First edition of the Cap Times — December 13, 1917

The Capital Times' first edition rolled off the press on Dec. 13, 1917.

As the capital of Wisconsin, politics is a huge part of Madison’s lifeblood, and the same is true for The Capital Times.

The newspaper was born in 1917 after the business manager of the Wisconsin State Journal, William T. Evjue, resigned over the paper’s increasingly strident attacks against U.S. Sen. Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette to create The Capital Times. As governor, later a senator and the founder of Wisconsin’s progressive movement, La Follette established a reputation as a champion of the underprivileged and an opponent of powerful business interests, but he came under attack like never before for his opposition to U.S. involvement in World War I.

Evjue’s vision for the paper was profoundly informed by progressivism and La Follette’s worldview. While Evjue made it clear in the first edition of The Capital Times that the paper would support the war effort, he also called out “self-servers who seek profits out of the calamities of war” and that would be a recurring theme in the paper throughout the conflict.

More broadly, Evjue positioned The Capital Times as a voice of everyday people whose livelihoods and lives were at the mercy of the powerful. That vision led the paper to challenge the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy of “Red scare” infamy in the 1950s and the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s. Today the Cap Times (as it is most often referred to in Madison) still enjoys that reputation.

It also has a reputation for philanthropy thanks to Evjue. Before his death in 1970, he established the Evjue Foundation and stipulated in his will that profits that would have gone to him would go to the foundation instead to be distributed to worthy causes in the community. Since his death until now, the foundation has distributed more than $56 million in grants to hundreds of organizations that support everything from education to health, the arts, racial justice, the environment, community centers and the Monona Terrace Convention Center, not to mention a large share for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  

Of course, much has also changed since 1917. In 1948, The Capital Times Co. and Lee Enterprises (which owns the Wisconsin State Journal) joined forces to create Madison Newspapers Inc. (now Capital Newspapers) — consolidating printing and other central business operations for the two newspapers.

The Capital Times was printed in the afternoon six days a week under the agreement up until 2008, when it ceased daily print publication. Now the Cap Times focuses its efforts first on its daily digital presence on captimes.com, while also producing a weekly print tabloid published each Wednesday. On all platforms, politics and public affairs are at the heart of what we do, but we also write about, photograph and publish data on the many ways that Madisonians spend their time and money — from dining to arts, Badgers sports and craft beer. The Cap Times is truly as Madison as it gets.