On Wednesday, September 10 at 1:30pm, the CSI Archives and Special Collections (College of Staten Island Library, Room 1L-216) will host a program and reception marking the 100th birthday of Staten Island journalist and author John Sampson. Sampson emigrated from Liverpool, England to Staten Island when he was 12 years old. During his newspaper career he wrote for widely circulated New York City and London newspapers, including a 29-year stint as chief American correspondent to the London Daily Herald. Sampson was also the author of eight self-published novels.
A boyhood interest in journalism prompted Sampson to begin his own neighborhood newspaper. Called The Star, the weekly publication was a single double-sided sheet, originally handwritten, and consisted of local news, gossip, general items, and editorials. He continued his publication until 1924 when he got a job on the weekly The Staten Island Leader. In 1925 he joined a daily paper, The Staten Island Advance, as an assistant city editor covering local news, deaths, and the Staten Island waterfront. He resigned his position in order to make a trip to England with his family in 1928. He returned to begin a job as a ship news reporter with the New York American, then the flagship of the Hearst papers, a job he held from 1929 until 1937. In this role, he met and interviewed many famous people, including Winston Churchill, Ramsay MacDonald, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When the New York American merged with with the New York Journal, Sampson lost his position to the better-established ship news reporter of the Journal. He held several short-term positions before he was offered a full-time position in the New York office of the London Daily Mirror in 1938 and in May of that same year, was offered a position in the newspaper’s London office. The sole supporter of his family since his father’s death in 1931, Sampson moved with his mother and sister to London. Due to the worsening political situation in Europe, in September 1939 he transferred to the Associated Press of Great Britain’s New York office. In 1943, Sampson left the Associated Press to return to the New York office of the Daily Mirror, remaining there until a management change in the early 1950s. After leaving the Daily Mirror, he worked as a freelance American correspondent for the Kemsley Newspapers of London, which included the Sunday Times, the Sunday Chronicle, the Empire News of London, and provincial papers. In 1955, Sampson was offered a position as the chief American correspondent at the London Daily Herald. He remained with the paper through its many incarnations and under its various owners (including Rupert Murdoch) until his retirement in May 1974.
John Sampson donated his papers to the Archives & Special Collections in 2005. The John Sampson Papers contain correspondence, clippings, manuscripts, typescripts, diaries, notebooks, and photographs. As Sampson was active in writing and journalism for nearly 80 years, the collection contains a wealth of material related to those activities. His correspondence, reading notes, and memo books also give insight into his interests, views, and personal and professional relationships.