Frank I. Cobb

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Frank Irving Cobb (August 6, 1869 – December 21, 1923) was an American journalist, primarily an editorial writer from 1896 to his death. In 1904 he succeeded Joseph Pulitzer as editor of Pulitzer's newspaper The World of New York. He became famous for his editorials in support of the policies of liberal Democrats, especially Woodrow Wilson, during the Progressive Era.


Cobb was born to a Yankee farm family in Shawnee County, Kansas, which includes the state capital Topeka. He grew up in a lumber camp in Michigan. Educated at local schools with a term as the state college, at age 21 he became a cub reporter on the Grand Rapids Herald for $6 a week. He moved up to political correspondent and finally city editor. After working on the rival Grand Rapids Daily Eagle (acquired by the Grand Rapids Press in 1892), Cobb went to a major metropolitan paper, the Evening News of Detroit, as political correspondent covering state politics. His vivid writing style and strong opinion brought a promotion to editorial writer in 1896, and chief editorial writer in 1899.

He was married first in 1897 to Delia S. Bailey and second, on October 2, 1913, to Margaret Hubbard Ayer, a well-known newspaper woman. He and Ayer were the parents of columnist Hubbard Cobb.[1] He worked in New York City but retreated as often as possible to their suburban estate near Westport, Connecticut.

Cobb was editor of The World for almost twenty years, from 1904 until his death from cancer on December 21, 1923. A few months later, his widow received a special Pulitzer Prize "awarded to the widow of the late Frank I. Cobb, New York World, in recognition of the distinction of her husband's editorial writing and service." The organization now lists it as one of the Editorial Writing Pulitzers, which The Boston Herald won in 1924.[2]

New York World

Cobb was editorial writer at the Detroit Free Press from 1900 to 1904, when he was hired by Joseph Pulitzer, who owned the crusading New York City newspaper The World, then one of the two largest papers in the country. Cobb soon became Pulitzer's chief advisor and editorial writer.

The World reached the common man by a variety of news and entertainment features and was a power in the Democratic Party because of its liberalism and its crusades against big business and government corruption. Cobb's hard-hitting editorials were widely read and reprinted.

At the 1912 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, Cobb was a leader in making Woodrow Wilson, the intellectual Governor of New Jersey, the Democratic nominee for president. Cobb and Wilson became lifelong allies and personal friends.

Relations with Pulitzer

Cobb was a fiercely independent journalist who resisted Pulitzer's attempts to "run the office" from his home. However the elder man might try, he simply could not keep from meddling with Cobb's work. Time after time they battled, often with heated language. While they found common ground in their support of Woodrow Wilson as president, they disagreed on many other issues. Pulitzer wrote a precisely worded resignation when his son Ralph Pulitzer took over administrative responsibility in 1907, which was printed in every New York paper except The World. Pulitzer raged at the insult, but slowly began to respect Cobb's editorials and independent spirit. Exchanges, commentaries, and messages between them increased. The good rapport between the two was based largely on Cobb's flexibility. In May 1908, Cobb and Pulitzer met to outline plans for a consistent editorial policy. However, the editorial policy did waver on occasion. Renewed battles broke out over the most trivial matters. Pulitzer's demands for editorials on contemporary breaking news led to overwork by Cobb. Pulitzer revealed concern by sending him on a six-week tour of Europe to restore his spirit. Pulitzer died shortly after Cobb's return (in October 1911); then Cobb published Pulitzer's beautifully written resignation. Cobb retained the editorial policies he had shared with Pulitzer until he died of cancer in 1923.[3]


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  2. "Editorial Writing". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  3. Louis M. Starr, "Joseph Pulitzer and his most 'indegoddampendent' editor", American Heritage, June 1968, Vol. 19 Issue 4, pp. 18-85.

Further reading

  • Brian, Denis. Pulitzer: A Life (2001) online edition
  • Cobb, Frank I. Cobb of "The World" (E. P. Dutton, 1924); re-issued as Cobb of "The World": a leader of liberalism, compiled from his editorial articles and public addresses, by John L. Heaton (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), edited by John L. Heaton — Cobb's greatest editorials with an opening chapter, "Cobb, The Man"
  • Morris, James McGrath. Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power (2010)

External links