On July 4, 1900, William Randolph Hearst launched the first number of his Chicago American, and from that day till 1974 there has been unusual evidence of newspaper activity. The new undertaking was so unlike what the citizens of Chicago had been familiar with that predictions were general that modifications would have to be made in the appearance of the newcomer if it would succeed. This prophecy has remained unfulfilled, and instead of their being changes in the appearance of the Hearst addition to journalistic fold there has come about a general acceptance of the methods of displaying news of which the American was the pioneer in this community.
Frequent editions, utilizing illustrations to the point of extravagance, provident and emphatic headlines, illuminated colors, signed articles, comic sections, serial stories and all have come to be looked on as a necessary part of the daily paper, and in many instances these features have been adapted by other newspapers so that these innovations now occasion no surprise.
ts companion Morning American came out in 1902 (Examiner as the Sunday Edition) and was replaced by the Examiner in 1907.
Distribution of the Herald Examiner after 1918 was controlled by gangsters. Dion O’Banion, Vincent Drucci, Hymie Weiss and Bugs Moran first sold the Tribune. They were then recruited by Moses Annenberg who offered more money to sell the Examiner, later Herald-Examiner. This “selling” consisted of pressuring stores and news dealers.
Under pressure from his lenders, Hearst consolidated the American and the Herald-Examiner in 1939. It continued as the Chicago Herald-American until 1953 when it became Chicago American. The American was bought by the Chicago Tribune in 1956, and was slightly re-named as Chicago’s American. As with many other afternoon dailies, the paper suffered in postwar years from declining circulation figures caused in part by television news and in part by population shifts from city to suburbs. The paper continued as an afternoon broadsheet until 1969 when the Tribune converted the paper to the tabloid-format Chicago Today. Measures to bolster the paper were unsuccessful, and Chicago Today published its final issue on September 13, 1974. The Chicago Tribune inherited many of Today’s writers and staff and became a 24-hour operation.
The American was the product of the merger or acquisition of 14 predecessor newspapers and inherited the tradition, and the files, of all of them.