The Dallas Morning News developed from the Galveston News, which was founded in 1842 by Samuel Bangs. By 1879 Alfred H. Belo, who had acquired control of the business, was investigating the possibility of establishing a sister paper in rapidly developing North Texas. When efforts to purchase the old Dallas Herald failed, Belo sent George Bannerman Dealey to launch a new paper, the Dallas Morning News, which began publication on October 1, 1885. Linked across 315 miles by telegraph, and sharing a network of correspondents across the state, the Dallas Morning News and the Galveston News were the first two newspapers in the country to publish simultaneous editions. From the outset the Dallas paper enjoyed the double advantage of strong financial support and an accumulation of journalistic experience. From its parent paper, the Dallas News inherited the concept of being a state paper and of refraining from becoming the organ of any political party. Beginning with a circulation of 5,000, the Dallas News soon absorbed its major competitor, the Herald (not to be confused with the Dallas Times Herald). It immediately leased a special train on the Texas and Pacific Railway to carry papers to Fort Worth, and in 1887 it engaged a special train on the Houston and Texas Central to deliver papers to McKinney, Sherman, and Denison on the morning they were printed. This expedient enabled the paper to meet the threat of the St. Louis newspapers, which in 1885 had a larger circulation in North Texas than did any state paper. By 1888 the News was printing an eight to twelve page edition daily and sixteen pages on Sunday. Its circulation reached 17,000 by 1895. In 1914 the News launched an evening paper, the Dallas Journal, which was sold in 1938. It also published the Semi-Weekly Farm News from 1885 until 1940.
During the 1890s the News stood firmly against the agrarian wing of the Democratic party, as represented in the state by James Stephen Hogg and by William Jennings Bryan in national politics. The paper supported both Grover Cleveland and William McKinley, especially as to hard-money views. Beginning about 1900 it avoided controversy and name-calling in political attack, with the exception of its vehement opposition to the reelection of Joseph Weldon Bailey as senator in 1906. In that year circulation climbed to 38,000. In a courageous move, the paper condemned the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1920s. Another step it took in the face of financial loss was its decision in 1920 not to accept any advertising for oil stock because of the difficulty of distinguishing between fraudulent and honest firms. Adolph Ochs of the New York Times stated in 1924, "I received my ideas and ideals from the Galveston Daily News and the Dallas Morning News." By 1928 circulation had increased to 86,000.
The paper, which had initially supported Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal, found itself disagreeing with Roosevelt's domestic policies as the president's tenure in office stretched to include a fourth term. However, it backed Roosevelt's foreign policies, including unreserved support of America's participation in World War II after Pearl Harbor. The paper supported Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower for president over Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956, and Richard M. Nixon over John F. Kennedy in 1960. It was neutral in the contest between Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater in 1964, but endorsed Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972, Gerald Ford in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, George H. W. Bush in 1988 and 1992, Robert Dole in 1996, and George W. Bush in 2000. The paper's circulation, which stood at 150,000 in 1950, grew to 276,000 (Sunday) and 346,273 (daily) by 1968. In 1994 the circulation of the News was 814,400 (Sunday) and 527,300 (daily).
Two long-time programs supported by the Dallas Morning News have been city planning for Dallas and encouragement of enlightened farming practices in North Texas. In addition, it has backed campaigns to clean up the city and make it more attractive, to build levees for flood control on the Trinity River, to construct a union railroad station, and to adopt first the commission form of government and later the city manager form. The News has published several special editions that have contributed to state and local history, including the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of October 1, 1935; the Texas Centennial Edition of June 7, 1936; an edition of April 11, 1942, marking the 100th anniversary of its parent paper, the Galveston News; and the Texas Unlimited Edition of May 22, 1949. It subsequently published special editions celebrating its own 100th anniversary on October 1, 1985, and the 150th anniversary of the A. H. Belo Corporation on April 11, 1992. The Dallas Morning News received Pulitzer prizes in 1986, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994. In 2001 James M. Moroney III, great-grandson of George B. Dealey, became publisher. The Morning News had a Sunday circulation of 784,905 and a daily circulation of 525,532 in 2003.