Originally the New York Morning Journal, the New York Journal-American was one of over 50 newspapers and circulations owned by the larger-than-life William Randolph Hearst.

After his successful turnaround of the San Francisco Examiner, Hearst's next purchase was the Journal in 1895, which he renamed the Journal-American just two years later. It was the Journal-American that provided most of the "yellow journalism" that incited public opinion to demand, and get, the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Over the years, the Journal-American competed with the New York Times, Sun, and Post for readership and precious ad dollars within the Big Apple. Some of the Journal-American's most prominent assets were the outlandish cartoons of daydreamer Rube Goldberg, illustrator Frererick Remington, political analyst and activist Walter Winchell, and investigative reporter George Carpozi, a six-time Pulitzer winner. It also featured the famous comic strip The Yellow Kid, which kept it popular for years. Sportswriters Jimmy Cannon and Ring Lardner also wrote for the J-A in their formative years.

In 1966, the Hearst Corporation, looking to branch into radio and television, began selling off its less profitable newspapers, including the J-A, which saw brief life as the New York World Journal Tribune before fizzling out for good on August 15 of that same year.