Murat Halstead
The editor-in-chief and special correspondent for the Cincinnati Commercial

In the years before the Civil War, Murat Halstead succeeded in making Cincinnati’s morning newspaper, The Cincinnati Commercial, one of the most quoted western newspapers and established himself as one of the nation’s best known journalists.
Halstead was born in Paddy’s Run, Butler County, Ohio on September 2, 1829. A graduate of Farmer’s College in 1851, two years later Halstead landed a job as a reporter for the Cincinnati Commercial. When Halstead joined the Commercial it was already the city’s largest morning paper. Now, because of the young reporter’s initiative the circulation grew even more. When the editor, Richard E. Lee died in 1854, The Cincinnati Commercial was reorganized and Murat Halstead was named as assistant editor and offered a partnership in the new firm.
On January 15, 1859, Murat Halstead was appointed to editor-in-chief of the morning paper. Meanwhile in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, a fanatical abolitionist by the name of John Brown had attempted to incite a slave revolt. Brown’s plan had proven abortive and he was sentenced to hang on December 2, 1859. The Commercial did not defend Brown, but in several editorials it was critical of the Southern journals which tried to blame the entire North for his act. In one editorial, Halstead claimed the southern editors were “mad as March hares---mad as Old Brown.” This created a great deal of animosity toward the Commercial and its editor south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Halstead was the only Republican present at the hanging of John Brown. Reporting as a witness to the abolitionist’s execution on the gallows, Halstead wrote, “…as Brown dropped, he turned sharply round and faced North…” Virginia didn’t take kindly to comments such as these, and there were threats made on the young reporter’s life. Halstead scooped the other papers that next year by single-handedly covering the presidential election of 1860 for the Commercial, attending six of the seven conventions.
Early in the war, it was Murat Halstead, in agreement with his reporter in the field, Henry Villard, who on December 11, 1861 broke the news, “General Sherman Insane.” This was after Villard reported Sherman to have said that he would need 200,000 soldiers to suppress the rebellion in the West.
As the editor of a major newspaper during the civil war, no one would have blamed Halstead if he’d chosen to remain in Cincinnati in relative safety and sent others into harms way for the all important “scoop,” but he didn’t. Traveling to Washington D.C. on numerous occasions as a sense of adventure permeated his spirit; Halstead would take to the raw fields of battle, personally covering news worthy events as they happened.
After the war, Halstead went on to edit a number of magazines and weekly periodicals and he authored a dozen books before his death on July 2, 1909 at the ripe old age of 80.