Podcasts Wartime New York

The War on Newspaper Row: Pulitzer, Hearst and the Sinking of the USS Maine

EPISODE 336 The newspapers of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst — the New York World and the New York Journal — were locked in a fierce competition for readers in the mid 1890s. New Yorkers loved it. The paper’s frantic, sensational style was so shocking that it became known as ‘yellow journalism’.

So what happens when those flamboyant publications are given an international conflict to write about?

On February 15, 1898, the USS Maine mysteriously exploded and sank while stationed in Havana Harbor in Cuba. While President William McKinley urged calm and patience, two New York newspapers jumped to a hasty conclusion — Spain had destroyed the ship!

The Spanish-American War allowed Hearst (with Pulitzer playing catch up) fresh opportunities to sell newspapers using exaggerated reports, melodramatic illustrations and even outlandish stunts. Think Hearst on a yacht, barreling into conflicts where he didn’t belong!

But by 1899, with the war only a recent memory, the publishers faced a very different battle — one with their own newsboys, united against the paper’s unfair pricing practices. It’s a face-off so dramatic, they wrote a musical about it!

PLUS: How have the legacies of Pulitzer and Hearst influenced our world to this day? And where can you find the remnants of their respective empires in New York City today?

This is Part Two of our two-part series on Joseph Pultizer and William Randolph Hearst. Listen to Episode 335 (Pulitzer vs. Hearst: The Rise of Yellow Journalism) before listening to this show.

To get this week’s episode, just find our show on Stitcher or your favorite podcast streaming service. Or listen to it here:

The respective front pages from the Journal and World, drawing similar conclusions that the sinking of the USS Maine was caused by Spanish treachery.

Here’s what Puck Magazine thought of Pulitzer and Hearst in 1900. “Illustration showing a large hand labeled “LAW” holding up by the collar newspaper publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, with view of New York City in the background.” Library of Congress
Print shows a female figure sitting on a stone bench writing a list of names in a large book, including “McKinley, Dewey, Sampson, Schley, Hobson and his crew, Wainwright, Clark, Miles, Shafter, Wheeler, Roosevelt, [and] Wood”; behind her, Puck has erected two monuments on a “Barren Island”, topped with statues of “Pulitzer” and “Hearst”. Each monument is papered with yellow sheets of paper that give credit for the success of the American forces in Spanish-American War to both Pulitzer and Hearst. (Library of Congress)
Library of Congress
“Hearst for Mayor” Campaign Poster (Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Political postcard showing three bust-portraits of Democrat William R. Hearst, unsuccessful candidate against Charles E. Hughes, in the New York Governor race of 1906. Upper left side of card shows a fist “justice” punching a money bag “the trusts”.
Phoebe Apperson Hearst, William’s mother and the bankroller of many of his more ambitious ideas. January, 1895. (Courtesy Library of Congress)
Hearst making a show of it with his wife Millicent Wilson and his sons. Courtesy Library of Congress. Date indicated on website says between 1920-25
The Maine Monument in Columbus Circle. Read about its dedication here. (Image courtesy Museum of the City of New York)
The Pulitzer Memorial Fountain in Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, 1921. (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)
The Hearst Building, pictured here in the 1950s. (Courtesy Ephemeral NY)


First of all, please listen to part one of our Pulitzer vs. Hearst series if you haven’t already done so….

Then revisit the thrilling tale of newsies on strike!

And finally get another perspective of publishing in the Gilded Age with this look at Puck Magazine and the Puck Building.


Crying the News by Vincent DiGirolamo
The Spanish American War by Kenneth E. Hendrickson
How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr
Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print and Power by James McGrath Morris
Empire By Default by Ivan Musicant
The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst by David Nasaw
William Randolph Hearst: The Early Years by Ben Proctor
Citizen Hearst: A Biography of William Randolph Hearst by W.A. Swanberg

The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every week. We’re also looking to improve and expand the show in other ways — publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media. But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a creator on Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.

If you’d like to help out, there are six different pledge levels. Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *