The Splendid Birth of the New York Times
Had journalist and politician, Henry Jarvis Raymond, known that a future president might one day accuse his paper of printing fake news, he might have died an untimely death.
First published on September 18, 1851, the New York Times (NYT) was not originally an unbiased outlet. It favored the then-liberal Republican party, but it was never about making up news.
The motto of the paper, “All the News That’s Fit To Print,” has appeared on the front page since the beginning.
While the New York Times has fallen on challenging times in more recent history (so too has the rest of the print industry) and suffered executive attacks of character, they’ve remained one of the most regarded voices in reporting.
At one time, however, the Times was the new kid on the corner…
Henry Jarvis Raymond
In fairness, Henry Jarvis Raymond didn’t go it alone. He had a partner, George Jones. Raymond, however, was the genius of the operation.
Legend maintains that the boy Raymond was something of a prodigy, that he could read by age three. By five he could deliver speeches.
School records show that Raymond entered Syracuse University, then a seminary school, at age 12. By 20 years old, he would graduate the University of Vermont with honors, ahead of his class.
Young man Raymond started in journalism, working for future rival New York Tribune at one point. That’s where he met his friend and future partner, George Jones.
Raymond was a member of the now-defunct Whig party, but later a chairman of the Republican Party. For years, the paper would reflect his liberal political leanings. Some would argue it still does.
It’s a tough name to have, a John Smith of sorts. Lest it confounds you, this is not the same George Jones of musical fame.
This George Jones grew up in Vermont. He started out in journalism but took work in dry goods and then banking. That life, however, didn’t fit the story for George Jones. His destiny was journalism.
When the idea of starting their own paper came up between George and Henry, Jones left his banking job in Albany and moved to New York.
It was a perfect fit. Henry Raymond would give the paper its journalistic compass and Jones could support the financial side. In fact, he leveraged his banking contacts and skills to raise the initial funding for the nascent rag.
The New-York Daily Times
It was on 113 Nassau Street, in New York of course, where the pair launched their new paper. They called it The New-York Daily Times at first.
The new Times paper published amidst a sea of other periodicals already on the market. Ii is ironic that today some call the venerable paper, “The Gray Lady,” a nod to their reluctance to go color, but also to the age of the paper.
The format of the paper has always been on the conservative side, despite the liberal-leaning content. It wasn’t until the 1970s they changed the layout, adding sections, but still retaining the classic look readers expected.
In fact, for decades beyond the rest of the industry, the NYT maintained the traditional eight-column layout, only ceding to the six-column format in 2008.
The paper’s reluctance to change may be why it has outlived the rest, why it had won so many prestigious awards. Since its inception, the NYT has won more Pulitzer Prizes than any other organization, 117 in total.
Henry Raymond would go on to organize the Associated Press, and serve as the NYT publisher until his death in 1869, handing over the reins to Jones.
It was during Jones’s time at the helm the paper swung more to the centerline. Jones stayed on until 1891 when he passed away.