I came across the following anecdote in Coronet
magazine (Sep 1955):
John H. Holliday, peppery founder and editor of The Indianapolis (Indiana) News, stormed into the composing room one day, determined to find the culprit who had spelled height—"hight." A check of the original copy showed that it was spelled "hight" and that, furthermore, the copy had been written by Mr. Holliday.
"If that's the way I spelled it, that's correct," he said—and the word was spelled "hight" in The Indianapolis News for the next 30 years.
I thought this sounded like an urban legend of journalism, but a check of The Indianapolis News
archive confirmed that the newspaper did indeed consistently substitute 'hight' for 'height' — and not just for 30 years. They did it from 1887 until 1947 when, as reported by Time magazine
, they finally updated their style guide.
The misspelling occasionally attracted the attention of readers:
The Indianapolis News - Aug 10, 1934
But as far as I can tell the paper never told their readers why they were misspelling the word. It was a long-running, private joke kept going for sixty years (long after Holliday had died
) by the editors.