Adolph Ochs (1858-1935)

Adolph S. Ochs was the foremost newspaper publisher of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. He resurrected the New York Times after purchasing it in 1896, and brought his own rigorous editorial standards to the Times and the field of American journalism.

Updated: June 19, 2012

Introduction

Adolph S. Ochs (born March 12, 1858 in Cincinnati, Ohio; died: April 8, 1935 in Chattanooga, Tennessee) was the foremost newspaper publisher of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. He resurrected the New York Times after purchasing it in 1896, and brought his own rigorous editorial standards to the Times and the field of American journalism. In the process of building what is considered to be the most influential newspaper in the world, Adolph Ochs brought together the Ochs and Sulzberger families to actively manage the New York Times for well over a century. His business was news, and he determined early in his life that news was a salable commodity, one deserving of high standards. His two primary newspapers (the Chattanooga Times and the New York Times) made money under his management after overcoming near-bankruptcy, and he routinely invested the bulk of the profits into the business itself, leaving successful newspapers rather than a major fortune as the legacy for his family.[1] With little formal education, yet a strong appreciation for it, he easily saw the educational value of news and throughout his active life sought to further public access to his products. A very modest man and not physically imposing, from his early years his strong character impressed men more educated and experienced in business than he.

Family and Ethnic background

Adolph Simon Ochs was born March 12, 1858, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the second son of Julius and Bertha Ochs. [2] Julius was born in 1826 in Fürth, Bavaria, the son of a successful diamond merchant, Lazarus Ochsenhorn. He attended college in Cologne and developed, among other skills, fluency in Hebrew, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and English. When his father died in 1840, his older brother became the head of the family and ordered Julius to leave school and undertake an apprenticeship to a bookbinder. This life did not appeal to Julius and in 1845 he immigrated to Louisville, Kentucky, where he joined several of his siblings. Initially he worked as an itinerant peddler, wandering through the south and taking on a variety of short-term jobs, including teaching languages and conducting Jewish services in the small towns through which he passed. As with many immigrants of the time, Julius regarded America as a homeland, a country commanding allegiance, rather than as a place to stay for a while before returning home to Bavaria. He enlisted in the United States Army during the Mexican War but never saw fighting. At the end of the war, he opened a dry goods business in Natchez, Mississippi, where met his future wife, Bertha Levy. Levy had immigrated from Landau, Bavaria, to Mississippi to live with an uncle, becoming imbued with a Confederate outlook from which she never wavered. In 1861, at the beginning of the American Civil War, Julius organized a company of Ohio volunteers and subsequently served in a regiment formed to protect the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, where he had moved his family in 1864. In contrast to Bertha’s strong support of the confederate position (she was caught smuggling quinine to the rebel forces but her husband’s well-known loyalty saved her from difficulties and perhaps deportation), Julius developed a loathing for slavery (as he wrote vividly in his memoir) that separated him and Bertha politically the rest of their lives.[3]

At the end of the war, Julius and Bertha Ochs chose to remain in Knoxville, a city equally divided in sympathy between the North and the South, where neither would feel adverse effects of their wartime sentiments. Julius opened a number of dry goods stores, buying merchandise on credit and selling it at a good profit. The family established its first permanent home and acquired an eighty acre farm a few miles outside of town, and Julius became the first rabbi for the fledgling Jewish congregation, Beth El. Like his father, Julius insisted that his children be well educated although business circumstances were to preclude this for Adolph. Once the war ended and the soldiers garrisoned in and around Knoxville dispersed to their homes, though, the demand for the merchandise that Julius had stockpiled dropped precipitously. With creditors knocking on his door and without a steady income, Julius declared personal bankruptcy in late 1868 (when Adolph was just 10 years old), sold the house and farm, and moved the family into rental quarters in Knoxville.

Business Development and Life

Adolph continued to study in the public schools and, due to his father’s bankruptcy in 1869, started delivering the Knoxville Chronicle for $1.50 a week (approximately $25 in 2010$) at age eleven.[4] In 1871, he spent a year in Providence, Rhode Island, working for his mother’s two brothers who owned a grocery store. There he continued his education briefly, taking night courses at a local business school. On his return to Knoxville in 1872, he worked for a short time in a drugstore, and then, abandoning school permanently at age fourteen, returned to the Chronicle as a general office boy. His education in the printing trade began by watching printer H. C. Collins hand set type for the Chronicle and run the presses until well after midnight, after which they would walk home together past the First Presbyterian Church graveyard, an area that Ochs was afraid to pass alone. Ochs performed his tasks as a general office boy so well that he was soon promoted to delivery boy at three dollars a week, twice his initial salary. He handed over all of his earnings to his father until, at age fifteen, he became a printer's devil and began performing a wide variety of tasks at the newspaper. Ochs remarked later in life that he considered the printing office his high school and university.[5]

By 1875, Ochs was regarded as a competent printer and apprenticed himself to the Courier-Journal in Louisville. He did well, but after six months returned home to his family who were experiencing financial problems in Knoxville. Edward H. Edwards, a printer who worked with him in Louisville, said, "If there ever was a turning point in the life of Adolph S. Ochs it was when, having gone out from his father's roof to seek his fortune, he so sorely felt the loss of family ties and the personal contact of those near and dear to him that he was impelled to return home." [6] After his return to Knoxville, he joined the Knoxville Tribune, working first in the composing room, then as a reporter, and later as assistant to the business manager, Franc M. Paul. At the Tribune, he bonded with Colonel John E. MacGowan to whom he confided his plans for owning a newspaper.

Soon Ochs and some of his associates at the Tribune began looking at Chattanooga, Tennessee, a city renowned for its military operations in the Civil War, as an ideal location to establish a new newspaper. Although a number of railroads converged on the city and it was surrounded by mountains rich with mineral deposits, Chattanooga had not yet blossomed as a major commercial center in the mid-1870s and was still a small town served by a single newspaper, the Chattanooga Times. Franc Paul, a former colleague of Ochs and MacGowan, founded the new Chattanooga Dispatch in 1877 and brought them both to the new paper, MacGowan as editor and Ochs as advertising solicitor.

The young newspaper struggled. Unable to take sufficient advertising and readership from the Times, the newly founded Dispatch ran out of money and folded within a few months. Ochs was left with neither income nor funds to get home to Knoxville. Fortunately, his uncle, Samuel Bissinger, continued to provide him a place to live in Chattanooga. MacGowan and Paul left for other ventures, trusting Ochs to settle the newspaper’s debts and leaving their only assets, the old hand press and the job-printing business, in his hands. Ochs so impressed the paper's creditors that he was appointed receiver for the bankrupt venture. Eventually he liquidated every cent of debt incurred by the Dispatch.

