The RTD has existed in some form for more than 150 years. In 1850, a newspaper called the Daily Dispatch was founded. In 1886, a competitor, the Richmond Daily Times was founded by Lewis Ginter. A year later, Joseph Bryan (1845-1908) bought the Daily Times from Ginter, beginning the paper's long association with the Bryan family. In 1890, the Daily Times changed its name to the Richmond Times. In 1896, Bryan acquired the eight-year-old Manchester Leader and launched the Evening Leader. In 1899, the evening Richmond News was founded. John L. Williams, owner of the Dispatch, bought the News in 1900.
By 1903, it was obvious Richmond was not big enough to support four papers. That year, Williams and Bryan agreed to a merger of Richmond's main newspapers. The morning papers merged to become the Richmond Times-Dispatch under Bryan's ownership, while the evening papers merged to become The Richmond News Leader under Williams' ownership. Bryan bought the News Leader in 1908. After he died later that year, the land for Richmond's Joseph Bryan Park was donated by his widow, Isobel ("Belle") Stewart Bryan, and it is named for him.
John Stewart Bryan became owner and publisher of the two papers after his father's death. He sold controlling interest in the Times-Dispatch to three families in 1914, but reacquired it in 1940 when the two papers' business interests merged to form Richmond Newspapers, in which Bryan held a 54-percent interest. That conglomeration is now known as Media General.