A Guide to the Joseph Pulitzer Collection, 1876-1901
Born in Mako, Hungary on April 10, 1847, Joseph Pulitzer was the son of a wealthy grain merchant of Magyar-Jewish origin and a German mother. He grew up in Budapest where he was educated in private schools and by tutors.
In 1864 he arrived in the United States as a recruit for the Union Army in the American Civil War (1861-1865). After the war he moved to St. Louis, where he worked in odd jobs such as mule tender, riverboat loader and restaurant waiter, until he eventually landed in a reporter job for the leading German language daily, Westliche Post. Pulitzer soon outclassed his peers as a resourceful journalist and following a series of profitable newspaper shares acquisitions and sales, he gained control in 1878 of the St. Louis Evening Dispatch and the St. Louis Evening Post. He merged the two papers as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, soon the city’s dominant evening newspaper. That same year Pulitzer married Kate Davis, a relative of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Kate’s brother, William L. Davis, was involved in the running of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a member and later as the president of the Board of Directors. In 1883, following a scandal involving the Post-Dispatch chief editorial writer, Pulitzer moved his interests to New York, acquiring a falling morning paper, The World, whose circulation he raised from 15,000 to 250,000 in three years.
As a publisher, he became a passionate crusader against dishonest government and a fierce competitor who did not shrink from sensationalism in circulation struggles. The notorious rivalry of the 1890s between The World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Morning Journal to further attract readership led to the coining of the term “yellow journalism” to describe sensationalist practices. Pulitzer did eventually regret these practices and The World became more restrained, serving as the editorial voice on many issues of the Democratic Party. However, Pulitzer’s deteriorating health and his continuous trips to Europe seeking for cures constrained his editorial efforts. Pulitzer abandoned the management of his newspapers in 1887, and gave up his editorship in 1890. Nonetheless, he continued to exercise a close watch over their editorial policies until he died on October 29th, 1911. In his will Pulitzer endowed the Columbia University School of Journalism (which opened in 1912) and established the prestigious Pulitzer Prizes, awarded annually since 1917.
Topping, Seymour. “Pulitzer Biography”. The Pulitzer Prizes http://www.pulitzer.org/biography (accessed June 3, 2014).
"Joseph Pulitzer." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 2014 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/483079/Joseph-Pulitzer (accessed June 3, 2014).
Consisting of correspondence, contracts and agreements, court cases, bylaws, board meeting minutes and resolutions, tallies, ballots and proxies, testimonial statements, financial documents, cancelled checks, receipts, savings books, insurance and mortgage documents, circulation statistics, ledgers, and balance sheets and statements, the Joseph Pulitzer Collection, 1876-1901, documents the formative years and daily operations of Pulitzer’s newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The collection covers the acquisition of the St. Louis Evening Dispatch and the merging with the St. Louis Evening Post, the purchase of printing presses and newsprint, the contract of new employees and paper routes, agreements with the Western Union Telegraph Company and the Associated Press, the construction works done on the newspaper building, the charitable efforts on behalf of the 1900 Galveston flood victims and the Christmas Festival organized by the Post-Dispatch in 1900. Fully documented is the Charles H. Jones case. Correspondence, court cases, agreements, a receipt for the selling of his 1600 stocks back to the Pulitzer Publishing Co., and the minutes from the 1896 board meeting that started the dispute detail the line of events that led appointed editor of the Post-Dispatch Charles H. Jones to sue Pulitzer.
Ledgers, payroll accounts, paper routes, savings and receipt books, cancelled checks, insurance and mortgage documents, receipts, balance sheets and circulation statistics reveal the newspaper circulation and financial issues. The board activity is also documented through minutes, proxies, election’s ballots and tallies, resolutions and correspondence. Mixed in with the papers are items that belonged to Elbert H. Baker, who worked for Joseph Pulitzer and later became publisher of the Cleveland Palin Dealer.
This collection is open for research use.
Joseph Pulitzer Collection, 1876-1901, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Paloma Graciani Picardo, June 2014.
Detailed Description of the Papers