Special Report


Odd McIntyre: The Man Who Taught America About New York

For millions of people, their only knowledge about New York City was O.O. McIntyre’s daily column about life in the Big Apple

O. O. McIntyre's daily column about the city, "New York Day by Day," ran in more than 500 newspapers throughout the United States. (Archive Holdings Inc. / Getty Images)

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In many ways the name “Odd,” which he inherited from an uncle, could hardly have been more fitting. Among other things, he wrote mostly in red ink, owned 30 pairs of pajamas for wearing during the day and another 30 for the night, and loved to sprinkle himself with perfume. One interviewer counted 92 bottles on his bureau. Rival gossip columnist Walter Winchell wasn’t alone in calling him “the Very Odd McIntyre.”

McIntyre and his wife, Maybelle, were childless but owned a succession of dogs, including a Boston terrier named Junior and another named Billy, whose exploits were chronicled in endless detail. “I have often thought my friend O. O. McIntyre gave more space in his column to his little dog than I do to the U. S. Senate,” Will Rogers once wrote. “But it just shows Odd knows human nature better than I do. He knows that everybody at heart loves a dog, while I have to try and make converts to the Senate.” Billy was the subject of such classic McIntyre fare as “To Billy in Dog Heaven,” which supposedly elicited more mail than any other of his columns.

McIntyre died on February 14, 1938, days shy of his 54th birthday, apparently of a heart attack. His biographer and longtime editor, Charles B. Driscoll, speculated that he could have lived a lot longer had he not been afraid of doctors.

His death and the return of his body to Ohio were national news. Before his burial on a hillside overlooking the Ohio River, his remains lay in state at a Gallipolis mansion he and his wife had bought, renovated and furnished for their eventual return. McIntyre had written about the home but never set foot in it during the five years he owned it.

Today, a century after his arrival in New York, Odd McIntyre may be best known as the name of a cocktail—a mix of lemon juice, triple sec, brandy and Lillet. The O. O. McIntyre Park District in Gallia County, Ohio, bears his name, as does a journalism fellowship at the University Missouri. His name also concludes the official poem of the state of Oklahoma, which honors his friend Will Rogers: “Well, so long folks, it’s time to retire/I got to keep a date with Odd McIntyre.” But that’s about it.

McIntyre’s return to obscurity would probably not surprise him. “I am not writing for posterity nor do I believe anything I write will live for more than a week or so after publication,” he once insisted. “I have found satisfaction in entertaining people a little every day.”

About Greg Daugherty
Greg Daugherty

Greg Daugherty is a magazine editor and writer as well as a frequent contributor to Smithsonian.com. His books include You Can Write for Magazines.

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