Columbia University President Lee Bollinger currently sits between RAND Corporation Board of Trustees Chairman Ronald Olson and Coca-Cola Company board member Barry Diller on the Washington Post Company media conglomerate’s board of directors. Following is the fourth part of an article about the Washington Post Company and Newsweek magazine’s hidden history which first appeared in the February 17, 1993 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newspaper, Downtown:
Newsweek Magazine’s Historical CIA Connection—Part 4
The Washington Post was founded in 1877 by a former Northern Democratic supporter of the Confederacy named Stillson Hutchins, with the help of a Mississippi Democrat and former Confederate officer named Lucius Q.C. Lamar, according to The `Washington Post’: The First 100 Years by Chalmers Roberts. The same book also noted that “Hutchins set up shop in the capital because he knew that a Washington newspaper could command the daily attention of men of power in all branches of the national government” and that “Hutchins backed the return to white supremacy in the old Confederacy.”
After the pace at which white supremacy was restored in the old Confederacy accelerated during the 1880s, Hutchins sold the Washington Post in 1889 for $210,000 and concentrated on marketing the linotype machines of his National Typographic Company and on his real estate investments in the 1890s. By the time he died in 1912, the founder of the Washington Post had accumulated a fortune of $4 to 5 million, consisting mostly of real estate.
Between 1889 and 1894, ownership of the Washington Post was shared by a former U.S. Postmaster General in the Republican administration of Chester Arthur and founder of the original New York Press newspaper named Frank Hatton and a Democratic Congressional Representative named Beriah Wilkins. Under the shared ownership of Hatton and Wilkins over a century ago, the Washington Post made annual profits of around $100,000.
After former Washington Post Owner Hatton died of a stroke in 1894, Wilkins became the sole owner of the Washington Post until he also died of a stroke in 1905. Following Wilkins’ death, his son sold 320 of the Washington Post’s 600 shares of stock for $556,000 to a Cincinnati newspaper publisher and former Democratic candidate for Governor of Ohio named John McLean. Between 1905 and 1933, the Washington Post was controlled by representatives of the McLean Dynasty.
John McLean’s father—William McLean—was a manufacturer of steamboats who purchased control of the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper in 1857 before passing his stake of this big money-making Ohio newspaper on to John McLean in 1880. Four years after inheriting the Cincinnati Enquirer, John McLean moved to Washington, D.C. to join its local business Establishment while continuing to supervise his newspaper in Ohio.
By 1892, John McLean was president of the Washington Gas Light Company and, after purchasing control of the Washington Post in 1905, “he co-founded the Washington and Old Dominion Railway in 1911 and was a director and large stockholder in both the American Security & Trust Company and the Riggs National Bank,” according to The `Washington Post’: The First 100 Years. And by the time John McLean died in 1916, this former Washington Post owner had accumulated around $7 million worth of property: the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper that was worth $3 million; the Washington Post newspaper; $2.7 million worth of U.S. corporate stock; $880,000 worth of bonds; $129,000 worth of jewelry; and only $47 worth of books.
In addition to being into money and property accumulation, former Washington Post Owner John McLean was also into influencing U.S. Establishment politics. He “exercised power with his money and his newspapers” and “for years he bankrolled the Democratic party in Ohio and through his Cincinnati Enquirer influenced his party and state,” according to The `Washington Post’: The First 100 Years.
After John McLean’s son—Ned McLean—inherited his father’s 320 shares of Washington Post stock in 1916, he purchased the 280 remaining shares of newspaper stock that former Washington Post Owner Beriah Wilkins’ son still owned for $469,000, giving the McLean Dynasty representatives 100 percent ownership of the Washington Post between 1916 and 1933.
Like the Washington Post in the 1990s and 21st-century, the Washington Post under the ownership of Ned McLean in the 1920s was not considered that great a newspaper by many people. As The `Washington Post’: The First 100 Years recalled:
“For the most part Ned McLean’s `Post’ was a shallow paper, devoid of any intellectual or artistic ferment, content to chronicle the obvious and that usually in a superficial way. In-depth reporting was a rarity…In the final McLean years there was little anticipatory sense of the gathering storms of fascism abroad and economic woes at home.”
Under Ned McLean’s ownership, the Washington Post supported the Democratic Wilson administration’s decision to enter World War I, supported the domestic repression of U.S. dissident anti-war writers and activists and boosted a corrupt politician named Warren Harding for U.S. president in 1920. When the U.S. Congress began to investigate the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s in which a Republican Harding Administration cabinet official leased government-owned land to a U.S. oil company in exchange for a $100,000 bribe, former Washington Post Owner Ned McLean “was caught in a lie trying to cover up a Teapot Dome conspiracy” and “The Teapot Dome scandal…deeply involved The Post,” according to The `Washington Post’: The First 100 Years.
During the 1920s, Ned McLean also began to squander his inherited fortune and flip-out mentally, at the same time the Washington Post turned into a big money-losing operation. In 1929, McLean was put in a Maryland mental hospital and removed as the Washington Post publisher. The American Security Bank, in which the McLean Dynasty had invested heavily, was named to act as trustee for the unprofitable Washington Post. Then, in March 1933, the 50,000-circulation Washington Post was forced into bankruptcy when it couldn’t pay the newsprint bills it owed to the International Paper Company. And in 1941, former Washington Post Owner Ned McLean died in a mental hospital. (end of part 4)
Next: Columbia University’s Washington Post Company/Newsweek Link and Newsweek Magazine’s Historical CIA Connection—Part 5 (The Meyer-Graham Dynasty Era)