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definitions - Joseph_Pulitzer

Joseph Pulitzer (n.)

1.United States newspaper publisher (born in Hungary) who established the Pulitzer prizes (1847-1911)

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Joseph Pulitzer (n.)


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Joseph Pulitzer

Joseph Pulitzer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1885 – April 10, 1886
Preceded by John Hardy
Succeeded by Samuel Cox
Personal details
Born (1847-04-10)April 10, 1847
Makó, Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Empire
Died October 29, 1911(1911-10-29) (aged 64)
Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Political party Democratic
Occupation Publisher, philanthropist, journalist, lawyer
Religion Jewish
Net worth USD $30 million at the time of his death (approximately 1/1142nd of US GNP)[1]
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1864–1865
Unit First Regiment, New York Cavalry
Battles/wars American Civil War

Joseph Pulitzer (Listeni/ˈpʊlɨtsər/ PUUL-it-sər;[2] April 10, 1847 – October 29, 1911), born Pulitzer József, was a Hungarian-American newspaper publisher of the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the New York World. Pulitzer introduced the techniques of "new journalism" to the newspapers he acquired in the 1880s. He became a leading national figure in the Democratic Party and was elected Congressman from New York. He crusaded against big business and corruption.

In the 1890s the fierce competition between his World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal caused both to use yellow journalism for wider appeal; it opened the way to mass circulation newspapers that depended on advertising revenue and appealed to readers with multiple forms of news, entertainment and advertising.

Today, he is best known for the Pulitzer Prizes, which were established by money he bequeathed to Columbia University, as was the Columbia School of Journalism. The prizes are given annually to award achievements in journalism and photography, as well as literature and history, poetry, music and drama.


  Early life

The first Pulitzers emigrated from Moravia to Hungary at the end of the 18th century. Joseph Pulitzer's native town was Makó, about 200 km southeast of Budapest in the Hungarian Empire. The Pulitzers were among several Jewish families living in the area, and established a reputation as merchants and shopkeepers. Joseph's father, Fülöp Pulitzer, was a respected businessman, regarded as the "foremost merchant" of Makó.

In 1853, Fülöp Pulitzer was rich enough to retire and move his family to Budapest, where he had the children were educated by private tutors, and taught French and German. However, in 1858, after Fülöp's death, his business went bankrupt and the family became impoverished. Joseph attempted to enlist in various European armies before he finally emigrated to the United States.[3]

Pulitzer arrived in Boston in 1864, his passage having been paid by Massachusetts military recruiters. Learning that the recruiters were pocketing the lion's share of his enlistment bounty, Pulitzer sneaked away from the Deer Island recruiting station and made his way to New York. He was paid $200 to enroll in the Lincoln Cavalry on September 30; he was 17.[4] He was a part of Sheridan's troopers, in the First New York Lincoln Cavalry in Company L. where he served for eight months. Although he spoke three languages: German, Hungarian, and French, he learned little English until after the war because his regiment was composed mostly of German immigrants.[5]

  After the war

After the war, Pulitzer returned to New York City, where he stayed briefly. He moved to New Bedford for the whaling industry, learned it was moribund, and returned to New York with little money. Flat broke, he slept in wagons on cobble stone side streets. He decided to travel by "side-door Pullman" (a euphemism for a freight boxcar) to St. Louis, Missouri. He sold his one possession, a white handkerchief, for 75 cents.

When he arrived to the city, he recalled, "The lights of St. Louis looked like a promised land to me". In the city, German was as useful as it was in Munich because of the large ethnic German population, due to waves of immigration from the revolutions of 1848 on. In the Westliche Post, he saw an ad for a mule hostler at Benton Barracks. The next day he walked four miles and got the job, but held it for only two days. He quit due to the poor food and the whims of the mules, stating "The man who has not cared for sixteen mules does not know what work and troubles are."[6] Pulitzer had difficulty holding jobs; he was too scrawny for heavy labor and likely too proud and temperamental to take orders.

He worked as a waiter at Tony Faust, a famous restaurant on Fifth Street, which was frequented by members of the St. Louis Philosophical Society, including Thomas Davidson, the German Henry C. Brockmeyer, a nephew of Otto Von Bismarck; and William Torrey Harris. Pulitzer studied Brockmeyer, who was famous for translating Hegel, and he "would hang on Brockmeyer's thunderous words, even as he served them pretzels and beer".[citation needed] He was fired after a tray slipped from his hand and a patron was soaked in beer.

