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Victor Lawson papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Lawson

Scope and Content of the Collection

Incoming and outgoing correspondence, reports, and clippings concerning the day to day running of the Daily News and Victor Lawson's personal finances and residences in Chicago and Green Lake, Wisconsin.

Correspondents include noted Daily News reporters, managers, and editors such as, Charles H. Dennis, Walter Strong, Hopewell Rogers, Henry Justin Smith, Edward Price Bell, Paul Scott Mowrer, Raymond Swing, and Eugene Field. Daily News papers also include materials from the Daily News foreign service offices, newspaper syndication companies, advertisers, and the public. Also contains correspondence and financial records from other organizations which Lawson was associated with including the Associated Press, the Associated Newspapers, the Chicago Commission on Race Relations, and the City News Bureau of Chicago. There is a significant amount of material concerning the maintenance of his farm in Green Lake Wisconsin and his charitable financial giving. A small series of photographs contains photos of Victor Lawson throughout his life, but is primarily made up snapshots of his brother Iver Lawson's family in San Diego.


  • Creation: approximately 1860-1931
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1885-1925



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Victor Lawson papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Victor Lawson papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Victor Freemont Lawson

Owner and publisher of the Chicago Daily News.

Victor Freemont Lawson was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 9, 1850. His father, Iver Lawson, was a Norwegian immigrant, a laborer who came to prosperity buying and selling real estate in Chicago during the mid 1800s. Little is known about his mother Melinda Nordvig but that she was also of Norwegian descent. His father eventually entered city politics, becoming a member of the city council in 1864. The family was active in Chicago’s first Norwegian Evangelical Church and lived in a large house at 1136 North Clark Street.

While still in grammar school, Victor asked his father’s permission to look for a job. Young Lawson found a position in the circulation department of the Journal, the first of many in his long career in the newspaper business. He attended Chicago High School on West Monroe Street, and later the Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts with the intention of attending Harvard, but due to poor health was unable to continue his academic studies and returned to Chicago.

After his Iver Lawson's death in 1872, he took over the administration of his father's estate, which included a Norwegian language newspaper called the Skandinaven. Another tenant in the same building as the Skandinaven was Melville E. Stone, who about to launch an as yet untested one-cent evening newspaper, the Chicago Daily News.

Stone’s Daily News struggled financially and Lawson stepped in with capital. He became publisher of the Daily News in 1876 retaining Stone as editor. Lawson headed the Chicago Daily News for the next twenty-nine years and made many innovations in the newspaper business that continue today including advancements in newspaper promotion, classified advertising, and syndication of news stories, serials, and comics. In addition, the Daily News employed some of the most notable writers and editors of the time, such as Henry Justin Smith, Charles H. Dennis, Ben Hecht, and Eugene Field.

Lawson also created a pioneering foreign news service, first through the Chicago Record and then in 1909 transferring it to the Daily News. The News had offices in London, Paris, Berlin and correspondents in Egypt, South Africa, and Japan. The service employed distinguished journalists such as Edward Price Bell, Paul Mowrer, Raymond Swing, and Junius B. Wood to report on world affairs and was vital in providing information on such major events as the Spanish-American War, the Russo-Japanese war, and World War I during Lawson’s tenure.

Lawson’s life and career encompassed many other facets. He was president of the then newly formed Associated Press, was active politically in endorsing local and national candidates, and was a member of the Chicago Commission on Race Relations, taking significant part in writing the critical report, “The Negro in Chicago,” following the race riots of 1919. He was also a generous philanthropist who gave substantially to such organizations as the Fresh Air Fund and the YMCA, and was a prominent member of Chicago’s New England Church.

Lawson married Jessie Strong Bradley, a society girl, on February 8, 1880. She suffered from ill health most of her adult life. They had no children and Jessie passed away on October 2, 1913. Lawson himself died suddenly of a heart attack at his farm in Green Lake, Wisconsin, on August 19, 1925.


59 Linear Feet (137 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Correspondence, reports, legal documents, contracts, and other materials pertaining to Victor Lawson’s life and career as a pioneering newspaperman and owner of the Chicago Daily News in early 1900s Chicago.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Outgoing Correspondence, 1878-1926
Boxes 1-90
Series 2: Chicago Daily News, 1877-1925
Boxes 91-110
Series 3: Subject Files, 1888-1925
Boxes 111-116
Series 4: Personal Files, 1873-1926
Boxes 117-135
Series 5: Photographs, approximately 1860s-1931
Boxes 136-137

Collection Stack Location

1 23 1-3, 1 24 1-2, 1 30 3


Gift of John S. Knight, 1946, additional gifts from Field Enterprises, 1961 and I. Norman Lawson, 1963.

Processed by

Amy Nyholm, 1947, Alison Hinderliter, Lisa Janssen, Kelly Kress, and Shannon Yule, 2006


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Victor Lawson papers, approximately 1860-1931, bulk 1885-1925
Lisa Janssen and Kelly Kress
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States