Exhibition: PM Newspaper

The first ever exhibition about 1940s newspaper PM, a champion of photojournalism and liberal thinking, opens this January. The magazine, founded by Time-Life editor Ralph Ingersoll, featured contributors like Weegee, Morris Engel and Ernest Hemingway

The New York newspaper PM, which ran from 1940-1948, was a major platform for forward-thinking photojournalism and socially progressive ideas.

PM is one newspaper that can
and dares to tell the truth

While it boasted contributing photographers like Weegee (featured in Jocks&Nerds issue 6) and Magaret Bourke-White, and writers like Ernest Hemingway and Dashiell Hammett, PM has become relatively unknown.

The first exhibition about the newspaper will be held at Steven Kasher Gallery, New York from 14 January. It will include over 75 photographs, as well as vintage copies of the newspaper.

PM’s mission was made clear in its first issue: “PM is against people who push other people around. PM accepts no advertising. PM belongs to no political party. PM is absolutely free and uncensored. PM’s sole source of income is its readers – to whom it alone is responsible. PM is one newspaper that can and dares to tell the truth.”

PM was founded by Ralph Ingersoll, a writer and the former managing editor of Time-Life publications. Available as a daily and weekly paper, PM was first published at the start of the Second World War on 18 June 1940.

An ardent supporter of the US intervention against Nazi Germany, PM also took stands against racial and religious discrimination at home in the US. Countering New York’s staunchly conservative publications of the time, PM was a liberal crusader that featured no advertising and devoted six pages every day to news of the American labour front.

Photographers were a vital and
integral part of the very idea of PM

Its second issue (19 June 1940) included a now-famous picture of a car crash by the photojournalist Weeege. The pictures’ caption reads “PM hears that there has been persistent agitation to correct this dangerous curve, responsible for many accidents; will try to find out if anything is being done to eliminate the hazard.”

Weegee maintained a six-year relationship with PM, which published some of his best-known images like The Critic, and Their First Murder.

The photographer Margaret Bourke-White was also part of PM’s initial staff, but soon quit because she was unable to handle newspaper deadlines. She and another photographer May Morris were the first female press photographers on staff at any daily newspaper in the US.

For Ingersoll at PM, photographers were “a vital and integral part of the very idea of PM – that they would write stories with photographs, as reporters wrote them in words.”

Drawing from his experience at Time-Life, Ingersoll sought to emulate the visual impact of Life magazine, so used the most expensive printing materials ever used for a daily tabloid.

With no advertising and high production costs, PM became a money-losing venture – albeit one with a devoted readership.

In 1941, Ingersoll was drafted into the US military to fight in Europe during the Second World War. While he was away, his newspaper’s circulation was around 165,000 – more than 50,000 less than was required to break even.

When Ingersoll returned after the war, PM’s content had become less engaging and had begun featuring conflicting articles written by pro-communists and anti-communist liberals. On 22 June 1948, PM published its final issue.

The meaning of the newspaper’s name is unknown. While in a biography (written by Ralph Hoopes, 1984), Ingersoll said it might refer to the fact that the paper was available in the afternoon, the left wing writer Lillian Hellman suggested the name as an abbreviation of Picture Magazine.