Joseph Pulitzer, Hungarian-born editor and publisher, was important in the development of the modern newspaper in the United States.
Joseph Pulitzer was born in Mako, Hungary, on April 10, 1847, the son of Philip Pulitzer, a well-to-do grain dealer, and Louise Berger. Pulitzer was educated by private tutors, from whom he learned to speak German and French. Thin, with poor vision and weak lungs, he tried to enlist in the army in Europe but was turned down. In 1864 he left Hungary for the United States and became a soldier in the Union army during the Civil War (1861–65), when Northern and Southern American states fought mainly over the issue of slavery. After the war, the tall, red-bearded youth had no job and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where there was a large German population. Pulitzer worked as a waiter, taxi driver, and a caretaker of mules before getting a job as a reporter on a newspaper called the Westliche Post.
A short time after joining the Post, Pulitzer was nominated (his name was put forward for consideration) for the state legislature by the Republican Party. His campaign was considered a long shot because he was nominated in a Democratic district. Pulitzer, however, ran seriously and won. In the legislature he fought graft (illegal gain) and corruption (improper conduct by elected officials). In one wild dispute he shot a man in the leg for saying that he had written an untrue story in the newspaper. Pulitzer escaped punishment with a fine that his friends paid.
Pulitzer was hard-working and ambitious. He bought the St. Louis Post for about three thousand dollars in 1872. He also bought a German paper and sold it at a twenty thousand dollar profit. These profits helped pay for his political activities and for law school. In 1876 Pulitzer was allowed to practice law in Missouri. He started a law practice, but he gave it up in 1878 after purchasing the troubled St. Louis Dispatch at a sheriff's sale for twenty-seven hundred dollars and combining it with the Post. Aided by his brilliant editor in chief, John A. Cockerill, Pulitzer launched crusades against lotteries, gambling, and tax dodging; led drives to have streets cleaned and repaired; and sought to make St. Louis more civic-minded. The Post-Dispatch became a success.
In 1883 Pulitzer, then thirty-six, purchased the New York World for $346,000 from businessman Jay Gould (1836–1892), who was losing forty thousand dollars a year on the paper. Pulitzer made the down payment (a portion of the total price paid at the beginning of a loan) from Post-Dispatch profits and made all later payments out of profits from the World. Even as Pulitzer's eyes began to fail in the 1880s (he went blind in 1889), he carried on a battle for readers with William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951), publisher of the New York Journal. In New York, New York, he promised that the World would "expose all fraud and sham, fight all public evils and abuses" and "battle for the people with earnest sincerity." He concentrated on human-interest stories, scandal (behavior that causes loss of faith in a person), and sensational material. Pulitzer's World was a strong supporter of the common man. It often supported unions during strikes.
Pulitzer in the early part of his career opposed large headlines and art. Later, as his fight with Hearst increased in the 1890s, the two giants went to ever larger headline type and more fantastic art and engaged in questionable practices until Pulitzer decided things had gone too far and cut back. Pulitzer defended his methods, though, saying that people had to know about crime in order to fight it. He once told a critic, "I want to talk to a nation, not a select committee."
Pulitzer died aboard his yacht in the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina, on October 29, 1911. In his will he provided two million dollars for the establishment of a school of journalism at Columbia University in New York City. Also, by the terms of his will, the prizes bearing his name were established in 1915. Pulitzer Prizes are awarded every year to honor achievements in journalism, literature, and music.
For More Information
Barrett, James W. Joseph Pulitzer and His World. New York: Vanguard Press, 1941.
Brian, Denis. Pulitzer: A Life. New York: J. Wiley, 2001.
Noble, Iris. Joseph Pulitzer: Front Page Pioneer. New York: Messner, 1957.
Seitz, Don C. Joseph Pulitzer: His Life and Letters. New York; AMS Press, 1970.
Whitelaw, Nancy. Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World. Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds, 2000.
"Pulitzer, Joseph." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pulitzer-joseph-0
"Pulitzer, Joseph." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pulitzer-joseph-0
Pulitzer, Joseph (1847-1911)
Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911)
Editor and publisher
Recruited to America. Born in Hungary to a prosperous family, Joseph Pulitzer ran away from home at age eighteen to embark on a military carrer. After the Australian army and the French Foreign Legion both rejected him because of his poor eyesight, he signed up with an agent of the Union army of the United States recruiting in Europe in late 1864. At the end of the Civil War he found himself penniless in New York City and worked at a series of miserable jobs. By 1868, however, he had become a citizen and was hired as a reporter for the leading German-language daily in the nation, Carl Schurz’s St. Louis West lie he Post. Pulitzer soon became a top newsman and bought a share of the paper. He was then elected to the Missouri State Assembly and campaigned for the publisher Horace Greeley, who was a presidential candidate in 1872. He left newspapering for a time to return to Europe and marry, but soon returned to the United States and gained membership in the Washington, D.C., bar in 1874.
