Copyright 2003, The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers. All rights reserved.
Cass Canfield (1897-1986)
Cass Canfield, one of the most influential publishers of the twentieth century, was born in New York City, the only child of engineer Augustus Cass Canfield and Josephine Houghteling. After graduating from Groton Academy, he enrolled at Harvard, but left in his junior year to enlist in the wartime military. He returned to Harvard as a second lieutenant, graduated, and completed graduate work at Oxford University. After graduation, he retraced Marco Polo's trade routes, traveled around the world and returned to New York where, in 1922, he began working for the New York Evening Post
as a reporter and advertising representative. Two years later, he not only invested in the reorganized Harper & Brothers publishing firm, one of the Post's
major clients, but joined its staff, serving in a wide variety of positions in the London and New York offices before becoming president in 1931. He took a leave from Harpers during World War II to serve on the Board of Economic Warfare, the Foreign Economic Administration, and, finally, the Office of War Information. In 1945 he returned to Harpers as chair of the board of directors and in 1955 he became chair of Harpers executive committee, a position he held until 1967 when, at the age of seventy-seven, he resigned to become a senior book editor. Canfield loved editing as much as financial management and is credited with bringing James Thurber, E.B. White, and John Gunther to Harpers. He helped found the influential journal, Foreign Affairs
, and through his close ties with leading Democrats, brought Eleanor Roosevelt
, Adlai Stevenson
, and John F. Kennedy
to the firm. Canfield used his personal wealth and power to support liberal Democratic candidates, working extensively for Adlai Stevenson's 1956 presidential campaign. Canfield and ER had similar concerns regarding John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential bid and, like ER, he preferred Stevenson but eventually became an enthusiastic JFK supporter. Canfield also was a steadfast supporter of birth control and traveled the country promoting and raising funds for Planned Parenthood, whose executive committee he chaired for several years. He died in New York City from complications of a stroke in 1986.
Source: American Council of Learned Societies, Dictionary of American Biography, 3rd ed. (New York: Scribner, 1980).