Modern Is Founded Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

From its humble beginnings The New York Times quickly became a major daily newspaper that rejected human-interest stories and reported news to a conservative public. After its near demise and a major setback, the paper would emerge with a straight news principle and become one of the world’s most widely read newspapers.

Summary of Event

The penny press appeared in the United States in the 1830’s after advances were made in printing and papermaking technology. The penny press’s low cost and its emphasis on human-interest news attracted a broad reading public. Although greater circulation increased profits, the penny press still depended on advertising for its financial success. The Tribune, the Herald, and the Sun were the most successful dailies in New York City and also the representatives of the penny press trend. New York Times;founding of New York City;newspapers Raymond, Henry Jarvis Journalism;New York Times Ochs, Adolph Simon [kw]Modern New York Times Is Founded (Sept. 18, 1851) [kw]New York Times Is Founded, Modern (Sept. 18, 1851) [kw]Times Is Founded, Modern New York (Sept. 18, 1851) [kw]Founded, Modern New York Times Is (Sept. 18, 1851) New York Times;founding of New York City;newspapers Raymond, Henry Jarvis Journalism;New York Times Ochs, Adolph Simon [g]United States;Sept. 18, 1851: Modern New York Times Is Founded[2850] [c]Communications;Sept. 18, 1851: Modern New York Times Is Founded[2850] [c]Business and labor;Sept. 18, 1851: Modern New York Times Is Founded[2850] Jones, George

As early as 1850, Henry Jarvis Raymond, a Whig assemblyman who had worked for the Tribune and the Courier and Enquirer, had some ideas about what a daily should be. He wanted to publish a newspaper that was the least expensive but the best in the United States. George Jones Jones, George , a former banker, was interested in Raymond’s idea and helped raise the capital for the New-York Daily Times, which gradually came to be known as The New York Times.

The New-York Daily Times (with the hyphen) was first published by Raymond in New York City on September 18, 1851. Before that time, the city had seen seven dailies named The New York Times, and all had died quickly. The Daily Times, like other major dailies, had both morning and evening editions with similar kinds of news. A special edition was published for California, Oregon, and the Sandwich Islands Hawaii (Hawaii). The West Coast edition (the Times of California, which started in 1852) was issued when mail boats could make the journey around Cape Horn. Like other dailies, the Daily Times got its news from other journals across the country and also from European newspapers. Brought in by stagecoaches, railroads, ships, and pony riders, the “news” was often days and weeks behind. The Daily Times was not financially able to hire, as was the wealthy Herald, for example, railroads and private pony express or use the expensive telegraph.

Six competitive New York dailies had founded an agency called the New York State Associated Press (the forerunner of the Associated Press, or AP) in 1848 to collect news from Europe. An AP bureau, which opened in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the following year, received European news from ships before they would dock in New York City. The news was then rushed to a telegraph terminus in Boston and sent to New York City. The AP members got European news faster than other dailies because AP had priority for the transmission of the news to New York City.

Despite its humble beginning, the Daily Times had more than ten thousand subscribers just some days after the first edition and more than twenty-four thousand one year later. It doubled its pages and charged two cents, as did the major dailies. What made the Daily Times different from other newspapers was its conservative position. Avoiding both sensational news coverage and radical leanings, Raymond declared that his daily was based on Christianity and Republicanism for reform. Also, Raymond tried to excel in reporting European news. The Daily Times issued a European edition in 1856. Sold in London, the edition unfortunately folded a year later.

In 1857, the paper changed its name to The New-York Times. Like other major dailies, it added a Sunday edition in 1861 to satisfy readers’ interest in Civil War news. After Raymond became AP director, the agency officially received all war news from the government, ending the government’s practice of dispensing news to a few favorite organs. The New-York Times became well known as a straight news purveyor through its Civil War coverage.

By the time Raymond died in 1869, the paper’s stocks had gone from $1,000 per share up to $11,000. Million-dollar offers were made for the paper but Jones Jones, George , who became editor, turned them down. The Times printed news supplements in German in 1870-1871 to reach out to German residents, who were one-fourth of the New York City population. Starting with editorials in 1870, the paper fought against William Marcy Tweed, brought down his corrupt ring, and ended its rule of city hall. While most of the city papers had accepted ring-distributed advertising as the price of silence, The Times rejected it and kept fighting, for fourteen months. Jones also rejected $5 million that Tweed offered to stop The Times’s investigation.

Thomas Nast cartoon in a mid-1876 issue Harper’s Weekly that depicts New York’s Boss Tweed wearing both a prison uniform and the badge of the “Tammany Police.” The caption reads, “If all the people want is to have somebody arrested, I’ll have you plunderers convicted. You will be allowed to escape; nobody will be hurt; and then [Samuel] Tilden will go to the White House, and I to Albany as Governor.”