Papers. In 1878 Pulitzer bought the bankrupt St. Louis Dispatch, merged it with the Post, and created one of the great newspapers in the United States, the Post-Dispatch. Driven by insatiable curiosity and boundless energy, Pulitzer remade American journalism in the last twenty years of the nineteenth century. Claiming to be the champion of the people against injustice and ill-gotten power, he published a statement of policy that read in part: “The Post and Dispatch will serve no party but the people; be no organ of Republicanism but the organ of truth; will follow no causes but its conclusions; will not support the ‘Administration,’ but criticize it; will oppose all frauds and shams wherever and whatever they are; will advocate principles and ideas rather than prejudices and partisanship.” At the same time the paper carried on high-minded crusades against monopolistic power, it also printed sensational stories about adultery and scandal. Furthermore, exaggeration and half-truths also appeared in Pulitzer’s paper.
New York, New Journalism. Although he was a physical wreck from years of hard work, when Pulitzer heard in 1883 that the New York World was for sale, he bought it and quickly turned it into a successful paper. His formula for the New Journalism included sensational headlines and self-promotion. He maintained a strong news department and published an unparalleled editorial page. The World advocated taxes on luxuries, profits, and the wealthy, as well as railing against corruption in government. Those who were suspicious of wealth flocked to the paper, and those who approved of chasing profits disdained it. The World presented news in sensational form; when a heat wave took a terrible toll on children in the slums of New York, the headline in the World read: “How Babies Are Baked.”
Success. Within one year Pulitzer’s Sunday edition circulation reached approximately ninety five thousand, and by 1887 it increased to a quarter of a million. By paying close attention to the fact that four out of five New Yorkers were first- or second-generation Americans and by providing coverage of political figures along with entertainment, Pulitzer captured the public’s imagination. He talked directly to his readers without being condescending. Over the years the worst sensationalism disappeared from the World, while its commitment to the well-written human-interest story never dissipated.
Later Years. Pulitzer added an Evening World in 1887, and three years later he opened a new building on Park Row, at the time the tallest building in New York City. Pulitzer retired in 1890 but continued to monitor the progress of his papers, summoning editors to his various homes or to his yacht. Among the editors who worked at the World were some of the best in the business, including John A. Cockerill, William Merrill, S. S. Carvalho, George Harvey, Frank I. Cobb, Morrill Goddard, and Arthur Brisbane. In his retirement Pulitzer supported the progressive spirit of reform and muckraking in journalism. He also endowed the Columbia School of Journalism and the Pulitzer Prizes. Chronic illness plagued Pulitzer in his remaining years. He died in October 1911 at age sixty-four aboard his yacht in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.
W. A. Swanberg, Pulitzer (New York: Scribners, 1967).
"Pulitzer, Joseph (1847-1911)." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/pulitzer-joseph-1847-1911
"Pulitzer, Joseph (1847-1911)." American Eras. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/pulitzer-joseph-1847-1911
Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), Hungarian-born editor and publisher, was instrumental in developing yellow journalism in the United States.
Joseph Pulitzer's father was a well-to-do grain dealer. Joseph was born in Budapest in April 1847. Thin, weak-lunged, and with faulty vision, he was unable to have an army career in Europe. In 1864 he emigrated to America, enlisted in the Union cavalry, and became a mediocre soldier. The 6-foot 2-inch red-bearded youth was among the jobless at the end of the Civil War. In St. Louis, where a large German colony existed, Pulitzer worked as mule tender, waiter, roustabout, and hack driver. Finally, he gained a reporter's job on Carl Schurz's Westliche Post.
A short time after joining Schurz, Pulitzer was nominated for the state legislature by the Republicans. His candidacy was considered a joke because he was nominated in a Democratic district. Pulitzer, however, ran seriously and won. In the legislature he fought graft and corruption. In one wild dispute he shot an adversary in the leg. He escaped punishment with a fine which was paid by friends.