While settling these debts, Ochs noted that Chattanooga, like many small but growing towns at the time, had no city directory. Sensing a business opportunity, Ochs and David Harris, another printer left jobless after the Dispatch's failure, recorded every building in the community and noted the residents’ occupations. With this data, they developed the first Chattanooga city directory, laying out the existing businesses and suggesting areas for possible expansion. Through the project, Ochs met some of the most influential businessmen and financiers in the city, which would have a significant impact on his future. Ochs and Harris did all the work on the directory themselves, setting type, reading proofs, running the hand press, and distributing the book. Income from the city directory fed Ochs for six months and allowed him to send two dollars a week (approximately $43 in 2010$) to his family in Knoxville.

Although the Chattanooga Times outlasted the Dispatch, its owner, S.A. Cunningham, recognized that he couldn’t keep it going and offered to sell it for $800 in cash (approximately $18,000 in 2010$) and the assumption of $1500 in debt. Ochs was interested, but he did not have $800. MacGowan and others from the Dispatch were also interested but likewise lacked the necessary funds. [7] Ochs’s business relationships, however, bore fruit and the First National Bank of Chattanooga provided him with a loan of $300. With this, he negotiated for a half-interest in the Times for $250, stipulating that he would control the paper from the outset and would have an option to buy the other half in two years at a price to be fixed on its future worth. Thus, at just twenty years of age, Ochs assumed the paper's $1,500 debt on top of his $300 loan, paid a week’s wages to his staff of eight, and, with the remaining $37.50 as working capital, became publisher of the Chattanooga Times. The ownership papers were signed by his father Julius, since Adolph was not yet old enough to conduct legal transactions. He immediately used twenty-five dollars to subscribe to the Western Associated Press telegraph wire service, which assured the newspaper access to a general news source. The weekly salary costs were $100 with nothing allocated to the publisher-owner who drew money as funds permitted.[8]

Ochs introduced himself to his readers in the first issue after he assumed ownership as the new publisher, stating that the Times intended to become "the indispensable organ of the business, commercial and productive, of Chattanooga, and of the mineral and agricultural districts" surrounding the town.[9] It would carry all the news it could print, from home and abroad (the earlier Times had had no telegraph news at all), and would “move in line with the conservative Democracy of the South,” while reserving independence in state politics. Despite the policies, he deliberately omitted a policy that was customary at that time, that is, he refused to pledge support to any party or cause without reservation. In addition to the Times, he also started new publications (the Tradesman and subsequently a religious newspaper and an agricultural journal).[10] He purchased new presses to serve all of his publications and, for the Times, hired correspondents to cover news in the South.

Ochs paid himself as funds permitted, investing any surplus earnings into the operation of the newspaper. Ochs understood that despite the lack of funds, he needed to convey an appearance of being prosperous. One of his first acquisitions was “a finely tooled leather checkbook with checks so beautifully printed that some recipients kept them as keepsakes. When a bill was presented for payment, Ochs ceremoniously pulled out the leather checkbook, but instead of writing a check, he asked for a day to ‘audit’ the account.”[11] He then shifted funds among banks, or collected on money owed, so he could cover the new bill. By the end of the first year the paper had taken in $12,000 with expenses of only $10,000 (approximately $270,000 and $225,000 in 2010$). Circulation and advertising had improved dramatically, coverage of national and international affairs expanded with the addition of wire services, and the appearance had improved as well due to new printing equipment. Two years later, in 1880, he purchased the other half of the paper outright from Cunningham for about $5,000, an amount based on its worth after two years of Ochs’s oversight. He would not repeat his failure to fix the other half of the purchase price in the contract when he purchased the New York Times eighteen years later.

Ochs brought his entire family to Chattanooga in 1879 and employed his two brothers as part-time reporters until they completed school. His father worked as treasurer and chief accountant for the newspaper, positions for which he was eminently suited. By age twenty-two, Adolph Ochs was one of Chattanooga's leading citizens and in January 1882 the newspaper was successful enough that he purchased a large red-brick house in which he installed his parents and siblings. In addition to providing a home, Adolph also supported the education of his siblings, accomplishing his father’s wish for a well-educated family.

The newspaper succeeded financially and philosophically, fulfilling its implicit promise of impartiality and disinterestedness with Ochs refusal to pledge support to any specific party or cause. As a Jew and a son of Yankee and rebel parents, Ochs sought to keep his politics invisible and learned early the value of compromise. He recognized that there was much to be said on both sides of any issue, an understanding that would influence his editorial philosophy throughout his career.[12] It was on the principle of ‘no principle but to be right’ that Ochs operated the Chattanooga Times from the outset, and Ochs would put the same principle into practice in New York years later. As his New York Times obituary related, “it never meant a weak policy or an absence of policy. It meant independence and a sense of civic duty.”[13] Ochs used the Times to provide news and to promote the growth and progress of Chattanooga. He advocated a nonpartisan city government, which became a reality. He pushed for the building of a sewer system, the opera house, the firemen's fountain, the dredging of a channel in the Tennessee River, the founding of the University of Chattanooga, and improvement of schools and theaters. Later, he promoted the establishment of the Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain National Parks. This advocacy initiated his involvement with the park movement, which was to prove one of the great interests of his life.

Chattanooga flourished economically, in part because of the work of the Times, and in 1888 the town experienced a real estate boom. Ochs was drawn into the speculative fever, buying large tracts of land around the city and signing notes for others to do so. Local businessmen believed that Chattanooga, with its hinterland rich in ore and timber, would become another Pittsburgh. The land boom ended in the early 1890s and the country faced a national economic panic in 1893.[14] Ochs lost vast sums of money after the Chattanooga real estate bubble burst and was advised to declare bankruptcy, but he thought the idea dishonorable and resolved to pay off his $100,000 debt (approximately $2.5 million in 2010$). To raise such a vast sum, he realized he would have to expand his publishing activities, an insight that ultimately led to his purchase of the New York Times. His first (seemingly counterintuitive) step was to borrow $150,000 to build a new plant for the ChattanoogaTimes, complete with the latest equipment, in order to allay concerns about his financial position.[15] The building, complete with six stories, a cupola, and a gold dome, was soon the most impressive structure in Chattanooga, and not only provided an efficient physical plant for publishing activities but also contributed to the community’s civic pride. Ochs’s venture into real estate and its unhappy result convinced him to stay with the business he knew best, newspapers, and with the sole exception of a paper mill whose output would later provide a stable, and much needed, source of newsprint for the New York Times, he did not invest again outside his core newspaper business.

Ochs's home in Chattanooga soon became a favored gathering spot for prominent Chattanoogans, as well as for visiting senators, bankers, railroad presidents, and even U.S. presidents (President Grover Cleveland and future president Warren G. Harding). The relationships nurtured in Chattanooga were later instrumental in Ochs’s successful acquisition of the New York Times in 1896. As a member of the press, Ochs received free railroad passes from numerous lines and used them liberally. On one trip to Cincinnati he met Effie Miriam Wise, the daughter of Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, the leader of the Reform Jewish movement in the United States in which the Ochs family was active. Their relationship flourished and Ochs and Effie were married in February 1883. Since Ochs’s mother had managed the household well and wanted to remain in that role, Effie continued pursuing her own interests, especially in literature, and writing book reviews for the Chattanooga Times. Their only surviving child (two died in infancy), Iphigene, was born in 1892.