(Library of Congress)

Ironically, reaction against corruption about twelve years later nearly caused The Times’s demise. In 1884 the paper decided that the Republican Party had become corrupt and declared its support for the Democratic Party. Republicans stopped reading the paper and advertising went down. The paper’s profits fell from $88,000 to $15,000 in 1890, and it was sold to a group of Times-affiliated individuals after Jones Jones, George died in 1891.

The paper found it difficult to compete with the major dailies, which concentrated on yellow journalism Yellow journalism —human-interest stories, scandal, and sensational material. By 1896, though daily printing was more than 21,000, the actual paid circulation was only about 9,000. (In contrast, the Evening World, at 400,000, had the highest circulation during that time.) The Times, which lost $1,000 per week, was more than $300,000 in debt.

On August 14, 1896, Adolph Simon Ochs, the publisher of The Chattanooga Times, became owner and publisher of The New-York Times after buying it with $75,000 in borrowed funds. His first task was cutting weekly expenses and making staff cuts. Then he added an illustrated half-tone Sunday supplement with features in current news events and a Saturday book-and-art review section. The artistic printing and the timeliness of the topics led to a quick surge in Sunday circulation, and The Times sold out early every day. With the hyphen removed from its name, the newspaper under Ochs’s direction became The New York Times on December 1, 1896.

Although still recovering from financial difficulties, Ochs courageously turned down his share in city advertising in 1897. The city’s board of aldermen had decided to spend$200,000 for having six New York dailies print a complete canvass of the New York vote. Considering the expenditure a waste of public funds, The Times turned down its share of $33,600.

Ochs had a specific news-reporting agenda that included delivering the news in a concise and attractive form, in a conservative and impartial language, and in a speedy manner. The Times’s slogan—All the News That’s Fit to Print—affirmed Ochs’s straight-news policy. The slogan was moved from the editorial page to the front page on February 10, 1897, and it remains there into the twenty-first century.

Another tactic employed by Ochs was dropping the evening edition to keep his paper from being tainted by the sensationalism of the evening editions of the major dailies. Also, he made the morning edition different from others by emphasizing news over politics. Furthermore, coverage of business and financial matters was an innovation that made The Times unique among the dailies. The coverage was so thorough that businesspeople called The Times a business bible.

The Times suffered a setback in 1898 with the beginning of the Spanish-American War Spanish-American War (1898)[Spanish American War (1898)];and newspapers[Newspapers] . Because of a lack of resources, the paper failed to provide the public with the same sensational war features printed by the wealthier dailies. As a result, the Times’s circulation and advertising started to drop. To save his paper, Ochs lowered its daily price from three cents to one cent; other papers remained at two cents. The tactic worked: Within one year, circulation and advertising again went up. From the time Ochs took over the paper in 1851, until 1899, circulation jumped from nine thousand to more than seventy-six thousand.


Under the leadership of Henry Jarvis Raymond and Adolph Simon Ochs, The New York Times responded to the need for a daily paper that reported hard news and not simply sensationalism, or yellow journalism. Yellow journalism Raymond helped develop the idea of decency in reporting news to the public, and Ochs upheld the principle that because news was a salable commodity, reporting had to be reliable and free from personal bias (that is, objective). Without these principles in force, the paper would lose the public’s trust and would fold. In the realm of conservative, or straight, news, The New York Times had become probably the greatest news purveyor in the United States by the beginning of the twentieth century.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Emery, Michael, and Edwin Emery. The Press and America: An Interpretative History of the Mass Media. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1996. Examines the correlation between journalism and political, social, economic, and cultural trends. Chapters 4 through 9 examine nineteenth century journalism.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Knudson, Jerry W. In the News: American Journalists View Their Craft. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 2000. Provides a lively and informative look at the history of news reporting in America. Offers insight for courses in the history of journalism and mass media.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Smythe, Ted Curtis. The Gilded Age Press, 1850-1900. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003. Examines the relationship between journalism and society, and explores the transformation of the press into a mainly commercial medium.

Birth of the Penny Press

Rise of Yellow Journalism

Hearst-Pulitzer Circulation War

Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Nineteenth Century, 1801-1900</i>

James Gordon Bennett; Horace Greeley; Thomas Nast; Joseph Pulitzer; William Marcy Tweed. New York Times;founding of New York City;newspapers Raymond, Henry Jarvis Journalism;New York Times Ochs, Adolph Simon

Categories: History