Ira Clifton Copley

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Ira Clifton Copley
Personal details
Born October 25, 1864
Galesburg, Illinois, USA
Died November 1, 1947(1947-11-01) (aged 83)
Aurora, Illinois, USA
Nationality American

Ira Clifton Copley (October 25, 1864 – November 1, 1947) was a United States statesman and newspaper publisher.


Ira Clifton Copley was born on October 25, 1864 in Galesburg, Illinois. He graduated from Yale University in 1887 and the Union College of Law at Northwestern University in 1889. In the late 19th century, Copley rose to prominence as the owner of the Aurora Gas Light Co., a company started by his father. Copley developed the business into Western United Gas and Electric, allowing Aurora buildings to be lit with gas by 1868. He led efforts to make Aurora the first city in the world to have electric street lighting. The company also laid long-distance wires to Batavia. After his successes in industry, Copley sold off his interests and turned to politics and publishing, joining the Illinois State Central Committee in 1894. He formed Copley Press, published the Aurora Beacon-News starting in 1905, and started the Elgin Courier-News in 1908. Copley was tasked with constructing a new Illinois State Penitentiary in 1909, which he oversaw until 1926.

Ira C. Copley was elected as a Republican to the Sixty-second United States Congress from Illinois's 11th congressional district (1911–1913). Copley's uncle Richard H. Whiting had also served in the House of Representatives (1875–1877). He ran then ran for re-election as a member of the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party for the 63rd United States Congress. He then returned to the Republican party upon re-election in 1915, and remained with the party until retiring in 1923. Copley continued his publishing aspiriations after leaving Congress, purchasing Springfield's Illinois State Journal in 1927, favoring its pro-Republican stance.

Copley attempted to buy the Illinois State Register, the Journal's Democratic-oriented competitor, at the same time. That effort failed, and the two newspapers engaged in nearly 15 years of circulation battles, with the Register focused on city circulation and the Journal seeking subscribers throughout the Springfield area. In 1942, however, Copley tried again to buy the Register. This time, he was successful, although he also promised that the Register could keep its independent editorial voice.[1] The two papers were merged in 1974 into the The State Journal-Register. (The SJ-R, now owned by GateHouse Media, is still the major newspaper in Springfield.)

In 1928, Copley consolidated the San Diego Union and San Diego Tribune into The San Diego Union-Tribune. Later that year, Senator George W. Norris accused Copley Press of receiving money from public utility companies, but Copley successfully defended his position before the Federal Trade Commission in 1929. He died on November 1, 1947. His former residence in Aurora, the Col. Ira C. Copley Mansion, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. ^ The Thin Gold Watch, by Walter S.J. Swanson (2nd ed.), Copley Press, 1970
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Howard Snapp
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 11th congressional district

Succeeded by
Frank Reid