Horace Greeley founded the New York Tribune as a Whig party, penny paper on April 10, 1841, and would continue as its editor for the next thirty years. During Greeley’s tenure the Tribune became one of the more significant newspapers in the United States, and Greeley was known as the outstanding newspaper editor of his time. In 1924 the Tribune merged with the New York Herald to form the New York Herald Tribune, a publication which would remain a major United States daily until its demise.
Distinguishing features of the early penny press were their inexpensiveness, their appeal to the average reader, their coverage of more and different types of news, and, in some instances, a marked political independence. Penny papers such as the New York Sun and the New York Herald were known for their emphasis on lurid crime reporting and humorous, human interest stories from the police court. The Tribune offered a strong moralistic flavor, however, playing down crime reports and scandals, providing political news, special articles, lectures, book reviews, book excerpts and poetry. As with other penny papers, the Tribune was not averse to building circulation by carrying accounts involving sex and crime, but it was careful to present this material under the guise of cautionary tales.
Greeley gathered an impressive array of editors and feature writers, among them Henry J. Raymond, Charles A. Dana, Bayard Taylor, George Ripley, Margaret Fuller, and, for a while, Karl Marx served as his London correspondent. Reflecting his puritanical upbringing, Greeley opposed liquor, tobacco, gambling, prostitution, and capital punishment, while actively promoting the anti-slavery cause. His editorial columns urged a variety of educational reforms and favored producer’s cooperatives, but opposed women’s suffrage. He popularized the phrase “Go west, young man; go west!” The Tribune supported Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, but opposed his renomination in 1864.
While the Tribune’s circulation always trailed its rivals the Sun and the Herald, neither could match the immense success of its weekly edition. First published on September 2, 1841, the Tribune weekly enjoyed a wide popularity in small cities and towns, and by 1860 had registered a record-breaking circulation of 200,000.
Greeley died in 1872. Under Whitelaw Reid’s control (1873-1912), the Tribune became one of the nation’s leading Republican dailies. Reid’s son, Ogden, succeeded him and purchased the New York Herald in 1924, merging the two newspapers to form the New York Herald Tribune. Noted for its typographical excellence, the high quality of its writing, its Washington and foreign reporting, and its political columnists, the Herald Tribune would reign as the voice of moderate Republicanism and competent journalism for the next four decades. It featured some of the best reporters in the business-Joseph Barnes, Homer Bigart, Russell Hill, Joseph Driscoll, Joseph Mitchell, Tom Wolfe-and top drawer political columnists such as Walter Lippman, David Lawrence, Joseph Alsop, and Roscoe Drummond. Following Ogden Reid’s death in 1947, the paper began a steady decline, undergoing numerous financial setbacks. In 1961 media entrepreneur John Hay (“Jock”) Whitney became majority shareholder, publisher and editor-in-chief, investing $40 million in a vain attempt to save the paper. The newspaper’s last issue as the Herald Tribune was published April 24, 1966. It merged with two other struggling New York papers, the Journal American and the World Telegram and the Sun to form the World Journal Tribune, which began publishing September 12, 1966 after a lengthy strike. It ceased publication May 5, 1967.
See also: New York Tribune, April 10, 1841-April 12, 1842; New York Daily Tribune, April 22, 1842-May 1, 1850 and May 13, 1850-April 9 1866; New York Tribune, April 10, 1866-March 18, 1924; New York Herald, New York Tribune, March 19, 1924-May 30, 1926; New York Herald Tribune, May 31, 1926-April 24, 1966.