Industrious and ambitious, Pulitzer bought the St. Louis Post for about $3, 000 in 1872. Next, he bought a German paper which had an Associated Press membership and then sold it to the owner of the Globe at a $20, 000 profit. In 1878 Pulitzer purchased the decaying St. Louis Dispatch at a sheriff's sale for $2, 700. He combined it with the Post. Aided by his brilliant editor in chief, John A. Cockerill, Pulitzer launched crusades against lotteries, gambling, and tax dodging, mounted drives for cleaning and repairing the streets, and sought to make St. Louis more civic-minded. The Post-Dispatch became a success.
In 1883 Pulitzer, then 36, purchased the New York World for $346, 000 from unscrupulous financier Jay Gould, who was losing $40, 000 a year on the paper. Pulitzer made the down payment from Post-Dispatch profits and made all later payments out of profits from the World.
In the 1880s Pulitzer's eyes began to fail. He went blind in 1889. During his battle for supremacy with William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York Journal, Pulitzer had to rely on a battery of secretaries to be his eyes. In New York he pledged the World to "expose all fraud and sham, fight all public evils and abuses" and to "battle for the people with earnest sincerity." He concentrated on lively human-interest stories, scandal, and sensational material. Pulitzer's World was a strong supporter of the common man. It was anti-monopoly and frequently pro-union during strikes.
Pulitzer in the early part of his career opposed the large headline and art. Later, in a circulation contest between Hearst and Pulitzer in the 1890s, the two giants went to ever larger headline type and fantastic "x-marks-the-spot" art and indulged in questionable practices until Pulitzer lost stomach for such dubious work and cut back. Pulitzer defended sensationalism, however, saying that people had to know about crime in order to combat it. He once told a critic, "I want to talk to a nation, not a select committee."
Pulitzer died aboard his yacht in the harbor at Charleston, S.C., on Oct. 29, 1911. In his will he provided $2 million for the establishment of a school of journalism at Columbia University. Also, by the terms of his will, the prizes bearing his name were established in 1915.
Biographies of Pulitzer include Don C. Seitz, Joseph Pulitzer: His Life and Letters (1924); James W. Barrett, Joseph Pulitzer and His World (1941); and Iris Noble, Joseph Pulitzer: Front Page Pioneer (1947). A particularly interesting book written by one of Pulitzer's secretaries is Alleyne Ireland, An Adventure with a Genius (1914; rev. ed. 1937). Julian S. Rammelkamp, Pulitzer's Post-Dispatch (1967), focuses on Pulitzer's early career, and George Juergens, Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World (1966), deals with the middle and late years and contains an excellent analysis of the appeal of the New York World. □
"Joseph Pulitzer." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/joseph-pulitzer
"Joseph Pulitzer." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/joseph-pulitzer
Joseph Pulitzer (pŏŏ´lĬtsər, pyōō´–), 1847–1911, American newspaper publisher and politician, b. Hungary. He emigrated to the United States in 1864, served a year in the Union army in the Civil War, and became a journalist on the Westliche Post, a German-language newspaper. In 1869 he was elected to the Missouri legislature, where he earned a reputation as a liberal reformer. As owner and publisher after 1878, he made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a successful paper.
In 1883 he bought the New York World from Jay Gould. Pulitzer's aggressive methods of building up this paper, its Sunday issue, and the Evening World (started 1887) included the use of illustrations, news stunts, crusades against corruption, and cartoons, as well as aggressive news coverage. William Randolph Hearst established his New York Journal in 1895 to vie with Pulitzer's papers in sensationalism and in circulation. The ensuing contest, with its banner headlines, lavish pictures, emotional exploitation of news—in short, "yellow journalism" —reached notorious heights in the treatment of the Spanish-American War. Later the World became more restrained and the outstanding Democratic organ in the United States, although it sometimes opposed party policies.
In 1885, Pulitzer was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served briefly. After 1890 partial blindness kept Pulitzer from the editorial offices, but he directed his papers no less closely than before. He left funds to found what is now the graduate school of journalism at Columbia Univ. and endowed the Pulitzer Prizes.
In 1931, Pulitzer's sons, Ralph (1879–1939) and Joseph (1885–1955), sold the New York papers to the Scripps-Howard chain, and the Evening World was merged with the New York Telegram. The Post-Dispatch, under his son Joseph and then under his grandson Joseph Pulitzer (1913–93), was cited repeatedly for outstanding journalism and public service. Its editorial page maintained the Pulitzer tradition of independent liberalism.
See biographies by W. J. Granberg (1966), G. Juergens (1966), W. A. Swanberg (1967, repr. 1972), and J. M. Morris (2010).
