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Formed in 1903 with the merger of the Times and the Dispatch, the Times Dispatch of Richmond quickly emerged as Virginiaâ€™s primary newspaper of record. Indeed, its only significant competition in the capital city was the evening News Leader, which tended to focus on routine local issues than on statewide politics, business, and other in-depth news. The Times Dispatch was published from 1903 until 1914, when it became, officially, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the cityâ€™s current newspaper. During the first decade of the twentieth century, the Times Dispatch, a morning paper, was published in a large broadside format, usually measuring 17 inches by 23 inches with an average weekday issue of no more than 10 pages.
The editorial outlook of the Times Dispatch during those early years sometimes swayed from one political or social viewpoint to another. For example, although publisher Joseph Bryan, a Confederate Civil War veteran, opposed black equality with whites, he was not necessarily opposed to increased rights for African-Americans and, in fact, campaigned for a secret ballot open to both races. And yet with enactment of the new state Constitution of 1902, which mandated severe restrictions on black rights, the newspaper moved to different ground, supporting the radical curtailment of black voting rights amid fears of racial discord and bloodshed.
The Times Dispatch was perhaps strongest in its frequent editorials and articles in support of Virginia businesses. Publisher Bryan, a University of Virginia law school graduate, had been a railroad president, builder, real estate developer, and manufacturer, and he believed fervently that social stability depended on economic expansionâ€”a position repeatedly championed by the newspaper. Even Bryan, however, knew that business sometimes had to be restrained, and that cutthroat competition could prove harmful to the stateâ€™s welfare. When railroad interests began to have a negative influence on state politics, the publisher realized that something had to be done. â€œWe are for RRs,â€� the Times-Dispatch declared, â€œbut in their placeâ€”& not ruling in matters of state.â€�
Bryan died in 1908, but in a mere six years he had firmly established the Times-Dispatch as a major southern paper. This proved to be an impressive accomplishment. In a letter to his son several years before his death, the publisher had acknowledged the harsh realities of running a successful newspaper. After listing his many experiences as a businessman, industrialist, and civic leader, Bryan, the former laywer, â€œunhesitatingly put lawyers at the top and newspapermen at the bottom of all the men that I have ever known, and preachers next to newspapermen.â€� Perhaps, he thought, newspapermen and preachers were too much alike in their ability to cajole and sway their audiences. In any case, the Times-Dispatch had grownâ€”with a circulation by 1904 of 8,000 for the Wednesday edition, 9,000 for the morning edition, and 10,500 for Sunday. By 1908, the Times-Dispatch circulation had increased dramatically, doubling its 1904 totals, with the Wednesday circulation at 18,000, the Morning edition at 20,436 and the Sunday edition at 23,250. For the next ten years, Sunday circulation saw modest growth with a paid circulation of 33,000 by 1916, while the daily edition increased modestly to 22,000.
Note: For an overview of the paper from its early years to the mid-1990s, see Earle Dunford, Richmond Times-Dispatch: The Story of a Newspaper (Richmond: Cadmus Pub., 1995).
Provided by: Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA