Nearly Everybody Read the Bulletin


“Nearly Everybody Reads the Bulletin.” Or, so claimed one of Philadelphia’s oldest and most revered newspapers, The Evening Bulletin. Factory workers and businessmen streamed down the streets of Center City during the hustle-bustle madness of Philadelphia’s evening rush hour. Hurrying to catch the next train or trolley, they often found the time to stop at a sidewalk newsstand and pick up the latest edition of the “The Bulletin.” Indeed, by the 1960s, the paper stood as America’s largest evening daily with a circulation over 750,000.

The Bulletin occupies a special place in the history of Philadelphia newspapers. Founded by Alexander Cummings in 1847 under the moniker Cummings’ Evening Telegraphic Bulletin, the newspaper gained notoriety for its balanced and thorough coverage of the Civil War. After an extended downturn, the Bulletin again hit its stride during the industrial period. Under the guidance of new owner William L. McLean, the Bulletin became popular with the city’s working-class residents and by 1915 the paper ranked first in circulation among Philadelphia’s 13 dailies. The Bulletin was the evening news source for thousands of workers. Through its coverage of World Wars and World Series, stock market booms and stock market crashes, the Bulletin linked Philadelphians to the world beyond the city’s borders.

Despite its popularity during the 1960s, the Bulletin encountered numerous obstacles in its drive to remain an integral part of Philadelphia’s news community. Television began siphoning customers away from newspapers in large quantities during this period. And, though all newspapers felt the crunch from the new medium, evening dailies like the Bulletin took the brunt of the blow. The televised local and national evening news programs removed the need to pick up a paper on the way home. And, as workers left the city in droves for the greener pastures of the suburbs, fewer commuters took public transportation. Rather than read the paper as they had on the train ride home, automobile commuters instead tuned their radios to one of Philadelphia’s numerous radio stations to fill up on local and national events.

The consolidation of media outlets was another hurdle for the Bulletin to overcome. The Bulletin remained a family-run paper in the 1960s and 1970s. This bucked both local and national trends. Most of Philadelphia’s independently owned newspapers had folded or been bought out and incorporated into larger corporate bodies. Despite the odds, the McLean family held out, a fact that no doubt further endeared the paper to Philadelphians. In the end, however, the challenge proved too great. In the face of increased competition from the revamped and corporately backed Philadelphia Inquirer, the Bulletin folded on January 29, 1982.

Yet, the demise of the Bulletin was not to be permanent. On Monday, November 22, 2004, The Evening Bulletin reappeared on newsstands throughout Philadelphia. A local entrepreneur bought the rights to the name from the MacLean family and gave the defunct paper a second life. Spurned on by the renewed interest in locally owned and independent news sources, The Evening Bulletin is once again bringing the news to those commuting in and out of Philadelphia.