Joseph Howard Jr. – “journalist”, forger

Joseph Howard Jr. (June 3, 1833 – March 31, 1908) was an American journalist, war correspondent, publicist and newspaperman. He was one of the top reporters for The New York Times, city editor of the Brooklyn Eagle and longtime president of the New York Press Club.

During the Civil War, Mr. Howard forged a conscription document saying President Lincoln was calling up an additional 400,000 men. That eventually caused the temporary artificial inflation of the gold market in NYC, allowing him to make a huge profit on his holdings in a very short period of time. He was arrested for what became known as “Howard’s Proclamation” or the “Great Civil War Gold Hoax” and held as a prisoner of war at Fort Lafayette for less than 3 months and eventually pardoned.

Mr. Howard initially wanted to be a civil engineer, but took up journalism for the adventure and got his first job with the NY Times after falsely gaining entry to an strike as a reporter and actually submitting an article to the Times via telegraph. He covered the election of 1860 and falsified news about Abraham Lincoln and that he traveled in disguise. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, became a war correspondent and was present at the battles of Bull Run and Ball’s Bluff.

He also played a series of practical jokes such as holding open the paper’s lines to telegraph the genealogy of Jesus and, in September 1862, he violated an order prohibiting journalists from attending the funeral of Brigadier General Philip Kearny by sneaking in dressed in clerical robes. This incident caused his editors to remove him as a regular columnist and he was forced to become a freelance reporter.

He still wrote regularly for many papers and magazines throughout the area. Among the social and political events he reported included the trial and execution of presidential assassin Charles J. Guiteau, the Red River Rebellion led by Louis Riel, the presidential campaigns and inaugurations of James A. Garfield and Grover Cleveland, the death and funeral of Ulysses S. Grant and the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. He was one of the founding members of the New York Press Club, serving as its president four times. He died of kidney failure in 1908 and was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, his birth burough.

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