Colonel Jones

A Globe-Democrat cartoon published the day after Jones was ousted as editor of the St. Louis Republic.

“Journalists who take themselves seriously, who regard the work of moulding public opinion as a high vocation, who believe in duty and are willing to accept responsibility, who would rather champion the rights of the many than defend the privileges of the few, are finding it more and more difficult either to enter or to remain in the newspaper field, whether as employees or proprietors.” – Col. Charles Henry Jones, Feb. 23, 1899 [From “Charles H. Jones 1848-1913: Editor and Progressive Democrat” (1974)]

Veteran newspaperman and Confederate veteran Charles H. Jones, whose accomplishments included reviving the fortunes of the St. Louis Republic, was hired in 1893 to edit Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. But Jones’ populist leanings quickly proved irksome to the publisher and other World editors. Not only was Jones, among other things, an advocate of free silver, he wrote a celebrated editorial siding with Eugene Debs and the American Railway Union in the famous 1894 Pullman strike.

To solve two problems, Pulitzer offered Jones an opportunity: Take charge of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The deal, if accepted, would get Jones out of the World newsroom while placing a manager in St. Louis who could address some of the challenges posed by new competition. Jones declined the offer, until Pulitzer acceded in early 1895 to Jones’ demand for full editorial and managerial control. Under the terms of the five-year contract, Jones also acquired one-sixth ownership for $80,000, plus Pulitzer’s agreement to let him eventually acquire majority control.  

Pulitzer soon regretted his decision, and sought unsuccessfully to amend the contract. But the colonel prevailed in the Missouri courts.

Ultimately, health concerns — his and his wife’s — caused Jones in 1897 to sell his one-sixth stake back to Pulitzer at a considerable profit. (The Post-Dispatch announced Jones’ resignation on June 27, 1897; The Post-Dispatch was again “an organ of gold-buggery,” The Herald of Jasper, Indiana, snarked soon after.)

Jones’ short tenure was the only time until the sale in 2005 to Lee Enterprises that Pulitzer or his heirs surrendered editorial control of the Post-Dispatch. (Originally published on Dec. 20, 2020; revised on April 10, 2022)

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