The News Cooperative Takes Shape
spring of 1846, Moses Yale Beach (1800-68), publisher
of The New York Sun, establishes a pony express to deliver
news of the Mexican War. His pony express speeds dispatches
ahead of the Great Southern Mail from Mobile to Montgomery,
Alabama, where the mail coaches carry them 700 miles
to the nearest telegraph point near Richmond, Virginia.
In offering an equal interest in the express venture
to the major New York City daily papers (four of whom
accept), Beach effectively organizes what soon became
known as The Associated Press. The papers that joined
Beach’s venture were: The Journal of Commerce,
The Courier and Enquirer, The New York Herald, and The
Express. The first dispatches from the Mexican War are
carried by the Sun on May 29, 1846.
Telegraphic communications between Washington and New
York are established on June 5; the New York-Boston
line goes into operation on June 27; and by summer’s
end, the telegraph extends from New York to Albany and
Buffalo, and from Philadelphia west to Harrisburg, creating
a telegraph network. Editors now actively collect news
as it breaks, rather than gather already published news.
papers shed new light on origin of The Associated Press
The five papers that organized
to receive Mexican War news in 1846 agree to form a
Harbor News Association and share the expense of the
newsboat Naushon which intercepts and gathers news from
vessels arriving in New York harbor. The five papers
share this news.
The presidential election of November
7, in which Gen. Zachary Taylor ran against Lewis Cass
and Martin Van Buren, is the first in which all states
voted on the same day and the first in which the telegraph
is used to gather returns. For 72 hours, Dr. Alexander
Jones, AP’s first general agent, collects the
results from the 30 states that voted then, thereby
ushering in the tradition of AP counting and calling
On January 11, a second the Harbor News Association
is re-chartered, joined by the New York Tribune. Daniel
H. Craig, pigeon trainer and news entrepreneur, begins
operations out of Halifax, Nova Scotia to meet ships
arriving from Europe. Craig is able to telegraph stories
over the Nova Scotia telegraph line before ships dock
in New York.
||Seven New York newspapers (the Sun, Journal of Commerce,
Courier and Enquirer, Express, Tribune, Times, and Herald)
agree to formalize arrangements for the joint telegraphic
transmission of news. Daniel H. Craig becomes the first
General Agent of the New York Associated Press, replacing
physician Alexander Jones, who had served since 1848.
||The same seven New York newspapers draw up a charter
and by-laws, forming the “General News Association
of the City of New York,” consolidating the second
Harbor News Association formed in 1849 with the subsequent
telegraphic and general news associations, and providing
members with a comprehensive daily summary of national
On February 11, President-elect Abraham Lincoln
boards the train that takes him from Springfield, Illinois
to his inauguration in Washington, D.C. AP reporter
Henry Villard, who has cultivated a relationship with
Lincoln for several years, obtains the notes for Lincoln’s
inaugural address and telegraphs an exclusive account
of the speech at the train’s first stop.
After the American Civil War begins in April, platoons
of AP reporters are dispatched to cover the conflict.
It becomes the first war reported instantaneously, in
real time. Reporters in the field, facing censorship
challenges, use the anonymous byline “Dispatch
to the Associated Press.” Their stories are sent
to AP’s Washington, D.C. agent Lawrence Gobright,
who telegraphs them to New York.
In October 1861, the telegraph network in the west is
completed from Omaha to Carson City, Nevada.
||Newspaper publishers from cities in the west, including
Louisville, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh,
Dayton, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis meet at Indianapolis
and form the Western Associated Press. Joseph Medill of
the Chicago Tribune serves as Chairman of the Executive
Committee and represents the association in its dealings
with the New York Associated Press.
As President Abraham
Lincoln delivers his address dedicating the cemetery
at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, AP stringer
Joseph Ignatius Gilbert takes down his words in shorthand.
Afterwards, Gilbert borrows Lincoln’s handwritten
text, copies it word for word in longhand, and uses
that as the basis for his AP story, which was published
in numerous newspapers, including the New York Times,
New York Tribune, New York Herald, and Brooklyn Daily
Eagle. Many historians consider the AP version of Lincoln’s
remarks to be the closest to what Lincoln actually said.
Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders
at Appomattox, Virginia. AP correspondent William D.
McGregor is among the journalists who watch as Lee and
Union General Ulysses S. Grant emerge from the house
where the surrender was signed.
||On July 28, after eight years and three attempts, a
telegraph cable successfully links Europe to North America.
It transmits eight words per minute and inaugurates a
new era in international news transmission.
||Over objections from Western Union, AP secures its first
leased telegraph wire, a 226-mile circuit between New
York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, enabling
AP to move news unencumbered by delays and competition
for the wire.
||Mark Kellogg, a stringer, becomes the first AP reporter
to die in the line of duty, at Little Bighorn. His final
dispatch to reach the outside world declared: "I
go with Custer and will be at the death"
||United Press, a private, for-profit wire service, is
established; it declares bankruptcy in 1897 and its member
papers come over to AP.
||William Henry Smith is appointed General Agent of the
joint Western Associated Press, based in Chicago, and
the New York Associated Press.
||The Western Associated Press severs its connection with
the New York Associated Press and incorporates on December
15 under Illinois state law as The Associated Press. It
issues its first annual report at its second annual meeting
in Chicago on February 14, 1894.
||AP uses Guglielmo Marconi's wireless
telegraph to cover the America's Cup yacht race off Sandy
Hook, New Jersey, the first news transmission test of
what would later be called “radio.”
||Regional AP associations
merge and the modern AP is incorporated as a not-for-profit
cooperative in New York state under the “Membership
Corporation Law” with Melville E. Stone as its first