In 1891, Ochs received an invitation to address a meeting of the National Editorial Association in St. Paul, Minnesota. The invitation marked a clear recognition of his editorial and commercial success with the Chattanooga Times. In his remarks, Ochs proposed his vision for the future of journalism. He argued that journalists must move beyond a nineteenth- century conception of newspapers as political and personal platforms through which editors displayed their own philosophy and offered news columns that were as biased and argumentative as the editorial page. Ochs stated, "The day of the organ, if not past is rapidly passing. The people… more and more demand the paper that prints the history of each day without fear of consequences, the favoring of special theories or the promotion of personal interests." [16] Ochs’s view of journalism, and the brand of journalism that he practiced in both Chattanooga and later New York City, was diametrically opposed to much of the journalism practiced throughout the United States in the late-nineteenth century, particularly the yellow journalism that dominated much of the New York newspaper scene in the late 1890s.[17]

Ochs continued looking for other sources of income in the newspaper business, primarily in the South, but by the mid-1890s he had largely abandoned his search for a newspaper there. He briefly considered a deal for the New York Mercury, but negotiations failed, in part, because he was asked to maintain editorial opposition to the gold standard. He later abandoned an opportunity to purchase the newspaper outright when he realized that the wire services of the United Press could not be guaranteed. Coincidentally, in 1896, Ochs heard from Harry Alloway, a Wall Street reporter for the New York Times, about the dire economic situation faced by the paper. Alloway urged him to consider purchasing the Times. Ochs had first met Alloway six years earlier in Chattanooga and had casually remarked to Alloway at the time that the New York Times might be a good business opportunity. The day after Ochs received the 1896 communication from Alloway, he traveled to Chicago and mentioned Alloway’s news to a friend, Herman Kohlsaat, publisher and manager of the Chicago Inter Ocean. Kohlsatt encouraged Ochs to pursue the potential business opportunity.

The New York Times had been founded in 1851 by George Jones and Henry J. Raymond. After Jones death, Raymond had continued operating the paper alone until his own death in 1891.[18] Raymond’s children were unable to continue the publication and ultimately ownership had passed to a company organized by the newspaper’s editors, under the presidency of Charles R. Miller, who had served as an editor since 1883. The newspaper had lost its working capital during the financial panic of 1893 and on March 12, 1896, the day that Alloway wrote to Ochs, the newspaper had outstanding obligations of $300,000 and was losing $1,000 a day (over $8 million and $27,000, respectively, in 2010$). Although there was a plan of reorganization under development, the principals needed someone to run the paper and could find no one in New York willing to undertake the endeavor.

After receiving Herman Kohlsaat’s encouragement, Ochs traveled to New York to investigate the Times’ situation further and convince Charles Miller that he could, and should, publish the newspaper. Miller and the other Times owners were particularly concerned that the paper should be bought by someone capable of carrying on its honorable tradition. The owners did not want to see the Times sink to the level of the yellow press. After a long meeting with Ochs, Miller became convinced that Ochs was the man to save the Times.

Ochs impressed the other owners the next day and was invited to join the syndicate. Since he neither had the funds, nor any interest in borrowing the funds, to buy into the Times syndicate, despite a bank account that suggested otherwise, Ochs was offered a salary of $50,000 per year (the same salary as the president of the United States at the time and equivalent, conservatively, to $1.3 million in $2010$) to manage the paper.[19] Although the salary was extraordinary, Ochs, following his experience at the Chattanooga Times, felt he could not rescue the New York Times unless he both owned and controlled it. The plan to save the Times with Ochs’ assistance began to collapse, and in order to forestall a proposal to consolidate the New York Times with the New York Recorder, editor Charles Miller and his associate editor, Edward Carey, obtained appointments as receivers for the Times in order to give Ochs time to develop and present his buy-out plan.

The plan Ochs drafted included issuing 10,000 shares of stock in the company and placing enough of these shares in escrow to make Ochs a majority stockholder if he could operate the newspaper profitably for three consecutive years.[20] He drew on his years serving as a host to distinguished visitors in Chattanooga and secured important letters of reference, including a letter from President Cleveland, without which he might have been perceived simply as an enthusiastic, but unknown, young man from a small southern city. His references and his bold plans for the Times persuaded creditors that he could accomplish what he proposed.[21] Ownership of the New York Times was transferred to him on August 18, 1896.

As the new owner of the Times, Ochs stood to lose the most if the newspaper could not be saved. Once he had gained control of the paper, Ochs had managed to borrow $75,000 (approximately $2 million in 2010$) to invest in the project and all this money would be lost if the project failed. His credibility as an organizer and a publisher was also on the line.[22] Many who invested in the revived newspaper considered it a speculative investment. Unlike Ochs, none invested enough to lose their livelihoods in the event of financial failure.

When Ochs took over the Times, New York journalism was dominated by the three newspapers: the Herald, which possessed an excellent foreign service that he could not then match, the World, and the Journal, both sensational newspapers, with huge circulations, that sold for one cent per copy(27 cents in 2010$). By comparison, the Times and the Herald sold for three cents each. Ochs came to New York to restore the Times to the newspaper it had been in its better days, as his announcement on August 19, 1896 stated: “A high-standard newspaper, clean, dignified, and trustworthy … to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect or interests involved.”[23] He had turned the Chattanooga Times into such a newspaper–one with impartial news and a forum for opinion—and believed he could do the same for the New York Times.

In order to devote his full attention to his New York newspaper and assure its success, Ochs quickly placed his brother George in charge of his Chattanooga operations and appointed his brother Milton as managing editor of the Chattanooga Times.[24] He retained Charles Miller as the editor of the New York Times. Immediately, Ochs’s reforms were visible in the news columns of the paper after he eliminated items that were more publicity than news and stripped editorial views from the news items. He removed the eye-straining agate type, refined the printing processes, and pushed the old presses as far as possible. As someone who thoroughly knew the technical side of the business, he was better able than most publishers to inspire his staff and implement these changes. His stated policy of printing news for "thoughtful, pure-minded people" was reinforced by his adoption on Oct. 25, 1896, of a new masthead motto for the Times: "All the News That's Fit to Print." From the day he assumed control of the Times, Ochs began a series of enhancements, improvements, and additions that would continue for the next four decades under his leadership.

Shortly after assuming the role of publisher, Ochs started working with Henry Loewenthal, the city editor, and together they developed the best financial and business sections of any newspaper in the city. Within a year, Loewenthal had developed a weekly financial review that in 1913 would become a separate Times publication, The Annalist. Despite pressure, Ochs refused to run comics, but did initiate a Sunday pictorial magazine and made the Saturday book review section a regular feature, later shifting it to the Sunday edition and eventually making it a separate major publication. Letters to the editor were accorded a prominent place and readers considered the publication of their comments an honor.

