John W. Day was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1838, son of Joseph and Augusta Day. His maternal grandfather was Rev. Ezra Leonard who converted to Universalism. John was educated in grammar schools and went to high school in Portsmouth at the Hampton Academy. He joined the office of The Trumpet, a Universalist publication and then the Banner of Light soon after its inception in 1857 as an apprentice to “the art preservative.”
He thought of joining the Universalist ministry but his poor eyesight, which made him abandon printing as well, lead to several outdoor jobs. He spent 2 years at sea and 5 years in the army ending up a captain in the cavalry from 1861-1866. When he returned to Boston in 1867, he worked for The Banner as compositor, shorthand reporter, and Associate Editor. In 1880 he married Nellie M. King, twenty years his junior, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was a member of the Masons, Odd Fellows, and the Grand Army of the Republic.
In 1880 he was living with the King family and working as reporter at age 42; Nellie was 23 and they had no children. John authored many poems and recited them at Spiritualist meetings in the Boston area. Twenty of the poems were published as A Galaxy of Progressive Poems in Boston in 1890. His “The Wine of the Spirit” begins:
Another year hath trod th’ arena’s floor
Where uses stern to Being’s call respond;
And we with gladness hail the loved once more
Who bring their message from the Fair Beyond!
We mark with joy Progression’s prophet shine
That streams puissant from that primal ray
When angel fingers from the land divine
Swept the dark lignite clouds of doubt away.
According to the Biography of Mrs. J.H. Conant, the World’s Medium of the Nineteenth Century published in 1873, “Mr. John W. Day, a reporter at the Banner of Light office, listened on many occasions to utterances through Mrs. Conant while she was under control by Parker (spirit Theodore Parker), and minuted in shorthand what that spirit desired to put forth as a biography of his medium.”
Unfortunately, John died from a gunshot wound in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1898 after he retired from working at the Banner. His work as editor and reported greatly influenced the dissemination of information about Spiritualism across the country.