Here are important moments in the emergence of yellow journalism in the late nineteenth century.
— William Randolph Hearst’s acquisition of the
moribund New York Morning Journal is formally announced. Hearst
promptly drops “Morning” from the newspaper’s
title. His arrival in New York is a seismic event and sets
in motion a circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer’s New
York World, initiating the yellow press period. Hearst soon
lures from the World several talented editors and writers.
— The popular “yellow kid” cartoon moves
with its artist, Richard F. Outcault, to the Journal from
the New York World.
— On the first anniversary of Hearst’s acquisition
of the Journal, the newspaper boasts: “No other journal
in the United States includes in its staff a tenth of the
number of writers of reputation and talent. It is the Journal’s
policy to engage brains as well as to get the news, for the
public is even more found of entertainment than it is of information.”
9 — Richard Harding Davis and Frederic
Remington arrive in Cuba on an assignment for the New York
Journal that will give rise to one of American journalism’s
best-known anecdotes — Hearst’s purported instructions
to the artist Remington, “You furnish the pictures,
and I’ll furnish the war.” Though often repeated,
the anecdote is almost certainly untrue.
January 31 — The epithet “yellow journalism” first appears in print, in a small headline near the bottom of page six of Ervin Wardman's New York Press.
February 2 — The New York Journal publishes Richard Harding Davis' evocative, detail-rich dispatch about the firing-squad execution of a twenty-year-old Cuban who had joined the island wide rebellion against Spanish rule. Davis ' report stands as the finest example of foreign correspondence in American journalism in 1897.
February 4 — Trustees of the Newark Free Public Library in New Jersey vote to remove the New York Journal and the New York World from its reading room—the opening move in a bitter campaign to ban the leading exemplars of yellow journalism from libraries, social clubs, and reading rooms in metropolitan New York.
February 5 — Sylvester Scovel, a war correspondent for the New York World , is arrested and jailed in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba. He is held on four counts, including communicating with the Cuban insurgents and traveling with forged papers. The World declares Scovel to be “in imminent danger of butchery.”
March 10 — The World reports that Sylvester Scovel is to released without trial and will soon leave Cuba for the United States. The newspaper' s high-profile efforts to win his freedom have helped make Scovel the best-known journalist in America .
June 27 — A man's headless torso washes up in the East River in New York. Other body parts are found in the river on following days, creating a lurid murder mystery that grips New York .
July 3 — The New York Journal solves the East River murder mystery, identifying the victim as William Guldensuppe and leading authorities to the chief suspects in the crime. The newspaper later declares: “But for the Journal, the arm of the law would have been palsied.”
August 17 — The New York Journal discloses that a young Cuban woman, Evangelina Cosío y Cisneros, has been imprisoned more than a year in Havana 's wretched Casa de Recogidas. The Journal 's calls her the “Cuban Girl Martyr” and begins a noisy but ultimately unsuccessful petition drive to force Spain to set her free.
August 28 — Karl Decker, a Washington-based reporter for the Journal , arrives in Havana on a secret mission to free Cisneros and send her to the United States .
October 7 — With help from Karl Decker and his accomplices, Evangelina Cisneros escapes from the Casa de Recogidas. She is hidden at the home of a Cuban-American banker, just a flew blocks from the jail, before being smuggled aboard a passenger steamer to New York .
October 10 — In headlines four lines deep, New York Journal takes credit for organizing the escape and flight of Evangelina Cisneros. It calls the jailbreak the “greatest journalistic coup of this age.” Cisneros arrives in New York City on October 13.
October 16 — The Journal stages an enthusiastic outdoor reception for Cisneros, and calls the event the city's largest public reception since end of the Civil War.
October 17 — Charles A. Dana, the brilliant but ill-tempered editor of the New York Sun , dies at his county home on Long Island . Dana edited the Sun for nearly thirty years and his death underscores the transitory nature of the year in journalism.
December 23 — Joseph Pulitzer, proprietor of the New York World, privately acknowledges that his archrival, the New York Journal , has become “a wonderfully able & attractive and popular paper.” Scovel of the World, in a capstone to a remarkably full and energetic year of reporting, interviews the Cuban insurgent leader, General Máximo Gómez, who reasserts his opposition to Spain 's offer of limited home rule in Cuba.
December 31 — The New York Journal stages a lavish New Year's Eve party to commemorate the consolidation of the five boroughs of New York City , which officially takes place January 1, 1898. Some 100,000 merry-makers defy rain and snow to make their way to lower Manhattan and celebrate what the Journal calls the “luminous starting point from which the history of the expanded New York will be dated.”
January 2 —The New York Journal hails its accomplishments in 1897, declaring:
“Never before in the history of journalism has a newspaper
made such a record for a year as the New York Journal achieved
during the year just dead. … The year is a regular calendar
of achievements for the Journal.”
— The U.S. battleship Maine arrives in Havana on a friendly
— The New York Journal publishes contents of an indiscreet
private letter, written by Spain’s chief diplomat in
the United States, Enrique Dupuy de Lôme. The letter
disparages President McKinley as a “low politician”
and indicates Spain’s insincerity in negotiating a prospective
commercial treaty with the United States. Dupuy de Lôme
promptly resigns his post and returns to Spain by way of Canada.
— The battleship Maine is destroyed in Havana Harbor,
killing 266 of its crew of 358 seamen. The shock is profound
to American public opinion. Hearst’s Journal soon offers
a $50,000 reward “for the detection of the perpetrator
of the Maine outrage.”
— Sylvester Scovel of the World distinguishes himself
with tireless coverage of the Maine disaster and its aftermath.
— The New York Evening Journal reports, inaccurately,
that a torpedo hole had been found in the side the battleship.
