Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Levy, Joseph Moses

LEVY, JOSEPH MOSES (1812–1888), founder of the ‘Daily Telegraph,’ born in London on 15 Dec. 1812, was son of Moses Lionel Levy, by Helena, daughter of J. Moses, esq., and was like his father a professing Jew. He was educated at Bruce Castle school, under Thomas Wright Hill [q. v.], and in Germany. He engaged in youth in commercial pursuits, and soon purchased and carried on a printing establishment in Shoe Lane, Fleet Street. He thus became connected with the ‘Sunday Times,’ of which he became chief proprietor in 1855, and he conducted that paper for a year. The ‘Daily Telegraph and Courier’ was founded by Colonel Sleigh as a twopenny daily newspaper on 29 June 1855. Sleigh quickly became heavily indebted to Levy, who took over the newspaper in settlement of his claims. On 17 Sept. 1855 it was issued as the ‘Daily Telegraph’ by Levy at a penny, being the first London daily newspaper produced at that price. It was in a very bad financial position at the time, and the proceeds of the first day's advertisements are stated to have been 7s. 6d. The appearance, however, of a well-edited daily paper at a penny excited great attention. Levy devoted all his capital to the enterprise, and induced many members of his family to follow his example. The circulation rose very rapidly, and on the repeal of the paper duties, which Levy did his best to obtain, the profits grew to be very large. Levy devoted himself entirely to his newspaper. He collected round him a band of able writers, including Thornton Leigh Hunt [q. v.], Sir Edwin Arnold, Mr. G. A. Sala, and many others. Until the last years of his life he daily visited the offices in Fleet Street, and supervised the management in the minutest details, invariably giving much attention to artistic and theatrical articles, for which he held himself especially responsible. The politics of the paper were liberal until 1886, when the principles of the liberal unionists were adopted. Levy was privately very charitable, and was a generous patron of music and the drama. He died at Florence Cottage, Ramsgate, on 12 Oct. 1888, and was buried at Balls Pond cemetery, London. He married in 1831 Esther, daughter of N. G. Cohen, and she died in 1883, leaving a large family. The eldest son, Sir Edward Lawson, was created a baronet in 1892.

[Times, 13 Oct. 1888; Daily Telegraph, 13 Oct. 1888; Grant's Newspaper Press; ii. 92, &c.; Fox Bourne's Hist. of the Newspaper Press; private information.]

W. A. J. A.