Biography of Charles A. Rook
Allegheny County, PA Biographies

CHARLES ALEXANDER ROOK, president of the Dispatch publishing company, was born at Pittsburg in 1861, the eldest son of Alexander W. and Harriet L. (Beck) Rook. He was educated at the Western University of Pennsylvania. When nineteen years of age he entered the publication office of the Pittsburg Dispatch, and has spent practically all his life in the service of that journal in various capacities, rising from one position to another until he has become the proprietor and editor of one of the most famous and influential dailies of the United States. Mr. Rook is well and favorably known to the members of the newspaper fraternity throughout the country. He has exceptional executive ability, his pleasantness of manner compelling more than force of command. He was married, in 1884, to Miss Anna Wilson. Three children have been born to them, viz.: Helen Emma, Charles Alexander, Jr., and Florence Anna.

Alexander W. Rook, father of the subject of this sketch, was one of the pioneer printers and publishers of Pittsburg, a man beloved by his employees, in which respect the son has followed in his father's footsteps. This was appropriately illustrated when Mr. Rook became the president of the Dispatch publishing company, the members of the Dispatch chapel uniting in a series of cordial and happily worded resolutions of congratulation, emphasizing the good wishes of the Dispatch force for the new owner. Mr. Rook is broad gauge in character, liberal in his treatment of persons and subjects He has an ample realization of the responsibilities of the direction of a great and influential newspaper. The Dispatch is never actuated by any petty considerations, its power being always used to foster the best interests of the community and to bring forth the fittest men for public office. As a journal, it was one of the first in the country to stand upon a platform of absolute independence upon all questions of politics or capital and labor. The wisdom of such a course has been exemplified within the last few years by the great majority of other journals which have been forced to disregard their hide bound partisan predilections Some evidence of the worth of the paper as conducted under the regime which Mr. Rook represents may be found in the fact that the Dispatch was responsible for the agitation that resulted in the movement to secure pure water for Pittsburg, for which a large appropriation was made in the recent bond issue; the improvement of the public roads not only in Allegheny county, but throughout western Pennsylvania; the campaign of education which succeeded in having the survey made for a navigable waterway between the great lakes and the Ohio river, and the stupendous movement of the last few months which has brought before the people, the congress and president of the United States the enormous importance of having a nine foot stage in the Ohio river the year around in order that full advantage might be taken of the commercial possibilities resulting from the acquisition and construction of the isthmian canal.

The Dispatch has, also, under the management of Mr. Rook, succeeded in establishing a national and international reputation through its possession of an up to date London bureau by means of which it has been enabled to secure the exclusive publication of some of the most startling items of international news for the past several months.

This spirit of enterprise, however, is characteristic of the history of the Dispatch. Founded in 1846 by Col. J. Heron Foster, the stirrmg news of the Mexican war presented an opportunity for the display of energy in securing and imparting intelligence of which the publishers made the most. Special efforts were made to obtain the news at the earliest moment, and one of these resulted in the first issue of a Sunday edition. Brownsville was then the distributing center for the Pittsburg mail which came by stage over the national turnpike. The Dispatch organized a daily express for the purpose of bringing the latest advices to its office, where they were immediately issued to the public. Upon the last day of May, 1846, the Brownsville boat was delayed, and the important news of the crossing of the Rio Grande by the American army under Gen. Zachary Taylor was carried by the Dispatch express from Elizabeth, Sunday morning. An extra edition was at once issued, the first Sunday edition of a newspaper in Pittsburg. It was not until thirty five years later that the Sunday issue of the Dispatch was undertaken as a regular edition, one of the strongest in excellence and circulation in the country. A feature of the Sunday Dispatch is the fact that it prints a larger number of wants, help and agents' advertisements than any other paper in the United States, and more classified advertisements than all other Pittsburg Sunday papers together. In a recent test, out of 280 leading American papers, only 9 brought more than 200 answers each, and the Dispatch led them all with 274. The explanation of the success of the Dispatch as an advertising medium is no doubt to be found in the policy, inaugurated during Mr. Rook's tenure as business manager, of seeking to bring good returns to its advertising customers.

The modern development of the Dispatch dates from the purchase of a half interest in it by Alexander W. Rook and Daniel O'Neill, in 1865. Mr. O'Neill was a strong and original writer. Mr. Rook was one of the foremost of his tirrie in all that related to the mechanical and typographical department of newspaper making. His qualifications were long experience, remarkable executive ability and sound judgment. Under the new management the paper was remodeled and enlarged, and its price increased to three cents to meet the greater expenses consequent upon the war.

But the most notable change was the announced determination that, while continuing to support the principles and national candidates of the republican party, the Dispatch would be absolutely free from the control of politicians and from the suspicion of being the organ of any political party. Two years later, when Colonel Foster died, Messrs. O'Neill and Rook purchased the other half interest, the partnership continuing until the death of Mr. O'Neill, in 1877. Mr. Rook survived him but two and a half years, his death occurring Aug. 14, 1880. The ownership was continued in the families, Eugene M. O'Neill, brother of Daniel O'Neill, becoming president of the company, and C. A. Rook treasurer and business manager, with Florence O'Neill, secretary and manager of circulation.
On March 12, 1902, Mr. Rook bought the controlling interest of E. M. O'Neill, succeeding im as president of the corporation and editor. Under his direction there have been liberal and rapid improvements dictated by his personal thorough knowledge of every department of newspaper making. While retaining the excellencies of the past, the Dispatch has expanded under the genial influences of Mr. Rook's control, adding new and popular features, and exhibiting renewed and inspiring devotion to the public interest, and the dissemination of the news and views of the day without prejudice or favor.


From:
Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
personal and genealogical with portraits.
Publishers: Northwestern Historical Association
Madison, Wis. 1904.


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