May 17, 2022

Northwestern University Libraries Acquires Papers of Chicago Tribune Publisher Robert R. McCormick

From Northwestern University:

Northwestern University Libraries has acquired the papers of legendary Chicago Tribune publisher Col. Robert R. McCormick (1880–1955). The trove of historic documents, which includes personal, family and Tribune business papers, was a gift of the Chicago Tribune Company, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Nexstar Media Group.

McCormick was a giant of the newspaper industry in the first half of the 20th century. His archive is a window into his colorful life as a Chicago alderman and later as the innovative, driven publisher who propelled the Tribune to national prominence. His papers include correspondence with the most influential people of his day, including statesmen, explorers, generals, entertainers, corporate titans and 12 U.S. presidents.

1858 letter from Abraham Lincoln to Dr. C.H. Ray, editor of the Chicago Tribune, with a clipping from the paper. The collection includes letters from 12 American presidents. (Image: Northwestern University)

The papers include five letters written by Abraham Lincoln to the Chicago Tribune in its early days.

Among the papers are five letters written by Abraham Lincoln to the Tribune in its early days.

“How in God’s name do you let such letters into the Tribune,” he wrote to Tribune editor C.H. Ray in one letter. Lincoln’s complaint centered on an editorial he thought wasn’t sufficiently supportive of Republican causes and sounded instead as if it were written by the Tribune’s rival paper, a Democratic Party mouthpiece.

The business records primarily cover McCormick’s time running the newspaper, but also include editorial memos and directives by editors going back to Joseph Medill in the 19th century.


The massive archive will be available for study in the spring of 2020 at the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections and University Archives located in Deering Library on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Occupying more than 2,000 linear feet of shelving, it will join a substantial collection of journalism-related archives in Northwestern Libraries, including the papers of Stanton Cook ‘49, chief executive of the Chicago Tribune during the 1970s and ’80s; Georgie Anne Geyer ‘56, pioneering foreign correspondent and columnist; Tribune editor Howard Tyner ‘67; Crain Communications founder Rance Crain ‘60; and many other impactful Medill alumni.

McCormick’s archive also includes thousands of original printing plates of editorial cartoons by Pulitzer Prize winner John T. McCutcheon, a 40-year employee of the company. The plates will join more than 450 other McCutcheon cartoons already held by Northwestern Libraries.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.