Walter Hines Page, author, editor, and ambassador to Great Britain, was born August 15, 1855, the first of eight children of Allison Francis (Frank) and Catherine Raboteau Page. Just the year prior, Frank Page bought three hundred acres of land in western Wake County and named the area Cary after Samuel Fenton Cary, an Ohio prohibitionist admired by Page. The younger Page was educated at the Bingham School, Trinity College, and Randolph-Macon College. Following his 1875 graduation, Page pursued a career in higher education, conducting graduate work at Johns Hopkins University and teaching briefly at the University of North Carolina.
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Drawn to journalism, Page began working at a newspaper in Missouri and within four years was a reporter for the New York World. He returned to his home state in 1883 to launch in Raleigh his own newspaper, the weekly State Chronicle, with financial backing from his father. By that time, Frank Page had moved to Moore County where he prospered in the lumber industry and was diversifying into railroads.
Of primary interest to Page during his time in Raleigh were his efforts toward the establishment of a state agricultural and mechanical college. To that end, he and a number of other young men formed a group called the Watauga Club. The club petitioned the legislature and submitted to that body a proposal for a sophisticated polytechnic institute that would “diffuse a spirit for industrial development.” The college finally came to pass, and is now known as North Carolina State University. Several buildings on campus are named for Watauga Cub members, Page included.
Due to lagging finances and possibly to his father’s involvement with his business, Page turned over the Chronicle to Josephus Daniels in 1885 and returned to New York. For more than a year he wrote letters to his old newspaper blasting state politicians and preachers for their backward ways. Page thrived in metropolitan journalism, working at newspapers and magazines in New York and Boston. Most notably he was editor of the Atlantic Monthly. In 1899 Page founded a publishing firm with Frank N. Doubleday (now Doubleday and Company) and maintained interest in the company throughout his life. The following year Page launched a monthly magazine called World’s Work where he was innovative in his use of photographs.
An effusive public speaker, primarily focused on education, politics, and the new South, he was an extremely popular orator in the early 1900s. Outspoken in his promotion of Woodrow Wilson for president in 1912, Page was tapped to serve as United States Ambassador to Great Britain. In that capacity he helped settle British concerns about holdings in Mexico and controversies over Panama Canal tolls. After the outbreak of World War I, he was a strong supporter of the Allied side and frequently encouraged the Wilson administration to intercede.
Due to failing health, Page returned to North Carolina in the fall of 1918. He died in Pinehurst and was buried in the family plot in Old Bethesda Cemetery near Aberdeen. Walter Hines Page married Willa Alice Wilson in 1880 and the couple had three sons and a daughter.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 6-7—sketch by John M. Cooper
John M. Cooper, Walter Hines Page: The Southerner as American, 1855-1918 (1977)
Robert J. Rusnak, Walter Hines Page and the World’s Work, 1900-1913 (1982)