Pulitizer spent his free time at the St. Louis Mercantile Library on the corner of Fifth and Locust, studying English and reading voraciously. Soon after, he and several dozen men each paid a fast-talking promoter five dollars. He promised them good-paying jobs on a Louisiana sugar plantation. They boarded a steamboat, which took them downriver 30 miles south of the city, where the crew forced them off. When the boat churned away, they concluded the trip was a ruse. They walked back to the city, where Pulitzer wrote an account of the fraud and was pleased when it was accepted by the Westliche Post, evidently his first published news story.

In the building where the Westliche Post was co-edited by Dr. Emil Pretorius and Carl Schurz, the attorneys William Patrick and Charles Phillip Johnson and surgeon Joseph Nash McDowell also worked. Patrick and Johnson referred to Pulitzer as "Shakespeare" because of his extraordinary profile. They helped him secure a job with the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad.[7] His work was to record the railroad land deeds in the twelve counties in southwest Missouri where the railroad planned to build a line.[8] When he was done, the lawyers gave him desk space and allowed him to study law in their library to prepare for the bar.

On March 6, 1867, he renounced his allegiance to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and became an American citizen. He still frequented the Mercantile Library, where he befriended the librarian Udo Brachvogel, in a lifetime relationship. He often played in the chess room where Carl Schurz noticed his aggressive style. Schurz was admired by Pulitzer. He was an inspiring emblem of American democracy and of the success attainable by a foreign-born citizen through his own energies and skills. In 1868, Pulitzer was admitted to the bar, but his broken English and odd appearance kept clients away. He struggled with the execution of minor papers and the collecting of debts. That year, when the Westliche Post needed a reporter, he was offered the job.[9]

  Newspaper career

  A chromolithograph of Pulitzer superimposed on a composite of his newspapers.

Pulitzer displayed a flair for reporting. He would work 16 hours a day—from 10 AM to 2 AM. He was nicknamed "Joey the German" or "Joey the Jew". He joined the Philosophical Society and frequented a German bookstore where many intellectuals hung out. Among his new repertoire of friends were Joseph Keppler and Thomas Davidson.[10]

He joined the Republican Party. On December 14, 1869, Pulitzer attended the Republican meeting at the St. Louis Turnhalle on Tenth Street, where party leaders needed a candidate to fill a vacancy in the state legislature. They settled on Pulitzer, nominating him unanimously, forgetting he was only 22, three years under the required age. However, his chief Democratic opponent was possibly ineligible because he had served in the Confederate army. Pulitzer had energy. He organized street meetings, called personally on the voters, and exhibited such sincerity along with his oddities that he had pumped a half-amused excitement into a campaign that was normally lethargic. He won 209-147.

His age was not made an issue and he was seated as a state representative in Jefferson City at the session beginning January 5, 1870. He had lived there for only two years, an example of quick accomplishment of political power. He also moved him up one notch in the administration at the Westliche Post. He eventually became its managing editor, and obtained a proprietary interest.[11]

In 1872, he was a delegate to the Cincinnati convention of the Liberal Republican Party which nominated Horace Greeley for the presidency. However, the attempt at electing Greeley as president failed, the party collapsed, and Pulitzer, disillusioned with the corruption in the Republican Party, switched to the Democratic Party. In 1880, he was a delegate to the Democratic national convention and a member of its platform committee from Missouri.[11]

  St. Louis Post-Dispatch

In 1872, Pulitzer purchased a share in the Westliche Post for $3,000, and then sold his stake in the paper for a profit the following year. In 1879, he bought both the St. Louis Dispatch, and the St. Louis Post, merging the two papers as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It continues as St. Louis' daily newspaper. With his own paper, Pulitzer developed his role as a champion of the common man, featuring exposés and a hard-hitting populist approach.[11]

  Marriage and family

In 1878 at the age of 31, Pulitzer married Kate Davis, an intelligent, compassionate woman of high social standing from a wealthy Mississippi planter family. She was five years older than he.

They had several children. In 1898, their older daughter, Lucille Pulitzer, died at the age of 17 from typhoid fever.