After a year under new management, the Times’ circulation had more than doubled and the paper’s operating deficit had been reduced to $200 a day (over $5,000 in 2010$). Advertisements increased, although Ochs turned down Tammany Hall’s offer to carry its $150,000 yearly advertising (over $4 million in 2010$). Despite assurances that Tammany Hall would not interfere in editorial policies, Ochs thought that the mere presence of these ads might suggest a lack of editorial independence.[25] He required his staff to investigate all proposed advertising if there were any suspicion of fraud and ordered anything questionable be excluded. Ochs saw advertising as a form of news, and he regarded his paper (editorial, news, and advertising) as one piece to which he applied the same standards. While this policy hurt advertising income initially, in the long run, businesses learned that they needed the Times more than the Times needed them.

During Ochs’ first year as Times owner, two significant events occurred that had long-term repercussions for the newspaper. In 1897, the United Press, which most of the New York City papers had been subsidizing at heavy cost, collapsed and Ochs immediately applied for membership in the Associated Press (AP), an organization long familiar to Ochs because of the Chattanooga Times. Other New York newspapers soon followed. Until that time, the World had been the only member of the AP in New York City, and its publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, had veto power over new applicants in the city. Pulitzer agreed to admit the Sun, the Herald and the Tribune, but refused to grant membership to the Times, arguing that the paper was dying. In the early days of Ochs’ ownership, when the Times could not afford to employ special correspondents across the globe, the AP’s refusal to provide national and international news services might have ruined the paper. Pulitzer was persuaded to offer the Times a Class B non-voting membership, which gave the newspaper critical access to Associated Press news. A few years later, when the Associated Press was reorganized under a New York charter and the New York Times was thriving, the paper became a full member of the association, and Ochs was appointed a director and a member of the executive committee, offices he held for the rest of his life.

The second and much more significant event in the paper’s early history under Och’s leadership was the Spanish-American War in 1898, a war whose roots in part came from the yellow journalism of the New York City newspaper industry. Joseph Pulitzer of the World and William Randolph Hearst of the Journal saw the potential for great headlines and stories that would sell copies and made their newspapers an integral part of the war. The Times could not match the vast sums paid by the World and the Journal for writers, artists, dispatch boats, and undersea cable messages to and from Cuba. It depended on the Associated Press for news and mail correspondence. First, the Times’ circulation suffered and then advertising declined, leading to a deficit of $78,000 (over $2 million in 2010$) in the second year of Ochs’ ownership of the Times. This drop in revenue could have proved fatal had Ochs not made a decision that appeared counterintuitive, lowering the price of the paper from three cents to one cent per copy (81 cents to 27 cents in 2010$). Behind this decision was his belief that the public wanted a newspaper that offered first and foremost news in an objective fashion. Now he followed through on this belief, assuming that more people would purchase the Times if the price equaled that of the World and the Journal. Within a year the circulation had tripled, increasing from 25,000 to 76,000. Increased circulation generated an increase in advertising revenue, the more significant source of income for the paper. Ochs’ third year showed a profit of $50,000 (close to $1.5 million in 2010$) and on July 1, 1900, he became the owner of close to 4,000 shares of Times stock held in escrow, having fulfilled the contractual condition of keeping the paper profitable for three successive years.[26] From then on, he and his family held a majority stock interest in the New York Times.[27]

Soon after securing financial control of the Times, Ochs determined that the newspaper required a new building and began investigating a number of sites in New York. One of the sites he considered was at the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue at Twenty-Third Street. When Ochs had first arrived in New York City, he had asked a friend for the names of three men who could give him advice. He would not undertake business with these men, he said, leaving their advice free of financial implications. One of these men was Henry Morganthau, to whom he turned for advice on this possible site. Morganthau told him that he was involved in selling the property but refused to sell it to Ochs. He advised him that the business center was already north of 23rd St. and suggested Ochs consider Longacre Square, where Broadway crossed Seventh Avenue. Morganthau subsequently assembled the required real estate packages, refusing a commission and reminding Ochs that no money was to pass between them.[28]

By the summer of 1902, Ochs had successfully negotiated for this triangular plot of land. The cornerstone for the New York Public Library, which took over the land once occupied by the Croton Reservoir, was nearby and plans for extending the subway—later to play an important role in the distribution of the newspaper—under the East River to Brooklyn were in hand. The new building was inspired by the Gothic tower of Giotto in Florence with its famous campanile, and its cornerstone was laid in January 1904. After a New Year’s Eve celebration of fireworks, the Times was printed on Park Row for the last time on January 1, 1905. The same day the equipment was moved and the January 2 issue of the newspaper was produced from the new building, now the second tallest structure in New York City. This issue carried a modest story about the Times’ tower, one whose headline reported “Delicate Task of Removal Well Completed. Big Machines Transferred. Subway helps Distribute This Morning’s Issue.” Longacre Square had been renamed after the newspaper on April 8, 1904, while construction of the Times Building was still underway, and although the Times would require new space again in 1913, the next building would be the Annex, reserving the Times’ name for this building.

The Spanish-American War, with its attendant loss of income, forced Ochs to make the decision to lower the price of his newspaper, but also confirmed for him the necessity of dedicating funds to pay for correspondents, transportation, cables, and other means of quickly communicating with New York from whatever part of the world there was news to cover. His life-long practice of channeling most of the newspaper’s profits back into its operation would, over time, fund these expenditures, as well as equipment, plants, and support for science and exploration. In 1907, for example, he inaugurated transatlantic wire service with the London Times, and this, as well as dedicated funding for news reporting, made a significant difference in the Times’ ability to cover the actions of World War One. In 1913, his recognition of the importance of the historical record presented by the Times led him to develop a cross-referencing index of the Times and further compelled him to publish entire texts of government and official documents during the war, earning the Times the first Pulitzer Gold Medal in 1918 for distinguished service in publishing in full so many official reports, documents and speeches by European statesmen relating to the progress and conduct of the war.[29]

World War One tested not only the paper's ability to obtain and print the news but its editorial soundness and the impartiality of its news columns. The Times sometimes published more special foreign dispatches than all the other American newspapers combined and, although editorially, the Times offered the opinion that the German Government was in the wrong, the news columns presented not only all of the actual events of the war without bias, but also offered opportunities for all points of view to be expressed.

As the Times flourished, Ochs considered expanding his chain of newspapers, contemplating, and then rejecting in 1899, a purchase of the New York Telegram. In 1901 and 1902, he bought and consolidated the Philadelphia Times and Ledger, placing his brother George W. Ochs in charge as editor. Ochs sold the Ledger in 1913 and then in 1918 pursued and subsequently dropped negotiations for the Herald and the Telegram. Earlier, in 1900, he had offered his brother George the opportunity to develop and produce a Paris edition of the Times to coincide with the world’s fair hosted by that city, the Exposition Universelle. This had not only introduced Ochs to Europe and the European market but had also introduced his newspaper to Europe and the world. Although he had considered publishing a permanent European edition, he later dropped the idea but concluded that the Times needed a far stronger European service. [30] Within a year, he had arranged with the Walters family who controlled the London Times to exchange his American special correspondence for the London Times’ continental correspondence. This worked well, yet the London Times’ correspondence was essentially news developed for a British readership, and, over a decade later when Ochs had established foreign-service bureaus in both London and Paris, he ended the exchange of correspondence.

