We wish you a happy birthday!
The 220th anniversary of Tuesday, November 16, 1801, saw the delivery to 600 New York City subscribers of The Evening Post’s first issue.
This newspaper was born out of exile. Alexander Hamilton, the former Treasury Secretary, was exiled from power to Gotham and was disliked by his party, The Federalists.
His political career was in disarray. If you’ve seen Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” go ahead and sing along: Hamilton had admitted to a torrid extramarital affair. He had publicly bashed the party’s leader, President John Adams. And in early 1801, Hamilton’s influence swayed the election to Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson. Adams didn’t agree with Jefferson, but thought him a man of principle and preferable to his opponent, Aaron Burr.
Hamilton was 43. He had 8 children, a wife, and only one law office. Democratic-Republicans controlled the presidency and Congress. The primary means of spreading political ideas was through newspapers, however the Federalist-leaning New York papers weren’t doing well. One, the Commercial Advertiser, was derided by another paper as “too drowsy to be of service to any cause; it is a powerful opiate.”
Hamilton had one choice: He could start his own business.
He gathered a group of investors at Archibald Gracie’s weekend villa, now Gracie Mansion. They donated $10,000. Hamilton edited the article by choosing William Coleman. Coleman was a reporter and covered Hamilton’s murder trial. Hamilton, along with Burr, successfully represented the defense.
The Evening Post has been a huge success since its inception. It was a change from the two-font standard used in most papers. Instead of using four fonts, it uses four. It was of higher quality. Its first year saw a rise in circulation to 1,100, in a town of just 60,000.
Each issue was a single sheet folded once, to create four pages; packed with advertising from merchants and ship owners as well as bits of news and political commentary, much of it supporting the philosophy of Federalists in general and Hamilton in particular: a strong central bank, peace with Great Britain and an “America first” view of policy decisions.
Coleman was a respected editor, though Allan Nevins, who wrote a history of The Evening Post in 1922, said two of his faults were that “his style, like Hamilton’s, was diffuse; he sometimes forgot taste and decency when assailing his opponents.”
It is ironic that Coleman would die in duel with his boss in 1804, following a disagreement with an editor from the American Citizen. The Daily News should take notice.
The Post published its first issue with a statement about principles. This was probably written by Coleman or Hamilton.
“The design of this paper is to diffuse among the people correct information on all interesting subjects, to inculcate just principles in religion, morals, and politics; and to cultivate a taste for sound literature.”
This sounds just right.
Hamilton would write for the paper under the pseudonym “Lucius Crassus,” mostly to bash Jefferson, and Coleman would sometimes visit Hamilton’s home at 26 Broadway. “As soon as I see him, he begins in a deliberate matter to dictate and I note down in shorthand; when he stops, my article is completed,” Coleman said.
Hamilton was murdered by Burr on July 12, 1804. This happened less than three decades after he founded the newspaper. The Evening Post wasn’t published the day Hamilton died. The paper also had a black heavy border for about a week.
However, his work endured. The New-York Evening Post (now The New York Post) is America’s longest-running newspaper.
The paper’s ownership and political views changed a dozen times along the way. The paper evolved into the tabloid form you see today, in 1942. Rupert Murdoch purchased The Post in 1975 and switched The Post from an evening newspaper to a morning one.
Murdoch did everything from instilling the paper with a common-sense, conservative editorial perspective to introducing the famous gossip column Page Six — creating the paper you know today.
It now has a readership that is as surprising to its creators. In print, it’s the sixth-largest paper in the country; online, more than 80 MillionIt was read by over 20,000 people in one month.
But some things haven’t changed. The New York Post continues to be the enemy for the radical, the unpatriotic, and the sleepy. It is fearless in standing up for what’s right. From Hamilton to Murdoch, it diffuses among the people correct information on all interesting subjects — with bellies and keyboards on fire.
Let’s raise a glass as we click and turn the pages. We are grateful for 220 years worth of journalism and look forward to another 220.