Biography of John A. Mason
Bronx County, NY Biographies





JOHN ALFRED MASON - Political affairs of the Democratic complexion in the State of New York have received for many years an influence, both strong and intimate, from the actively constructive part played in many a hard fought campaign and from the ably administered offices held by John Alfred Mason, now a resident of The Bronx, and Commissioner of Jurors, long a conspicuous and powerful figure in Democratic councils, both State and National. As a journalist in two cities of the State for a number of years, he was a strong and loyal supporter of the Democratic party's policies and candidates; he is a former supervisor of Orange County, many times delegate to Democratic State and National conventions; a chief officer of the Democratic State Committee, a former deputy collector of customs at the Port of New York; a former member of the New York State Board of Assessors; a former collector of internal revenue; a former secretary to the Governor of the State of New York, and a former member of the Government on the Borough of The Bronx. Thus he has contributed most of his life and the greater proportion of his attention and energy to the welfare of his party. He is held in high esteem for his political integrity and sagacity, and now, having passed his threescore years and ten, he is looked upon as one of the elder sages of his party.

John Alfred Mason was born in Batley Carr, Yorkshire, England, May 6, 1855, the son of William and Sarah (Hargraves) Mason, both natives of that village. He was a pupil of the Batley Carr local schools until he was nine years old, and at that age, being unable to resist longer the smell of printer's ink, he became an apprentice to the trade, and served his master without compensation during his bound period. Eventually he received the "munificent" wage of three shillings per week, and at the end of four years on that job he was receiving four shillings a week. He then was thirteen years old, and he had a vision of New World opportunities that distance could not dim. He came to the United States and at once settled in Newburgh, New York, where he was given employment at his trade, his wage being five dollars per month, with board. For one year he continued in that position, acquiring a knowledge of American methods as applied to the printing business, and keeping his eyes open for a chance to better his condition. He next went to Goshen, New York, and went to work for Herbert P. Kimber, who had bought the "Goshen independent Republican." Mr. Mason's affairs were looking up a bit; his salary was twenty dollars a month, plus his board. He was enabled to fortify his hope of fulfilling his ambition for an addition to his education. While working for Mr. Kimber he practiced close economy and out of his meager wage saved the sum of two hundred dollars. This amount was one half of the tuition fee of four hundred dollars for one year's study at the Hudson River Institute at Claverack, New York, and he had a strong desire to attend that school without further delay. Here is where his resourcefulness and business acumen were brought into play; by paying down the two hundred dollars of his savings and entering into an agreement to do the school's printing for a specified period, he was enabled to take his place as a student at the institute for one year. The "Fourth Estate" continued to exert its grip upon him, and at the end of his period at school, he found himself a printer and writer on the "Portchester (New York) Journal." He remained in that connection for eight months, and then returned to Newburgh, having been offered the editorship of the "Newburgh Mail," a newly established daily newspaper. His salary was ten dollars per week. Later he became associated with his former employer and old friend, Herbert P. Kimber, and with him founded the "Newburgh Daily Register." Together they merged the "Mail" and the "Register," under the latter title. This paper became the leading Democratic medium in Orange County, New York. Mr. Mason's association with Mr. Kimber continued pleasant, profitable and without interruption until the latter's death, upon which Mr. Mason became the sole owner and editor.