March 1 —
The New York Times assails the Maine coverage in the yellow
press, declaring in an editorial: “There are hysterical
women of both sexes who continue to devour the unlikeliest
untruths with the greatest avidity long after their rational
neighbors have stopped reading them. During the first days
of the epidemic the flood of mendacity had a great effect
in promoting the sale of extras. But in the nature of things
this is only a transient success. The more they lie the less
they are believed, and, what is more to their purpose, the
less they are bought.”
March 21 —
A U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry finds that the Maine was destroyed
by a submarine mine. The inquiry is unable to fix responsibility,
April 20 —
McKinley administration issues an ultimatum to Spain to leave
April 21 —
Spain breaks diplomatic ties with the United States.
April 25 —
Congress declares war on Spain, retroactive to April 21.
April 30 —
The anti-war New York Evening Post blames the yellow press
for fomenting the conflict with Spain. “The fomenting
of war and the publication of mendacious accounts of war have,
in fact, become almost a special function of that portion
of the press which is known as ‘yellow journals,’”
the Evening Post declares, adding that the yellow press “talks
incessantly of war, not in the way of instruction, but simply
to excite by false news, and stimulate savage passions by
May 1 —
An American naval squadron under the command of Commodore
George Dewey defeats a decrepit Spanish fleet in Manila Bay,
in the first major engagement of the war. In a mocking retort
to the Evening Post’s “fomenting of war,”
editorial Hearst’s Journal places this phrase on either
side of its nameplate: “How Do You Like the Journal’s
May 6 —
In an editorial, the Journal elliptically addresses the issue
of whether it fomented the war, stating: “This war has
been called a war brought on by the New York Journal and the
press which it leads. This is merely another way of saying
that the war is the war of the American people, for it is
only as a newspaper gives voice to the American spirit that
it can be influential with the American masses. The Journal
is powerful with the masses because it believes in them—because
it believes that on issues of national policy, their judgment
is always likely to be sounder than that of the objecting
May 20 —
The Journal criticizes the McKinley administration for being
slow to build upon Dewey’s military success, declaring:
“Rouse yourself and do something, Mr. McKinley! Dismiss
the timid men, the over-wise men, the too-learned strategists
who surround you. Get rid of the solemn incompetents and put
the conduct of the war into the hands of professional fighters
who know that war ought to be rough and hot work, and who
really want to fight.”
June 24 —
U.S. forces engage Spanish troops in a brisk skirmish at Las
Guásimas, a hamlet on the road to Santiago-de-Cuba.
A New York Journal correspondent, Edward Marshall, is shot
and seriously wounded in the engagement.
July 1-2 —
U.S. forces attack Spanish troops entrenched at El Caney and
on the San Juan heights, east of Santiago-de-Cuba. The Americans
win tactical victories, driving the outnumbered Spanish defenders
to the outskirts of Santiago. Hearst, who had traveled to
the theater of war aboard a luxuriously appointed steamer,
covers the battle for his Journal.
July 3 —
The six vessels of a Spanish squadron attempt blockaded at
Santiago-de-Cuba try to flee and are destroyed by U.S. warships.
One U.S. sailor, and more than 350 Spanish seamen, are killed
in the battle. Hearst maneuvers his steamer close to the action
and captures 17 Spanish seamen.
July 17 —
After days of on-again, off-again negotiations, the Spanish
garrison at Santiago de Cuba surrenders to U.S. forces. Under
terms of the capitulation, the United States agrees to transport
the Spanish forces home. The surrender ceremony is marred
by the World’s Sylvester Scovel, who openly berates
and throws a punch at the U.S. Army commander, Major General
August 12 —
An armistice protocol is signed in Washington. The protocol
specifies that Spain is to relinquish authority over Cuba
and Puerto Rico. Disposition of the Philippine islands is
to be decided by American and Spanish negotiators, who are
to meet in Paris to prepare a formal peace treaty.
— The New York Times lowers its daily price in New York
to one cent from three cents, insisting: “It is the
price of the paper, not its character, that is changed.”
The move ultimately ensures the emergence of the Times as
America’s leading newspaper.
— Senior officials at the New York World tell the staff
of plans to back away from sensational treatment of the news.
Over the next few years, the World becomes steadily more conservative
— The Treaty of Paris is signed by representatives of
the United States and Spain. Under its terms, Spain gives
up Cuba, and cedes Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States.
Spain also surrenders sovereignty of the Philippines, in exchange
for $20 million from the United States, ostensibly for Spanish
investments and infrastructure on the islands.
January 1 —
The New York Journal declares in an editorial: “A great
year has ended - great for the United States, great for the
world, great for humanity. The master event of 1898 was the
Spanish war. … Mankind witnessed the inspiring spectacle
of a nation putting aside all thought of self-interest, all
regard for mere material considerations, and drawing the sword
in behalf of a neighboring people struggling against a foreign
oppressor for the right to be free.”
— The trade journal Fourth Estate says in a review of
1898: “The year just closed was in many respects the
most momentous in the history of American journalism. In no
other period have the newspapers attained such enormous circulations,
absorbed so much money or exerted a greater influence on the
public affairs of the country. … The public was anxious
for news from the front and was willing to pay for it. Circulations
advanced to unprecedented figures, and presses were kept running
day and night to meet the demands of the public.”
— Fighting flares between Philippine and U.S. forces
near Manila, signaling the start of the Philippine insurgency.
— With two votes to spare, the U.S. Senate ratifies
the Treaty of Paris.
March 19 —
Spain’s Queen Regent, María Cristina, ratifies
the Treaty of Paris, breaking a deadlock in the Spanish parliament.
April 11 —
The Treaty of Paris takes effect.