COLONEL MANN DIES;
TOWN TOPICS EDITOR
Publisher Expires at 80 at His
Morristown Home from
INVENTED A BOUDOIR CAR
He Was Tried for Perjury
After the Loss of Sensational Libel Suit
Against Collier’s Weekly.
Colonel William D’Alton Mann, whose name was associated with many varied enterprises in the course of his long career, died late yesterday afternoon at his home, 156 Madison Avenue, Morristown, N.J., from complications that followed an attack of influenza last October. He was born at Sandusky, Ohio, September 27, 1839.
Colonel Mann described himself as “soldier, inventor, editor,” and he had indeed been all three, though it was as an editor and publisher that he was best known, due to his nearly thirty years’ control of “Town Topics.” He was a real Colonel, the holder of a commission said to antedate all others of its rank in the United States.
At the outbreak of the civil war he entered the Union Army as Captain of the First Michigan Cavalry, and the following year organized the Seventh Michigan Cavalry and became its commander. During the war he invented improvements in soldiers’ equipments.
In 1867 he settled in Mobile and consolidated three newspapers there into The Register, which he controlled until 1872. At the same time he manufactured cottonseed oil and engaged in railroad promotion. His popularity was shown by the overwhelming majority he received, as a Democrat, of course, in the Congressional election of 1880. He never occupied his seat, however, for the Federal authorities denied him a certificate.
Undiscouraged by this nipping of his political ambitions the Colonel turned again to invention. The Mann Boudoir Car, patented by him in this country and in Europe, was one of the very first attempts to provide a luxurious method of travel for those able to afford it. His American interests in it were later taken over by the Pullman Company. He is also credited with devices connected with vestibule trains and refrigerator cars.
It was in 1891 that Colonel Mann became the chief owner and the editor of Town Topics. This publication was severely attacked in 1905 by Collier’s Weekly, then directed by Norman Hapgood. Thereupon a charge of criminal libel was brought against Hapgood. The resulting trial provided highly entertaining reading for many days, the testimony being highly spiced throughout.
Editor Hapgood triumphed over editor Mann, largely owing to the evidence relating to a certain book called “Fads and Fancies,” to which some of the richest and most prominent New Yorkers said they had been almost compelled to subscribe sums of five figures. Yet Colonel Mann, when interviewed by a NEW YORK TIMES reporter, was violent in his denunciation of blackmailers.
That was not all of the affair, however. The District Attorney next tried Mann himself for perjury in connection with the case, only failing to convict him after a long and bitter trial. The question of perjury was difficult to prove, hinging entirely on whether the editor had written the letters “O.K. W.D.M.”
Colonel Mann belonged to the Lotos, Manhattan, Army and Navy and National Democratic Clubs. His residence in the city was 302 West Seventy-Second Street. The funeral services will be at the Church of the Heavenly Rest tomorrow morning at 11 o’clock. —New York Times, May 18, 1920, p. 11.