Originally founded in 1863 as the Seattle Gazette only to be renamed the Weekly Intelligencer by new owner Samuel L. Maxwell in 1867, the SeattlePost-Intelligencer (P-I) served as the region’s pioneering newspaper and Seattle’s oldest continually operating business. In a land rich with timber, minerals, and waterways, the P-I served a growing community of 150 persons in 1860. Having survived over 11 moves and more than 17 owners, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as of March 2009 no longer prints news in broadsheet, but remains an active force in the world of digital publishing.
Soon after its creation, the Post-Intelligencer experienced a number of challenges and frequently changed owners for over a decade. After acquiring the paper in 1874 and publishing under the name the Daily Intelligencer, David Higgins resold the paper in 1878 to then editor Thaddeus Hanford who quickly expanded the P-I while absorbing two rival publications: the Puget Sound Dispatch and Pacific Tribune. The following year, Thomas W. Prosch and Samuel L. Crawford assumed ownership. Meanwhile, the Seattle Daily Post (also published on Sundays as the Seattle Weekly Post-Intelligencer) emerged as its rival. Unable to sustain both papers independently, Hanford merged the Post with the Intelligencer, becoming the Seattle Daily Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Weekly Post-Intelligencer in 1881.
After the merger, Prosch managed the flourishing paper until its sale to a joint-stock company in early 1886. Later that year, Leigh S. J. Hunt, who purchased controlling interest in the paper from Clarence B. Bagley, used profits from his mining and real estate ventures to improve the P-I with new technologies and progressive journalism. Hunt not only secured a new print type, but also dropped the “daily” and “weekly” designations from the title in favor of the shortened Seattle Post-Intelligencer and published the paper daily (except Mondays) and weekly. Additionally, he enlarged the Sunday edition and expanded the editorial staff to include famed political reporter Horace R. Cayton, who became Seattle’s first African American journalist.
Although strengthened by innovation and new technology, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer faced external challenges that threatened to destroy the news agency. When the Great Fire of June 6, 1889, razed most of downtown Seattle, including the P-I’s building, Hunt salvaged and relocated his press to a house he owned and published the newspaper from his barn without missing an edition. The following month, still operating out of his residence, the Post-Intelligencer reported on the historic constitutional convention in Olympia, which prepared Washington for statehood. Hit hard during the national financial Panic of 1893, Hunt was forced to sell the paper to a group of Ohio-based investors in 1894. Under new leadership and with a renewed fiscal commitment, James D. Hoge increased the P-I’s circulation and eliminated many of its previous competitors; only the Seattle Daily Times remained.
Having survived fire, financial disasters, and feverish competition, the newspaper reported in July 1897 that gold had been discovered in the Klondike region. Beriah Brown Jr., son of a former Seattle mayor and P-I editor, first broke the news in an article announcing: “GOLD! GOLD! GOLD! GOLD! … STACKS OF YELLOW METAL!” Almost immediately the paper experienced a rush of activity and prosperity as it published special guides for would-be Yukon prospectors. The P-I’s “Klondike Edition” printed 212,000 copies and became the largest newspaper run produced west of Chicago. Postmasters, various newspaper editors, mayors, librarians, and members of town councils across the nation received copies for redistribution. The campaign was so successful that international news agencies in France, Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland reprinted the P-I’s circulars.
The viral Klondike Edition resulted in a boom economy for Seattle that not only enhanced its reputation as the major trade port to Alaska but also permanently increased its population, which doubled from 42,837 in1890 to 80,671 in 1900. After so much success, Hoge decided to sell the paper to nearby Spokane investors headed by George Turner. In 1899 Turner resold the P-I to former Washington state senator John L. Wilson who ran the paper until 1912.
Bagley, Clarence B. History of Seattle from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Vols. 1-2. Chicago/Seattle: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1916. (Chapter X. “The Press,” pp. 189-207)
Bagley, Clarence B. History of King County, Washington, Vol. 1. Chicago/Seattle: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1929. (Chapter XXI. “Newspapers,” pp. 466-472).
Grant, Frederic James, ed. History of Seattle, Washington: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. New York: American Publishing and Engraving Co., 1891. (Chapter XX. “Newspapers” pp. 362-371).
Hanford, C.H., ed. Seattle and Environs, 1852-1924, Vol. 1. Chicago: Pioneer Historical Pub. Co., 1924.
“Post-Intelligencer Changes Hands.” Editor & Publisher 51: 15 (September 21, 1918).
Content: Republican, Independent
Pages: 4, 8
Editor: David Higgins
Publisher: David Higgins
Frequency: Weekly Saturdays; Daily, Except Mondays
Region: Seattle, North Puget Sound
LCCN: sn 83045604
Filmed by: University of Washington
Positives held by: Washington State Library, Call number: 14/124
University of Washington, Call number: A329
Negatives held by: University of Washington, Library of Congress