Smith, Seba,1792–1868, American humorist, b. Buckfield, Maine. He founded the Portland Courier in 1829 and in it began (1830) a series of humorous letters on politics under the pen name Major Jack Downing. His use of comic rustic speech and satirical comments on various political issues made him outstanding in the development of American humor. He eventually settled in New York City, where he wrote for various magazines. His works include Powhatan (1841) and Way Down East (1853).
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Smith, Seba (Major Jack Downing, pen name)(1792–1868) journalist, writer; born in Buckfield, Maine. He and his family moved to Bridgton, Maine (1799), and he worked in a grocery store, brick yard and iron foundry. He studied at Bowdoin (1815–18) and traveled in Europe. He became the assistant editor of the Eastern Argus, Portland, Maine (1820–26) and founded the Portland Courier (1829). There he began the publication of political and satirical commentaries in the form of letters from "Major Downing" (1830–33), published as The Life and Writings of Major Jack Downing of Downingsville (1833). The success of Smith's Downing letters led several writers to imitate both the name and style, the most notable being Charles Augustus Davis. Smith moved to Charleston, S.C. (1839), then to New York City to work as an editor and writer; he wrote a second series of Downing letters (1847–59), published as My Thirty Years Out of the Senate (1959). His Way Down East (1854), stories about typical New Englanders, was another popular work. In 1860 he settled in Patchogue, Long Island, N.Y.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.