The Neatest Little Paper Ever Read ®

Issue 974



by Kathy Wolfe

Every year, more than 2,400 entries are submitted for the Pulitzer Prize competition. This week, Tidbits keeps you in the know on this celebrated group of awards.

• The Pulitzer Prizes were established in 1917 by the generosity of newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. Born in Hungary, Pulitzer came to America in 1864 at age 17, with his passage paid for by Massachusetts military recruiters who were looking for soldiers during the Civil War. He actually ended up in the First New York Lincoln Cavalry, serving for eight months.

• After the war, Pulitzer tried whaling and waiting tables without success. Settling in St. Louis, Missouri, he was a regular patron at the city library, studying English during every spare minute. After being deceived by a job offer hoax, Pulitzer wrote a short story about the ruse, which he sold to a small local newspaper, and soon was working as a reporter. At age 25, he had already purchased a share in that paper, the Westliche Post, a stake he sold for a good profit the following year. Six years later, Pulitzer bought two other newspapers, the St. Louis Dispatch and the St. Louis Post, merging them into the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a paper that is still that city’s daily newspaper.

• At age 37, the now-wealthy Pulitzer bought the New York World, and his two major newspapers became noted for crusading against dishonest government, big business, and public corruption.

• Pulitzer also had a place in politics, beginning as a state legislator at age 22, going on to the U.S. House of Representatives before he was 40.

• Because he believed that journalists should be trained at the university level, Pulitzer set aside $2 million to establish a graduate school for journalism at New York’s Columbia University, as well as calling for a prize system to honor creative excellence. Pulitzer died in 1911, and the Columbia University School of Journalism was established in 1912, and the Pulitzer Prizes were first awarded five years later.

• Pulitzer had specified four awards in journalism, four in letters and drama, one in education, and four traveling scholarships. A poetry category was added in 1922, photography in 1942, and a music category in 1943. The Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction was awarded for the first time in 1962 to Theodore White’s The Making of the President, 1960. The book recounted the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy from the primaries to his victory over Richard Nixon. It remained on the best seller list for more than 40 weeks.


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