History of Newspapers: The Denver Post

About the history of the United States newspaper The Denver Post, information and some of their scoops.


The Past. Trigger-happy, lawless, colorful, The Denver Post in its carly days reflected the Wild West, which it more or less served with news. It was founded by a villainous bartender, Harry Tammen, and a lottery promoter, F. G. Bonfils.

Its arch-rival was The Rocky Mountain News, with whom it engaged in to-the-death circulation wars. During such a war, The Rocky Mountain News called bonfils a rattlesnake. Bonfils sued for libel. Attorney Philip Van Cise represented the News and ever after that, the Post refused to print his name.

Such wars were economically disastrous. During one, both the POost and the News offered free gasoline as a bonus to want-ad purchasers, the gasoline being worth more than the ads. Soon all of Denver was out joy-riding on the free gasoline, the Sunday papers, both of them, wne tot over 100 pages, and both papers were losing money. Finally they reached a truce: the Post opted for morning publication, the News the afternoon.

The Post reached the height of notoriety in 1929, when it was discovered that Bonfils had suppressed information about oil operators during the Teapot Dome scandal in Exchange for a large bribe. (He asked for $1 million but didn't get it.) The owner of The Rocky Mountain News got almost $100,000 in a similar deal. The American Association of Newspaper Editors later asked for Bonfils's expulsion fro the organization.

The Post was isolationist. It was biased against foreigners and minorities. It was ultraconservative. From 1911 to 1946, it had no editorial page and no Washington bureau. John Gunther said that its front page looked like "a confused and bloody railway accident."

The Post was shameless in boosting itself and Denver. Its slogan was "Denver Post--First in Everything," and every day, in the morning, it printed the number of minutes of sunshine residents could expect, ignoring the fact that clouds might appear in the perfect Colorado sky.

Bonfils died in 1933. The Saturday Evening Post wrote that a lot of people came tto the funeral to see for themselves that he was really dead.....and buried deep. He was never very popular, not even with his employees, toward whom he was paternalistic and suspicious. (He took the doors off the toilet stalls to keep staff members from stealing any stray minutes of time from their jobs.)

In 1946, Helen Bonfils, daughter of F.G., decided to revamp the Post. She found a new publisher, Palmer Hoyt, who had been editor and publisher f the Prtland Oregonian. Under his leadership, the paper changed radically, going through an incredible metamorphosis to become internationalist, pro-civil rights, and antextremist. The Post was one of the 1st newspapers to come out against Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who received Senate censure for his extreme anticommunist activities. It fought ultraconservative Birchers and Minutemen.

Hoyt backed Quigg Newton, a young progressive candidate for mayor against the incumbent, Ben Stapleton. Newton won. He also backed Texas financier Client Murchison and deveoper William Zeckendorf in their Denver urban renewal program.

In 1960, the paper came out for Kennedy against Nixon. The last Democrat it had supported ws Woodrow Wilson.

The Present. After Hoyt retired, the paper became more conservative. However it continues to press for school appropriations, and prison and health reforms. It remains influential in State and local politics.

Still a morning daily, it serves a huge empire extending from Wyoming to New Mexico.

Scoops. On May 11, 1969, 100 Ibs. of plutonium caught fire at the Rocky Flats nuclearwarhead plant owned by the Dow Chemical Company. Intense radiation spread through the building, causing over $40 million in damage. The Denver Post, in investigating the fire, discovered that there had been more than 200 smaller fires at the Rocky Flats plant since 1953.

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