Charles H. Grasty

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Charles H Grasty
Charles H Grasty.jpg
Charles H Grasty, Newspaper Publisher

Charles Henry Grasty was a well-known American newspaper operator who at one time controlled the Baltimore Sun, and who is named among the great publishers, such as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. Grasty owned the Evening News, which he ran for a number of years and later sold prior to acquiring the Minnesota Dispatch and the St. Paul Pioneer Press in separate transactions and later divesting these newspapers to seek ownership of the Sun. Grasty was one of the developers of the Roland Park development, said to be an early innovation in community planning, including planned shopping centers and other aspects of the community prior to development.

Early life[edit]

Charles H. Grasty was born March 3, 1863 in Fincastle, Virginia, the son of a Presbyterian minister, the Reverend John Sharshall Grasty, and the former Ella Giles Pettus, and as a bright youth taught Latin while in high school. At age 16 he entered University of Missouri to study law, but left before graduating to enter the newspaper business. He stayed on at a summer job reporting for the Mexico Intelligencer paying $6 a week, and then was offered $7 a week to join the Kansas City Star, where he rose to managing editor within 18 months.

In 1890 he married Leota Tootle Perrin, a woman with a daughter from another marriage named Sarah Perrin (Sarah Perrin was married to Lieutenant George de Grasse Catlin in Lake Placid New York August 18, 1909). That same year, Grasty became the general manager of the Manufacturers' Record, a weekly business journal in Baltimore, leaving the Kansas City Star.

Newspaper career[edit]

Grasty was involved in developing Roland Park in Baltimore when he also assembled investors to back his acquisition of the Evening News in 1892. Through the Evening News he attacked local political corruption, but maintained political independence. He came out against the Baltimore Sun as a competing newspaper for its willingness to ignore Baltimore political corruption, at the time not knowing that over a decade later he would take control of that newspaper. His efforts to root out corruption in Baltimore politics ensured the loss of power by incumbent Democrats Arthur Pue Gorman, who lost the United States Senate seat from which he had dominated Maryland politics for years. In addition, he saw the unseating of I. Freeman Rasin, Gorman's ally and "Boss" in control of Baltimore, who was defeated for City Council. Grasty’s 1893 accusations against Democratic politicians for their involvement in gambling schemes earned him a libel suit, which he won.

In the Great Baltimore Fire of February 1904 took down much of the city's central business district including the Evening News Building, built 1871 with its distinctive mansard roof and corner clock tower at East Baltimore and South Streets, just across the corner from The Suns famous "Iron Building", a precursor of modern steel skyscrapers, built in 1851. Baltimore and South Streets had been the nexus of the "Newspaper Wars" for most of the latter half of the 19th Century between the competing dailies with its bulletin boards, posters, chalk board placards across the second story level of the buildings with the latest telegraphed information of election results, sports scores and far-away war news with "Newsies", small and teen-age boys hawking papers along the sidewalks. The Washington Post agreed to print 'The News, and Grasty turned to Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of The New York Times to use the unused printing facilities of the Philadelphia Times. Ochs essentially gave Grasty the machinery. Grasty rebuilt the News and reopened within weeks. It is said that within 16 hours of the Fire, Grasty had acquired a new plant and three new printing presses for $150,000. "First Press Is Here", Baltimore American, Feb. 12, 1904; Charles Grasty to Richard Mansfield, June 30, 1906, NYPL/ms; See Mencken: the American iconoclast By Marion Elizabeth Rodgers.

On June 18, 1906, Grasty and Gen. Felix Agnus (owner of the ancient Baltimore American teamed up to purchase The Baltimore Herald at the northwest corner of St. Paul and East Fayette Streets whose building had been ruined by the Fire, just across to the west from the untouched new massive City Circuit Courthouse, just completed four years earlier on the northern edge of the "Burnt District". They promptly shut it down, putting its nascent editor H.L. Mencken out of work for a time and divided its assets for their existing newspapers.

