Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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New York Journal-American: An American Paper for the American People

Photographic Morgue

Introduction   /   History   /   Database   /   Gallery   /   Research

After his tremendously successful revival of the San Francisco Examiner, William Randolph Hearst bought the New York Morning Journal in 1895, and in the following year he founded the companion New York Evening Journal. After its establishment, the New York Morning Journal entered into a circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer's New York World-Telegram, offering readers copious illustrations, color magazine sections, glaring headlines, and a reduced sales price of one cent. The newspaper became known for its sensationalism, geared to appeal to readers' emotions rather than to their intellects. Its rich early history includes a famous episode wherein its false and exaggerated reporting helped to incite the Spanish-American War of 1898. As Hearst is reported to have cabled his illustrator in Cuba: "You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war."

Years later the Morning Journal changed its name to the New York American and then merged with the Evening Journal in 1937 to become the New York Journal-American, the flagship publication of the Hearst family publishing empire. The newspaper ceased publication in 1966, and the Hearst Corporation donated the photographic morgue to The University of Texas at Austin in 1968.

The photographic morgue consists of approximately two million prints and one million negatives created for publication in the New York Journal-American newspaper. The bulk of the material covers the years from 1937 to the paper's demise in 1966. Earlier decades are represented in the collection, but with decreasing frequency toward the beginning of the twentieth century. Roughly half of the prints are images taken by Journal-American staff. The backs of these prints usually bear the stamped date of publication and a pasted-down clipping from the newspaper. The majority of the other prints come from wire services such as the Associated Press, United Press International, and other syndication entities, while a small portion of the prints are publicity photos from sources such as airlines, public relations firms, movie studios, etc. Many of the prints in the morgue show crop marks and/or heavy retouching with pencil, ink, dyes, or airbrush paints as evidence of their use in publication.

Until now, access to the photo morgue collection has been limited, resulting from its uncataloged status. In keeping with the Ransom Center's mission to advance the study of the arts and humanities by preserving and making accessible creations of our cultural heritage through the highest standards of cataloging, conservation, and collection management, the Center has now constructed this website as a portal to the prints in the New York Journal-American photo morgue. It is intended to serve as an introduction to the collection and its imagery and to provide a searchable database of more than 64,000 folder titles by which the prints were organized by the newspaper staff.

This website has been constructed in association with a generous three-year grant from the Scholarly Communications Program of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to gain intellectual control over and provide access to the approximately two million prints in the New York Journal-American newspaper photo morgue, to survey the physical condition of the materials, and to improve basic preservation housing.

This website portal was produced by the staff of the Harry Ransom Center, including:

David Coleman, Curator of Photography
Roy Flukinger, Senior Research Curator of Photography
Mary Alice Harper, Photographic Archivist
Christopher Jahnke, Technology Librarian
Daniel Zmud, Webmaster

Questions and inquiries regarding this site and all rights and permissions concerning its imagery and contents may be addressed to: webmail@hrc.utexas.edu.