CROCKET, JAMES HARVIE, journalist and newspaper publisher; b. 20 April 1859 in Campbellton, N.B., son of William Crocket, a noted educator, and Marion Caldwell; m. 11 Aug. 1885 Annie Maud Vradenburgh (d. 1927) in Fredericton, and they had two sons and two daughters; d. 17 April 1930 in Salamanca (Fredericton).
Of Scottish descent, James H. Crocket obtained his early education at the Presbyterian Academy in Chatham, N.B., where his father was principal. In 1870 his father was appointed head of the Normal School in Fredericton and James subsequently attended the Model and Collegiate schools there. In 1875, at age 16, he began his career in the newspaper business as a correspondent for the Saint John Daily News. Two years later he moved to Saint John to work on the staff of the paper. He joined A. W. Patterson as co-publisher of the Gleaner (Chatham) in 1879, but the weekly lasted only until about April of the following year. In 1881, in partnership with Herman Henry Pitts, he started the York Gleaner (Fredericton), a single-sheet weekly, well named in that it consisted of gleanings from other papers. Later that year he acquired Pitts’s shares and became the sole owner. The paper continued until December 1884, but meanwhile, in May, Crocket had started a tri-weekly edition, the Gleaner (a semi-weekly edition may have existed earlier in the decade). On 25 Nov. 1889 it became the Daily Gleaner, reflecting the change in frequency of publication. Crocket would remain as president and managing editor until his death in 1930. During a brief period in 1909 he took on the additional task of directing the Standard (Saint John).
Crocket managed his paper efficiently. At the printing plant, he adopted the latest innovations in equipment. Initially the Gleaner had been produced with a hand-turned press. This was replaced by a steam-driven, flat-bed press, followed in 1908 by a rotary press. In 1907 he had a Linotype installed and the next year he added the first stereotype equipment in Fredericton. In 1907 as well he had brought the first “news wire” service to the city. His improvements paid off. From a circulation of 500 in 1893, the daily grew steadily, reaching almost 2,000 in 1903 and 6,000 in 1922, the largest circulation of a daily in the province. His brother Charles Stewart (Stuart) Ogg Crocket was also in the newspaper business. From 1897 to about 1904 he was publisher of the Weekly Globe (St Stephen (St Stephen-Milltown)). As publisher-editor of the Tribune (later the Campbellton Tribune) from 1905 to 1939, Charles would be described by historian John Russell Harper as an “outstanding spokesman for the interests of northern New Brunswick.”
James Crocket had a reputation as a vigorous and hard-hitting editorial writer, basing his arguments on sound research. A partisan of the Conservatives at the turn of the century, he played an important role in party leader John Douglas Hazen*’s election to the Legislative Assembly in 1903. During the debate in the assembly in 1906 on the financial state of the province, the opposition claimed that the government of Lemuel John Tweedie* had overdrawn its account. The Gleaner enjoined the administration to “come clean” with its constituents. According to the paper, the banks had refused the government an advance of $38,000.
Crocket’s aggressive style was evident in the Gleaner’s editorial on what would become known as the Emmerson affair. In the House of Commons on 19 Feb. 1907 a Conservative mp from New Brunswick, George William Fowler, accused ministers or members of Sir Wilfrid Laurier*’s government of connections “with women, wine and graft.” An editorial in the Gleaner on 27 March identified New Brunswick mp Henry Robert Emmerson*, minister of railways and canals, as one of the individuals in question and went on to claim that Emmerson had been ejected from a Montreal hotel because of his immoral associations. Emmerson denied the Gleaner’s reports but resigned his portfolio. He then took steps against the Gleaner and the papers that had reprinted the editorial. On 21 May, Crocket was arrested on a charge of defamatory libel. At trial he was defended by Hazen; Emmerson’s counsel was William Pugsley, who would soon replace him as New Brunswick’s representative in Laurier’s cabinet. As a result of justice Pierre-Amand Landry*’s declaration in June 1907 that the Gleaner’s statements, regardless of their accuracy, were in the public interest, Emmerson explained to the press that it was a “waste of time to proceed with the case.” In January 1908 the Supreme Court of New Brunswick heard an application on behalf of Crocket to dismiss the action. No one appeared for Emmerson and the case was dropped.
In close contact with federal and provincial Conservatives, Crocket worked behind the scenes in 1914 to obtain the resignation of Conservative premier James Kidd Flemming following charges of corruption. According to the Canadian annual review for 1919, after a second major scandal rocked the party, Crocket “urged a change of leadership at once” and he would continue to press the issue for some time. There was discontent within the party in Fredericton for other reasons. It was felt by some, including the Crocket family, that a prominent Conservative lawyer, Richard Burpee Hanson*, had not sufficiently supported Crocket’s brother Oswald Smith in his pursuit of a nomination to the Court of King’s Bench in 1913. Hanson had, moreover, opposed James’s desire to be appointed to the Senate. Hanson, who had a financial interest in the Gleaner, was concerned about what he felt was Crocket’s less than enthusiastic support for some of his projects as Crocket gradually shifted his support to the Liberals in the early 1920s. The conflict climaxed on 14 Feb. 1924 with an editorial in the Gleaner that made five accusations against Hanson. Included were charges that he had altered a court decree, that he had advised both parties in a case in 1922, and that in another lawsuit he had “supposedly” fabricated evidence which was found to be missing. Hanson demanded a retraction. The Gleaner refused and the case went to court. Hanson was awarded $100. An appeal by the Gleaner was unsuccessful. By 1923 Crocket was firmly in the Liberal camp and he would remain there for the rest of his life.
Following Crocket’s death in 1930, the management and ownership of the Gleaner passed to his sons, James Alexander and William Wallace. In addition to having been a successful businessman and a noteworthy newspaper editor and publisher, James Harvie Crocket had played a role in the province’s political dramas.
Daily Gleaner (Fredericton), 19 April 1930. Union Advocate (Newcastle, N.B.), 23 April 1930. Canadian annual rev., 1903, 1907-8, 1916-17, 1919. W. W. Crocket, “The press in Fredericton,” in Fredericton’s 100 years: then and now, ed. Frank Baird (Fredericton, [1948?]), 226-33. A. T. Doyle, Front benches & back rooms: a story of corruption, muckraking, raw partisanship and intrigue in New Brunswick (Toronto, 1976). Charles M. McK. Ferris, “The New Brunswick elections of 1917” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., Fredericton, 1974). R. E. Garland and L. G. Machum, Promises, promises . . . an almanac of New Brunswick elections, 1870-1980 (Saint John, 1979). Hanson v. The Gleaner, Limited (1925), New Brunswick Reports (Toronto), 52: 195-214. J. R. Harper, Historical directory of New Brunswick newspapers and periodicals (Fredericton, 1961). Louise Manny, “From Miramichi to Fredericton: a Gleaner story,” Atlantic Advocate (Fredericton), 58 (1967-68), no.1: 22-24, 27. [J. A. Neville], Fredericton newspapers and their times (n.p., [1933?]). N. W. Ayer & Son’s American newspaper annual and directory . . . (Philadelphia), 1884, 1893, 1903, 1922. New Brunswick newspaper directory, 1783-1988, comp. H. [C.] Craig (Fredericton, 1989). Prominent people of New Brunswick . . . , comp. C. H. McLean ([Saint John], 1937). W. W. Thorpe, “Richard Burpee Hanson: a study of his relations with the constituency of York-Sunbury” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., 1973). Vital statistics from N.B. newspapers (Johnson), vol.64, no.663.