Front-Page Pittsburgh: Two Hundred Years of the Post-Gazette

By Risley, Ford | Journalism History, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Front-Page Pittsburgh: Two Hundred Years of the Post-Gazette


Risley, Ford, Journalism History


Thomas, Clarke M. Front-Page Pittsburgh: Two Hundred Years of the Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005. 332 pp. $34.95.

The Pittsburgh Gazette is known to journalism historians as the first newspaper published west of the Allegheny Mountains. Nearly 220 years later, it is still publishing as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, one of the largest family-owned papers in the United States. The story of the newspaper's survival despite various owners, name changes, numerous mergers, and a crippling strike is the subject of Clarke M. Thomas' book, FrontPage Pittsburgh: Two Hundred Years of the PostGazette.

The Pittsburgh Gazette was founded in the frontier community around Fort Pitt in 1786. Federalist John Scull edited the paper for thirty years, covering events in the growing town, most notably the famous Whiskey Rebellion. During the party press era, new papers appeared, but the conservative Gazette survived, and in 1833 it became a daily. In 1842, two of the competitors merged and started a new paper, the Daily Morning Post. The Democratic views of the Post proved to be a worthy rival to the Gazette's Whiggish, and later, Republican policies. The two papers battled one another in the debate over slavery and the growing number of labor disputes that arose as Pittsburgh became increasingly industrialized.

After the Civil War, the Post and Gazette covered such major events as the Johnstown Flood and the Homestead Riot, and they were joined by another competitor, the Pittsburgh Press, in 1884. The evening Press introduced many innovations, including a Sunday edition, and within twenty years had a circulation of more than 100,000. Pittsburgh's growing number of newspapers mirrored other trends in American journalism. Before the end of the century, the Ga%ette purchased an evening paper, and the Post followed suit by starting its own. Chain ownership came to the city in 1923 when Scripps Howard purchased the Press. Four years later, the friendship of William Randolph Hcarst and Paul Block Sr. had an even greater impact on Pittsburgh journalism. In a complicated deal, Block purchased two of the city's papers, and Hearst purchased two others. The two men then turned around and traded one of the papers each had just bought and merged it with their other. The result was that Block owned the newly merged Post-Gazette, while Hearst owned the newly merged Sun-Telegraph.

For the next four decades, the city's three newspapers slugged it out for circulation while reporting important issues: local government, labor disputes, treatment of African Americans, and the smoke pollution for which Pittsburgh had become known. …

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