National Press Club

NPC History: Which Club president reported WWI from Berlin and demonstrated the first TV signal?

October 18, 2017 | By Gil Klein | gklein@american.edu

Gil Klein, (left) chairman of the National Press Club’s History and Heritage Team, accepts the ring of the Club’s 1913 president, Oswald F. Schuette, during a talk about Schuette’s life.  Presenting the ring were Schuette’s biographer, James Castellan (center) and his grandson, James F. Schuette, Jr. Oswald was the earliest president to receive the ring, and it is exactly the same as the one Klein is wearing as the 1994 president.

Gil Klein, (left) chairman of the National Press Club’s History and Heritage Team, accepts the ring of the Club’s 1913 president, Oswald F. Schuette, during a talk about Schuette’s life. Presenting the ring were Schuette’s biographer, James Castellan (center) and his grandson, James F. Schuette, Jr. Oswald was the earliest president to receive the ring, and it is exactly the same as the one Klein is wearing as the 1994 president.

Photo/Image: Ferdous "Danny" Al-Faruque

What tales a ring can tell.

Oswald F. Schuette, who had been National Press Club president for just three months in 1913, died in the Club’s lobby in 1953 of a massive heart attack just after he pushed the elevator’s down button.

Schuette’s death came just weeks after he received the coveted “black ring” created that year to be presented to every Club president, past and future. Schuette was the oldest president to receive the ring.

On Wednesday, Schuette’s biographer, James Castellan, and his grandson, James Schuette, Jr., presented the ring to Gil Klein, chairman of the Club’s History and Heritage committee, as part of a talk about Oswald Schuette's remarkable life.

Schuette was born in 1882 in Chicago to German immigrant parents. He launched his journalism career at the age of 20 as a cub reporter for the Chicago American, and he arrived in Washington in 1907 as a correspondent for the Chicago Inter Ocean, Castellan said.

He immediately became involved in the fledgling Club’s leadership, and when the 1913 president John T. Suter of the Chicago Record Herald had to resign in October to take a job outside of journalism, Schuette stepped into fill the rest of his term as the Club’s fifth president.

With his prodigious journalism talents – he was said to have a remarkable memory – and his knowledge of the German language and culture, Schuette was tapped by the Chicago Daily News to cover the First World War from the German side, arriving in Berlin in January 1915.

Always the Club booster, Schuette convinced many of his fellow American correspondents in Berlin to join the Club as out-of-town members. During a brief visit home in July 1915, he spoke at the Club, correctly predicting that the war would be a long, drawn out conflict because the Germans had the human and material resources to keep fighting.

When the United States entered the War in 1917, Schuette escaped to Switzerland to keep reporting.

After the war, he held a series of journalism and public relations jobs, including as a columnist for the Hearst-owned Chicago Herald Examiner from 1922 to 1925. When he refused William Randolph Hearst’s directive in writing a column, they parted ways.

Working with RCA, at the dawn of television, Schuette arranged in 1939 to have a television signal transmitted across Washington to a receiving station – a small black-and-white TV -- he set up in the Club as a demonstration for reporters and legislators.