Edward Cushing, 1903-1956

Publication Year: 1957.



Edward Thomas Francis Cushing was born September 19, 1903, in New York City, his mother being German. He went through a public grade-school in New York and attended Horace Mann School for a short time, but this completed his formal education. His informal schooling, however, continued throughout his life, and in his maturity it would have been difficult indeed to find a better-educated man.

His first job was that of office boy in the old magazine Town Topics, where, because of his interest in music, he was sometimes delegated by the critic to cover musical events. Later he became assistant in the music department of the Brooklyn Eagle. During the illness and after the death of the chief critic he took over the first chair temporarily, and did so remarkably well that in spite of his youth (twenty-three years) he inherited the job permanently. He remained with this paper until its sale in 1938; but during the last three years he was first, editor of the Sunday Magazine, then foreign correspondent with headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. It was during this period that he did most of his climbing in the Alps, although he had made a beginning in 1926-27. In 1926 he married Mary Watkins, a writer and a member of the music staff of the New York Herald Tribune.

On his return to America in 1939 he took a position with the Columbia Gramophone Company as artistic advisor and public relations assistant, and at the same time established a retail bookshop in New Canaan, Conn. At first the latter was a mail-order business devoted exclusively to works on mountaineering, exploration, and related activities. At the outbreak of World War II he enlisted in the Office of Strategic Services and occupied executive positions both in Washington and in London, later being transferred, to his intense delight, to Berne, Switzerland. Part of his duties, in this service, was the supervision of broadcasts to Germany, in the German language, by the singer Marlene Dietrich and others.

At the end of the war he returned to New Canaan and proceeded to develop his book business into that of a general retail bookstore. This throve so well under his excellent management that, with the great increase in volume, he found it necessary to give up the mountaineering end of the business and in 1954 disposed of his stock in this category to the Old Settler Bookshop, owned by Mr. R. Kolvoord, in Walpole, N.H. The demands of this business limited greatly his opportunities for mountain climbing, but he managed quite regularly to join a group engaged in making ascents of the White Mountain peaks, including Mount Washington, in midwinter. He was elected to the A.A.C. in 1941 and served on its Council in 1947-49.

Two years before his death he became consultant and translator-editor for the newly-founded Angel Records, in addition to carrying on his steadily expanding book business. He had a very considerable literary talent, which he exercised all too infrequently, but it found charming expression in some of the translations of German operettas which he made for Angel. Mention should also be made of a volume of symphony notes by the music critic Lawrence Gilman, which Edward Cushing edited, with the addition of much excellent material of his own.

He died on May 10, 1956, in consequence of an operation. By his special request the text, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help," is cut on his headstone, under a medallion reproducing his bookplate, namely, a wild mountain peak with a lyre super imposed.

Edward Cushing was a delightful companion, both outdoors upon a climb, and indoors for a talk. I think, the most delightful Miriam and I have ever known.

Robert L. M. Underhill