Chicago's first newspaper, the Chicago Weekly Democrat, was founded by John Calhoun in 1833 and bought by local politician “Long John” Wentworth three years later. It became a morning daily in 1840. Three Chicago businessmen, founded the Whig-later-Republican morning Chicago Daily Tribune in 1847. Joseph Medill bought into the Tribune in 1855, gradually becoming its chief editorial force, gaining control in 1874, and directing it until he died in 1899.
Chicago's city newspapers grew steadily in the 1840s and 1850s, reaching 11 dailies and 22 weeklies by 1860. Although most pre–Civil War Chicago papers were short-lived, the Chicago Journal (1844), an afternoon Republican paper founded by J. Young Scammon, and the Chicago Times (1854), a morning Democratic paper, survived the war and flourished. The Journal became Democratic and in 1897 acquired Finley Peter Dunne's satirical Mr. Dooley columns, written in Irish dialect.
The morning Chicago Republican (1865), sporting the motto “Republican in everything, Independent in nothing,” was edited briefly by Charles A. Dana and, in 1872, after passing through several hands, was renamed the Chicago Inter Ocean, an upper-class arbiter of cultural tastes. The Inter Ocean went into decline after 1895, when it became the property of Chicago traction boss Charles T. Yerkes, who used it as a tool in his political wars.
In 1900, Chicago had nine general circulation newspapers when William Randolph Hearst's sensationalistic evening Chicago American appeared, followed by his morning Chicago Examiner (1902). The American upheld the raucous Hearstian/Chicago tradition of “The Front Page,” even after it was sold to the Chicago Tribune in 1956, renamed Chicago Today, and turned into a tabloid. Today died in 1974. The morning Examiner became the Herald-Examiner in 1918 and died in 1939, never able to overtake the Tribune.
The weekly Southtown Economist first appeared as a South Side community paper in 1906, became a daily in 1978, was renamed the Daily Southtown in 1993, and in 1994 was purchased by Hollinger International, which by 2000 also owned the Sun-Times, the Pioneer Press (with 48 Chicago suburban papers), and the Star Newspapers (with 23 Chicago suburban papers). Meanwhile, the Herald, founded in Arlington Heights as a weekly in 1872, was made a daily in 1969 and in 2000 published 27 localized editions for suburban communities.
The Tribune, which under conservative Robert R. McCormick from 1911 to his death in 1955 dominated Chicago's morning field and the Midwest, was a pioneer in four-color printing. Sportswriter Ring Lardner wrote the Tribune's “In the Wake of the News” column from 1913 to 1919; Bert Leston Taylor created and presided over the Tribune's “Line o' Type or Two” from 1910 until his death in 1921.
The Daily News's foreign news service began in 1898, carrying such noted interwar correspondents as Edward Price Bell, Paul Scott Mowrer, and Edgar Ansel Mowrer. The Daily News's staff included reporter and critic Carl Sandburg and columnists Ben Hecht (1914 to 1922) and Mike Royko (1964 to 1978). When the Daily News died in 1978, Royko moved to the Daily News's sister paper, the Sun-Times. He joined the Tribune in 1984, protesting Rupert Murdoch's purchase of the SunTimes.
Abbot, Willis J. “Chicago Newspapers and Their Makers.” Review of Reviews 11 ( June 1895): 646–665.
Murray, George. Madhouse on Madison Street. 1965.
Wendt, Lloyd. Chicago Tribune: The Rise of a Great American Newspaper. 1979.
The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2005 Chicago Historical Society.
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