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How the Globe got started in 1872 — and nearly went out of business immediately

Plus, a look at the ownership and offices over the decades.

A large crowd watches election returns in front of the Boston Globe office on Washington Street in Boston on Nov. 8, 1933.Boston Globe/file photo

A paper is born — and nearly dies

Charles Taylor in an undated photo.Boston Globe file photo

March 4, 1872: The Globe, at first, “was a ‘semi-literary journal’ of high tone and low general interest,” a Globe reporter wrote in 1958, without exaggeration. “Not more than 5,000 persons read its learned comment on music, books, drama, art, its routine financial items, and its columns of Sunday sermons.”

The plan for a new publication had arrived on February 7, 1872, when a group of businessmen looked at Boston’s 10 newspapers, most of which were losing money, and decided to start an 11th. Their combined $150,000 wasn’t nearly enough. Within a year, the Great Fire and a recession — plus the stuffy paper they put out — left the Globe at the edge of bankruptcy.

The turnaround was slow. First, Charles Taylor, a 27-year-old Civil War veteran, agreed to become manager­ — he said he’d stay for “a few weeks,” and never left. Then, in 1878, Taylor and Eben Jordan, the department store magnate, engineered a buyout. Taylor could finally follow his new vision: creating a fair, engaging, useful newspaper that spoke to the entire family, not just men. Within a few years, he’d increased those 5,000 readers to 30,000. And that was just the beginning.

October 14, 1877: The first Sunday Globe

There were only a dozen Sunday editions in American newspapers by 1877. Why so few? Sunday had been reserved for rest and religious reflection. One newspaper editor was even expelled from his church for starting one. But the need for news of the Civil War brought change, and the Globe finally introduced its paper: 8 pages for 5 cents.

Ownership over 150 Years

1872: The Boston Globe is founded by six local businessmen, including Eben Jordan of department store fame. Their goal: a paper that spurred “the intelligent and dignified discussion of political and social ethics.”

1878: Eben Jordan and Charles H. Taylor, brought in as business manager, take over in a partnership that will last generations. “My aim,” Taylor observes later, “has been to make the Globe a cheerful, attractive, and useful newspaper that would enter the home as a kindly, helpful friend of the family.”

CEO Linda Pizzuti Henry and publisher John W. Henry.Tim Hales/ASSOCIATED PRESS

1993: The New York Times buys the Globe, marking the end of more than 100 years of local stewardship. “[I]t’s one of the great newspapers in America,” says Times chairman Arthur O. Sulzberger. “It fits perfectly into The New York Times family.”

2013: John W. Henry and Linda Pizzuti Henry buy the Globe company, bringing ownership of the organization back to Boston. John Henry assumes the role of publisher; Linda Pizzuti Henry will become CEO. “Truth is, I prefer to think that I have joined the Globe, not purchased it,” John Henry writes in a letter to readers. “The overriding mission of The Boston Globe will be to ensure that its readers are getting news they can trust.”

The home office

Each of the Globe’s headquarters has had its own charms.

242 Washington Street, Boston

PROS The original Globe building was merely 20-feet wide, but this expanded headquarters, opened in 1887, was an upgrade in every way. It also was the tallest building among all the publications on Boston’s Newspaper Row, which became a point of pride. In the basement, the first so-called double perfecting press in New England could turn out 25,000 eight-page papers per hour. CONS The elevator — the first in a Boston news building — ran only to the fifth floor. The reporters worked on the sixth, and the compositors who laid out pages had to hike to the seventh.

A view of the printing press at the Globe's former headquarters on Morrissey Boulevard, circa 1958.United Press Photo

135 William T. Morrissey Boulevard, Dorchester

PROS There were several elevators — including a fake one built by a TV crew decades later — in the more than 800,000-square-foot building that opened in 1958. Humming presses anchored one end of the building, which also had a vast library, a cafeteria, a credit union, a barber shop, a dry cleaner, and . . . a rooftop heliport. One reporter, walking in for the first time, said he felt like a pauper “who has come into money.” CONS Mice made surprise appearances. Upon spotting one, “I discovered I had enough hops to leap up on the wooden coffee table in my office,” former managing editor Gregory L. Moore later recalled.

A view of the Globe's new office on the second and third floor of 53 State Street.Lane Turner

53 State Street, Boston

PROS In 2017, Boston Globe Media Partners’ editorial and business operations moved to two floors of the Exchange Place office tower on State Street, a sleek space with huge windows and all the coffee you can drink. It was a return to the same neighborhood where Newspaper Row had once stood, bringing the Globe’s reporters back in close proximity to the city’s political and business centers. CONS The printing presses and press team moved to a new plant in Taunton — reporters and editors still miss the rumble of the presses rolling to life as they start up to produce the next day’s edition.