During the 1910s, Ochs saw the Times taking on an international presence and gradually ceased investigating other newspaper purchases. Instead, he undertook related, but independent, publishing enterprises. He supported the Dictionary of American Biography, developed and published by the American Council of Learned Societies, and spun off the Annalist from the Times in 1913. During World War One, he established Current History, a monthly survey of world affairs, long edited by George W. Ochs-Oakes, in order to publish information too detailed for the daily newspaper.[31] As component parts of the Times itself, he developed the weekly Book Review, the Times Magazine and the Sunday feature section. In 1919, he developed the Times World Wide Photo Service to supplement photographs from other sources. In 1927 he began reporting on science news, hiring Waldemar Kaempffert, an engineer, to write editorials on science. Within three years he had hired the first newspaper reporter assigned exclusively to daily science coverage, William L. Laurence. Together Laurence and Kaempffert offered news articles and editorials interpreting contemporary scientific discoveries. The Times continued presenting detailed coverage of advances in all scientific fields and no other daily newspaper ever rivaled its science reporting. Ochs’s support for, and reporting on, exploration is also well documented.[32] His enthusiasm is made clear in one simple anecdote. In April 1929, during a weekly radio broadcast, Ochs and Mayor Jimmy Walker spoke with Admiral Richard E. Byrd, his expedition team, and Times staff writer, Russell Owens, embedded, as we say now, with the group in Antarctica.[33]

Until two years before his death, Ochs remained closely involved with the Times and guided its development as an international newspaper of great reputation and a worthy product of his life’s work. Although Ochs removed himself from the daily operation of the paper during the final two years of his life, he neither appointed, nor named, a successor. Both his nephew, Julius Adler, and his son-in-law, Arthur Hayes Sulzberger, served in top-management jobs and carried a major share of the burden during Ochs’s last illness. Ochs left the choice of a successor to the trustees of his estate (Adler, Sulzberger and Ochs’s daughter, Iphigene), to be ratified by the four members of the Board of Trustees of the New York Times Company. Ultimately, Sulzberger was elected as president and publisher and the Trustees created the position of general manager for Adler. [34]

Social Status and Personality

Adolph Ochs’s younger years coincided with the Civil War and he grew up in a family whose parents supported opposing sides in the conflict, his father a strong Union supporter, his mother, due to her years in the South, a strong Confederate supporter. His father, Julius, stunned by the slave auctions he witnessed in the South, transmitted his belief in the essential humanity of all men, regardless of religion or race, to his children.

Ochs’s father-in-law, Rabbi Isaac R. Wise, left Bohemia after getting into trouble with the government for marrying any Jewish couple who came before him, despite a law that restricted the number of Jewish marriages in order to keep the Jewish population from expanding. Rabbi Wise fled to the U.S. where he espoused a new religious movement known as Reform Judaism, whose aim was to modernize Jewish tradition by emphasizing the core beliefs rather than the practices. The Ochs family was quick to see the future of this movement and embraced it.

Ochs considered himself a Jew and raised his family accordingly. He supported financially a temple in his parents’ name and raised funds for the establishment of the Hebrew Union College, but he also moved easily among men of different faiths and backgrounds. He provided funds for the construction of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine and insisted that the funds he provided for Jewish refugees be used for all refugees. His philanthropy was widespread, from religious support to education to libraries and national parks.

Well before World War One, during a visit to a village near Frankfurt where his wife’s grandfather, a physician, had lived—as a Jew he was not allowed to live in Frankfurt—Ochs met an older woman who remembered the Weiss family. This was an occasion for him to ask what he could do for the village as a memorial. After deliberation the village elders asked for a bell for the village church. It appeared quickly and as Gerald W. Johnson reported in his biography of Ochs, Ochs “thought with mingled amusement and pleasure of a memorial to a Jewish doctor summoning faithful Catholics to mass.” [35] In 1930, on a trip to Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia, for a treatment in the local spa, Ochs visited and noticed the poor condition of his family’s gravestones in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Fürth. He subsequently contributed 800 marks, or $190 as indicated on a bank draft (close to $2,500 in 2010$), toward their restoration. Correspondence in his archives indicates that he was working to raise even more money through his friends and colleagues in the United States, many of whom traced their ancestry to Fürth, for the complete restoration of the cemetery, since the proposed $205,000 (over $2.5 million in 2010$) was beyond his means. Nothing in the files indicates that he raised the money before his death. The International Jewish Cemetery Project reports that “during an allied bombing raid in 1944 the north-easterly section of the cemetery received a direct hit and was largely destroyed. In 1949 the cemetery was restored as far as it was possible to do so.”[36]

Stories of Ochs’ personal generosity are found in archival records and reported in some of his biographies. The establishment of the Hundred Neediest, a fund designed not only to assist the poor but also to educate the public on the city’s poor, flourishes today, continuing his intent that people be educated about, and work to relieve, the needs of their less fortunate neighbors. Not as easily accounted for, however, is the depth of his private gifts to people in need; only at his death did the long list of people whom he had been supporting for years become clear. [37]

While Ochs’s personal community was primarily Jewish, his true network, as had been his father’s, was the extended family, to whom he turned for assistance, employed, supported, and whose company he enjoyed throughout his life. He grew up in a large family with five siblings, had one daughter, Iphigene, and four grandchildren. His life, though, was filled with cousins and nieces and nephews, and he was invariably accompanied by his wife and daughter, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews on many of the trips he undertook later in life. Although he left Chattanooga for New York in 1896, he looked back fondly on the years that he had lived there. In April 1935, in a rally from his final illness, he went there with his granddaughter, Marian, to see the town he still considered home and to visit with some of his friends and colleagues of long standing. Although he travelled with a nurse, he did not survive the cerebral hemorrhage that he suffered over lunch and died on April 8, 1935.

