The Cleveland Plain Dealer was founded as a weekly newspaper on January 7, 1842 by Joseph Gray. By 1845 it had transitioned to an evening daily. Joseph Gray died in 1862, and his paper was controlled by a series of editors until Liberty Holden purchased the paper in 1885. Holden introduced a number of changes to the paper, such as adding a morning and Sunday edition, and by 1905 had abandoned the evening edition. He also took the paper in a completely different editorial direction, ignoring Gray's politically slanted coverage (the paper had been an ardent supporter of the Democratic Party) and instead assuring readers that "We shall at all times be watchful of the right man, holding that man is superior to party and that all government should be for the good of the governed."
Liberty Holden was born in Maine and began his career as a teacher at the age of 16. In 1856, Holden began attending the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After completing his education he became a professor of literature at Kalamazoo College where he met his wife, Delia, and married in 1860. He moved to Cleveland in 1862 to study law and also began investing in mining interests around the country. Holden purchased the Plain Dealer in 1885, and his heirs owned the paper until the late 1960s.
Holden also owned the Hollenden Hotel, one of the most glamorous hotels in Cleveland. The 8-story hotel at Superior and East 6th Street opened in 1885 and featured electric lights, 100 private baths, fireproof construction, and a lavish interior with crystal chandeliers. Holden, as president of Cleveland's building committee, also played an important role in the construction of Wade Park, Rockefeller Park and the Cleveland Museum of Art. He served as Mayor of Bratenahl for a time, too. Liberty Holden died in 1913.
Upon Holden's death in 1913 the Plain Dealer was transferred to his heirs. In 1933, the Plain Dealer purchased the Cleveland News and became the largest newspaper in Cleveland, although it continued to operate the two papers independently. In 1960 the Cleveland News was sold to the Cleveland Press, and The Plain Dealer moved to its present location, the Cleveland News building, at E. 18th and Superior.
Following the demise of the Cleveland Press in 1982, the Plain Dealer became Cleveland's only major daily newspaper.