Evelyn Shuler: Reporter Right in the Thick of the News
Rick Brown, Editor-in-chief
When the numbers racketeers were fleecing citizens of Philadelphia in the 1930's, Evelyn Shuler of the Philadelphia Ledger, worked day and night rounding up evidence that the police maintained they could not get. Her expose in the columns of the Ledger was so convincing that the police were forced to act. More than three hundred of the racketeers were arrested and the numbers game was squelched for the time being. They had been taking in $100,000 a day from people of small means.
Miss Shuler wrote the news lead for her paper on the Hauptmann trial -- the only female in the country to cover the main story. She covered the kidnapping of the Lindbergh child from the beginning, directing a staff of males. She stayed up for eighty-seven hours without sleep in the early days of the quest. Through an ingenious arrangement which she never divulged she got two exclusive stories from inside the Lindbergh home at that time despite of the cordon of state troopers assigned to keep the press away from the house.
Nothing stopped Miss Shuler when she was out to get a story. Her stories were objective and business-like, and she was not afraid to meet danger halfway. Once, she climbed in the fire escape window of a hospital to get an interview with a cabaret dancer who was shot and died a few hours later.
On one murder case to which she was assigned, she stayed up for three days keeping a cemetery vigil. She had a feeling that the victims bodies would be exhumed and she was right. Just before dawn on the third night, a party arrived with lanterns and the digging began. Miss Shuler got her story.
Miss Shuler was at Lakehurst when the Graf Zeppelin circled thrillingly over the field and came down in a blaze after its first Atlantic flight. All the reporters worked in a huge hangar under difficult conditions. For three days they had little to eat but hot dogs. At night many of them slept spread out on tables and they wrote most of their copy sitting on drawers pulled out of desks, for there were few chairs. There was great uncertainty as to the hour the Zeppelin would arrive. Finally, when the dirigible landed, it was a scene of excitement, flares burning and crowds swarming around the exhausted passengers. There was telegraph problems and copy piled up while the frantic reporters yelped over a hopeless snag. In the end, most of them got on telephones and dictated their stories direct to their offices. Miss Shuler did her usual calm and thorough job. Later she covered the Akron crash and was the only female (with thirty-five men) to cover the naval inquiry that followed.
There was no phase of newspaper work that Miss Shuler did not tackle. She flew in the Goodyear blimp, tried an autogyro with the ace pilot of the time Jimmy Ray, she rode on a hydroplane, an open cockpit plane, and practically everything else that took off the ground. She crashed a Shriners' convention to get a story, was on hand for the Coolidge and Hoover inaugurations.
Miss Shuler never studied journalism and had little academic education. She left high school after only a year and a half. She was bitten by the newspaper bug at sixteen. For two years she solicited ads for the Philadelphia Evening Telegram. In 1918 she landed on the Ledger as editorial auditor. She devised a system for paying out-of-town and state correspondents and for two years did editorial paragraphs and fillers under editor John J. Spurgeon. In 1921 she told him that she wanted to be a reporter, he insisted she was too young so she left but came back as a reporter a year later. By 1924 she had earned and was given the job of front page reporter.