Skip to content

The Inverted Pyramid

Ok, here’s a graphic with the most basic elements of an inverted pyramid.

The classic "inverted pyramid" and its three main elements.

In Just the Facts David Mindich argues that the style was invented not by journalists, but by Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton. To validate this claim, Mindich studied several newspapers during the period between the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s, and found that the first clear example of inverted pyramid was Stanton’s announcement of Lincoln’s death, wired unedited by the A.P.

The dispatch read as follows:

Washington, April 14, 1865

To the Associated Press:

The President was shot in a theatre tonight and perhaps mortally wounded.

On Chapter 3, page 66 of Just the Facts¬†Mindich explains that¬†“because Stanton’s terse, impersonal dispatches appeared unedited on the front page of newspapers across the Union, he was widely read throughout the war.” So it seems that the most emblematic of all journalistic genres was not created by a journalist, but by a very efficient P.R. person.