A Fellow Named Pulitzer

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Readers paging through volume 6 of the first edition of The World Book Encyclopedia, published in 1917, could learn a bit about an ambitious Hungarian immigrant by the name of Joseph Pulitzer. Pulitzer became one of the greatest American newspaper publishers in history. Yet today’s readers may wonder why there is no mention in the article of the famous annual prizes that bear his name.

As the 2017 edition of World Book explains, Pulitzer died in 1911. In his will, he provided $2 million for Columbia University in New York City to establish a graduate school of journalism. Pulitzer specified that after the school had operated for at least three years, prizes should be awarded for the advancement of education, journalism, literature, music, public morals, and public service in the United States. The Columbia University School of Journalism was founded in 1912.

On June 4, 1917, about six months after the first edition of World Book was published, the Pulitzer Prizes were awarded for the first time. The first journalism prizes went to Herbert B. Swope of The World (New York) for reporting for a series of articles entitled “Inside the German Empire” and to the New York Tribune for editorial writing. At that time, Germany seemed close to winning the war that would come to be called World War I (1914-1918). The first literature prizes went to J. J. Jusserand for the historical work With Americans of Past and Present Days; and to Laura E. H. Richards, Maude H. Elliott, and Florence H. Hall for their biography Julia Ward Howe. Although categories for public service, fiction, and drama also existed in 1917, no prizes were awarded in those categories that year.

Today there are 14 prizes awarded in journalism, ranging from investigative and beat reporting to cartooning and breaking-news photography. Literature prizes are now also awarded for poetry and general nonfiction. A music prize has been awarded since 1943. Today, the Pulitzer Prizes are awarded in April.

The 2017 World Book Encyclopedia lists all the Pulitzer Prizes ever awarded from 1917 to today. A number of the winners have their own articles in World Book. You can learn more about these winners, as well as Pulitzer himself, in the latest World Book set.


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