Nearly a year before the 1912 election, editor George Harvey endorsed Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey for president on the cover of Harper’s Weekly.
The editor was named after Union General George B. McClellan, the Democratic challenger to President Abraham Lincoln in 1864, the year Harvey was born. In 1890, he became managing editor of the Democratic New York World and a protégé of its publisher, Joseph Pulitzer. In 1899, Harvey purchased and began editing the venerable North American Review. In December 1899, Harper & Brothers went into receivership, and in February 1900 the publishing firm was reorganized with Harvey as president. He served as editor of Harper’s Weekly from 1901 until it was sold in 1913 to the McClure Company.
Under his direction, Harper’s Weekly reflected the pro-business, tariff-reform, sound-money views of many Democratic leaders from the Northeast. The newspaper opposed the election of Democrat William Jennings Bryan in 1900 and 1908, but backed the equally unsuccessful candidacy of conservative Democrat Alton B. Parker in 1904. In early 1906, at a meeting of the Lotos Club, a prominent literary society in New York City, Harvey delivered a speech in which he suggested Wilson, then president of Princeton University, for the Democratic presidential nomination two years later. However, the transplanted Southerner did not attract enough support from others to derail Bryan’s third nomination. Nevertheless, Harvey’s early endorsement and continued patronage revealed how palatable Wilson’s political views were to conservative Democrats in the media (as well as in business and finance).
In 1910, Harvey helped convince Wilson to seek the New Jersey governorship as a steppingstone to the White House, and persuaded the state’s Democratic Party “boss,” James Smith, to back his candidate. In accepting the assistance, Wilson made no promises to the state political machine and ignored it once he was in the governor’s mansion. An impressive record of political reform in 1911 earned Wilson national recognition and enough political support to become a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912.