Wilbur F. Storey
He received a common-school education, learned the printing trade at 12 years of age, and supplemented his training by wide miscellaneous reading. He worked steadily in the office of the Middlebury True Press until he was 17 years old, when he went to New York City and set type on the Journal of Commerce. Two years later he went to La Porte, Indiana, and had there his first experience in publishing a newspaper, which was unsuccessful. He kept a drug store for some time, and edited a country weekly.
Growing tired of Indiana, he went to Jackson, Michigan, and studied law for two years. He next established the Jackson Patriot, which gave consistent support to the Democratic point of view. He was appointed postmaster for Jackson under James K. Polk's administration as a reward for his support, whereupon he sold the paper. In 1849, he was removed from his office by Zachary Taylor, and he set up another drug store. He was chosen the year following a member of the Michigan constitutional convention, and subsequently appointed state prison inspector.
In 1853 he moved to Detroit, bought an interest in the Free Press, and ere long rose to be its editor and sole owner. He went to Chicago in 1861 and purchased the Times, which then had a very small circulation. He redid the typography, sensationalized the presentation, and added local news. His energy, enterprise, and fearless expression of his views on every subject gave the paper notoriety. He was independent in an extreme way, boasting that he had no friends and wanted none, and apparently doing his utmost to create enemies. His whole mind was bent on giving the news, though his idea of what constituted news frequently struck some as morbid and indecorous. His efforts yielded him a large fortune.
Storey had supported Stephen A. Douglas in the 1860 presidential election. While opposing secession, the Times became a vehement critic of Abraham Lincoln after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. General Ambrose Burnside shut it down in 1863 for two days, but loyalists complained about the suppression of freedom of the press, and Lincoln quickly lifted the ban on the paper's publication. The paper's plant was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, but after publishing out of improvised facilities for two years, it began publishing from a new facility in 1873. It established a London bureau in 1877 to get news on the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
Storey was a manager, and generally left the writing to others. About 1877 his health began to fail, and he went abroad. In the summer of 1878 he had a paralytic stroke, and was brought home. He was adjudged of unsound mind in 1884, and a conservator of his estate was appointed by the courts.
- Nord, David Paul, “The Public Community: The Urbanization of Journalism in Chicago,” Journal of Urban History 11 (1985):411-41.
- Walsh, Justin E., To Print the News and Raise Hell! A Biography of Wilbur F. Storey (1968)
- Wilkie, Franc C., Personal Reminiscences of Thirty-five Years in Journalism (1891) Storey's assistant for many years.