The Magnificent Medills
America's Royal Family of Journalism During a Century of Turbulent Splendor
By Megan McKinney
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061782237, 464pp.)
Publication Date: October 2011
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The riveting story of the countrys first media dynasty, the Medills of Chicago, whose power and influence shaped the story of America and American journalism for four generations
When thirty-two-year-old former lawyer Joseph Medill bought a controlling stake in the bankrupt Chicago Daily Tribune in 1855, he had no way of foreseeing the unparalleled influence he and his progeny would have on the world of journalism and on American society at large.
Medill personally influenced the political tide that transformed America during the midnineteenth century by fostering the Republican Party, engineering the election of Abraham Lincoln and serving as a catalyst for the outbreak of the Civil War. The dynasty he established, filled with colorful characters, went on to take American journalism by storm. His grandson, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, personified Chicago, as well as its great newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, throughout much of the twentieth century. Roberts cousin, Joseph Medill Patterson, started the New York Daily News, and Joes sister, Cissy Patterson, was the innovative editor of the Washington Times-Herald. In the fourth generation, Alicia Patterson founded Long Islands Newsday, the most stunning journalistic accomplishment of postWorld War II America.
Printers ink raged in the veins of the Medills, the McCormicks and the Pattersons throughout a century, and their legacy prevailed for another five decadesalways in the forefront of events, shaping the intellectual and social pulse of America. At the same time, the dark side of the intellectual stardom driving the dynasty was a destructive compulsion that left clan members crippled by their personal demons of chronic depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and even madness and suicide.
Rife with authentic conversations and riveting quotes, The Magnificent Medills is the premiere cultural history of Americas first media empire. This dynamic family and their brilliance, eccentricities and ultimate self-destruction are explored in a sweeping narrative that interweaves the familys personal activities and public achievements against a larger historical background. Authoritative, compelling and thoroughly engaging, The Magnificent Medills brings the pages of history that the Medills wrote vividly to life.
Megan McKinney is an expert on historic Chicago families. She has written for Town & Country, TV Guide, Opera News and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She lives in Chicago.
“[An] immensely entertaining book. . . . McKinney vividly re-creates the city’s no-holds-barred newspaper culture.”
“Shifting smoothly from the life of one Medill, Patterson or McCormick to another, in the end she achieves a clear and comprehensive family biography, with all its complex interconnections.”
-New York Times Book Review
“A solid account of this family.”
“Megan McKinney has written a knock-out dynastic history about the world of journalism. In The Magnificent Medills we learn how a single family forever changed Chicago and America. It’s impossible to understand today’s modern media world without reading this brilliant book. Highly recommended!”
-Douglas Brinkley, author of The Quiet World
“Megan McKinney’s wonderfully researched, thoroughly engrossing, The Magnificent Medills, reveals Chicago’s McCormick-Patterson family in all its dazzling brilliance and delicious eccentricity.”
-David Garrard Lowe, author of Lost Chicago
“Compulsively readable. . . . With its backdrop of wealth and power, The Magnificent Medills reads almost like a rich historical novel. It just happens to be true.”
“An intensely personal look at the Medill family. . . . Meticulously researched and detailed.”
-Washington Independent Review of Books
“Chicago historian McKinney provides the first comprehensive chronicle of the Medill newspaper dynasty. . . . Deftly tell[ing] the tale of one of America’s first families of business.”
-Philanthropy Magazine Review
“Ink, booze and eccentricity flow through a newspaper dynasty’s veins in this lively, gossipy clan bio. . . . Like her subjects, McKinney blends canny fact-finding, well-paced narrative and colorful detail into a compulsively readable confection.”
“It is their brilliance in publishing newspapers when newspapers really mattered, combined with lives full of fault lines, that truly fascinates. . . . A solid account of the life and times of a family that was indeed magnficent.”
“This portrait of a storied newspaper dynasty packs a powerful punch. . . . Not only a compulsively readable collective biography but also an overview of the rapid evolution of the American newspaper industry during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.”