Journalism and political activity, as has been true of so many newspapermen, early began to be most efficient handmaids of Mr. Mason's career. While loyally supporting his own party, he added to his personal prestige, and soon began to take his place in the public service, for which, as time proved, he was naturally adapted. In 1879 he was elected on the Democratic ticket a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors from the Second Ward of Newburgh, in those days a Republican stronghold. This remarkable victory was accomplished on a majority of ninety seven votes, as against three hundred Republican majority for candidates of that party for alderman. He made a good record in office, and could have had a renomination, but declined the offer. In the fall of 1879 he was elected one of the three delegates from the First Assembly District of Orange County to the Democratic State Convention at Syracuse, New York, whose proceedings were fraught with great import to the Democrats of this State. That was the convention which renominated Lucius Robinson for Governor, and made memorable by the bolting of Tammany Hall under the leadership of John Kelly. Mr. Mason was either a delegate to, or an officer in, every Democratic State Convention from 1879 until 1914, in which year that form of political assembly was abolished. During that period he rose to a position of great influence within his party, and a power to be reckoned with in its deliberations and the framing of its policies and execution of its campaigns. In the State campaign of 1895 he was chairman of the executive committee of the New York State Democratic Committee, and from that year until he was appointed Commissioner of Jurors of Bronx County, he served as secretary and executive officer of the Democratic State Committee. As a member of the New York State delegation he attended the Democratic National Convention, held in 1884, which nominated Grover Cleveland for President. He was a delegate to every succeeding Democratic National Convention, including that in 1912.

Recognition of political services so effectively rendered began to be bestowed upon Mr. Mason soon after Grover Cleveland was installed in the presidency. In 1885, at the request of President Cleveland, Secretary of the Treasury Daniel Manning, and Colonel Daniel S. Lamont, secretary to the President, Mr. Mason accepted the appointment of deputy collector of customs at the Port of New York, his special task being the formulation of rules for the establishment of civil service procedure in the making of appointments and promotions at the Port of New York. In order to execute this commission, he changed his residence from Newburgh to New York City, where he has since made his home. In 1889 he resigned his position as deputy collector, and again yielded to the lure of his first love, the newspaper business. He participated actively in that field, taking over the plant and good will of the "Harlem Local Reporter," a semi weekly publication issued from East One Hundred and Twenty fourth Street, Manhattan, New York City. He also continued to publish and edit the "Newburgh Daily Register" until 1891, when he sold that paper and began to devote all his attention to the "Harlem Local Reporter." Political honors continued to come to him this time from his home State. In 1892 Governor Roswell P. Flower appointed him a member of the New York State Board of Assessors, which position he held for about four years, during which time he was the means of inaugurating marked changes in the method of assessing the State tax, which accomplished the saving of two million dollars to the city of New York alone. In the latter part of 1895 (his term as assessor expiring in January, 1896), he was appointed by President Cleveland as collector of internal revenue far the Second District, which position he held until the latter part of 1898.

In 1901 he suffered a severe loss when fire destroyed the building in which was housed the "Harlem Local Reporter." So complete was the loss that Mr. Mason did not attempt the resumption of publication, and he withdrew from the newspaper field. In 1893 he established his residence in The Bronx, and in 1902 he was appointed to a position in the Bronx Borough Government under President Louis F. Haffen. Following the New York State campaign of 1910, in which he was the executive officer of the State Committee, he accepted from John Alden Dix, the newly elected Governor, the appointment as Secretary to the Governor. This position he held until the expiration of Governor Dix's term in 1912. While serving as Secretary to the Governor, he strongly advocated the passage of the bill providing for the erection of Bronx County, and used his good offices with the Governor for the affixing of his signature to the bill, which was enacted into law. In 1913 he was appointed to the office of Commissioner of Jurors in Bronx County, and still holds that position.

Mr. Mason is a communicant of St. Ann's Protestant Episcopal Church of Morrisania, New York City, and for a number of years has been a vestryman and warden of that church.

John Alfred Mason married, in 1877, in Newburgh, New York, Georgianna L., daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Francis A. Niver of that city. Children: A, J. Warren T. Mason, for several years the American correspondent of the "London Daily Express," and a writer of note on philosophical subjects. Harper Brothers are the publishers of his new book, "Creative Freedom." He married Edith Halbert, daughter of Captain Halbert of London, England. They have one daughter, Margaret Edith Halbert Mason, born in 1904, graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University, 1925, and now taking a post graduate course in philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge University, England. 2. Hudson N. Mason, died in 1918.

From:
The Bronx and its people
A History 1609-1927
Board of Editors: James L. Wells,
Louis F. Haffen
Josiah A. Briggs.
Historian: Benedict Fitspatrick
Publisher: The Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc.
New York 1927


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