October 29: Joseph Pulitzer (1911)

Joseph Pulitzer was a journalist and publisher. He is probably best known as the founder of the prestigious awards in American journalism that bear his name. Pulitzer was born in Hungary, the eldest son of a prosperous Jewish grain merchant. After unsuccessful attempts to join the military, he immigrated to the United States, practically penniless. He served in the Union Army from 1864 until the end of the Civil War. He then settled in St. Louis, where he worked as a mule tender, waiter and hack driver before studying English and law. In 1868 he was recruited by Carl Schurz for his German-language daily, the Westliche Post where he excelled as a reporter. He participated in politics and was admitted to the bar. Pulitzer joined the Republican Party and was elected to the Missouri State Assembly. In 1872 Pulitzer was able to purchase the St. Louis Post for $3,000. This venture was a success and six years later was able to buy the St. Louis Dispatch for $2,700. He combined the two newspapers and launched crusades against government corruption, lotteries, gambling, and tax fraud. In 1874, he was admitted to the bar in Washington, D.C., where he also worked as a correspondent for the New York Sun.

While in Washington, Pulitzer met and fell in love with Kate Davis. The couple was married at the Church of the Epiphany in 1878. A year and a half later, their first child, Ralph, was baptized at the church. By 1883 Pulitzer was a wealthy man and was able to purchase the New York World for $346,000. The newspaper, which had been losing $40,000 a year, was transformed into the first tabloid-style journal that concentrated on human-interest stories, scandal and sensational material. Pulitzer also promised to use the paper to “expose all fraud and sham, fight all public evils and abuses, and to battle for the people with earnest sincerity.” In 1885 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York. Two years later he founded the Evening World in New York. Pulitzer died of heart failure aboard his yacht, the Liberty, on October 29, 1911. Through his will, he left money to establish the Columbia University School of Journalism and a foundation to award annual Pulitzer Prizes for literature, drama, music, and journalism.

< Previous     Next>

No comments yet

Add comment