Joseph Medill Patterson

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Joseph Medill Patterson
Joseph Medill Patterson.jpg
Joseph Medill Patterson
Born (1879-01-06)January 6, 1879
Died May 26, 1946(1946-05-26) (aged 67)
Occupation Journalist
Notable credit(s) The Chicago Tribune
Daily News
Spouse(s) Alice Higinbotham
Mary King
Children Alicia Patterson
Josephine Medill Patterson
James Joseph Patterson
Parent(s) Robert Wilson Patterson
Elinor Medill
Relatives Cissy Patterson (sister)
Joseph Medill (grandfather)

Joseph Medill Patterson (January 6, 1879 – May 26, 1946) was an American journalist, publisher and founder of the Daily News in New York.


His younger sister was publisher Cissy Patterson. He was the father of publisher Alicia Patterson, who founded and edited Newsday. His father was Robert W. Patterson Jr., a journalist at the Chicago Tribune who married the owner's daughter and rose to prominence at the Tribune. His grandfather was publisher Joseph Medill, founder of the Chicago Tribune and a mayor of Chicago, Illinois.


Joseph Medill Patterson became one of the most significant newspaper publishers in the United States, founding New York's Daily News and introducing the tabloid. He was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his famous grandfather. His mother, Elinor ("Nellie"), and his aunt, Kate, both named their firstborn sons after their famous father. As a young adult, he asked his father if he could go to China to cover the Boxer Rebellion. Granted permission, he went as a correspondent for William Randolph Hearst but did not arrive in time. He attended Yale University where he was a member of Scroll and Key.

Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago, and covered the police beat for the Chicago Tribune. Patterson served in the Illinois House of Representatives as a Republican in 1903 and 1904,[1] married and was the father of three daughters by 1906. The youngest, Alicia, explained, "He had wanted a boy, instead of three daughters in succession, and that meant one of the Patterson girls would have to be his substitute son." Nearly 20 years later, in 1923, after his three daughters had become young women, his mistress (and future wife) gave birth to his only son, James Joseph Patterson, in England.

Joseph Medill Patterson feuded with his father and resigned from the Tribune. Patterson moved to a farm in the country, wrote a socialist novel, A Little Brother of the Rich (1908),[2] and published a muckraking article in Collier's magazine.

Patterson returned to work at the Tribune by 1910.

After his father died, Patterson took over the management of the Tribune. He had a dispute about how to run the Tribune with his cousin, Robert R. McCormick. After World War I ended, he visited London and observed a newspaper in tabloid form for the first time. Patterson moved to New York City and founded the New York Daily News as a tabloid on June 26, 1919, with McCormick as co-editor and publisher. However, the two were unable to resolve their dispute, so in 1925 Patterson ceded full authority over the Tribune to McCormick in return for full control of the Daily News.

Initially, the Daily News was somewhat more liberal than the Tribune. However, over the years, it became more conservative as Patterson drifted rightward.[3]

Comic strips[edit]

He took a hands-on approach to managing the various comic strip properties in his papers. He suggested the lead character of Gasoline Alley adopt a foundling child who became Skeezix, a central character in the strip. Patterson influenced Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, changing the title from Plainclothes Tracy, and he supported Gould's vision of a technical, grotesque and violent style of storytelling. Milton Caniff credited Patterson for suggesting a comic strip about the Orient, which led to the creation of Caniff's Terry and the Pirates.

Caniff recounted Patterson's role in creating Terry in a Time profile, "Escape Artist" (Monday, January 13, 1947):

Patterson... stared coldly at Caniff and asked: "Ever do anything on the Orient?" Caniff hadn't. "You know," Joe Patterson mused, "adventure can still happen out there. There could be a beautiful lady pirate, the kind men fall for." In a few days Caniff was back with samples and 50 proposed titles; Patterson circled Terry and scribbled beside it and the Pirates.

His son, James, would serve as vice president and assistant managing editor of the Daily News. One of Patterson's grandsons, Joseph Medill Patterson Albright, was married to future US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for about 23 years. Patterson is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Family tree[edit]


  1. ^ 'Illinois Blue Book 1903-1904,' Biographical Sketch of Joseph Medill Paterson, pg. 373
  2. ^ Joseph Medill Patterson, A Little Brother of the Rich. (Grosset & Dunlap, 1908.
  3. ^ 'Illinois Biographical Dictionary,' Volume 1 - A-J. Caryn Hannan-editor, State History Publications, LCC, Hamburg, Michigan, 2008, Biographical Sketch of Joseph Medill Patterson, pg. 535-537

External links[edit]