‘Tryout Smith’ Grave Marker Dedication at Hilldale Cemetery Attracts National Crowd

The two people most responsible for having a gravestone placed for Charles W. “Tryout” Smith, David Goudsward and Derrick M. Hussey talk after 2018 ceremonies at Hilldale Cemetery. (WHAV News photograph.)

Dedication of a gravestone last Saturday for a Haverhill printer, who launched the careers of many 20th Century authors, attracted amateur journalism enthusiasts from across the country.

Tryout Smith and Lovecraft facing Water Street. The tip of Hales Island in the Merrimack is visible behind them, October, 1931.

Charles W. Smith launched a publication called “The Tryout,” which he set with metal type by hand from 1914 to 1944. One prolific contributor was horror fiction writer Howard Phillips—known popularly as H.P.—Lovecraft. Former Providence Journal News Editor Paul Eno, who hails from Lovecraft’s Providence, R.I., hometown, told attendees how Lovecraft’s large writing output caused a problem.

“There were so many things in ‘The Tryout’ from Lovecraft, that they decided he had to keep using pseudonyms so people wouldn’t think Lovecraft was monopolizing ‘The Tryout,’” Eno said.

Eno, Lovecraft’s fifth cousin, explained amateur journalism publications like Smith’s attracted journalists who “never quite made it,” writers, essayists and poets. Lovecraft, however, would go to become known for such stories as “The Rats in the Walls,” “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” among others.

When Smith died in poverty at age 95 in 1948, he was buried without a marker in Haverhill’s Hilldale Avenue cemetery. Haverhill native David Goudsward and philanthropist Derrick M. Hussey of New York decided the man that helped launched the careers of many renowned authors deserved better. Goudsward explains, “There are just endless names that got their start in ‘The Tryout,’ and yet here he is without a headstone—basically forgotten in Haverhill.”

Hussey, through his The Aeroflex Foundation, paid for Smith’s new grave marker at Hilldale Cemetery. “It is just a great pleasure and honor to be able to move forward with that because he’s an inspiration to me and, I think, he was an inspiration to Lovecraft. I mean the man made a pilgrimage up here to visit with Tryout.”

Goudsward highlighted the role of Tryout Smith in his book, “H.P. Lovecraft in the Merrimack Valley,” which was published by Hussey’s Hippocampus Press. Hussey, describes Smith’s important role.

“He is a very significant figure in the history of H. P. Lovecraft’s career. He was sort of one these legendary names—‘Tryout Smith’—he had sort of a colorful name and lived a really long time and printed these 300 issues of ‘The Tryout.’ Sort of a legendary character,” he said.

The Aeroflex Foundation also supported the cataloguing and conservation of “The Tryout” collection housed by the New York Public Library.

Amy Lynne Murphy, Smith’s niece, was among those who attended the ceremony at dusk. “There are so many graves that are unmarked and lost and spirits that need some kind of grounding. It is just great to see that this has been accomplished for Tryout.”

Hilldale Cemetery Volunteer Coordinator Tammy Dobrosielski and Trustee Thomas Spitalere recruited 40 volunteers to clean around Smith’s grave, while City Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan planted flowers around the new marker. Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini proclaimed the day “Tryout Smith Day.” WHAV served as fiscal sponsor for the project.