Early History (1877-1933)   |   Eugene Meyer (1933-1946)   |   Philip Graham (1946-1963)
Katharine Graham (1963-1981)   |   Don Graham (1979 to the Present)

Early History (1877-1933)

Founded by independent-minded Democrat Stilson Hutchins, The Washington Post began publishing on Thursday, December 6.  It was printed at 914 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., and had a circulation of 10,000.  The newspaper contained four pages and cost three cents a copy.

The Post published its first Sunday edition.  Joseph Pulitzer wrote for The Post when he was temporarily in Washington, and the then relatively unknown Theodore Roosevelt contributed a series of western stories to The Post which appeared without his byline.

Hutchins purchased the Daily Republican, at that time The Post's sole morning competition, and launched The Evening Post in the only attempt ever made by The Post to publish an afternoon edition.

Hutchins sold The Post to Frank Hatton, a Republican cabinet member, and Beriah Wilkins, a former Democratic congressman.  On June 15, at an essay awards ceremony on the mall, United States Marine Band leader John Philip Sousa introduced "The Washington Post March" which he wrote especially for the newspaper.  It became an immediate popular hit and is still a marching band favorite today.

Hatton and Wilkins moved The Post to a new building at 1335 E Street, N.W., next to the National Theatre.

John R.  McLean, owner of the Cincinnati Enquirer, bought the newspaper.  Under his leadership, The Washington Post increased its circulation and advertising and boosted its profits, but McLean's loyalty to the Democratic party colored his news judgments and caused the paper to lose much of its credibility and influence.

McLean died and his son, Edward, became publisher.  A crony of President Warren G.  Harding, young McLean switched the paper's allegiance to the Republican party.  Circulation dropped, advertising decreased and finally The Post stumbled into receivership.

Eugene Meyer (1933-1946)

On June 1, a public auction was held on the steps of The Post's E Street Building and the newspaper was sold for $825,000 to Eugene Meyer, a California-born financier.  Meyer was not an experienced newspaperman, but he had strong convictions about publishing a newspaper which he expressed in this set of principles:

  • The first mission of a newspaper is to tell the truth as nearly as the truth may be ascertained.
  • The Newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.
  • As a disseminator of the news, the paper shall observe the decencies that are obligatory upon a private gentleman.
  • What it prints shall be fit reading for the young as well as for the old.
  • The newspaper's duty is to its readers and to the public at large, and not to the private interests of its owners.
  • In the pursuit of truth, the newspaper shall be prepared to make sacrifices of its material fortunes, if such course be necessary for the public good.
  • The newspaper shall not be the ally of any special interest, but shall be fair and free and wholesome in its outlook on public affairs and public men.
Eugene Meyer's enlightened editorial policies and his business acumen began to turn The Washington Post around.  In the first ten years after he took over, circulation tripled to 162,000 and advertising soared from 4 million to 12 million lines.

President Harry S.  Truman appointed Eugene Meyer the first president of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.  Meyer was succeeded at The Washington Post by Philip L.  Graham, his son-in-law, who had been assistant publisher.

Philip Graham (1946-1963)

The Washington Post company acquired controlling interest of WTOP radio in Washington, D.C.

To accommodate the growing newspaper, Graham built a new $6 million plant for The Washington Post at 1515 L Street, N.W., installing up-to-date presses and other new equipment.  On June 20, he purchased Washington's CBS television station and changed the call letters to WTOP-TV.

The Washington Post Company purchased television station WMBR in Jacksonville, Florida, and later (1958) changed the call letters to WJXT-TV.

The Washington Post Company purchased its last morning rival in the city, the Washington Times-Herald.  Circulation of The Washington Post and Times-Herald jumped almost overnight to 380,000.

Upon the death of Eugene Meyer, Philip L.  Graham became president and publisher of the newspaper.

Philip Graham purchased Newsweek magazine for The Washington Post Company.

The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service was formed to syndicate columns, articles and features appearing in both newspapers.  Today, with more than 650 domestic and foreign clients, it is one of the largest supplemental news services in the world.

Katharine Graham (1963-1981)

Katharine Graham became president of The Washington Post Company following the death of her husband, Philip Graham.  The Washington Post Company bought 49 percent of the common stock of Bowater Mersey Paper Company in Nova Scotia, Canada.

On September 1, The Washington Post purchased an 85 percent interest in the Robinson Terminal Warehouse in Alexandria, VA.  The warehouse is used as a storage place for newsprint for The Washington Post and other publications in the area.

The Washington Post Company purchased the ABC-affiliated television station in Miami, Florida, and changed the call letters to WPLG-TV in honor of the late Philip L.  Graham.

The Washington Post became one of the first newspapers in the country to appoint an "ombudsman" on its news staff.  In addition to being the readers' advocate, The Post's ombudsman monitors and comments upon the media in general and The Washington Post in particular.  In March, The Post's daily circulation topped half a million for the first time.

On June 15, The Washington Post Company offered the sale of Class B common stock to the general public.  Until then The Post Company had been privately held.  Its stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.  On June 18, The Washington Post began publishing excerpts of the so-called "Pentagon Papers" containing allegedly secret information about the war in Vietnam.  On June 30, the U.S.  Supreme Court upheld the right of The Post and other newspapers to publish the Pentagon Papers.  In ceremonies at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Katharine Graham donated radio station WTOP-FM to the university "to stimulate the intellectual and cultural life of the whole community and to train more people for the communications industry." On December 6, with the new call letters WHUR-FM, the station became the first under black management to broadcast in the Washington metropolitan area.