Throughout his lifetime, Ochs and the New York Times received a number of honors; though Ochs found some (those from institutions of higher education) embarrassing since he felt they highlighted his own lack of education. [38] One such award, the honorary LLD conferred on Ochs by Columbia University in 1924, praised the paper as

A great organ of public education and public opinion which has no equal in influence, which sets the standard of excellence for newspaper service and the fair and adequate treatment of the world’s news and which faithfully represents the United States to the World and the World to the United States.[39]

One honor that Ochs cherished was the three-day celebration held in 1928 by Chattanooga on his fiftieth anniversary as a newspaper publisher. Honors poured in from around the world and the souvenir issues of the newspaper were designated as “Oxtras.” One tribute from a New York World editorial praised the clear link between his work in Chattanooga and New York: “the methods and ideals formulated in Chattanooga have affected newspapers for the better wherever The New York Times is read.”[40]

Ochs’s daughter, who was closer to him than almost any other person, offers the view that he was “a modest man who preferred to keep out of the public eye. I don’t think he ever appreciated how much fame his success with the New York Times had brought him, and he was always astonished by it.”[41] Sitting around a table with other publishers, at a time when the Times had gained an immeasurable international reputation, he is reported to have said that “I still feel I am on the wrong side of this table. I belong with the boys from the composing room.”[42]

Immigrant Entrepreneurship

Although Ochs worked and socialized with a number of prominent German Americans, August Belmont, Herman Kohlsaat, Henry Morganthau, and Rabbi Isaac Wise, for example, his network was decidedly his family, and he worked hard to assimilate his family into American life, much as his mother and father had done. Despite this, his family worried that their loyalty to the United States could be questioned, like many German-American families at the time. For example, former president Theodore Roosevelt denounced “hyphenated Americans” during World War One, claiming that dual loyalties were not possible in wartime.[43] Ochs himself and the Times had their loyalty questioned as the result of a September 1918 editorial regarding the war (see below). Ochs also worried about drawing attention his and his family’s Jewish heritage. Like many of his contemporaries, Ochs opposed a Jewish state, fearful, as they were, of provoking the anti-Semitism that lurked beneath the surface and concerned that such support might make them appear to be less than true Americans. At the laying of a cornerstone of Temple Beth El in Glens Falls, New York, on August 3, 1925, Ochs remarked that he knew “Judaism only upon one question.” He continued, “I have nothing of Judaism in me that does not spell religion. Religion is all that I stand for as a Jew. I know nothing else, no other definition for a Jew except religion.”[44] His concern that he appear to desire any national home other than the United States caused him, despite his commitment to publish all sides of a story, to attempt to “squelch all articles on Zionism,” according to Michael B. Oren, a senior fellow in the Shalem Center, writing in Power, Faith and Fantasy .[45]

Biographer Ron Chernow, in his review of The Trust, suggested that Ochs retreated behind a façade of anonymity, distancing himself from Judaism and creating a separation between ownership and operation of his newspaper by deferring content decisions to his chief editor, Carr Van Anda. [46] During the late 1890s, fearing any support for French military officer Alfred Dreyfus, who had been convicted of spying for the Germans, would be attributed to a Jewish interest, Ochs refused to allow the Times to editorialize in favor of freeing Dreyfus from his court-martial and imprisonment on Devil’s Island. Ochs continued to distance the Times from Jewish affairs for nearly ten years until the newspaper began reporting on the 1913 trial that convicted Georgia businessman Leo Frank of murder. The Times lobbied for a new trial after the President of the American Jewish Committee, Louis Marshall, persuaded Ochs that a miscarriage of justice had been committed. Two years later, the Times denounced Frank’s lynching after his death sentence was commuted by the governor of Georgia and called for a new trial to prove Frank’s innocence posthumously. Ochs requested that this editorial be reprinted in southern newspapers, one of which, the Macon (GA) Telegraph, suggested that the pro-Frank propaganda had made the lynching necessary. Ochs felt he had created, totally without intention, the perception that the New York Times was a Jewish newspaper. He began to receive hate mail and by the fall of 1915 his health declined markedly. In February of 1916, he confessed that he had been in a state of depression for some time. He took a short vacation to California, where he walked on the beach to improve his health, and returned to New York City in April looking revived.[47] He recovered from the blow to his health brought on by the Franks’ case but never again publicly supported a cause.[48]

Criticism directed specifically at Ochs and the Times erupted again in September of 1918 when Times’ editor Charles Miller wrote an editorial endorsing the Austrians' proposal for "non-binding" peace talks to end the First World War. Angry protests accused the Times of "running up the white flag" despite Imperial Germany’s growing military weakness. Although neither Ochs nor Van Anda had reviewed the editorial before it went to print, Ochs stood behind his editor and took the blame for appearing to advocate surrender, although a close reading of the editorial showed that this wasn’t so.[49] As Meyer Berger, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and columnist for The New York Times, relates, “The crisis pointed up Ochs’ attitude toward the [New York Times which] … he thought of … then, and to his death, as a kind of public institution of which he had only temporary charge. He was fiercely determined that no individual, no favored group, was ever to use it for self-glorification or for selfish advantage.”[50]

Ochs had long prided himself and his family on their ability to assimilate into mainstream American life. Members of his family, like many German immigrants during the World War One era, adopted virulently anti-German attitudes. Ochs and many family members, nonetheless, were disappointed when his brother George changed the last name of his children to Oakes and his own to Ochs-Oakes. The family believed he was hiding that he was a Jew, not that he was concealing his German origins and, in fact, George had earlier suggested that American Jews not call themselves Jews but rather monotheists.[51] It was however the backlash of criticism from the Times editorial appearing to advocate surrender that shook his belief in his assimilation to the core and he interpreted this incident as a clear failure of that assimilation. It caused him to sink deeper into the depression that had started after the Franks’ case in 1915 and would continue through the remainder of his life. By 1933 he had removed himself from the daily operations of the newspaper and only shook off his depression weeks before his death in Chattanooga.

Conclusion

Adolph Ochs, a second generation immigrant with little formal education, started supporting his family financially from age eleven and created a newspaper and attendant dynasty that have endured well over a century, while other newspapers have changed hands or disappeared entirely. Much has been written about Ochs, his life, the reasons for his success, and his contributions to the newspaper business and journalism in general. His approach to management is routinely cited as a major part of this success. He had a natural instinct for recognizing and hiring talented employees, imbuing them with his sense of purpose and integrity, and then giving them free rein. With the New York Times, this was demonstrated in his decision to keep Charles Miller as editor after Ochs had acquired control of the paper, his hiring of Louis Wiley who, in 1906, realized his ambition at the Times when he became business manager, and his hiring of Carr A. Van Anda, whom he recruited from the Sun, as managing editor. Ochs and these men constituted one of the strongest teams in newspaper journalism and Ochs routinely credited the three as being responsible for the success of the paper. To read of the paper’s efforts in covering stories such as the sinking of the Titanic or its reporting on explorations, scientific discoveries and advances in aviation is to understand and appreciate the role these men played.[52] These three very talented individuals not only performed their jobs with excellence but also brought new ideas to the table and mentored the next generation of newspapermen.

Despite Ochs’s clear ability to recognize and hire talented men, he was unable to extend this recognition to talented women, an inability born, it appears, more from his nineteenth-century belief that a middle-class woman’s place was outside the office rather than from outright misogyny. This attitude manifested itself in his disappointment that he had no son, his refusal to allow his daughter to work at the Times, and most clearly in his inability to appoint her to succeed him as publisher of the Times.

