Joseph Medill Patterson

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Joseph Medill Patterson

Birthdate: (67)
Death: May 26, 1946 (67)
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Wilson Patterson, Jr. and Elinor (Nellie) Patterson
Husband of Mary Patterson
Ex-husband of Alice Higinbotham
Father of Elinor Medill Patterson; Alicia Patterson; Josephine Medill Patterson and James Joseph Patterson
Brother of Cissy Patterson

Occupation: Founder and Publisher of New York Daily News
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Joseph Medill Patterson

Joseph Medill Patterson (January 6, 1879 – May 26, 1946) was an American journalist and publisher, grandson of publisher Joseph Medill, founder of the Chicago Tribune and a mayor of Chicago, Illinois.


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.


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 Illinois legislature briefly, 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. He announced he was a socialist and wrote a muckraking article published in Collier's. Patterson moved to a farm in the country, wrote a novel and 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.

Comic strips

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.

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Joseph Medill Patterson's Timeline

January 6, 1879
October 1, 1903
Age 24
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
October 15, 1906
Age 27
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
Age 33
Age 43
May 26, 1946
Age 67