Next: Photos from the International Tattoo Convention
Austro-Hungarian soldier, politician and mule hostler Joseph Pulitzer lived a life as colorful and sensational as the stories and comics that he ran in his newspapers.
After his father died and the family business folded, an impoverished Pulitzer signed up with American military recruiters and found himself riding with the 1st New York Volunteer Cavalry for the last few months of the war.
He served in a company almost totally comprised of fellow German-speaking immigrants. Still poor at war’s end, Pulitzer rode the rails, hobo-style, to St. Louis and a host of terrible jobs, including a mule-handling gig that he quit after two days.
It was in German-dominated St. Louis that Pulitzer first developed his taste for the news, working 16-hour days as a reporter for the bilingual Westliche Post. As a reporter, he built a network of friends so influential that he successfully ran for state legislature despite being three years under the required age and still not that great at speaking English.
That was the beginning of an incredible rise to professional and journalistic fame that culminated with his triumphant return to New York City and his purchase of the New York World, a paper that went from losing forty grand a year to becoming the largest newspaper in the country.
As ruler of the World, Pulitzer essentially invented 20th-century American journalism: the good (in-depth investigative journalism by Nellie Bly and others), the bad (the sensational “yellow journalism” of his famous rivalry with William Randolph Hearst) and the funny (America’s first color comic strip “The Yellow Kid”).