In Maryland, The Baltimore Sun is the biggest general-circulation newspaper, providing the area with regional and local news, people, events, issues and industries. Our Baltimore Sun Archives are filled with back issues of the newspaper, which you can find for the date of your choice.
Turn the page to:
- Early History
- Later History
- Current Ownership and Sections
- The Sunday Sun
- The Baltimore Sun Online
- Political Stance
- The Baltimore Sun Circulation Figures
- The Baltimore Evening Sun Circulation Figures
The Baltimore Sun history goes as far back as its founding on May 17, 1837. Arunah Shepherdson Abell, often referred to as A. S. Abell, established the newspaper alongside two associates, William Moseley Swain and Azariah H. Simmons. Swain and Simmons recently came to the area from Philadelphia, after they had founded and published the Public Ledger in 1836. When the newspaper was founded, Abell claimed that it would be dedicated to printing news without regard to editors’ prejudices.
Abell was originally from Rhode Island, starting out as a journalist for the Providence Patriot, and went on to work with different newspapers in New York City and Boston. Abell passed away in 1888, which left the newspaper to the control of his three sons, who continued to publish the newspaper.
Until 1910, The Baltimore Sun remained under the ownership of the Abell family, after which the local Black and Garrett families began to invest in the publication. This was at the suggestion of the newspaper’s formal rival owner and publisher of The News, Charles H. Grasty. Grasty and the Black and Garrett families then obtained a controlling interest, but kept the name A. S. Abell Company for the parent publishing company. Growth of the newspaper was slow, but stable, and eventually became directed to a serious, intellectual and issue-orientated readership, despite being a penny paper aimed at a large audience when it started out.
Between the years 1947 and 1986, The Baltimore Sun became the owner of WMAR-TV (Channel 2), the first television station in Maryland which was established in 1947. During this time, the newspaper was also a longtime affiliate of several radio stations, as well as the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).
In 1924, The Baltimore Sun opened its very first foreign bureau in London, England, growing to add four new foreign offices between 1955 and 1961. As a result of increasing Cold War tensions, the newspaper set up a bureau in Bonn, West Germany in February 1955, which later moved to Berlin. The Baltimore Sun then became one of the first American newspapers to open a Bureau in Moscow, eleven months later.
The Baltimore Sun continued to open foreign offices in the few years that followed, including one in Rome in 1957, then one in New Delhi in 1961. At the publication’s height, it ran 8 different foreign bureaus and as a result, its 1963 advertisement claimed “The Sun never sets on the world.”
In 1910, the same year that The Baltimore Sun changed ownership, The Baltimore Evening Sun was established under H. L. Mencken, a reporter. Charles H. Grasty was the leader of the newspaper and was a strong believer in the printing of evening news. Between its founding and 1995, The Baltimore Sun and The Baltimore Evening Sun were two distinct publications, both with completely separate editorial staff and reporting.
By the time the newspapers entered 1995, The Baltimore Evening Sun was struggling in terms of circulation compared to its morning sister newspaper, and ended up ceasing publication on September 15. Some old, original copies of the newspaper are still available to purchase from our Baltimore Evening Sun archives.
George Abell, founder of The Baltimore Sun
Image: Wikimedia Commons
In 1986, The Baltimore Sun was sold to the Times-Mirror Company of the Los Angeles Times by Reg Murphy. During the same week, a 115 year old rivalry between the Sun and the News American came to an end. The News American was the longest-standing newspaper in Maryland but folded, making The Baltimore Sun, by default, the dominant newspaper in the area.
In 1997, The Baltimore Sun obtained the Patuxent Publishing Company, which was a local suburban newspaper publisher. The company had 15 weekly newspapers and a few magazines in several counties and communities.
The 21st century has seen The Baltimore Sun suffer a variety of setbacks in competition with the Internet and other news sources, much like other big publications in the United States. There has been a decline in readership and advertisements, along with a shrinking newsroom staff and rivalry in 2005 between the newspaper and The Baltimore Examiner, which was a free daily newspaper that lasted until 2007. The Baltimore Sun also faced competition with a Washington publication of a new small chain that took over the San Francisco Examiner, an old Hearst flagship newspaper.
In the year 2000, the Times-Mirror Company was bought by the Chicago Tribune Company, and in 2014, all of the newspapers in the former company were transferred to Tribune Publishing, including The Baltimore Sun.
In 2005 and 2008, The Baltimore Sun introduced new designs for the newspaper’s layout.
In 2009, it was announced by the Tribune Company that 61 staff, out of the 205 in the Sun newsroom, were going to be laid off. In 2011, the newspaper moved to its web edition behind a paywall, beginning on October 10.
In February 2014, it was announced by The Baltimore Sun Media Group that the alternative weekly newspaper, the City Paper, was being purchased by them. In April of the same year, The Baltimore Sun obtained the Maryland publications of Landmark Media Enterprises.
For a long time, The Baltimore Sun placed less significance to local news and focused more on covering national and international news stories. In particular, the newspaper gained prominence for its excellent reporting of the Mexican War between 1846-48. The newspaper reported the fall of Vera Cruz in 1947 before official news of the event reached the government. As a result of editors’ discretion, The Baltimore Sun avoided being shut down during the American Civil War by Union censors. The newspaper has been known to report well on wars, particularly after its effective reporting of the Second World War.
