Joseph Medill

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Joseph Medill
Joseph Medill.jpg
26th Mayor of Chicago
In office
Preceded byRoswell B. Mason
Succeeded by(Lester L. Bond), Harvey Doolittle Colvin
Personal details
Born(1823-04-06)April 6, 1823
Saint John, New Brunswick, British North America
DiedMarch 16, 1899(1899-03-16) (aged 75)
San Antonio, Texas
Political partyFireproof, Republican
Spouse(s)Katherine "Kitty" Patrick
ResidenceWheaton, Illinois

Joseph Medill (April 6, 1823 – March 16, 1899) was a Canadian-American newspaper editor, publisher, and Republican Party politician. He was co-owner and managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, and he was Mayor of Chicago from after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 until 1873.

Personal life[edit]

Joseph Medill was born April 6, 1823, in Saint John, New Brunswick, British North America to a Scots-Irish family. He read law in Ohio and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1846.[1]

Medill married Katherine "Kitty" Patrick on September 2, 1852, and they had three daughters, Katherine, Elinor and Josephine.[1]

Medill taught at this school in Navarre, Ohio in the 1840s

Publishing career[edit]

In 1853, Medill and Edwin Cowles started the Leader, a newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio. (It was later absorbed by The Plain Dealer.) In 1854, the Tribune's part-owner, Captain J. D. Webster, asked Medill to become the paper's managing editor. Medill was further encouraged to come to Chicago by Dr. Charles H. Ray of Galena, Illinois, and editor Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune.

In 1855, Medill sold his interest in the Leader to Cowles and bought the Tribune in partnership with Dr. Ray and Alfred Cowles (Edwin's brother).[2]

Under Medill's management, the Tribune flourished, becoming one of the largest newspapers in Chicago. Medill served as its managing editor until 1864, when Horace White became editor-in-chief. At that time Medill left day-to-day operations of the Tribune for political activities.

But White clashed with Medill over the presidential election of 1872. So, in 1873 Medill bought additional equity from Cowles and from White, becoming majority owner. In 1874, he replaced White as editor-in-chief. Medill served as editor-in-chief until his death.

Political activity[edit]

Under Medill, the Tribune became the leading Republican newspaper in Chicago. Medill was strongly anti-slavery, supporting both the Free-Soil cause and Abolitionism. Medill was a major supporter of Abraham Lincoln in the 1850s. Medill and the Tribune were instrumental in Lincoln's presidential nomination, and were equally supportive of the Union cause during the American Civil War. The Tribune's chief adversary through this period was the Chicago Times, which supported the Democrats.

In 1864, Medill left the Tribune editorship for political activity, which occupied him for the next ten years. He was appointed by President Grant to the first Civil Service Commission. In 1870, he was elected as a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional convention. In 1871, after the Great Chicago Fire, Medill was elected mayor of Chicago as candidate of the temporary "Fireproof" party, serving for two years. As mayor, Medill gained more power for the mayor's office, created Chicago's first public library, enforced blue laws, and reformed the police and fire departments. But the stress of the job impaired his health. In August 1873, he appointed Lester L. Bond as Acting Mayor for the remaining 3½ months of his term, and went to Europe on a convalescent tour.[1]

Medill was a strong Republican loyalist who supported President Grant for re-election in 1872. The breach with White came because White supported the breakaway Liberal Republicans, reformists who nominated Horace Greeley for president. It was also at this time that Medill broke with Greeley.

Legacy and honors[edit]

During World War II, the Liberty ship SS Joseph M. Medill was built in Panama City, and named in his honor.[3]

The Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University is also named in his honor.[4]

Family tree[edit]

The tree omits Medill's third daughter, Josephine, who died in 1892.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d McKinney, Megan (2011). The Magnificent Medills. New York, New York: Harper Collins. p. 10. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  2. ^ Rushton, Wyatt (1916). Joseph Medill and the Chicago Tribune (thesis). University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved 2007-10-24. and White, James Terry (1895). The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States. James T. White & Company, via New York Public Library via Google Books full view. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
  3. ^ Williams, Greg H. (25 July 2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O’Brien. McFarland. ISBN 1476617546. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Our History".

Further reading[edit]

  • McKinney, M. The Magnificent Medills (2011)
  • Anderson, Jeffrey Justin. Joseph Medill: How one man influenced the Republican presidential nomination of 1860 (Ph.D. Diss.) Roosevelt University, 2011.
  • Tebbel, John William. An American dynasty: the story of the McCormicks, Medills, and Pattersons Greenwood Pub. Group, 1968.

External links[edit]