The Des Moines Register was founded in 1860 and merged with its competitor, the Des Moines Leader, taking it over in 1890. In 1908, it bought a competitor with an evening edition, the Des Moines Tribune. The two papers continued publication under their own names, the Register in the morning and the Tribune at night. The Tribune then merged with the last two major competitors in the city by 1927, but it was later closed down.
The Register won its first Pulitzer Prize in 1924, and became critically regarded for its editorials, political cartoons, state news and international news with an Iowan perspective. Its circulation was the highest during the 1960s, with over 250,000 for the daily paper and 500,000 for the Sunday edition. By 1985, when the Des Moines Register switched owners, its circulation was rapidly declining, but only one newspaper, The New York Times, had won more Pulitzer Prizes for national reporting.
In 2005, the Register began to publish a tabloid weekly called the Juice, which is made up mostly of entertainment and lifestyle stories. Those who subscribe are also granted access to the tabloid's electronic publication. In 2012, the Register moved from its home of 95 years to new location in Capital Square. In 2015, the paper announced it had been denied access to cover one of the major presidential hopefuls, Donald Trump, at a campaign event.