‘Three papers united in one’

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was created in December 1878 when Joseph Pulitzer combined the Dispatch and the Evening Post. Most contemporary histories of the paper, however, omit Pulitzer’s acquisition of the recently launched Evening Star in May 1879 for a paltry $790.

From 1880 business check

“Three papers united in one” is how the Post-Dispatch described itself after it bought the Evening Star. The paper even adopted a new logo on its checks and other correspondence, featuring the slogan, a telegraph pole and a six-pointed star.

And a “prospectus” published repeatedly that year included language similar to Pulitzer’s famous platform, penned in 1907, and still repeated each day on the newspaper’s editorial page.

This wasn’t the only time Pulitzer bought a newspaper to put it out of business. It did the same in 1951, when it acquired and closed the Star-Times. And in 1983, the owner of the morning Globe-Democrat, which was part of a JOA with the Post-Dispatch, announced plans to close that newspaper, and continue splitting profits with Pulitzer. The Reagan administration’s Justice Department intervened, and forced the sale of the Globe-Democrat, which struggled for several years under a succession of new owners before dying.

Watermelons and Prophets

Illustration of one of the floats in the 1890 Veiled Prophet procession (St. Louis Globe-Democrat, Oct. 5, 1890)

Organizers of the Order of the Veiled Prophet in 1878, led by Confederate veterans Charles and Alonzo Slayback, sought to lift the city’s profile as a growing, affluent commercial hub. But, early on, the all-white, all-male Veiled Prophet promoted racist tropes, which were unapologetically echoed by all the leading newspapers of St. Louis.

One theme, which appeared several times in the organization’s first four decades, depicted “carefree” African Americans, gorging on watermelons. “One of the best comic floats in the procession,” the Globe-Democrat said of the 1890 display.

In The Atlantic in 2014, historian William R. Black explained how watermelons emerged as a politically potent symbol used by whites — and it’s worth revisiting to better understand the racist underpinnings of the Veiled Prophet organization.

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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 Charles H. Jones was given full editorial and managerial control of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1895 under a five-year contract signed by founder Joseph Pulitzer. But his relationship with Pulitzer, who was still majority owner, soon soured because Jones was, among other things, an advocate of free silver, while Pulitzer was pro-gold. Pulitzer tried to oust him, but Jones prevailed in the courts.

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Another moving day

post-dispatch building 1950sThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as of 2019, has had eight locations*  since the paper was founded by Joseph Pulitzer in 1878. But the only office built by the newspaper’s owners was at the northeast corner of 12th and Olive, now 300 North Tucker Boulevard. The newspaper was based there from 1917 until 1959.

star-times building 1940sIn 1951, Pulitzer bought and closed its afternoon rival, the money-losing St. Louis Star-Times. The Star-Times was located at 12th and Delmar (now 800 North Tucker). The building is now the home of St. Patrick Center.

In 1959, after negotiating a joint operating agreement with S.I. Newhouse, the new owner of the morning St. Louis Globe-Democrat, the Post-Dispatch acquired the Globe’s 28-year-old building at 12th and Franklin, now 900 North Tucker. globe-democrat building 1930sThe Globe then moved to leased space in what’s now 710 North Tucker, just south of the old Star-Times building. The Globe died a slow, painful death in the ’80s.

The announcement on Jan. 7, 2019 that the Post-Dispatch is moving to leased space on 10th Street, near America’s Center, means there won’t be a daily newspaper based on Tucker (the old 12th Street) for the first time in more than a century.

* The Post-Dispatch started at 321 Pine, then moved to 111 N. Broadway, 513-515 Market, 513 Olive, 210-212 N. Broadway, 1139 Olive (now 300 N. Tucker), 900 N. Tucker and now 901 N. 10th.