Since its first day as the Minneapolis Tribune in 1867, Star Tribune has grown to become much more than just a newspaper. Today, Star Tribune is Minnesota’s most-trusted source for news and information reaching more Minnesotans than any other local media brand.
Star Tribune: A 150-year history of Minnesota’s most-important newspaper.
Minneapolis Tribune issued its first newspaper on May 25, 1867, just a few months after Minneapolis received its city charter.
The Tribune’s early years were full of momentous transformation. The paper went through six ownership changes in its first 24 years and several different editors.
The next half-century was more stable. The new era began in March 1891 when Gilbert A Pierce and William J. Murphy purchased the Tribune from Publisher Alden J. Blethen for $450,000.
Murphy modernized the Tribune. He brought to Minneapolis the first Mergenthaler typesetting machines, was an early experimenter with the use of color and introduced the first cartoon on May 4, 1894.
In the early 1920s, one of the Tribune’s competitors was the Minneapolis Star. The Cowles family of Des Moines, Iowa looking for an opportunity to expand beyond their borders, purchased the Star in 1935. The Cowles family then purchased the Minneapolis Journal in August 1939, subsequently creating the Star-Journal. In response to this growing competition, the Tribune created the Times-Tribune to replace the evening Tribune.
Under the Cowles leadership, the Star-Journal prospered. William McNally, who was the nephew of Frederick Murphy, the younger brother of one of the early owners of the paper, took over the leadership of the Tribune in 1940. Deciding the only way to keep the Tribune growing was through a sale or merger he met with co-owner John Cowles, who agreed to a merger on April 2, 1941.
John Cowles set out to transform the entire way the newspaper was run. The Cowles “formula” — which remains in place today — consisted of three elements: strong local coverage, an outstanding circulation system and strong promotion.
In 1960, John Cowles Sr. appointed his son John Jr. editor of the Minneapolis Tribune and the Minneapolis Star. John Jr. had a strong commitment to his employees and the community.
In 1968, John Jr. succeeded his father as president and CEO. At this time, he completed the separation of the Minneapolis Tribune and Minneapolis Star. Each paper would have its own editorial board and its own editor.
On April 5, 1982, the two newspapers were merged and the first combined issue appeared in April 5, 1982. The paper was now a single all-day paper that was distributed primarily in the morning.
To make the most of this new merger, publisher Roger Parkinson oversaw the construction of the state-of-the-art Heritage printing facility along the Mississippi river in the North Loop (then more commonly known as the Warehouse District) and transformed the newspaper into the “Newspaper of the Twin Cities.” And in 1990, the Star Tribune received its first Pulitzer in over three decades for investigative reporting.
Recognizing the Internet in the early 1990s as an important new technology, Star Tribune saw an opportunity to transform itself into a modern-day media company and in 1996 the paper launched its online edition.
Over time Star Tribune built on its strengths of delivering the news when and how readers wanted it by expanding and refining its website, adding a mobile site and offering multiple apps as smartphones grew in popularity. Within a few short years, Star Tribune was growing circulation and readership, and solidifying its position as Minnesota’s most-read and most-trusted news source.
In 2013, it was recognized with two Pulitzer Prizes— journalism’s highest honor — one in local reporting and one in editorial cartooning. In 2014, Mankato businessman Glen Taylor purchased the Star Tribune asserting, “The Star Tribune is not only a good business, it’s an important institution for all Minnesotans.”
In March 2015, Star Tribune left its longtime home on Portland Avenue and moved its newsroom and headquarters to a new state-of-the-art facility at 650 Third Avenue South. In selling its headquarters and adjacent land, the company paved the way for a revitalization of Downtown East, including the construction of U.S. Bank Stadium.
Always evolving and improving, in 2016 Star Tribune announced a multimillion-dollar investment in its Heritage printing facility to expand its capacity and enhance the newspaper’s quality.
Star Tribune may have come a long way from its beginning as the Minneapolis Tribune 150 years ago, but its focus remains the same: delivering more of what matters to Minnesota. All day. Every day.