Pittsburgh Dispatch


Pittsburgh Dispatch

The "Pittsburgh Dispatch" was a leading newspaper in Pittsburgh, PA, operating from 1846 to 1923. After being enlarged by publisher Daniel O'Neill it was reportedly one of the largest and most prosperous newspapers in the United States. From 1880 to 1887 Nellie Bly worked for the "Dispatch" writing investigative articles on female factory workers, and later reported from Mexico as a foreign correspondent. The paper was politically independent and was particularly known for its in-depth court reporting.

History

The Foster years

The Pittsburgh Dispatch was established on 8 February 1846 by Col J. Herron Foster. It was the first penny paper published in western Pennsylvania, initially comprising only four pages. The paper was almost unique in the industry for being profitable almost from the very beginning despite being started during an economic recession. [cite book
last = Boucher
first = John Newton
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = A Century and a Half of Pittsburgh and Her People
publisher = The Lewis Publishing Company
date = 1908
location = Pittsburgh
pages = 6
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=vREVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA84&dq=%22Daniel++o%27neil%22+pittsburgh&lr=&client=firefox-a#PPA6,M1
doi =
id =
isbn =
] Foster was a strong opponent to slavery in the United States and, having determined that the local market thought similarly lent an abolitionist tone to the paper. Initially Foster acted not only as business manager and financier of the paper, but wrote extensively in it as well, even producing the copy on a hand press.

Foster & Fleeson

In 1847 Foster brought in a partner, RC Fleeson and the firm changed names to Foster & Fleeson. At the outbreak of the American Civil War Foster joined the Army, but production of the paper continued. The paper had become successful due to its independent approach to the news and in-depth court reporting: :"A leading feature of the Dispatch was its elaborate, accurate and interesting reports of the various courts of the county. In regard to the latter, judges and lawyers were profuse in their praise of the legal intelligence in the paper daily, and on more than one occasion lawyers, addressing juries in important cases, analyzed the testimony as it appeared in the Dispatch, and that, too, from longhand reports — there were no stenographers in those days." [cite book
last = Smith
first = Percy
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Memory's Milestones: Reminiscences of a Busy Life in Pittsburgh
publisher = Murdoch-Kerr Press
date = 1918
location = Pittsburgh
pages = 6
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=vREVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA84&dq=%22Daniel++o%27neil%22+pittsburgh&lr=&client=firefox-a#PPA6,M1
doi =
id =
isbn =
]

In 1857 the "Dispatch" was Pittsburgh's leading newspaper with a combined daily and weekly circulation of 14,000, compared with the number two "Chronicle's" 5,584. [cite book
last = Thurston
first = George H
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Pittsburgh as it Is
publisher = W.S. Haven
date = 1857
location = Pittsburgh
pages = 188
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=WpoUAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA188&dq=%22foster+%26+fleeson%22&as_brr=1&client=firefox-a
doi =
id =
isbn =
] Fleeson remained with the paper until his death in 1863.

O'Neill & Rook

Following the war, in 1865 two employees of the paper, Daniel O'Neill and Alexander W. Rook bought a half interest in the paper, eventually taking full control when Foster died in 1867. O'Neill had been city editor for several years and had his finger on the pulse of the city. Additionally, O'Neill forged an independent path on state and national issues, lending weight to the paper's editorial page. At this point the paper was still four sheets, but management bought new rotary presses and they significantly enlarged its coverage - eventually doubling its size making it one of the largest and most prosperous newspapers in the United States [cite book
last = Thurston
first = George
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Pittsburgh and Allegheny in the Centennial Year
publisher = AA Anderson & Son
date = 1876
location = New York
pages = 262
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=_zkVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA262&dq=%22pittsburgh+dispatch%22+circulation&lr=&num=100&as_brr=1
doi =
id =
isbn =
] . While a risky move because of the expense, the cover price was increased from 6 to 15 cents per week and the public liked the results and circulation grew making the "Dispatch" the greatest circulation paper in Pittsburgh with a circulation of 14,000.

