We come out of the vanished heyday of New York newspapers, the Society of the Silurians founded in 1924 by a group of maverick Park Row newspaper veterans at the old Hotel Lafayette on Ninth Street and University Place in Greenwich Village.
Charles Edward Russell, the moving force, was named its first president.
The original qualification for membership: 30 years of New York newspaper work.
Our members have included legends of journalism – Herbert Bayard Swope, Arthur Brisbane, William Randolph Hearst, [the original], Lincoln Steffens and John Steinbeck, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The name “Silurians” has its own legend, reaching deep into geologic time to the Paleozoic Era of the Silurian Age when life in the guise of the scorpion first began its emergence from water.
The name “Silurian” derived from the Welsh Silures, an ancient tribe of South Wales, where extensive 425-million-year-old coral rock formations of the period were first discovered.
The Silures were a powerful warlike tribe in Wales who gave the hated Roman invaders a bitter fight to the death.
The men dubbed themselves “a bunch of old geezers,” these four amicable old founders of the club: Charles Edward Russell, William O. Inglis, Perry Walton and David G. Baillie, along with 47 other distinguished newpapermen at its baptismal rites at the Lafayette.
In those days it was a sacrosanct men’s club.
And so began The Society of the Silurian’s life of journalistic distinction. Many famous people have been drawn to its midst over the years. Governor Nelson Rockefeller and President Gerald Ford attended its dinners. Many famous journalists in its midst. First woman member: Helen M. Staunton, October 1971.
The Society of the Silurians Semi-Annual Dinners offer a continuing opportunity to recognize outstanding achievement with coveted Awards for in-depth news coverage, investigative work, photography and opinion in all areas of journalistic endeavor: print, magazines, radio, television and online news coverage. Among its most celebrated honors, the prestigious Peter Kihss Award and the Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award, with Walter Cronkite its first recipient in 1969.
In 1947, The Society of the Silurians began publication of the prestigious Silurian News,a renowned publication of distinguished veteran journalists, which has numbered among its readership, Bill Clinton, George Bush [Sr.], Norman Mailer, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Ted Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Muhammad Ali, Kofi Annan and Jack Nicholson! It is a journalistic organ of distinction and history with its reminiscences, portraits, commentaries and powerful photography.
On a more personal level, The Society of the Silurians supports The Silurian Contingency Fund, which makes generous, confidential financial grants to newsmen and women facing dire emergencies, particularly illness. In the early 1990’s the Fund donated close to $50,000 to rescue New York Post reporters from summarily losing their health insurance benefits.
Finally, The Society of the Silurians sponsors the Dennis Duggan Memorial Scholarship Award, a $1000 stipend in the name of the late veteran New York journalist, Dennis Duggan, bestowed upon promising young students of journalism at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.
The Society of the Silurians takes immense pride in our profession. We, the journalists of this nation, are the conscience of the American people.