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Pulitzer, Joseph

PULITZER, JOSEPH (1847–1911), American editor and publisher who bought declining newspapers and restored them to national influence. Born in Mako, Hungary, son of a Jewish father and a Roman Catholic mother, Pulitzer emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 17 to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. Discharged from the cavalry in 1865, he went to St. Louis and in 1868 became a reporter for the German-language daily Westliche Post. Three years later he bought an interest in the paper, became managing editor, and sold back his shares at a vast profit. In 1878 Pulitzer took his first big step toward creating a newspaper empire when he bought the St. Louis Dispatch at an auction for $2,500 and merged it with the St. Louis Post into the Post-Dispatch. By 1881 it was yielding profits of $85,000 a year. He left for New York in 1883 and bought The World from Jay Gould, the financier, for $346,000. Three years later, revived by Pulitzer's innovations in mass appeal journalism, The World was earning more than $500,000 a year. He established a sister paper in New York, the Evening World, in 1887. All three newspapers succeeded on a formula of vigorous promotion, sensationalism, sympathy with labor and the underdog, and innovations in illustration and typography. In 1869 Pulitzer served in the lower house of the Missouri legislature, and in 1885 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York, but served only briefly. A man of intellect and energy, he worked himself into a condition which compelled him to live his last years as a totally blind invalid. However, he still directed his newspapers. He endowed the Pulitzer School of Journalism at Columbia University and the famous Pulitzer Prizes for journalism. His son, JOSEPH JR. (1885–1955), continued the policies of his father with success as the publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but under his other two sons, Ralph (1879–1959) and Herbert (1897–1957) the two New York papers declined and were sold in 1931 to Scripps-Howard.


W.A. Swanberg; Pulitzer (1967); K. Stewart, Makers of Modern Journalism (1952), 86–102.