The Post's news staff began its coverage of the Watergate scandals that eventually contributed to the resignation of Richard M.  Nixon as U.S.  President.  On October 16, an addition to The Washington Post's building was dedicated, doubling the total work area to more than half a million square feet.

Katharine Graham was elected chairman of the board and chief executive officer of The Washington Post Company while continuing as publisher of The Washington Post newspaper.  In September, The Post formed The Washington Post Writers Group to syndicate articles and publish books.  Over 30 nationally recognized columnists and cartoonists, including David Broder, George Will, Jane Bryant Quinn and Ellen Goodman, and the political cartoonist Nick Anderson are now syndicated through The Post Writers Group to 1,000 clients.

On March 8, The Washington Post Company purchased WSFB-TV in Hartford, Connecticut.

The Washington Post launched three new weekly zoned sections, the Maryland, District and Virginia Weeklies.  Each Weekly is distributed only in its designated area as part of the regular Thursday Washington Post.  The Weeklies provide greater coverage of community news, activities and features of special interest to readers living in the regions served.

After working at The Post in various editorial, production and executive capacities, Donald E.  Graham, Katharine Graham's son, was appointed executive vice president and general manager of the newspaper.

The Washington Post celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding.  The newspaper's Sunday supplement, Potomac Magazine, became "The Washington Post Magazine," and a new Friday tabloid section, "Weekend," was begun.  In November, The Washington Post Company announced the sale of its one remaining radio station, WTOP-AM.

The Washington Post Company purchased the Everett (Washington) Herald, a daily newspaper north of Seattle.  Later, The Post company announced an agreement to participate in a limited partnership with Dow Jones & Company and the Bato Company, Inc.  to construct and operate a newsprint mill near Richmond, Va.  In July, The Washington Post Company exchanged television station WTOP-TV in Washington, D.C.  for WDIV-TV in Detroit.

Don Graham (1979 to the Present)

Donald Graham became publisher of The Post, succeeding his mother, who retained her corporate positions of chairman of the board and chief executive officer of The Washington Post Company.

On April 14, The Washington Post began publishing each Monday, a financial tabloid section called "Washington Business." The new section added approximately 15 columns of news and tables to the Monday business and finance pages which it replaced.

Cold Type Conversion
In October, the paper's printing process was converted from the hot type method to photo-electronic or cold-type composition.  The new method uses video display terminals (VDTs) to write and edit stories.  Then copy is automatically photoset in the composing room and pasted down on layout sheets, eliminating the use of linotype machines and metal chases from which heavy metal plates were made.  The first complete cold type edition of The Washington Post rolled off the Springfield plant presses on October 6.

Satellite Printing Plant
To accommodate The Post's growing circulation and conversion to cold type the $60 million Springfield (VA) satellite printing plant was formally opened on November 12.  The 397,000 square foot building houses four 10-unit offset presses, a revolutionary platemaking system and a computer-controlled distribution system to route newspapers into delivery trucks.  The presses can produce 128 page newspapers at approximately 75,000 copies per hour.  The Post is also printed at a second satellite facility located in southeast Washington.

New Platemaking Process
In March, 1981, The Post changed its platemaking process for its eight downtown web presses from the stereotype method which used lead heated to approximately 600 degrees Fahrenheit to form a 50-pound printing plate to a NAPP direct platemaking process.  This process produces a very lightweight plastic coated steel plate ready for the presses and provides reproduction similar to offset quality printing.

The Post began publishing "Washington Home" on May 20.  The weekly tabloid section is devoted to the home, inside and out, and features topics ranging from decorating to making repairs; purchasing antiques or new furniture; or landscaping a garden, among others.

The Washington Post National Weekly edition was launched on
November 7.  It provides readers nationwide with access to The Post's daily coverage of government, politics, the economy and diplomatic affairs.  The daily Post has been specially edited and redesigned in a weekly tabloid format for a national audience.

The October 9 edition of The Post initiated a redesign of the paper emphasizing clarity, placement and reader ease.  This was the first complete redesign of the paper in fifty years.

In January The Post began publishing the country's first newspaper section devoted entirely to health.  Titled "Health," the tabloid covers a broad range of health-related subjects, including medicine, fitness and psychology.

In February, The Post launched a new, free telephone service that provides a wide variety of information to callers, By dialing (202) 334-9000 on a touch-tone telephone, readers can hear up-to-the-minute information of stock prices, sports scores, lottery results, financial reports, weather reports including resort information, and news reports and headlines from the Associated Press.  The 24-hour service is available seven days a week.

Recycling Information
Local governments all over the metropolitan area are moving ahead in today's recycling effort.  The Washington Post made available through newspaper advertisements, and the Post-Haste free telephone information service, recycling information phone numbers of local governments in the metropolitan area.  The Post-Haste telephone number for recycling information is (202) 334-9000, category number 1600.

Donald Graham was named chief executive officer of The Washington Post Company, while his mother retained her corporate position of chairman of the board.  His new responsibilities were in addition to his continuing as publisher of The Washington Post newspaper.

Donald Graham became chairman of the board of The Washington Post Company, while also retaining his responsibilities as chief executive officer.  Katharine Graham assumed the position of chairman of the executive committee of The Washington Post Company.

In May, The Washington Post announced plans to purchase eight new offset presses from Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses, U.S.A., as well as to begin construction on a new printing plant in College Park, Maryland.  By the end of 1998, the eight new presses, which will enable high quality reproduction of color photos and graphics, will be in operation at the College Park and Springfield, Virginia plants.  Printing will cease at The Post's Northwest and Southeast, Washington, DC plants.

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