Bulldog Edition

Dear Dr. Ink:

Does Dr. Ink know how the term “bulldog edition” came about? Why a bulldog? And who used it?

Mark Nave

Answer:

As with most such questions received by Dr. Ink, he had no idea of the origin of “bulldog edition,” although his guess was that it referred to an edition published aggressively, early in the morning, while the competition was still sleeping. Now the Doc knows how to look stuff up (some of his readers should try it sometime!), and here’s what he discovered.

On a journalism history website, one Charley Stough of the Dayton Daily News reports: “Two plausible guesses:… a) newsboys fought for first papers like bulldogs, and b) some say typos were referred to as ‘bulls’… and the earliest edition was full of bulls. A few guessers suggest that the earliest edition also was usually the ugliest in terms of type alignment, inking, etc…. bulldog ugly.”

Saul Daniels of the LA Times reports that Bulldog may have been coined by W. R. Hearst “who wanted his first editions to have grabber headlines and ‘bite like a bulldog.’”

Mary Feeney of Central College in Iowa notes a reference to this term in “Citizen Kane.” Orson Welles “walks down the long Xanadu stairs as Susan works a jigsaw puzzle. It is very early, before dawn, and he says (thinking about New York and his newspaper The Inquirer) that the ‘Bulldog edition is out….’”

The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins suggests “the term dates back to the New York City’s newspaper wars of the 1890s, when rival papers were competing for morning readers with special editions sold by street vendors very early in the day. These papers were baptized ‘bulldogs’ presumably because the publishers fought like bulldogs over circulation.”

Dr. Ink has discovered evidence to support this etymology. He cites a movie from 1936 titled, what else, “Bulldog Edition,” starring Ray Walker and Regis Toomey. Here’s a synopsis: “Two newspapers feud it out over the #1 spot, attempting every type of intimidation and sabotage — including the employment of gangsters.” Let’s give thanks they never named it the “Gangster Edition.”

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