Technology upgrade

The two partners ran the paper until O'Neill's death in 1877. Following O'Neill's death, Eugene M O'Neill, Daniel's brother, took a more leading role in the paper along with Rook. E. M. O'Neill continued his brother's independent approach to political and civic issues which the public enjoyed. The same year as Daniel's death, 1877, the firm suffered the loss of the printing plant due to fire. O'Neill replaced the rotary press with a state-of-the-art "perfecting press" which could print both sides of the paper at the same time. They simultaneously reduced the size of the printed sheet and doubled the number of pages. The smaller size and greater bulk made the "Dispatch" stand out from the competition most of whom were using the older blanket press in a broad sheet format. Another advantage gained by introducing new technology came from the press' ability to print and fold the paper. Boys who once were used to fold in the printing plant were sent into the street to sell the paper, redoubling the publisher's marketing effort.

O'Neill led the Pittsburgh papers on the news gathering side of the operation. At this time most newspapers relied on the Associated Press newswire for their national news. Consequently all papers were printing the same stories word for word. O'Neill reinvested the savings realized from his advanced presses and engaged correspondents in Washington and the other news centers around the country. The result was a fresher perspective and different stories from competitive papers. This advantage showed particularly in the hotly contested presidential election of 1880 which saw James A. Garfield elected.

Eugene M O'Neill years

When Alexander Rook died in 1880 Eugene M O'Neill took control of the paper and its editorial direction and eventually bought full ownership from Rook's estate. [cite book
last = Fleming
first = George
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = History of Pittsburgh and its Environs
publisher = American Historical Society
date = 1922
location = Pittsburgh
pages = 340
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=TPUMAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA340&lpg=PA340&dq=%22e.m.++o'neil%22&source=web&ots=eg16PH5Wbo&sig=cNTclnqTduwwcXhHWEa_-uw4ce8&hl=en#PPA340,M1
doi =
id =
isbn =
] E.M. continued in charge of both the editorial and business departments for the next 12 years.

The paper published its first Sunday edition on 24 September, 1883, targeting the leisure time of its audience on that day, and justifying its higher price by providing more in-depth articles and a wider selection than the daily paper. The strategy was an instant success. [cite book
last = Killikelly
first = Sarah Hutchins
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = The History of Pittsburgh
publisher = B.C. & Gordon Montgomery Co
date = 1906
location = Pittsburgh
pages = 340
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=poRU0YjqrzsC&pg=PA491&lpg=PA491&dq=%22pittsburgh+dispatch%22&source=web&ots=UlDUMk4YIt&sig=GTWN6dysaIdsYz-JBzelvlQnYaQ&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=9&ct=result#PPA493,M1
doi =
id =
isbn =
]

Ownership of the paper was reorganized in corporate form under the title "The Dispatch Publishing Company" in 1888 with E.M. O'Neil as President, Bakewell Phillips, Treasurer, and C.A. Rook, Secretary. Phillips was the son of Ormby Phillips who was part owner of the paper until his death in 1884. Phillips, a former mayor of the City of Allegheny had been the business manager of the firm. [cite book
last = Thurston
first = George Henry
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Allegheny County's Hundred Years
publisher = A.A. Anderson & Son
date = 1888
location = Pittsburgh
pages = 302
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=na2TNhB3BuAC&pg=PA301&dq=%22o%27neill+%26+rook%22&as_brr=1&client=firefox-a#PPA302,M1
doi =
id =
isbn =
] Eugene O'Neil continued to oversee the paper until his retirement in 1902. Alexander Rook's son, Charles A Rook, purchased control of the corporation and took over as President and editor-in-chief of the paper, Eugene O'Neil became Vice President, and Daniel O'Neil's son Florence became Treasurer.

