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Gwen Dew worked as a celebrity gossip columnist and a newspaper reporter. She traveled around the world, was taken prisoner during World War II and designed a still-recognizable corporate logo.
Gwen’s Early Journalism Days…and a Famous Logo
Gwen grew up in Albion, Michigan and attended Albion College. In her senior year, she transferred to the University of Michigan and studied journalism. In 1924, she returned to Albion and became society editor of the Albion Recorder.
Two years later, Albert Pochelon of the Florists’ Telegraph Delivery Association – or “FTD” – approached Gwen. He wanted her to start FTD’s public relations department. She agreed, and for FTD, she created the famous “running Mercury” logo. FTD still uses a modified version of it.
New York…and Hollywood Gossip!
In 1929, Gwen suffered a car crash. The crash broke her back and put her in a cast for months. Vowing to live a more exciting life, she moved to New York City.
In New York, she became a publicist for the Chinese Cultural Theater dance troupe. Later, Screen Book Magazine, a New York-based publication focused on Hollywood gossip, hired her as a columnist. To her readers, she promised “intimate, gossipy notes about pictures, purely from the feminine point of view.” She contributed to other, similar magazines as well.
First World Tour
In 1935, Gwen left New York and returned to Michigan. She wanted to travel. She made a proposal to The Detroit News – as she traveled the world, she would send back articles and photographs. Initially, the paper wasn’t interested. Then, Gwen met with Fred Gaerner, Jr., the managing editor, and earned his approval.
New Orleans was her first destination. She arrived in time for Mardi Gras. Then, she headed to California and interviewed some Hollywood stars. From there, she traveled to Hawaii, Japan, China (where she interviewed Madame Chiang Kai-Shek), Hong Kong, Nepal, Java, Borneo, Thailand, Singapore, Burma, Malaysia, Bali, India, Egypt and more. She visited eighteen countries in under two years. She finished her journey in Paris, France in 1937. From there, she returned to the United States.
Second World Tour…and a Prisoner!
Gwen’s articles from her first journey were popular, and she didn’t remain home long. The United Press hired her as a special correspondent. Once again, she was on the road. She traveled to Mexico, then to Hawaii and to points beyond.
She found herself in Hong Kong when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The Japanese soon assaulted Hong Kong as well, and Gwen was among those taken prisoner. She and two hundred other westerners were marched ten miles north of Hong Kong. There, they were held prisoner in designated hotels. Several weeks later, they were taken to Camp Stanley, a British settlement, and interned there. Gwen kept notes, recording her observations of camp conditions, Japanese atrocities and other matters. She hid these in the hollow parts of Ming dolls.
Her imprisonment ended on June 30, 1942. She and other prisoners were then put on a Japanese liner to Portuguese East Africa. From there, she made her way back to the United States.
Once home, Gwen took her notes from Hong Kong and wrote a series of articles for the Detroit News. Collectively titled, “I Was a Prisoner of the Japs,” the articles ran on the front page and received top billing. She expanded these articles into a book, Prisoner of the Japs. She went on the lecture circuit, and the United States Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner of the modern Central Intelligence Agency) hired her as a “rally speaker” for the remainder of the war.
After the War
Following Japan’s surrender, Gwen became the first female foreign correspondent permitted into that country. She reported on the state of postwar Japan, sending articles to over twenty American newspapers.
While in Japan, she met Army Captain James Buchanan. The two married in 1948. James died of a heart attack five years later, and Gwen Dew Buchanan moved to Scottsdale, Arizona. In 1957, she created her “World Adventure Travel Series,” in which professional photographers and filmmakers narrated images of faraway places.
Gwen Dew Buchanan died on June 17, 1993 – one day before her ninetieth birthday. She is buried in Albion. In her nearly ninety years, she lived a life such as most can only dream!
Special thanks to Albion historian Frank Passic of the Albion, Michigan Home Page. Mr. Passic wrote “Around the World with Gwen Dew” (Michigan History Magazine March/April 1999), and some of his Dew-related material appears on the aforementioned site.