John Ridenour, 1951. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 14, 2002

Born: November 27, 1882 in Bedford, Pennsylvania

Died: June 7, 1965

Married: Clara Eloise Wilcox

Children: Alice Wareham (Mrs. Arthur Wareham) of Saranac Lake and Eleanor (Mrs. Andrew) Cheselka of Setauket, Long Island

John Ridenour was the publisher of the Adirondack Enterprise.

From an article on the Fowler Block by Philip L. Gallos

John Ridenour, born in Bedford, Pennsylvania, was a 1908 graduate of the Cornell School of Engineering with a deep interest in the newspaper business. He had taken a year off from college in 1907 to work on the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. After graduation, he worked for other newspapers and eventually bought one in his home town, The Bedford Inquirer. This he improved through managerial and technical innovations until it became a very successful and efficient operation.

During World War I, Ridenour sold the Inquirer and joined the service. When he returned to civilian life, he wanted to buy the newspaper back but could not — due to the fact that it had been making its new owners too much money.

So the young publisher looked elsewhere and thereby arrived in Saranac Lake. He liked the area, and he liked the potential he saw in its semi-weekly newspaper, the Adirondack Enterprise. (There was also a weekly, called The News, being published at the time.)

On May 1, 1918, John Ridenour purchased the Enterprise from Kenneth W. Goldthwaite. In little more than a year, this newspaper, first published in 1894, became a thrice-weekly and absorbed The News. In another year, it was being issued five times a week from its plant at the old Harrietstown Hall.

It had been Ridenour’s plan to build a new building on Woodruff Street (behind the Downing Block and just off Broadway) to be the headquarters for the Enterprise. He had intended to complete the project in 1928, but the events of the morning of July 26, 1926, intervened. The old Town Hall burned to the ground. Everything was lost, including the only complete collection of the newspaper's issues.

Ridenour responded to this disaster with characteristic swiftness and resolve. Publication of the Enterprise continued uninterrupted courtesy of the Malone Evening Telegram; and, the day after the fire, ground was broken by contractor Thomas P. McCormick on a two-story, rear extension to the Fowler Block.

This extension, designed by William G. Distin, Sr., was of brick and steel construction with a poured concrete foundation and built to withstand the weight and vibrations of hot-type, newspaper printing equipment.

On Monday, November 25, 1926, the Adirondack Enterprise began operation as a true daily (six issues a week) from its new offices and plant at 76 Main Street. That address would be synonomous with the word "Enterprise" for the next 47 years.

John Ridenour was an avid advocate of the "Time and Motion" approach to management. The concept was simple: since motion took time and time was money, the operation that required the least motion would make the most money. Assiduously followed, this unsophisticated philosophy had a profound effect upon the Enterprise.

First, the press room and composing room (on the lower and upper floors, respectively, of the addition) were filled with the most modern equipment available and in the most efficient arrangements.

Because of his success in Bedford and his background as an engineer, as well as his adherence to "Time and Motion", Ridenour was approached by manufacturers of newspaper production equipment to test their latest designs. Thus, the Enterprise composing room became a laboratory for production prototypes and for production systems, as well. Manufacturers such as Intertype and Ludlow would send their experimental models to Ridenour. If they worked at the Enterprise, they were usually considered suitable for mass production. Furthermore, since Ridenour was always looking for an arrangement of machines and workers that would be more motion efficient, big city newspapers looked to the Enterprise as a text book of the best production systems and usually adopted its latest procedures.

In the press room was the pride of the Enterprise mechanical department. It was the Wood Bee-Line Press, an experimental, high-speed, single-unit, rotary printing machine with a capacity of 12,000 newspapers per hour. It was a magnificent machine that frightened, awed, or seduced those who saw it in operation. When running wide-open, it put out newspapers faster than they could be gathered and so was never run at more than half-speed. It was one piece of equipment which its builder, the Wood Press Co., deemed not suitable for mass production because the market for such a machine was too small. The principles of its design, however, were incorporated into the huge, multi-unit presses used by the big newspapers.

During the thirty-one years of the Ridenour era, the Enterprise excelled not only technologically, but totally. Its captain was a strong man of strong principles strongly promulgated. The result was a strong business.