Grasty sold the News on 27 February 1908 to chain-maker Frank A. Munsey for $1,500,000. Grasty attempted to remain on as general manager, but resigned within weeks due to disagreements. Later in 1908 he bought a half-interest in a Minnesota evening paper called the Dispatch. Early the next year he bought the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which had both morning and evening editions, and combined its evening edition with the Dispatch. Grasty’s style was not well accepted in the Twin Cities and he soon sold the papers back to their original owners and took an extended trip to Europe. However, Grasty was already eyeing the Baltimore Sun, which was still run by the Abell family. Grasty found investors and struck a deal with the Sun founders to leave them with a majority stake, but took for himself preferred shares that guaranteed absolute control of The Sun by him personally. The Abells relented out of fear that Grasty would roll up the local competing papers and compete against The Sun.

After taking control of the Sun, Grasty acquired the Baltimore World at auction in April 1910 for $63,000, overpaying, but fearing a play by William Randolph Hearst to enter the Baltimore market.

Grasty retired in 1915 and went to Europe as a war correspondent for the Kansas City Star. He returned to the U.S. in 1916, served as the Treasurer for the New York Times, before boredom caused him to return to Europe and his work as a war correspondent. In 1918 he published a book, Flashes from the Front. He continued living in London and working as a war correspondent for the Times until his death. He wrote a number of pieces that were published in the Atlantic while he was a correspondent in London.

Roland Park[edit]

Grasty was one of the investors of Roland Park, a suburban development in Baltimore at about the same time that he first acquired the Evening News. Grasty lived at Fryer and Caprons in Roland Park, which today is the corner of Woodlawn Ave and Upland. The Roland Park development was said to be an innovation in early development of planned communities. Schlack, H. G. "Planning Roland Park, 1891-1900." Maryland Historical Magazine 67 (Winter 1972): 419-28. Roland Park included a "store block" arranged in a linear pattern along a street to serve the commercial needs of a planned residential community. Similar store blocks were built in Los Angeles 1908 for the College Tract on West 48th St.;


By 1911, Grasty used the pages of The Sun to back Democrat Woodrow Wilson in a successful contest for the Presidency against Republican incumbent, President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt with the new Progressive Party (Bull Moose) campaign in the Election of 1912. In 1914, after the death of President Woodrow Wilson’s first wife Ellen, Grasty telegrammed the President with his regrets. A letter signed by Wilson on White House letterhead thanks Mr. Grasty for this.

Letter signed by Woodrow Wilson[edit]

Auction for a letter to Grasty signed by Woodrow Wilson Acknowledging sympathy upon the death of the First Lady.

The White House, Washington, 1914 August 15. To Charles H. Grasty, Baltimore. In full: "I want you to know how real a comfort it was to me to get your telegram of sympathy. It is very delightful to feel the warm touch of a friend's hand at such a time, and your telegram has served to give me strength and courage." Nine days earlier, on August 6, 1914, Wilson's first wife, Ellen Louise Axson Wilson, had died of Bright's disease at the age of 54. She was the last First Lady to die while her husband was President.


His life was that of a newspaperman. He was in the business from the time he was about 17 until his death at 61 years old. He ran papers from the perspective and ethic of a reporter. He was an idealist, and even in his bid for control of the Sunpapers, his focus for control was not financial, but an effort to ensure that he could separate editorial control from investor involvement. His retirement was that of a war correspondent, a well-informed writer, who is said to be the most informed in all of Europe in the years before his death. His leadership touched into Baltimore politics, and helped Wilson’s bid for presidential election. His name is associated with The Baltimore Sun, Evening News, Kansas City Star, New York Times, Washington Post, and half-dozen other regional newspapers. From 1900 to 1910, Grasty was a director of the Associated Press. Few men in newspaper history have the same resume. Grasty was among the greatest names of American industrialists in one book, which closed his biographical chapter by saying, "Mr. Grasty justly occupies a place as one of the real captains of American industry." 130 Pen Pictures of Live Men

From 1915 until his death in 1924, Grasty lived mostly in London, where he also died. He was known as the local connection for information, and was at the Versailles Peace Conference near Paris in 1919 to discuss the issues ending World War I.

