Title: Journalist, Diplomat, Librarian of Congress
Birthdate: November 20, 1841
Death Date: January 17, 1899
Plot Location: Section 60, Lot 39
John was the oldest of two boys and two girls born to immigrants from County Tyrone, Ireland. He was born in Downingtown in Chester County but attended public school in Philadelphia when his parents moved to the city. He found a job as a copy boy and proofreader at age 15. His writing skills were noticed, and the Philadelphia Press assigned him to cover the Civil War in Virginia beginning with the First Battle of Bull Run. Before the war was over he became managing editor of the Press and married Rosa Fitzpatrick in Washington, D.C.
In 1865 John left his position to start a competing paper in Philadelphia called The Morning Post but it was a failure. Not one to give up, he moved to New York to launch a newspaper called The Standard which also failed. Undaunted, he joined Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune and became managing editor of that paper. Then he appointed his brother James to be chief of the Tribune’s Washington Bureau, a post he held from 1866-1870. At the same time, John was studying law and was admitted to the bar in 1867. Meanwhile John and Rosa’s daughter, Mary Ellen, was born in 1868.
He also began working for the government, undertaking missions to Europe for the State Department and the Treasury Department. In 1872, he joined the New York Herald and reported for them from Europe.
John was invited to join ex-President Ulysses S. Grant on his famous 1877-1879 world tour and to write a book about it, which would be entitled Around the World with General Grant in two volumes. Young impressed Grant, especially when they were in China, so he persuaded President Chester A. Arthur to appoint John minister (ambassador) to China in 1882. But wedding bells came first.
Rosa died in 1881 so John married Julia Coleman on April 25, 1882 in Hartford, Connecticut. The wedding’s guest list included General and Mrs. Grant, and John’s best man was the General’s son, Col. Fred Grant. The couple left for China on May 17. While there John helped resolve some disputes between the two countries, and also between France and China.
On August 1, 1883 the Youngs had a son, Russell Jewell Young while John held talks in Paris. It was there that Julia died in October. John continued to serve through the end of President Arthur’s term in March, 1885, so Russell must have been cared for by the extended family.
In 1885 John resumed working for the Herald and was editor of the paper by 1890. The ob took its toll on John’s health and he came down with typhoid fever in November of that year. A newspaper report said he had been living at the Astor House in Manhattan since his return, and that’s where he wed his third wife, May Dow Davids on November 19. He was still sick but he dressed for the ceremony and then promptly went back to bed. A newspaper account of the event said the wealthiest witness at the ceremony was the groom’s young son, Russell. His mother’s father died and left him $2 million. The following year Russell also received a step-brother when May gave birth to Gordon Russell Young.
In 1897 President William McKinley appointed John to be the seventh Librarian of Congress, the first Librarian confirmed by Congress. During his tenure, the Library began moving from its original home in the US Capitol Building to its own building. John held the post of Librarian until his death from kidney disease. The attending physician noted it was also a result of overwork, which must have been a lifelong habit. Following a funeral service in Washington and burial here at Mount Moriah, this editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer paid a fitting tribute.
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