Ochs understood the operations of the newspaper business thoroughly and worked to improve its mechanics with ceaseless attention to detail. His vision was firmly focused on the future. He welcomed new inventions such as the telephone, the typewriter, and the radio telegraph that reshaped American life during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and in turn changed the newspaper business, as well as the new inventions specifically designed for the publishing industry such as machines that folded newspapers as they came off the press. [53]

Most significantly, Ochs greatly improved the content of every newspaper with which he was involved. From the beginning he understood that news is a commodity. His early recognition of the criticality of business news (financial, shipping, real estate, market, and commercial) was one of the foundations on which he turned the New York Times around financially shortly after taking over the company. Court dockets were published in full and, as soon as he could afford it, Ochs began printing the complete texts of all major addresses and papers. The newspaper included governmental news—local, state, national and international. His separation and clear demarcation of news and opinion and the inclusion of letters to the editor within the opinion section were important contributions both to journalism and good government. He both supported and reported in depth on educational matters and, importantly for the early-twentieth century, on science, exploration and technology. John V. Hinkel, writing about Ochs’s accomplishments in the field of journalism, suggests that he contributed as much as anyone to shaping the new journalism due to his management, financial genius, foresight, and common sense.[54]

Ochs saw himself as only a temporary steward of the Times. It was his life’s work, but one he saw as keeping the newspaper “scrupulously fair” and “rigidly non-partisan” in its news and headlines.[55] He poured the profits each year into bettering the newspaper through its news bureaus, extensive coverage of science and technology, and new products like the Index and the Book Review. Formally uneducated, he nonetheless used the paper to educate the world at the same time that he raised the level of journalism to new heights.

Notes

[1] See Meyer Berger, The Story of the New York Times, the First Hundred Years, 1851-1951, (New York: Arno Press, 1970): 406-7 for how, after his death, the Trustees preserved the family’s controlling interest in the New York Times and still realized the $6,000,000 (roughly $95 million current dollars) needed to pay inheritance taxes, attorneys’ fees and so forth.

[2] The children of Julius and Bertha were: Louis (1856-59), Adolph (1858-1935), Nannie Bertha (1860-1947), George Washington (1862-1931), Milton Barlow (1864-1955), Ada (1866-1956) and Mattie (1868-1963). Julius Ochs,A Memoir of Julius Ochs, An Autobiography, n.d., is a primary source for Julius Ochs’s and his family. Apparently privately published, the memoir is available in New York Times Company Records. Adolph S. Ochs Papers. 1853-2006, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, Tilden Foundations. Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones, The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times, (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1999), 5-12 writes about his childhood and includes a genealogical chart from Julius and Bertha Ochs forward; Notes, 799 includes details of sources. Genealogical information on Julius’s and Bertha’s parents as well as Effie Ochs is found within the archives at the New York Public Library.

[3] Gerald W. Johnson, An Honorable Titan, a Biographical Study of Adolph S. Ochs, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1946): 17and Julius Ochs, A Memoir, 23-25. Adolph buried Julius and Bertha side-by-side on a knoll overlooking Chattanooga, he in 1888 and she in 1908. Julius, as a Union Army officer, was buried with the Stars and Stripes in a military funeral arranged by Adolph; Adolph arranged that Bertha be buried with the Stars and Bars.

[4] The conversions provided within the narrative were calculated using the conservative Consumer Price Index. Samuel H. Williamson, "Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present," MeasuringWorth, 2011.

[5]Adolph S. Ochs Dead at 77; Publisher of Times Since 1896,” New York Times, April 9, 1935 (accessed 5/24/11).

[6] Ibid.

[7] This figure is derived from the conservative CPI conversion calculation; use of the GDP per capita conversion produces an equivalency of $218,000. With either conversion, it is clear that this was not a trivial sum. Samuel H. Williamson, "Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present," MeasuringWorth, 2011

[8] Information on Ochs’s in Chattanooga and the purchase of the Chattanooga Times is detailed in Johnson, An Honorable Titan, 30-106; Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 13-30, 799-800; and Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 79-92.

[9] Johnson, An Honorable Titan, 54.

[10] Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 83.

[11] Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 17. See also Johnson, An Honorable Titan, 58.

[12] In two notable areas Ochs was unable to address both sides, and the first was the issue of a woman’s place. This manifested itself when he refused to allow his daughter to work at the Times and to appoint her to succeed him. Later on, not only did he take great satisfaction in the defeat of the suffrage amendment in New York State in 1915, but he refused the request of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to run an article in favor of sex education to balance a column that had appeared. Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 99. The second area was that of Zionism for which see Section 5.

[13]Adolph S. Ochs Dead at 77; Publisher of Times Since 1896,” New York Times, April 9, 1935.

[14] For a more detailed discussion of the real estate boom and subsequent fall, see Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 27-8.

[15] Ochs’s borrowing to finance this building was typical of many of his financial dealings. He first put the building up as collateral and then formed the Chattanooga Times Printing Company which issued $300,000 (approx. $7.5 million 2010$) in bonds secured by the building, equipment and franchises. In doing so, by the time the building was complete he had mortgaged everything he owned. See Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 28.

For other instances of creative financing, see note 18 about acquiring the look of financial stability, note 19 for how much he actually paid for the Times and note 25 for how claimed three years of profitability.

[16] John V. Hinkel, The Contributions of Adolph S. Ochs to Journalism, (New York: J.J. Little and Ives Company, 1931): 7-8.

[17] For more on the rise of objectivity in journalism see, Richard L. Kaplan, Politics and the American Press the Rise of Objectivity, 1865-1920, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); David T.Z. Mindich, Just the Facts: How "Objectivity" Came to Define American Journalism. (New York: New York University Press, 1998); Mary M. Cronin, "Trade Press Roles in Promoting Journalistic Professionalism, 1884-1917," Journal of Mass Media Ethics 8, no. 4 (1993), 227-38; Michael Schudson, "The Objectivity Norm in American Journalism." Journalism 2, no. 2 (2001), 149-70.

[18] See Berger, The Story of the New York Times, and Elmer Davis, History of the New York Times, 1851-1921 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1969) for the first 45 years.

[19] Ochs followed his Chattanooga creation of an aura of prosperity with a leather checkbook and delayed checks and created a similar aura of prosperity for his negotiations in New York City. In essence he created a fake bank account by asking one of his friendly creditors, the Citizens Savings’ Bank of Chattanooga, to place funds in an account so that he would appear solvent to the men of the Times. See Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 35, 800.

[20] The new plan was briefly this: The New York Times Company was organized with 10,000 shares of capital stock and a bond issue of $500,000 ($13.4 million in 2010$). Two thousand shares of stock were exchanged for the shares of the old company on a one-for-five basis; holders of the old company's notes received in exchange bonds of the new company, dollar for dollar, and $200,000 worth of bonds were sold at par to provide working capital. (The new publisher discovered when he took charge that the paper had about $100,000 worth of unfunded obligations, so half of that working capital was eaten up before Mr. Ochs got started.) As a needed incentive, each purchaser of a thousand-dollar bond got fifteen shares of stock with it; and Mr. Ochs himself, with all the money he had and all he could borrow--most of it was borrowed--bought $75,000 worth of bonds, carrying with them 1,125 shares of stock. Of the rest of the stock, 3,876 shares, just enough to make an absolute majority, were put into escrow, to be delivered to the publisher whenever the paper had paid its way for three consecutive years. His control, however, was to be absolute from the first. “Adolph S. Ochs Dead at 77; Publisher of Times Since 1896,” New York Times, April 9, 1935. See Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 801 for their explication of how he got the Times for nothing.