While living in London, Grasty fathered a daughter with an Englishwoman named Louisa Bennett. This, his only daughter, Joan Bennett Grasty was born in 1919. Grasty and his wife Leota had no natural children together. Grasty remain involved in the life of his daughter, and paid for Joan's education in France and later moved Joan and her mother Louisa to the United States, where he financed their living, eventually leaving Joan "Winifred" Bennett Grasty as his sole heir. Joan Grasty became a world traveler, attended University of Southern California, was a one-time Hollywood actress and later supported Ronald Reagan in his successful bid for California Governor. Joan Grasty had only one child, Pete Robinson. His great-grandchildren are still living.


Grasty died January 19, 1924, and while many things were said about him at the time of his death, and after, the Sun’s editorial after his death stated:

"Probably no citizen of Baltimore ever performed greater public services. Our municipal government today, whatever its defects, is at least a hundred times as honest, intelligent and efficient as it was in 1892. For that change we may thank Charles H. Grasty more than we may thank any other man.... His monument belongs in Baltimore, not in New York or in London, where he served the Times so long. He left an indelible mark upon journalism here, and he left a no less indelible mark upon municipal history. He changed our newspapers and he changed our politics, and both changes were for the better."

Career highlights[edit]

  • Managing editor, Kansas City Star (1884–1889)
  • Publisher, Baltimore Evening News (1892–1908),
  • St. Paul Dispatch and St. Paul Pioneer Press (1908–1909)
  • President and general manager, Baltimore Sunpapers (1910–1914)
  • War correspondent, Kansas City Star and Associated Press (1915–1916)
  • Treasurer, New York Times (1916–1917)
  • Special editorial correspondent, New York Times (1917–1924)
  • Director, Associated Press (1915–1916)


Flashes from the Front (New York: Century, 1918).

Cited as a source for

See also[edit]

Dana Robinson, Esq., great-grandson's Charles Grasty page:


Dictionary of Literary Biography Daniel W. Pfaff, Pennsylvania State University. Dictionary of Literary Biography. 2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation.

130 pen pictures of live men By Orlando Oscar Stealey

Grasty’s Editorial upon the death of Joseph Pulitzer

New York Times 1915 Article by Charles H. Grasty

Charles H. Grasty Assumes Control of the Baltimore Sun

Baltimore History Chronology

Biography from the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library

Mencken: the American iconoclast By Marion Elizabeth Rodgers

The skeptic: a life of H.L. Mencken By Terry Teachout

The Outlook, Volume 101 By Ernest Hamlin Abbott, Lyman Abbott, Francis Rufus Bellamy, Hamilton Wright Mabie

Negotiating in the press: American journalism and diplomacy, 1918–1919, By Joseph Hayden

Proceedings of the National Newspaper Conference, Volume 1, By University of Wisconsin. University Extension Division. Dept. of General Information and Welfare

The World almanac and book of facts, By Facts on File, Inc

The Independent, Volume 75

Page Dedicated to Charles H. Grasty[permanent dead link]:[permanent dead link]

Baltimore Sun, 20 January 1924, pp. 4, 6, 16.Meyer Berger, The Story of the New York Times 1851-1951 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1951), pp. 142–143.

Gerald W. Johnson, Frank R. Kent, H. L. Mencken, and Hamilton Owens, The Sunpapers of Baltimore (New York: Knopf, 1937), pp. 285–339.

William Manchester, The Sage of Baltimore (London: Melrose, 1952), pp. 56–61.New York Times, 20 January 1924, p. 9.