HAVERHILL — A Haverhill man who operated a small printing press in his shed on Groveland Street more than 100 years ago and helped launch the career of horror-fiction author H.P. Lovecraft and others now has his own headstone at the Hilldale Cemetery.
Charles W. "Tryout" Smith, who lived from 1852 to 1948, was an early pioneer of the amateur journalism movement. He will be honored on Saturday with a ceremony capped by the placement of a headstone at his gravesite, where previously only a stone for his father, a Civil War veteran, existed.
"Tryout Smith was a very well known figure in a very specific market, the amateur journalism movement at the start of the 20th century," said historian and author David Goudsward, a Haverhill native.
Securing a grant from The Aeroflex Foundation, Goudsward, 57, contracted with Atwood Memorial to craft a headstone at Hilldale. A dedication ceremony is Saturday at 6:30 p.m. as part of Essex Heritage’s Trails & Sails.
Also on Saturday is a display of Smith’s work, the release of a commemorative booklet and self-guided tours with H.P Lovecraft significance taking place between 1 and 4 p.m., at the Buttonwoods Museum, 240 Water St.
Goudsward, who grew up in the Ayers Village section of Haverhill, lives in Palm Beach County, Florida with his wife, Heather Bernard, also a Haverhill native.
Goudsward's books include "America's Stonehenge: The Mystery Hill Story," the "Horror Guide to Massachusetts," "The Westford Knight and Henry Sinclair: Evidence of a 14th Century Scottish Voyage to North America" and "H.P. Lovecraft in the Merrimack Valley."
Goudsward began researching H.P. Lovecraft and learned about his ties to Tryout Smith.
"Smith published his first amateur journal, called the "Monthly Visitor" from his home on Groveland Street in 1888, mostly to help his brother Frank raise money after his brother became too ill to work," Goudsward said.
Goudsward said Smith turned out 118 issues of the Monthly Visitor, ending a decade later.
At age 61, and then retired, Smith began printing “The Tryout,” which earned him his nickname and his place in history, Goudsward said. "It was more of an art journal as Smith published poems and fiction, although it was an official journal of the National Amateur Press Association."
He said Smith turned out 300 issues of "The Tryout" until age 92, when he became very ill.
"At the very end, he was so frail they moved his printing press from his little shed in the back yard of his home on Groveland Street, which burned down 25 years ago, into his bedroom," Goudsward sad. "Lovecraft visited him there and wrote some nice essays about Smith's shed."
Goudsward said Smith was an incubator for Lovecraft's work as "The Tryout," which was about the size of a U.S. passport, was the first to publish Lovecraft's short stories and poems.
"Lovecraft had been publishing and corresponding with Smith for years," he said.
He said Lovecraft was a critic for the United Amateur Press Association and one of the things he critiqued was amateur journals, which is how he came across The Tryout.
"Smith gave Lovecraft a market for his work, as he critiqued it, fine tuned it, and helped Lovecraft go on to become a professional writer," Goudsward said. "Lovecraft began writing psychological fiction — which we call 'weird fiction' with a little fantasy, a little magic, and a lot of atmosphere and tension."
A Lovecraft story called "In the Vault," which was a gruesome story about a man caught in the town's cemetery vault as caretaker, was dedicated to Smith, and printed in 'The Tryout,'" Goudsward said.
"By that point, Lovecraft begins showing up in "Weird Tales," a pulp magazine that specialized in weird tales," he said.
Lovecraft, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island, visited Haverhill in 1934.
"He and Smith walked to the top of Golden Hill, down Boardman Street, then they stopped at the Pentucket Burial Ground as Lovecraft wanted to see the headstone for Nathaniel Saltonstall, the judge at the Salem witch trials," he said.
Tryout Smith's new headstone at the Hilldale Cemetery features a custom logo of a printing press of the same model Smith would have used to print "The Tryout."
Cemetery board member Tammy Dubroski and her son Nick searched through cemetery records, which led them to a stone for Tryout's father, Daniel F. Smith and the family plot.
"Tryout Smith's father served in the Civil War and fought with the 5th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company D at Bull Run," said Thomas Spitalere, board president.
"Having someone buried at Hilldale of this stature could help us obtain grant money and other resources to help maintain the cemetery," Spitalere said. "Without the support of the Aeroflex Foundation, we could never have afforded to buy a stone for Tryout."