Joseph E. Atkinson
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Joseph E. Atkinson
Joseph E. Atkinson
Joseph Edward Atkinson.jpg
Born(1865-12-23)December 23, 1865
DiedMay 8, 1948(1948-05-08) (aged 82)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Resting placeOakville and St. Mary's Cemetery, Oakville, Ontario
OccupationNewspaper editor
Known forToronto Star publisher

Joseph E. Atkinson (born Joseph Atkinson, December 23, 1865 – May 8, 1948) was a Canadian newspaper editor and activist. Under his leadership the Toronto Star became one of the largest and most influential newspapers in Canada. Atkinson amassed a considerable fortune, eventually holding the controlling interest in the paper he edited. After his death, control of the paper passed to the trustees of the Atkinson Foundation, a major Canadian charity.[1]

Early life

Atkinson was born near Newcastle, Ontario in 1865. His early life was difficult, creating conditions which would eventually lead to his social activism. His father died when he was six months old, his mother, Hannah, when he was thirteen.

At about the age of 16, while working at the post office, he began to sign his name as "Joseph E. Atkinson" even though he had been given no middle name at birth.[2] Looking for a better job, Atkinson hoped to become a banker, but through his post office work he found out about a job opening at the Port Hope Times, a weekly newspaper in Port Hope, Ontario. He joined the paper at age 18, initially collecting accounts. When the Times started publishing daily, Atkinson became a reporter.[2]

In October 1888, he jumped to The Toronto World and a few months later joined the Globe, one of the newspapers which would become The Globe and Mail. After two years, he became the Globe's Ottawa correspondent, a position he held for seven years. Atkinson then became managing editor of the Montreal Herald in 1897.[]


Elmina Elliott Atkinson (Madge Merton) by William Notman

Joseph E. Atkinson married in Toronto on April 18, 1892 to Elmina Ella Susannah Elliott of Oakville, Ontario.[3] Like her husband, Elliott Akinson was a member of the staff of the Toronto Globe.[4] Under the nom-de-plume of "Madge Merton" she worked as a journalist for the Montreal Herald and the Toronto Daily Star.[4] In Henry James Morgan's Types of Canadian Women, he describes "Mrs. Atkinson contrives without loss of interest to give dignity to woman's work in journalism."[4]

Toronto Star

In 1899, Atkinson was asked to become managing editor of the Montreal Star, then the largest English-language newspaper in Canada. The paper's conservative viewpoint clashed with Atkinson's liberal beliefs. While he was considering the offer,[] in December 1899,[5] Atkinson was asked by a group of supporters of Wilfrid Laurier, the Liberal prime minister of Canada, if he would become publisher of the Toronto Evening Star. The group included Senator George Cox, William Mulock, Peter Charles Larkin and Timothy Eaton.[6] Mulock and most other members of the group wanted the paper to be the voice of the Liberal Party, but Atkinson refused to take the job on those terms and insisted that he be given full control over newspaper policy and that the Star be run in the best interests of the paper, not the Liberal Party. Atkinson travelled to Ottawa and successfully appealed to Laurier for support.[7] Atkinson also insisted that 40 percent of his salary be paid in stock at par value and that he be given the opportunity to become majority owner. After some initial opposition, the ownership group accepted those terms.

The group took ownership of the paper on December 13, 1899. Shareholders formally approved the hiring of Atkinson five days later, with his employment backdated to start December 13. Atkinson's name first appeared in the masthead of the December 21 edition. His task was to save a failing newspaper, competing in a conservative city with six daily newspapers. Atkinson succeeded in turning the fortunes of the paper around and by 1913 it had the largest circulation of any Toronto newspaper. He continued to run the Star until his death in 1948, at the age of 82.


Atkinson had two children:

  • Joseph S. Atkinson (1904-1968) became the paper's publisher in 1948 and continued until 1966. He was also the board's chair and President of the Joseph E. Atkinson foundation.
  • Ruth Atkinson Hindmarsh (1893-1994) married one the paper's managers, Harry C. Hindmarsh and was also a member of her father's foundation.


  1. ^ Atkinson, Joseph E. National Historic Person. Directory of Federal Heritage Designations. Parks Canada. Retrieved September 29, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Harkness, Ross (1963). J. E. Atkinson of the Star. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. p. 5.
  3. ^ "Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Morgan, Henry James, ed. (1903). Types of Canadian Women and of Women who are or have been Connected with Canada. Toronto: Williams Briggs. p. 15.
  5. ^ "Social Justice". The Star. Toronto. November 19, 2008. Archived from the original on January 4, 2012.
  6. ^ Otto, Stephen A. (2005). "Larkin, Peter Charles". In Cook, Ramsay; Bélanger, Réal (eds.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. XV (1921-1930) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  7. ^ Harkness 1963, p. 23.

Further reading

External links

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