‘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.

‘He studied nothing, but knew something about everything.’

In January 1903, Rep. John T. Crisp of Independence proposed a “Jim Crow” law for Missouri, requiring Black and white passengers to ride in separate railway coaches. “Col. Crisp’s bill is taken seriously by his fellow members at Jefferson City. It is necessary to say this for the reason that Col. Crisp’s colleagues do not always take him seriously,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported

The “portly orator” did, in fact, introduce such a bill, but he was beat to the punch by Rep. Lon B. Williams of Scott County, a fellow Democrat who hoped to ride Jim Crow racism straight to the lieutenant governor’s seat. The two bills were combined into one, but after considerable debate and lobbying, the legislation was soundly defeated, 55-70, with all of the House Republicans and a few Democratic leaders opposing the measure.

Vocal opposition from Black Missourians was key — they held meetings and rallies, and showed up in force in the Capitol to lobby lawmakers. (In the House gallery, Blacks and whites were required to sit in separate sections.) Another reason for the legislation’s defeat: the world’s fair planned for St. Louis in 1904. One Republican opponent pointed out that if the bill passed, fair visitors, including foreign dignitaries, would have to switch to segregated coaches when they crossed into Missouri. Black leaders also vowed to call on President Theodore Roosevelt and Congress to withdraw the federal appropriation to the fair if the Jim Crow bill passed.

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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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White riot, 1920

08-17-1920 negro's home burned small
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 17, 1920

The East St. Louis Massacre of 1917, a series of riots triggered by white labor’s reaction to the employment of Black workers as strikebreakers, left dozens, if not hundreds, of Black residents dead and thousands homeless. But workplace-related racist violence continued in the region for years, albeit on a smaller scale.

On Friday, Aug. 13, 1920, the owners of a coal mine in Coulterville, Illinois, faced with a shortage of white workers, decided to make a Black worker, William Morrison, work in a pit hitherto reserved largely for whites. But the white miners refused to work with Morrison. And they again refused  on Saturday, Aug. 14.

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‘No longer will policemen beat the heads off malefactors’

marshall

In April 1911, voters in Granite City — a company town founded by steelmakers near St. Louis — elected Marshall E. Kirkpatrick, a 28-year-old shearer at the Niedringhaus mills, as mayor. Kirkpatrick, a Socialist, would prove to be a capable administrator, serving nearly two decades in that office, until his death in 1942.

In an introduction to the new mayor — he enjoyed dancing and “ball playing” — the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Kirkpatrick wanted a municipal-owned coal yard and ice house, which would sell fuel and ice to residents at cost. He also promised a new approach to law enforcement under Police Chief Adolph White, also a Socialist.

The Post-Dispatch reported, “No longer will policemen beat the heads off malefactors, and it is going to be bad form for a Granite City policeman to kick a prisoner in the ribs.

“’Prisoners will not be beaten up by policemen while I am Mayor,’ said Mayor Kirkpatrick, telling what it is going to be like in the only city that has a Socialist Chief of Police and two or three Socialist policemen, as well as a Socialist Mayor. ‘And all prisoners will be treated alike. A poor man will have just as much consideration as a rich man.’”

Kirkpatrick promised a “clean administration.” No more slot machines and gamblers. Saloons would have to close at midnight. And government appointments would be based on qualifications. “We Socialists believe in the merit system,” he said.

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100 years of disappointment

04-13-1920 a1 editedThe 1920 Census bumped St. Louis out of fourth place, launching a century-long quest to undo the Great Divorce of 1876. And though its population would climb for a few decades – peaking at 856,796 in 1950 – St. Louis kept sliding in the rankings and dropped out of the top 10 in 1970.  (Most recent estimates indicate the population is hovering just above 300,000 – below the 1870 count.)

Reaction to the preliminary census results, published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 13, 1920, was predictable:

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‘No feeling of jubilation manifested’

the lynching of c.j. millerA black man was arrested in Sikeston, Missouri, taken across the Mississippi River to Bardwell, Kentucky, and lynched, burned and mutilated by a mob looking to avenge the murder of two white girls.

C.J. Millers story, retold by journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, was published on July 29, 1894 — 125 years ago — by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

From her account: “They told him they would not burn him if he would confess. His reply was that to kill him he would burn on earth only an hour, but if he told a lie he would burn forever.”

The lynching, which took place on July 7, 1893, was covered when it happened, including by the St. Louis papers. The Globe-Democrat’s account on July 8, for example, included graphic details and noted that the father of the murdered girls believed Miller was probably innocent.   Read more of this post

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.

A ‘network of surveillance’

G Herbert Walker smallThe goal was to counter German spies and saboteurs during the Great War, but the American Protective League appeared to be more successful at helping criminalize speech and neutralize dissidents, including leftists and labor activists.

The league functioned as a “voluntary auxiliary” under the U.S. Department of Justice, a network of amateur secret agents of 200,000 or more “loyal” Americans. Its work in St. Louis was highlighted in a lengthy feature, “Fighting German Spies in St. Louis,” published in the Post-Dispatch on Aug. 18, 1918.

Among the revelations in the report: the chief of the St. Louis division, which was said to number some 3,000 agents, was none other than George Herbert Walker, described as “a wealthy broker.”

Walker was a power in the local Democratic Party who became an influential investment banker with W. Averill Harriman’s New York firm after the war. Today, he’s best known as the maternal grandfather and great-grandfather of former presidents Read more of this post

‘The house where Eugene Field was not born’

eugene-field_edited-1A plaque on the Eugene Field House says “the children’s poet” — famous for “Little Boy Blue,” “Wynken, Blynken and Nod,” and other works — was born there. The Field House Museum, on its website, says “Eugene Field was born in St. Louis at 634 South Broadway, on September 2, 1850.” And some contemporary news stories also say Field was born there.

But he wasn’t.

A former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter named Robertus Love took the blame for the confusion — a century ago. In letter to the newspaper, published on Feb. 12, 1917, Love wrote: “About 15 years ago I suggested a story on Eugene Field.… My suggestion was approved and I was assigned to get the story. I interviewed several persons who had known Field more or less intimately when he lived here as a young newspaper man. Also I interviewed his guardian, an elderly gentleman now dead…. In reply to a specific query as to where Eugene Field was born, his guardian told me it was the house on South Broadway.” Read more of this post