|Born||November 21, 1850|
|Died||February 12, 1920 (aged 69)|
New York, New York
|Occupation||Journalist, travel writer|
Julius Chambers was born in Bellefontaine, Ohio on November 21, 1850, the son of Joseph and Sarabella (née Walker) Chambers. When he was only eleven years old, he began working as a printer's devil in his uncles' newspaper office, the Bellefontaine Republican. He first attended Ohio Wesleyan University, and later, Cornell University, from which he graduated in 1870. At Cornell, he was a co-founder in 1869 of the Irving Literary Society. Around 1880, while working as a journalist he spent some time reading law in Philadelphia with Benjamin H. Brewster, who became U.S. Attorney General in December 1881, and studying at Columbia College Law School in New York City.
While on sick leave on June 4, 1872, Chambers discovered Elk Lake adjoining Lake Itasca in Clearwater County, Minnesota, in the Lake District of Northwestern Minnesota. He declared it to be the ultimate origin of the Mississippi River.[Note 2] For this discovery, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. This led to a series of newspaper articles and the book The Mississippi River and Its Wonderful Valley (1910).[Note 3]
Later in 1872, he returned to work and undertook a journalistic investigation of Bloomingdale Asylum, having himself committed with the help of some of his friends and the city editor. His intent was to obtain information about alleged abuse of inmates. After ten days, his collaborators on the project had him released. When articles and accounts of the experience were published in the Tribune, it led to the release of twelve patients who were not mentally ill, a reorganization of the staff and administration of the institution and, eventually, to a change in the lunacy laws.[Note 4] This later led to the publication of the book A Mad World and Its People (1876). From this time onward, Chambers was frequently invited to speak on the rights of the mentally ill and the need for proper facilities for their accommodation, care and treatment.
In 1873, he joined the staff of the New York Herald and in his fifteen years at the newspaper occupied nearly every one of its editorial desks. In 1887, his editor-in-chief sent him to Paris to launch the Paris Herald.
In 1890, Pulitzer, Chambers, et al. were indicted for posthumous criminal libel against Alexander T. Stewart for accusing him of "a dark and secret crime", as the man who "invited guests to meet his mistresses at his table", and as "a pirate of the dry goods ocean." The charges were dismissed by the court. This sort of criminal action was common at the time and both Pulitzer and Chambers were indicted in a number of cases, in some of which they were acquitted, in others convicted.
In addition to his works of fiction, he published over a hundred short stories and had two plays produced in New York, both comedies. His final book, the posthumously published News Hunting on Three Continents (1921), has been generally accepted as an autobiographical account of his career even though many of the chapters are in fact lightly revised versions of fictional stories he wrote over the years.
Chambers was married twice. For years he was a member of the Lotos Club, New York.
He died at his home in New York on February 12, 1920.
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Julius Chambers, who undertook to paddle his canoe Dolly Varden from Lake Itaska to New Orleans, reached Quincy, Illinois, yesterday and shipped his canoe to St. Louis on the steamer Rob Roy.
The lady whose suit against the Bloomingdale Asylum was mentioned in the Eagle on Wednesday is Mrs. James O. Norton. Mrs. Norton has been indefatigable for the past year to have her experiences of asylum life made known to the public, with a view toward ameliorating the condition of those suffering in them, and has decided that the course she has pursued is the best. She has put her case in the hands of Mr. John D. Townsend, of New York, whose name is associated with the exposures made several years ago by Julius Chambers, and he doubtless will secure a legal victory for this worthy lady