Patterson was groomed to follow in the footsteps of his famous grandfather. His mother, Nellie, and his aunt, Kate, both named their firstborn sons after their famous father, aware that the family was creating a dynasty. As a young adult, he asked his father if he could go to China to cover the Boxer Rebellion. Granted permission, he went as a correspondent for William Randolph Hearst, but did not arrive in time. He attended Yale University where he was a member of Scroll and Key.
Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago, and covered the police beat for the Chicago Tribune. Patterson served in Illinois legislature briefly, married, and was the father of three daughters by 1906. Daughter Alicia explained that “He had wanted a boy, instead of three daughters in succession, and that meant one of the Patterson girls would have to be his substitute son,” Elinor was too withdrawn, well-behaved, and delicately beautiful, much like her mother. Josephine was too young. That left Alicia to become the surrogate son. From her earliest childhood Alicia went through a rigorous indoctrination into the ways of boys: riding horses, diving off high diving boards, fishing — whatever it took to please her father. “Father seemed to get a kick out of having me do dangerous things,” she told a New Yorker interviewer. “In fact, what with one thing and another, I kept getting so scared that finally I wasn’t scared of anything anymore.” Nearly twenty years later, in 1923, after his three daughters had become young women, his mistress (and future wife) gave birth to his only son, James Joseph Patterson, in England.
Patterson fueded with his father and resigned from Tribune. He announced he was a socialist, and wrote a muckraking article published in Colliers Magazine. Patterson moved to a farm in the country, wrote a novel, and returned to work at the Tribune by 1910.
After his father died, Patterson took over the management of the Chicago Tribune. He had a dispute about how to run the Tribune with a cousin. After World War I ended, he visited London and observed a newspaper in tabloid form for the first time. Unable to resolve a dispute about the management of the Tribune, he conceded control of the paper to a cousin. Patterson move to New York City and founded the New York Daily News as a tabloid newspaper on June 26 1919.
He took a hands on approach to managing the various comic strip properties he ran in his papers. He suggested that the lead character of Gasoline Alley adopt a foundling child who became a central character in the strip. Patterson influenced Dick Tracy, changing the title of the comic strip from Plainclothes Tracy to the current one, and supported creator, Chester Gould's vision of technical, grotesque and violent style of storytelling. Cartoonist Milton Caniff credits Patterson for suggesting Caniff create a comic strip about the orient, which led to the creation of Terry and the Pirates. Caniff recounted Patterson's role in creating Terry... in a Time Magazine's profile entitled "Escape Artist" (Monday, Jan. 13, 1947):
Son James served as vice president and assistant managing editor of the New York Daily News later.
Patterson is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Honor thy land, 'til death do us part.(Dispatches)(Alice Higinbotham Patterson and Joseph Medill Patterson's love for land)(Brief article)
Jun 22, 2007; Alice Higinbotham Patterson and her husband, Joseph Medill Patterson, the onetime publisher of the Chicago Tribune who went on to...