In 1949, John Ridenour retired from the newspaper business. He sold the Enterprise and the Fowler Block to the Saranac Publishing Company, which was financed by Dorothy S. Kury of St. Lawrence County, New York, and run by her second husband, Frederick. The transfer took place on April 28.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 8, 1965


John Schell Ridenour, former publisher of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, died yesterday at the age of 82 at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington D. C. He had had a heart attack in March and had been ill ever since.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Mr. Ridenour, former publisher at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, was born Nov. 27, 1882 in Bedford, Penn. the son of John Wheeler and Eleanor Schell Ridenour. He was a member of the Class of 1908 in the engineering school of Cornell University and the first pledged member of the Seal and Serpent Society.

After college, Mr. Ridenour gained experience in the news and advertising departments of Philadelphia and Chicago newspapers and was employed for a time in an advertising agency. He returned eventually to his home to purchase and publish The Bedford Inquirer.

In 1916 he served as a first lieutenant with the Pennsylvania National Guard during the Mexican Border Dispute and, when the United States became involved in World War I, sold his newspaper to serve in France with a machine gun company of MacArthur's Rainbow Division.

At the close of the war Mr. Ridenour came to Saranac Lake where, late in 1913, he purchased The Adirondack Enterprise, then a semi-weekly newspaper, from the late Kenneth Goldthwaite. The community was thriving in the post-war era and 1920 saw The Enterprise expanded to tri-weekly publication.

Mr. Ridenour was married April 16, 1921 to Miss Clara Eloise Wilcox, of Utica. The couple made their home at 132 Park Avenue and had two daughters, Mrs. Arthur W. Wareham of Saranac Lake and Mrs. Andrew Cheselka of Setauket, L.I.

Surviving besides his wife and daughters are three grandchildren, Andrew Jr., and John R. Cheselka and Ann W. Wareham.

As a newspaperman Mr. Ridenour set high standards of dignity and efficiency on his publications. A former engineer, he worked closely with other members of the newspaper world on time and motion studies in the mechanical department and was particularly interested in the development of machinery which would improve publication. He had been studying the creation of the Wood single unit press when, in July 1926, the Harrietstown Town Hall In which the Enterprise was housed, burned to ground, destroying all the paper's equipment.

From July to November 1926 the tri-weekly Enterprise was published in Malone through the kindness of the Malone Evening Telegram and the local staff took great pride in the fact that, despite the fire, the paper never missed an issue.

Offices for the Enterprise were opened at the present address, 72 Main Street [sic: see 76 Main Street], and the composing and press rooms added in the rear. Mr. Ridenour sought out the most modern equipment of the time and several engineers were involved in the mechanical layout of the new newspaper. The publisher secured for the new Enterprise the Wood Beeline Press, first single unit rotary newspaper press designed especially for the small daily newspaper. Outstanding in efficiency and economy to run, the Beeline Press proved too expensive to produce. Only two were made and the other sold to a newspaper in Jerusalem. This press, unique in the United States and one of two in the world, is still printing the Enterprise today.

Editorially, Mr. Ridenour instructed all newcomers to the newsroom to "write the story as though it were your father, mother, sister or brother you are writing about." He was deeply interested in all phases of the development of Saranac Lake and a strong supporter of conservation. In the latter field he cooperated with the then District Game Protector, the late Ray L. Burmaster, in publishing a monthly list of convicted fish and game violators, the theory being that in such a conservation-minded community the humiliation of being publicly known as a conservation offender would far outweigh any financial fine imposed. So successful was their method of reducing conservation offenses that it was later adopted on a statewide basis by the New York State Conservation Department. He was instrumental in the organization of the Saranac Lake Study and Craft Guild and served on its board of directors.

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise was published by Mr. Ridenour until its sale to Frederick Kury on May 1, 1949. Mr. and Mrs. Ridenour sold their home in Saranac Lake in 1957 and moved permanently to Washington, D.C.

Mr. Ridenour was a member of the New York State Publishers' Association, the New York State Associated Dailies, of which he served as president in 1947-48; the Cornell Society of Engineers and the American Legion.

In Saranac Lake he was a communicant of the Church of St. Luke, the Beloved Physician and had served for 30 years on its vestry.