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Heritage > Famous Emigrants > Samuel McClure

Samuel McClure

Famous American publisher

Samuel S. McClure was born at his grandfather's house at the Frocess, a familiar spot to any traveller on the main Ballymoney - Ballymena road, with its leaning rows of fir trees. While he was very young, Samuel's parents, Elizabeth (nee Gaston) and Thomas, bought a small nine acre farm. There, they lived a relatively comfortable life in the two room stone house, with earth floor and thatched roof.

Samuel's father was a skilled craftsman and travelled to Greenock, Scotland, to work in the shipyards. In 1864 he was killed in an industrial accident. Elizabeth McClure faced poverty and with her three sons moved back to her father's farm at the Frocess.

In 1866, the McClure family emigrated to Quebec, Canada, sailing from Londonderry on the Mongolia. They travelled by train to Valparaiso, Indiana, where his mother's brothers and sisters lived. His mother soon re-married (to an another Ulster emigrant from Co. Tyrone) and Samuel spent his teenage years working on the family farm. Later he went to the local school where he adopted a second Christian name to emulate his peers - initially he chose the name Sherman (after General Sherman McClure of the American Civil War) which he later changed to Sidney.v

A diligent student he succeeded in reaching Knox College, Illinois, where he married Harriet Hurd the daughter of the Professor of Latin in 1883 - much to the Professor's disdain.

From college, McClure took a job at a cycle firm and was soon asked to edit a newly launched cycle magazine. This experience took him to the Century Magazine in New York and very quickly he developed his new concept of syndicating fiction, an idea that would make him his fortune. McClure realised that, just as news stories were syndicated to local press agencies across the USA, he could also sell new pieces of serialised fiction to the same newspapers.

McClure set up his syndicate in 1884 and was very quickly introducing millions of American readers to the early works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Rider Haggard, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling. For example, in 1889, McClure bought the first twelve Sherlock Holmes stories for £12 each. He is also credited as discovering Rudyard Kipling when he bought the rights to serialise, the Jungle Book.

In the course of his career, Samuel McClure also wrote four books and launched his own highly popular McClure's Magazine. Like so many emigrants through the centuries, McClure never forgot his Co. Antrim roots and returned to see friends and family on at least two occasions. He died in 1949, aged 92 years old.