On April 10, 1907, Pulitzer wrote what became known as the paper's platform:
I know that my retirement will make no difference in its cardinal principles, that it will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.
In 1878, Joseph Pulitzer purchased the bankrupt St. Louis Dispatch at a public auction and merged it with the St. Louis Evening Post to create the St. Louis Post and Dispatch, whose title was soon shortened to its current form. He appointed John A. Cockerill as the managing editor. Its first edition, 4,020 copies of four pages each, appeared on December 12, 1878.
In 1882, James Overton Broadhead ran for US Congress against John Glover. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, at Cockerill's direction, ran a number of articles questioning Broadhead's role in a lawsuit between a gaslight company and the city; Broadhead never responded to the charges. Broadhead's friend and law partner, Alonzo W. Slayback, publicly defended Broadhead, asserting that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was nothing more than a "blackmailing sheet." The next day, October 13, 1882, Cockerill re-ran an offensive "card" by John Glover that the paper had published the prior November (November 11, 1881). Incensed, Slayback barged into Cockerill's offices at the paper demanding an apology. Cockerill shot and killed Slayback; he claimed self-defense, and a pistol was allegedly found on Slayback's body. A grand jury refused to indict Cockerill for murder, but the economic consequences for the paper were severe. Therefore, in May 1883, Pulitzer sent Cockerill to New York to manage the New York World for him.
The Post-Dispatch was one of the first daily newspapers to print a comics section in color, on the back page of the features section, styled the "Everyday Magazine."
In 1950, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sent a reporter, Dent McSkimming, to Brazil to cover the 1950 FIFA World Cup. The reporter paid for his own travelling expenses and was the only U.S. reporter in all of Brazil covering the event.
In 1959 the St. Louis Globe-Democrat entered into a joint operating agreement with the Post-Dispatch. The Post–Globe operation merged advertising, printing functions and shared profits. The Post-Dispatch, distributed evenings, had a smaller circulation than the Globe-Democrat, a morning daily. The Globe-Democrat folded in 1983, leaving the Post-Dispatch as the only daily newspaper in the region.
In August 1973 a Teamsters union representing Globe and Post-Dispatch staffers went on strike, halting production for six weeks.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch headquarters
On January 13, 2004, the Post-Dispatch published a 125th-anniversary edition, which included some highlights of the paper's 125 years:
Coverage of Charles Lindbergh, who flew across the Atlantic despite being denied financial or written support from the Post-Dispatch.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning campaign to clean up smoke pollution in St. Louis. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the city had the filthiest air in America. See 1939 St. Louis smog.
On January 31, 2005, Michael Pulitzer announced the sale of Pulitzer, Inc. and all its assets, including the Post-Dispatch and a small share of the St. Louis Cardinals, to Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, for $1.46 billion. He said no family members would serve on the board of the merged company.
On March 12, 2007, the paper eliminated 31 jobs, mostly in its circulation, classified phone rooms, production, purchasing, telephone operations and marketing departments. Several rounds of layoffs have followed.
On March 23, 2009, the paper converted to a compact style every day from the previous broadsheet Sunday through Friday and tabloid on Saturday.
On May 4, 2012, the Post-Dispatch named a new editor, Gilbert Bailon.
In 2015, the paper was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for its coverage of protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
Circulation dropped for the daily paper from 213,472 to 191,631 and then 178,801 for the two years after 2010, ending on September 30, 2011, and September 30, 2012, respectively. The Sunday paper also decreased from 401,427 to 332,825 and then to 299,227. The circulation as of September 30, 2016, was 98,104 daily and 157,543 on Sunday.
According to a 2017 press release from Lee Enterprises, the paper reaches more than 792,600 readers each week and stltoday.com has roughly 67 million page views a month.
The paper sells for $2 daily or $4 on Sundays and Thanksgiving Day. The price may be higher outside adjacent counties and states. Sales tax is included at newsracks.
First appearance of the Weatherbird, February 11, 1901
On February 11, 1901, the paper introduced a front-page feature called the "Weatherbird", a cartoon bird accompanying the daily weather forecast. "Weatherbird" is the oldest continuously published cartoon in the United States. Created by Harry B. Martin, who drew it through 1903, it has since been drawn by Oscar Chopin (1903–1910); S. Carlisle Martin (1910–1932); Amadee Wohlschlaeger (1932–1981); Albert Schweitzer, the first one to draw the Weatherbird in color (1981–1986); and Dan Martin (1986–present).
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch as Appraised by Ten Distinguished Americans (St. Louis, 1926).
Orrick Johns, Time of Our Lives: The Story of My Father and Myself, (New York, 1937). George Sibley Johns, father of the author, was editor of the Post-Dispatch for many years, and was the last of Joseph Pulitzer's "Fighting Editors".
Dan Martin, The story of the First 100 Years of the St. Louis Post Dispatch Weatherbird (St. Louis, 2001).