1846 - 1900
The News Cooperative Takes Shape

In the 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.

19th-century 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 national elections.


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.

1851 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.
1856 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 news.

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.

1862 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.

1866 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.
1875 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.
1876 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"
1882 United Press, a private, for-profit wire service, is established; it declares bankruptcy in 1897 and its member papers come over to AP.
1883 William Henry Smith is appointed General Agent of the joint Western Associated Press, based in Chicago, and the New York Associated Press.
1892 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.
1899 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.”
1900 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 general manager.
Buy AP News | Buy AP Photos | Buy AP Video | Buy AP Audio | Buy AP Books | Careers | AP Company Store