The 1990s and the 2000s saw the newspaper cut back on its coverage in foreign countries, closing its Tokyo, Mexico City and Berlin bureaus in 1995 and 1996. As a result of cost-cutting in 2005, the Beijing and London bureaus also fell through, and the final standing foreign bureaus in Johannesburg, Moscow and Jerusalem then closed a few years later. By 2008, all the newspaper’s foreign bureaus had closed, since the Tribune Co. both downsized and streamlined the newspaper’s foreign reporting. At the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, some of the material written by foreign correspondents for The Baltimore Sun is archived.
The Baltimore Sun front page, Tuesday, June 4, 1941
The Baltimore Sun is currently owned by Tribune Publishing, a large American newspaper print and online media publishing company. The company is based in Chicago and owns many big national newspapers, including the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune.
The Baltimore Sun is the flagship of the Baltimore Sun Media Group. The group also prints the b, a free, daily newspaper, as well as more than thirty other newspapers, websites and magazines in the Baltimore metropolitan area community. The content produced by the Baltimore Sun Media Group reaches over a million readers in the Baltimore area.
Currently, The Baltimore Sun prints three sections on every weekday, including News and Sports sections, and alternating between different feature and business sections. At the back of the Sports section, sometimes the newspaper prints comics and other features, including horoscopes and TV listings. The publication dropped the standalone business section in 2009, but then brought the section back in 2010 just on Tuesdays and Sundays. On the rest of the days, the business pages are incorporated into the news section.
Other feature sections were introduced in 2010, including a Home section on Saturdays, a section on Mondays called Sunrise, and a Style section on Thursdays. Also, just on weekdays, Peter Schmuck writes a sports article.
The Sunday Sun is the newspaper’s sister publication, printing on Sundays when the main newspaper prints the rest of the week. The Sunday Sun was noted for many years for a rotogravure Maryland pictorial magazine section, which featured works from acclaimed photographers such as A. Aubrey Bodine. In 1996, the Sun Magazine was dropped, and now the newspaper just carries the Parade magazine weekly.
In 2010, a quarterly version of the Sun Magazine was reinstated with different stories, and newsroom managers intend to add content more frequently online.
In September 1996, The Baltimore Sun first introduced its website. The website would go under renovation in June 2009, which put a cap on a 6-month period of record online traffic. From January to June each month, the newspaper receives an average of 3.5 million unique visitors combined viewing 36.6 million web pages.
More than 36 blogs are produced on the website by editors and reporters, covering a wide range of topics including education, politics, weather, technology and gardening. One of the most popular blogs includes Dining@Large, which reports on local restaurants in the area, as well as The Schmuck Stops Here, a sports blog written by Peter Schmuck.
The Baltimore Sun Building
Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Baltimore Sun ideology has always been to be free and not aligned with a political party. The founding publisher A. S. Abell wrote:
“We shall give no place to religious controversy, nor to political discussions of merely partisan character. On political principles, and questions involving the interest or honor of the whole country, it will be free, firm and temperate. Our object will be the common good, without regard to that of sects, factions or parties; and for this object we shall labor without fear or partiality. The publication of this paper will be continued for one year at least, and the publishers hope to receive, as they will try to deserve, a liberal support.”
Abell held the view that a newspaper should not speak for a certain political party, therefore wanted to stop The Baltimore Sun from being aligned with any group and keep the newspaper bearing an independent, political outlook.
Despite not having any long standing political affiliation, in 2016, The Baltimore Sun endorsed Hillary Clinton for the presidential general election.
As the above table shows, there has been quite a big fall in circulation figures of the newspaper between 2010 and 2015. The last few decades have shown the biggest declines in Baltimore Sun history, following a trend among other big American newspapers. The rise of the Internet has led circulation figures to fall as online methods of reading news have become more popular among the public.
The newspaper’s circulation seemed to have risen some point after the 1970s, but the Internet age has caused quite a dip in figures. However, as of August 2020, the publication remains to be the leading newspaper in the area in terms of circulation, and its website popularity proves that The Baltimore Sun is still attracting a large number of readers, just in a different format.
Interestingly, The Baltimore Evening Sun was actually ahead of its sister newspaper in terms of circulation for most of its existence. For example, when we compare the figures for 1959, the evening newspaper had a circulation of 220,175, compared to 196,675 for the morning newspaper.
It was when the 1980s arrived that the evening newspaper ran into trouble, with shifts in the economy, technology and culture impacting the way in which the United States printed and received news. Many evening newspapers’ market share was being affected, with readers turning towards morning newspapers, or with the rise of television, simply watching news broadcasts in the evening.
The evening newspaper struggled a great deal in the mid-1990s, a low point in the Baltimore Evening Sun’s history that it would not recover from. In 1995, the morning newspaper overtook the evening newspaper in circulation by 178,223. This great loss of circulation meant the newspaper couldn’t continue, causing it to stop printing in the same year.