  New York World

In 1883, Pulitzer, by then a wealthy man, purchased the New York World from Jay Gould for $346,000. The newspaper had been losing $40,000 a year. To raise circulation, Pulitzer emphasized human-interest stories, scandal, and sensationalism.

In 1884, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York, and served from March 4, 1885, until April 10, 1886. He resigned due to the pressure of journalistic duties.

In 1887, he recruited the famous investigative journalist Nellie Bly. In 1895 the World introduced the immensely popular The Yellow Kid comic by Richard F. Outcault, the first newspaper comic printed in color. Under Pulitzer's leadership, circulation grew from 15,000 to 600,000, making it the largest newspaper in the country.[12]

Charles A. Dana, the editor of the rival New York Sun attacked Pulitzer in print, often using anti-Semitic terms like "Judas Pulitzer".[13] In 1895, William Randolph Hearst purchased the rival New York Journal from Pulitzer's brother, Albert. The two embarked on a circulation war. This competition with Hearst, particularly the coverage before and during the Spanish-American War, linked Pulitzer's name with yellow journalism.[14]

Pulitzer had an uncanny knack for appealing to the common man. His World featured illustrations, advertising, and a culture of consumption for working men who, Pulitzer believed, saved money to enjoy life with their families when they could, at Coney Island for example.[15] Crusades for reform and news of entertainment were the two main staples for the 'World.' Before the demise of the paper in 1931, many of the best reporters in America worked for it.

After the World exposed an illegal payment of $40,000 000 by the United States to the French Panama Canal Company in 1909, Pulitzer was indicted for libeling Theodore Roosevelt and J. P. Morgan. The courts dismissed the indictments.


Pulitzer's health problems (blindness, depression, and acute noise sensitivity)[16] caused a rapid deterioration and he had to withdraw from the daily management of the newspaper. But, he continued to manage the paper from his New York mansion and his vacation retreat in Bar Harbor, Maine.

After he hired Frank I. Cobb (1869–1923) as the editor of the New York World, the younger man resisted Pulitzer's attempts to "run the office" from his home. Time after time, they battled each other, often with heated language.

When Pulitzer's son took over administrative responsibility in 1907, Pulitzer wrote a carefully worded resignation. It was printed in every New York paper except the World. Pulitzer was insulted, but slowly began to respect Cobb's editorials and independent spirit. Their exchanges, commentaries, and messages increased. The good rapport between the two was based largely on Cobb's flexibility. In May 1908, Cobb and Pulitzer met to outline plans for a consistent editorial policy but it wavered on occasion.

Pulitzer's demands for editorials on contemporary breaking news led to overwork by Cobb. Pulitzer sent him on a six-week tour of Europe to restore his spirit. When Pulitzer died shortly after Cobb's return; Cobb published Pulitzer's 1907 resignation. Cobb continued the editorial policies he had shared with Pulitzer until he died of cancer in 1923.[17]

In a company meeting, Professor Thomas Davidson had said, "I cannot understand why it is, Mr. Pulitzer, that you always speak so kindly of reporters and so severely of all editors." "Well", Pulitzer replied, "I suppose it is because every reporter is a hope, and every editor is a disappointment." This phrase became a famous epigram of journalism.[18]


For a period of six months during 1907, the South African writer, poet and medical doctor C. Louis Leipoldt was Pulitzer's personal physician aboard his yacht, the Liberty. As he was traveling to his winter home on Jekyll Island, Georgia in 1911, Pulitzer had the yacht stop in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. On October 29, 1911, Pulitzer said his last words while his German secretary read to him about King Louis XI of France. As the secretary neared the end, Pulitzer said in German: "Leise, ganz leise." (English: "Softly, quite softly").[19] He is interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.


  Journalism schools

  The grave of Joseph Pulitzer in Woodlawn Cemetery

In 1892, Pulitzer offered Columbia University's president, Seth Low, money to set up the world's first school of journalism. The university initially turned down the money. In 1902, Columbia's new president Nicholas Murray Butler was more receptive to the plan for a school and journalism prizes, but it would not be until after Pulitzer's death that this dream would be fulfilled.

Pulitzer left the university $2,000,000 in his will. In 1912 the school founded the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. This followed the Missouri School of Journalism, founded at the University of Missouri with Pulitzer's urging. Both schools remain among the most prestigious in the world.