"Pulitzer, Joseph." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pulitzer-joseph
"Pulitzer, Joseph." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pulitzer-joseph
The modern newspaper was virtually created by Joseph Pulitzer (1847–1911) during the latter half of the nineteenth century. It was a newspaper that seemed to meet the needs of the modern industrial world. Boasting headlines, sensationalism with social conscience, a sports page, a business page, and the comic strips, it was a paper the average person could use to learn about the world and be entertained. This was largely the social invention of Joseph Pulitzer.
Joseph Pulitzer was born in Mako, Hungary, on April 10, 1848, one of three children born to Philip and Louise (Berger) Pulitzer. (Politzer was the Hungarian spelling of their last name.) As a young child, Pulitzer was considered sickly. He was very thin, his lungs were weak, and his vision was poor. His father was a wealthy grain dealer, wealthy enough to retire early and be with his family. When Joseph Pulitzer was six years old, the family moved to a quiet estate in Budapest, Hungary, where the boy was educated by private tutors, along with his brother and sister. Pulitzer was raised fluent speaking Hungarian, German, and French.
The young Joseph Pulitzer was perhaps overly energetic, and was wild about seeking fame. He was brilliant, very independent, and intensely ambitious. There were early signs, extremes in his behavior as a young man, of the emotional problems that would later hurt him as a grown man.
At the age of 17 he left home and sought to join the Austrian Army, the British armed forces, and the French Foreign Legion. He was rejected from each army because of his poor eyesight. At one point during the American Civil War (1861–1865), a recruiter of the Union army approached Pulitzer. In September 1864 he came alone to the United States to join the Lincoln Cavalry of the Union Army. In Boston, Massachusetts, Pulitzer jumped ship. He then went to New York where he enlisted on his own behalf, thereby collecting his own enlistment bounty. On September 30, 1864, Pulitzer joined a cavalry regiment organized by Carl Schurz, with whom Pulitzer would work after the war.
Pulitzer was discharged from the Union Army in July 1865. He had little money and no prospects for work. He settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where there was a large German community. In St. Louis Pulitzer found familiar customs that reminded him of his European origins. He worked a variety of jobs including a mule tender, waiter, and hack driver. He also worked for several lawyers and, while doing so, studied law books and was admitted to the bar. In 1867 Pulitzer became a U.S. citizen.
Carl Schurz, whom Pulitzer met during his military service, hired Pulitzer as a reporter for the Westliche Post, an influential German-language newspaper in St. Louis. The paper specialized in political articles and was very much committed to social reform in a young United States, which at the time appeared rife with corruption. Pulitzer became very interested in local politics and public affairs, and was an exceptional reporter in these areas. As a result he was nominated for the state legislature by the Republicans in 1869; he won the election.
While serving his term as a representative, Pulitzer also worked as a correspondent for the Westliche Post. In 1872 he became very involved in the Liberal Republican movement, which had nominated Horace Greely for president. After the defeat of Greely, Pulitzer became a Democrat.
In 1872 Joseph Pulitzer bought his first newspaper, the St. Louis Post for about $3 million. He also bought a German newspaper that had an Associated Press membership, which he quickly sold for a profit. In 1878 Pulitzer purchased the St. Louis Dispatch, which he combined with the St. Louis Post ; the newspaper then became the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
As publisher and editor of his newspaper, Pulitzer declared immediately that it would be devoted to issues of social reform. He vowed to his readers that the paper would be independent of political influence, and would instead be "the organ of truth," as he put it in an early editorial. Along with his editor-in-chief, John A. Cockerill, Pulitzer printed verbal crusades against wealthy tax dodgers and corrupt gambling practices. For example, the newspaper published the tax returns of local citizens, wealthy and poor, in parallel columns. Pulitzer and Cockerill editorialized in favor of the building and maintaining of streets and other public structures and were instrumental in starting a city park system. They made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a very successful civic minded newspaper.
Pulitzer edited the Post-Dispatch from 1878 to 1883. From the start he was involved in all aspects of the publication. By 1881 the newspaper had achieved high profits, gained wide readership, and moved to a new building where two Hoe presses were installed. When Pulitzer's health weakened, however, he gave more responsibility to Cockerill.
In 1882 Cockerill shot and killed Alonzo W. Slayback, a local lawyer running for Congress. Slayback, whom Cockerill openly opposed and insulted, had confronted Cockerill and was murdered. Afterward Pulitzer asked John A. Dillon, founder of the Post, to take over the management of the paper. During the aftermath of the scandal, Pulitzer's health deteriorated further and he was advised by his physician to take a long rest. On his way to Europe, via New York, Pulitzer met with an opportunity he could not refuse: the New York World was for sale.
