John Ames Mitchell
Jan 17 Saturday Finished Susans morino hood and mended
stockings & some other things Finished Susans Delaine
dress that Julia Mahoney cut Dec 23 Mr Ames brought
Sarah W some fitch cuffs from Boston Frederick
came home to night Ruth Swan that was and
her husband came home to night Heard of Mrs
Colin Harlowes death
Some months back Evelina’s sister-in-law, Harriett Ames Mitchell, had departed Easton with her three children to join her husband, Asa, in Erie, Pennsylvania One of those children was John Ames Mitchell, who turned seven years old on this date.
John Ames Mitchell would lead an irregular childhood, moving around western Pennsylvania but eventually landing back in Massachusetts, in Bridgewater. His father, a coal trader who had worked for the Ames family, would succumb to mental illness or dementia and spend out his days in the Taunton Hospital for the Insane, his residence there supported by his brother-in-law, Oliver Ames Jr.. John’s mother, Harriett, and older brother, Frank Ames Mitchell, a Civil War veteran, would also live lives greatly indebted to the financial support of family; John, too, looked to his uncle for support on occasion.
John attended Harvard, but didn’t graduate, and studied abroad. Endowed with artistic and literary talent, he became an architect. Under the guiding patronage of his Uncle Oliver Jr., John designed the Unitarian Church on Main Street in Easton in 1875, and worked on other projects in the Boston area before returning to Europe again, this time to study at the Beaux Arts. When he finally returned to the States, he used his ample talent to write novels, draw illustrations and, most lasting of all, create Life magazine.
With a racehorse owner named Andrew Miller, John started publishing Life in 1883. John and his staff, which included the Harvard grad and founder of Harvard Lampoon, Edward Sandford Martin, saw Life as a publication that would “have something to say about religion, about politics, fashion, society, literature, the state, the stock exchange, and the police station.” He vowed “to speak out what is in our mind as fairly, as truthfully, and as decently as we know how.”* He also worked to bring wonderful illustrators on board, most famously Charles Dana Gibson, whose Gibson Girl would come to life in Life.
John also was a co-founder with Horace Greeley of the Fresh Air Fund. He married but never had children of his own. His 75% ownership of Life lasted until his death in 1917.