  Pulitzer Prize

In 1917, Columbia organized the awards of the first Pulitzer Prizes in journalism. The awards have been expanded to recognize achievements in literature, poetry, history, music and drama.

  Legacy and honors

  • A public school in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York is named for him.
  • The Pulitzer Museum of Art in Saint Louis was founded by his family's philanthropy and is named in their honor.
  • In 1989 Joseph Pulitzer was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

  See also


  1. ^ Gunther, Michael (1996), The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates—A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present, Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group, p. xiii, ISBN 978-0-8065-1800-8, OCLC 33818143 
  2. ^ "The Pulitzer prizes – Answers to frequently asked questions". Pulitzer.org. http://www.pulitzer.org/faq#q25. Retrieved 2009-08-10. . The more anglicized pronunciation /ˈpjuːlɪtsər/ PEW-lit-sər is common but widely considered incorrect.
  3. ^ András Csillag, "Joseph Pulitzer's Roots in Europe: A Genealogical History," American Jewish Archives, Jan 1987, Vol. 39 Issue 1, pp 49–68
  4. ^ Morris, "Pulitzer," pp, 18-21
  5. ^ Swanberg, Pulitzer, pp. 3–4
  6. ^ Swanberg, Pulitzer, pp. 4–5
  7. ^ Swanberg, Pulitzer, p. 7
  8. ^ Morris, "Pulitzer", p. 35
  9. ^ Swanberg, Pulitzer, pp. 7–8
  10. ^ Swanberg, Pulitzer, p. 10
  11. ^ a b c Brian (2001)
  12. ^ Brian, Pulitzer (2001)
  13. ^ Brian (2001), p. 129
  14. ^ Buescher, John. "Breaking the News in 1900", accessed 2 September 2011
  15. ^ J.E. Steele, "The 19th Century World Versus the Sun: Promoting Consumption (Rather than the Working Man)," Journalism Quarterly, Autumn 1990, Vol. 67 Issue 3, pp 592–600
  16. ^ topping, seymour. "Pulitzer Biography". The Pulitzer Prizes. http://www.pulitzer.org/biography. Retrieved 5 March 2012. 
  17. ^ Louis M. Starr, "Joseph Pulitzer and his most 'indegoddampendent' editor," American Heritage, June 1968, Vol. 19 Issue 4, pp 18–85
  18. ^ Popik, Barry. "Every reporter is a hope; every editor is a disappointment."
  19. ^ "Joseph Pulitzer Dies Here," Charleston (S.C.) News & Courier, Oct. 30, 1911, p.1.
  20. ^ "I.S. 145 Joseph Pulitzer - Jackson Heights, New York/NY". Public School Review. http://www.publicschoolreview.com/school_ov/school_id/56785. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 
  21. ^ "I.S. 145 Joseph Pulitzer". insideschools.org. http://insideschools.org/index.php?fs=1247. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 
  22. ^ "I.S. 145 Joseph Pulitzer - Jackson Heights, New York - NY - School overview". Greatschools.org. 2010-09-07. http://www.greatschools.org/new-york/jackson-heights/2485-I.S.-145-Joseph-Pulitzer/. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 
  23. ^ "Intermediate School-I.s. 145 Joseph Pulitzer in Jackson Heights, NY 11372". Localschooldirectory.com. http://www.localschooldirectory.com/public-school/3002443/NY. Retrieved 2012-03-06. 

  Further reading

  • Brian, Denis. Pulitzer: A Life (2001) online edition
  • Morris, James M. Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print and Power (2010), a scholarly biography
  • Morris, James McGrath. "The Political Education of Joseph Pulitzer," Missouri Historical Review, Jan 2010, Vol. 104 Issue 2, pp 78–94
  • Joseph Pulitzer at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2008-11-06
  • Pfaff, Daniel W. Joseph Pulitzer II and the Post-Dispatch (1991)
  • Rammelkamp, Julian S. Pulitzer's Post-Dispatch 1878–1883 (1967)
  • W.A. Swanberg. Pulitzer (1967) [1], popular

  External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Hardy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 9th congressional district

March 4, 1885 – April 10, 1886
Succeeded by
Samuel S. Cox


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