In 1908 Charles Wakefield Cadman became the music editor and critic for the Dispatch. [ [http://www.naxos.com/composerinfo/Charles_Wakefield_Cadman/25915.htm Charles Wakefield Cadman Biography. Listen to Classical Music by Charles Wakefield Cadman ] ]

Paper shortage

The entry of the United States into World War I in 1917 began a period of paper shortages, especially newsprint. [cite book
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Tariff Information Surveys on the Articles in Paragraph 1- of the Tariff Act of 1913 and Related Articles in Other Paragraphs
publisher = Government Printing Office
date = 1921
location = Washington D.C.
pages = 15-17
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=yqENDhRjbZAC&pg=PP2071&dq=1920+paper+shortage&as_brr=1&client=firefox-a#PPP2071,M1
doi =
id =
isbn =
] . According to The Bureau of Business Research at Northwestern University the price of newsprint doubled between 1916 and 1917. [cite book
last = Grantham
first = James
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Wholesale Price Movements of Paper in Chicago, January 1, 1913 to June 30, 1922
publisher = Nowthwestern University
date = 1922
location = Chicago
pages = 1-13
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=3nwoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PT11&dq=%22paper+shortage%22&as_brr=1
doi =
id =
isbn =
] Making matters worse was an increasingly difficult task of sourcing paper at all for the next 5 years. Matters came to a head in 1920 when a number of newspapers nationwide simply couldn't source newsprint at all and had to publish extremely truncated editions. [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9500EFDC1738E13ABC4C51DFB566838B639EDE FORCED TO CONDENSE NEWS; Pittsburgh Dispatch Is Hard Hit by Print-Pape... - Article Preview - The New York Times ] ] In 1940 the price of newsprint doubled again, reaching a level 4 times higher than the pre-war price. On 23 March the paper appeared with 86 news headlines on the front page and virtually no advertising except for customers under contract. The paper shortage was not caused by a decrease in nationwide production, which had been steadily rising, instead the strong post World War I economy and the attendant advertising boom caused an increase in demand which the paper mills could not meet [cite book
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Tariff Information Surveys on the Articles in Paragraph 1- of the Tariff Act of 1913 and Related Articles in Other Paragraphs
publisher = Government Printing Office
date = 1921
location = Washington D.C.
pages = 15-17
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=yqENDhRjbZAC&pg=PP2071&dq=1920+paper+shortage&as_brr=1&client=firefox-a#PPP2071,M1
doi =
id =
isbn =
] . In 1921 the paper had a circulation of 56,857 [cite book
last = Rogers
first = Jason
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Newspaper Making
publisher = New York Globe
date = July 1922
location = New York
pages = 86
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=DD0CAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA86&dq=%22pittsburgh+dispatch%22+circulation&lr=&num=100&as_brr=1
doi =
id =
isbn =
] .

Closure and liquidation

The combination of rapidly rising costs and higher spending on new press technology led to a trend toward industry consolidation in the 1910's and 1920's. Multi-city newpaper syndicates, such as Scripps-Howard bought up independent papers and either consolidated them or closed them to cut costs. The days of a large city having 5 or 10 local papers was drawing to a close. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Newspaper Consolidation |url=http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F6061EFE3B5417738DDDAF0994DA405B838EF1D3 |work= |publisher= |date=16 February, 1923 |accessdate=2008-09-10 ]

The "Pittsburgh Dispatch" published its last issue on 14 February, 1923, its property, plant, and goodwill having been sold to the other Pittsburgh papers: the "Pittsburgh Post", the "Pittsburgh Gazette-Times" and the "Pittsburgh Press". The circulation of the paper was merged with the other papers, and the Rook Building at 1331-1335 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh was sold. The paper's membership in the Associated Press was transferred to the "Pittsburgh Sun". The papers taking over the "Dispatch" also took over the assets of the "Pittsburgh Leader" at around the same time. [cite news |first= |last= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=Last Pittsburgh Dispatch |url=http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=FA0717F9395516738DDDAD0994DA405B838EF1D3 |work= |publisher=New York Times |date=14 February, 1923 |accessdate=2008-09-02 ]

References


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