At Joseph Pulitzer’s death, the self-made Hungarian immigrant who built the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and later the New York World into hugely successful newspapers left $2 million to Columbia University to found the Columbia School of Journalism and create (with one quarter of the bequest) the Pulitzer Prizes.
Pulitzer explained in his will that he hoped to attract into the writing professions individuals “of character and ability, also to help those already engaged in the profession to acquire the highest moral and intellectual training.”
First awarded in 1917 by an advisory board he created for the purpose, the prizes aimed to encourage excellence in both journalism (four awards) and literature (with prizes for best American novels, plays, histories, and biographies). Prizes for poetry, music composition, and photography were introduced later. Winners are announced in April of each year.