[21] For more on the purchase of the Times, see Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 97-106 and Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 31-40, 800-1. A different view of his acquisition, expressed in John Hess’s 2000 review of Tifft and Jones, The Trust, offers the explanation that Wall Street financiers were anxious to keep the paper alive as a Democratic voice against the populist Democratic candidate for president, William Jennings Bryan. John L. Hess, “The Family Behind the Times,” FAIR, January/February 2000 (accessed April 21, 2011).

[22] The source of Ochs’s $75,000 is unclear. Johnson, An Honorable Titan, 115 suggests that the money came from a bond issue of the Chattanooga Times because at the moment of sale one New York bank made a temporary loan of $25,000 on those bonds. Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 39 discount the Chattanooga connection and suggest that the funds came from three sources, a bank loan, gifts from female relatives, and a business acquaintance who gave him the final critical amount just twenty-four hours before the date. Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 800 offer Ochs’s cousin, Pauline Franck, as a likely family benefactor, whose loan of $30,000 in 1896 only came to light after Ochs’s death in a story on the settlement of his estate.

[23] Announcing himself as publisher in the New York Times on August 18, 1896, Ochs set out his intentions in three paragraphs of which the third states that:

It will be my earnest aim that the New York Times give the news, all the news, in concise and attractive form, in language that is permissible in good society, and give it as early if not earlier, than it can be learned through any other reliable medium; to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect or interests involved; to make the columns of the New York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.

[24] Information on Ochs’s and The New York Times is drawn from his New York Times obituary; Johnson, An Honorable Titan, 107-307; Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 31-162, 800-810; and Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 97-404.

[25] Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 121-2.

[26] Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 802 offer the basis on which Ochs claimed three years of profitability, specifically that despite losses in the first two years and modest profit in the third, income soared in the fourth year and allowed a calculation of thirty-six months of profit. They describe this as ‘inventive arithmetic.’

[27] Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 569 reports circulation and advertising lines for the years from 1896 through 1950. In 1896 weekday circulation was 21,516, Sunday circulation was 22,000 and advertising lines were 2,227,196. In 1935, the year of Ochs’s death weekday circulation was 465,078, Sunday circulation was 713,259 and advertising lines were 19,420,969.

[28] Johnson, An Honorable Titan, 202-3. Morganthau, named as an ambassador to Turkey by President Wilson in 1912 used his long-standing friendship with Ochs to ensure that the Armenian massacres received extension coverage in The Times, 145 articles in 1915 as reported by Michael B. Oren, Power, Faith and Fantasy, America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present, (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2007): 336.

[29] Hinkel, The Contributions of Adolph S. Ochs, 67. After naming the committee drawn from New York and other national newspapers, and chaired by Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University, Hinkel quotes the Hartford Courant as writing that it is “an especial triumph for The Times to earn the award at the hands of newspapermen.” Hartford Courant, May 1918.

[30] For the skeleton plan developed, see Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 133.

[31] In 1915, after the German sinking of the Lusitania, George W. Ochs legally changed his surname to Ochs-Oakes and that of his sons to Oakes.

[32] Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 280-321.

[33] Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 336. “Talking to you in this way,” the publisher said, “is little less than a miracle. Never in the history of newspaper enterprise has there been anything to compare with these daily reports from a remote and inaccessible part of the world. It is journalism at its best. The civilized world is thus in touch with you. It watches your every movement with eager interest.”

[34] For additional discussion and details of the transition see Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 405-6; Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 165-9; and Dryfoos, Iphigene, 172-5.

[35] Johnson, An Honorable Titan, 300.

[37] For details on Ochs’s philanthropy and support for two specific parks see Johnson, An Honorable Titan, 281-5.

[38] For additional honors, see “Adolph S. Ochs Dead at 77; Publisher of Times Since 1896,” New York Times, April 9, 1935 and Meyer Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 272.

[39] Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 272.

[40] As quoted in Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 324. See also Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 148-9 and Dryfoos, Iphigene, 127-29. The archives in the New York Public Library contain much material from the Jubilee including the 96-page souvenir issue.

[41] Dryfoos, Iphigene, 127.

[42] Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 75.

[43] John Hingham, Strangers in the Land: patterns of American nativism, 1860-1925 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980): 198; Donald R. Hickey, "The Prager Affair: A Study in Wartime Hysteria", Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (Summer 1969): 126–127; Alan Brinkley, "Civil Liberties in Times of Crisis," Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (Winter 2006): 26–29.

[44] Johnson, An Honorable Titan, 261.

[45] Michael B. Oren, Power, Faith and Fantasy, (New York: W.W. Norton, 2007): 352.

[46] Ron Chernow, “Who’s in Charge Here,” New York Times, September 26, 1999.

[47] Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 96-7.

[48] Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 94-6.

[49] See Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 221-5 for comments from newspaper and business colleagues who vindicated him.

[50] Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 225.

[51] Tifft and Jones, The Trust, 117.

[52] See Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 160-201, 280-310 for details of the efforts behind the publication of these stories, details that demonstrate the skill and ability of the team that Ochs built. Long after the Titanic story, Berger relates, the editor of Lord Northcliffe’s Daily Mail showed that he kept the New York Times of April 19, 1912 in his right-hand desk drawer, saying that “We keep this as an example of the greatest accomplishment in news reporting.” Berger, The Story of the New York Times, 201.

[53] From the Jubilee Celebration Souvenir issue of the Chattanooga Times, p. 40, col. 3 is this letter from Charles F. Hart, Mechanical Superintendent of the New York Times:

Nothing exemplifies the vision, many-sidedness and pride of accomplishment in Mr. Ochs’s success during the part fifty years than his close attention to the mechanical side of business. … Mr. Ochs’s early training on the mechanical side of newspaper making gave him knowledge of fundamentals and a respect for the production that have stood him in good stead and that have been truly inspirational to all those so fortunate as to be in contact with him.

[54] Hinkel, The Contributions of Adolph S. Ochs, 18.

[55] Time, September 1, 1924.

 

Cite this Entry

APA Style

"Adolph Ochs." (2014) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved September 1, 2014, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship: http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=32

Chicago Style

Lukesh, Susan S. "Adolph Ochs." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 2, edited by William J. Hausman. German Historical Institute. Last modified June 19, 2012. http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=32

MLA Style

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Portrait of Adolph S. Ochs, January 1, 1915

  • New York City Hall and 'Newspaper Row,' January 1889
  • Times Building under Construction in Times Square, New York City, January 1, 1904
  • Times Square Looking South, January 1905
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