In 1883, when he was 36 years old, Pulitzer bought the failing New York World newspaper, and he applied the same principles that led to success with his St. Louis paper. In 1883 the paper sold 15,000 copies daily. With Pulitzer's genius for sensing what the public wanted, he built a newspaper which, by 1898, was selling 15 million copies a day.
In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the New York World Pulitzer created the modern newspaper, one that caught the democratic and populist spirit of the United States at that time and instituted changes that had never been seen in U.S. papers before. Pulitzer changed the form of how readers received their news, and he created a format and prototype that countless other papers came to imitate.
Pulitzer carefully picked his talent and encouraged them. He paid high salaries to his reporters and demanded hard work from them. He also started the first two-week paid vacation for newspaper staff. Pulitzer's newspapers used illustrations and political cartoons to attract readers and initiated features such as greatly expanded sports coverage. He also began to include line drawings in the newspaper to give variety to the look of different sections of the paper. Pulitzer's newspapers started printing colored cartoon strips known as the "Sunday Funnies," and in doing so captured a new readership for newspapers—children.
Perhaps Pulitzer was able to do so much in changing the form of the newspaper because his own idealistic, crusading, flamboyant, up-and-down character mirrored much of the sentiments of the mixed character of the United States at that time. He remained an idealist, but he also learned how to sensationalize and exaggerate real issues to get public attention. Pulitzer became the master of detailing lurid stories of crime, sex, and disaster. He had his reporters use bold headlines, and illustrations and diagrams for murder scenes. He was one of the first to understand that a successful newspaper had to entertain as well as provide the truth. This was a revolution in newspaper style which became a model for newspapers of that era—sensationalism with a social conscience.
Pulitzer used his newspapers' editorials to speak out against corruption, and his papers uncovered several scandals such as the insurance fraud and corruption in the construction of the Panama Canal. He also crusaded against unsafe working conditions, the Bell telephone monopoly, the Pacific Railroad Lobbyists of 1887, unpleasant conditions in mental hospitals, police corruption and inefficiency, and police brutality. Pulitzer used his power to rally public support around various causes. In one editorial, for example, he urged the completion of the pedestal for Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty.
Pulitzer had married Kate Davis in 1878. The Pulitzers had seven children during their reportedly difficult marriage. When Joseph Pulitzer was in his mid-thirties, his health began to deteriorate. He spent much of his time away from his family, traveling widely. In later years he lived aboard his yacht, called the Liberty, where annoyances and distractions were kept to a minimum. Pulitzer continued to be in constant poor health. He had several ailments including asthma, diabetes, insomnia, chronic exhaustion, and manic depression; by 1889 he had become blind. On October 29, 1911, at the age of 64, Joseph Pulitzer died of an apparent heart attack while aboard his yacht in a New York harbor.
In the years leading up to his death Pulitzer had turned his focus toward a plan to endow Columbia University with a large sum of money for the establishment of a school of journalism. In 1902 Pulitzer had drawn up a memorandum in which he compared the preparation of journalists to that of lawyers and doctors. In 1912, a year after his death, an endowment of $2 million was made to Columbia University, which accepted its first class in the School of Journalism. The 1902 memorandum also stipulated that a portion of the endowment be used for annual prizes to journalists and writers. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded in 1917.
See also: Muckrakers, Publishing Industry
Ashley, Perry J, ed. Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Newspaper Journalists, 1873–1900. Detroit: Gale Research, 1983, "Pulitzer, Joseph."
Juergens, George. Joseph Pulitzer and the "New York World." Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966.
Rammelkamp, Julian S. Pulitzer's "Post-Dispatch" 1878–1883. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966.
Seitz, Dan C. Joseph Pulitzer: His Life and Letters. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1924.
Swanberg, W.A. Pulitzer. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1967.
Wittke, Carl. The German Language Press in America. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1957.
in the st. louis post-dispatch and the new york world pulitzer created the modern newspaper, one that caught the democratic and populist spirit of the united states at that time and instituted changes never been before seen in u.s. newspapers.
"Pulitzer, Joseph." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pulitzer-joseph
"Pulitzer, Joseph." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pulitzer-joseph
"Pulitzer, Joseph." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 28, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pulitzer-joseph
"Pulitzer, Joseph." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 28, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pulitzer-joseph