate for the office of County Judge the best qualified man in the county who was
registered as a Democrat, regardless of his past contributions to the Party. When, behind
Roosevelt and Henry Horner, the Democrats captured nearly all the county elective offices,
these candidates were among the victors; and for many years, after the voters in those
counties reverted to their normal Republican ways, they continued to re-elect their Democratic
While active in politics MSM developed a method of foretelling the outcome of an
election when only a fraction of votes had been announced. He was among the very first in
the U.S. to select a few key precincts that generally voted for winning candidates. By learning
early how the respective parties were doing in those precincts he could accurately project the
winners several hours before anyone else. This technique was refined subsequently by
analysts using computers, but MSM started it with pencil and paper.
Around 1940 MSM decided it was time to get out of politics and became public
relations director for Household Finance Corporation. After a few years there he became
midwest director of public relations for the Borden Company, a job that took him to a great
many cities and villages in Wisconsin as Borden opened or bought cheese factories and milk
processing plants. He also was a founder of the Public Relations Clinic and of the Public
Relations Society in Chicago -- organizations devoted to increasing the professionalism of
those in that occupation. His activities with these organizations brought him enough
prominence to be listed in Marquis' Who's Who in America.
MSM scorned those who called themselves public relations experts but were only
publicity specialists. The former, although capable of getting publicity when appropriate, were
primarily engaged in advising companies how to behave so as to earn the public's trust and
favor, and to minimize the damage in adversity, such as when an unprofitable cheese factory
had to be closed. Once the City of Waukegan enacted an ordinance forbidding the sale of
milk produced on farms over 50 miles away -- a measure designed to favor local dairies.
Borden's lawyers said that the ordinance would be held void if one of their drivers was
arrested for selling milk from the company's usual suppliers in Wisconsin. Against MSM's
advice, the company did send a driver to Waukegan; he was arrested, and the ordinance was
held void as a restraint on interstate commerce. But, after this victory in court, virtually no
one in Waukegan would buy any Borden milk.
Like nearly all boys in Kansas and southern Illinois, MSM was involved in hunting and
fishing at an early age. Later, when he was in politics, he met many others in central and
southern Illinois with whom he often went hunting quail, doves, ducks and, occasionally,
geese. He also met a band of Kentuckians who had established a fishing camp called the
Kentucky Club in northern Wisconsin, near Hayward, and spent a couple of weeks there for
each of several years, fishing mostly for black bass. He took me with him a couple of times,
and took Alice to a fishing camp in northern Minnesota one summer.
In 1947 MSM and HWM bought a 140 acre farm named "Glan D'Yffryn" near
Genessee Depot Wisconsin. Too small and with too little tillable land to be successful as a
farm, it had a couple of good fields in front (near the road) and many acres of lovely, rolling,
untillable land with oak, hickory, elm, sumac and brush in back. One hilltop was reported to
be the second highest point in Waukesha County. Several of the hills were so barren and
windswept that pasque flowers grew there wild; they are very rare and appear only when the
weather is too cold and wretched to go out and admire them.
MSM kept a vegetable garden and HWM a flower garden, the latter in the foundation
of a shed where the stone walls reflected the sun onto her flowers. Next to the vegetable
garden was an old stock watering tank where we threw all garbage that could be counted on
to turn into compost. It was often aerated by neighborhood dogs and raccoons looking for
scraps. One great lone bur oak tree stood in the middle of the major front field, and several
other white and bur oaks stood near the old farm house. This house had been build some time
in the 1870's, as was the old barn that had magnificent long hand-hewn oak beams a foot
square. The house had many small rooms, the walls of which were removed to make a few
good sized rooms. A Franklin stove provided most of the heat we needed; MSM installed an
oil furnace that replaced the prior one that we fed with oak logs for use in really cold
weather. MSM and HWM also installed indoor plumbing and reliable wiring.
The quarter-mile lane from the road to the house was lined by wild plum and wild
cherry trees that bloomed with great beauty and produced fruit of sorts. Once HWM made
some stewed wild plums that MSM said were just like the ones his mother used to make.
HWM beamed until MSM went on, "And hers weren't very good either!"
MSM and HWM spent most weekends at the farm between April and November, and
after MSM retired, much of the summers. There was always plenty of room for their children
and grandchildren who reveled in the various opportunities to do things they did not do at
home, especially climbing trees, catching small wild life and running naked through the
sprinkler. After MSM had spruce, balsam and red pine planted on much of the unfarmable
land, we cut our Christmas trees there.
Shortly before they moved to LaJolla MSM sold the farm to Bob Morey, a local real
estate developer, for $130,000 -- a price just ten times what he had paid for it. Morey
developed the land into large lots and with respect for the natural beauty of the place. One of
the streets he put in was named "Mumford Lane."
When MSM and HWM were first married they lived in a small apartment on Florence
Avenue in Evanston. Shortly after I was born they moved into a house at 1314 Greenwood
Street that HWM's father, Russell Whitman, had built on part of the land he owned at the
corner of Asbury Avenue and Greenwood Street. A few years after my grandmother died on
February 2, 1932, we moved into the Whitman household with my mother's father and Uncle
Harry (Henry G. Miller, Russell Whitman's brother-in-law and law partner). We lived there
until 1950, several months after Russell Whitman's death on December 23, 1949 (Uncle Harry
having died in 1942); then MSM and HWM moved back into the little house at 1314
Greenwood until about 1976 when they moved to the White Sands retirement complex in La
Jolla, California. There they lived until 1983 (HWM died February 17, 1983) and MSM
moved in with Alice and her husband, Donald Soule, in Ramona, California. He died at a
hospital near there on August 11, 1984.
MSM's descendants are:
Son, Manly Whitman Mumford, granddaughter Shaw Mumford Moore, great granddaughter
Winslow Judith Moore, grandson Manly Dodge Mumford, great grandson Manly Mason
Mumford, and great granddaughter Aurora Helena Mumford.
Daughter, Alice Mason Mumford Soule (died February 25, 2000), grandsons Whitman
Thayer Soule, Winslow Dana Soule, Mason Howard Soule, John Russell Soule, Nathaniel
Mumford Soule and Henry Soule; Mason's sons Stephen and Anthony Soule; Nathaniel's
daughter Michelle and son Kevin Soule; and Henry's son William Soule and daughter Hannah