1875: The Dangers of the Newspaper Business

D.R. Anthony lived a stormy, sometimes violent life. As powers as a newspaper editor grew during the early 1870s, he became a polarizing figure. His newspaper empire, built around the Leavenworth Times, made him a target of rival editors and on May 10, 1875, around 10:00 pm, one of these editors, W.W. Embry of the Commercial Appeal,made an attempt on Anthony’s life.

Like President Lincoln, Anthony was shot in a theater. According to the Leavenworth Times account of the event, it took place when Embry entered the theater at the corner of what is now 4th Street and Delaware St, between the 3rd and 4th acts of a play called “Leah.” He met Anthony while the latter was half-way down a flight of stairs from “the parquette,” The two men confronted each-other and exchanged words. Anthony had quarreled with editors before, but he was unarmed, and Embry had deadly intent. Reports differ on how many shots were fired, but the first was fired mere inches from Anthony’s face, so close that the explosion of gunpowder emitted from the barrel (along with the bullet) burned his face and beard. The shot entered the right side of his neck, shattered his clavicle in several places (comminuted fracture) and totally severed an artery in his chest before stopping somewhere further on in his body. Doctor Tiffin Sinks, a Leavenworth Physician, happened to be in the theater and was one of the first to attend Anthony. His account of what happened next is recorded in an 1879 “Biographical Sketch” of Anthony.

“immediatly after reciept of the injury, [Anthony] walked deliberately up from six to ten steps, twelve feet across the floor, and sat down upon a stool…he then became too faint to preserve the sitting posture and I laid him gently down upon the chairs.” Tiffin found the wound instantly; “bright arterial blood was flowing…from about an inch in height and three-eights of an inch in diameter. The appearance was that of a fountain playing at a very low pressure.” Anthony was bleeding out fast, and according to Sinks “within six seconds after the wound was exposed, the blood suddenly ceased to flow, and both respiration and pulsation stopped.” Anthony was clinically dead for “about one minute” when “respiration again began in a very feeble way.” Blood loss was estimated at “2 quarts,” or 35-45% that of an average human male.

Anthony had survived a wound that should have been fatal, and Sinks’ own description fairly marvells at how, chalking it up in large part to D.R.’s considerable (for the period) size of 6’0, 180 lbs and good health. Accounts of his shooting (and Embry’s arrest) made news nation-wide, and even the New York Times republished the full story. As if he needed to prove the point of his strength further, he chose to visit his sister in September of that year. This caused quite a stir because he was still suffering from a large aneurism and had been undergoing treatment as late as August 30th.


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