The paper was first published as the Los Angeles Daily Times on December 4, 1881, but soon went bankrupt. The paper's printer, the Mirror Company, took over the newspaper and installed former Union army lieutenant colonel Harrison Gray Otis as editor. Otis made the paper a financial success and in 1884 bought out the newspaper and printing company, forming the Times-Mirror Company.
Historian Andrew Rolle called Otis "the single most important force in Los Angeles aside from government itself." Otis's editorial policy was based on civic boosterism, extolling the virtues of Los Angeles and promoting its growth. He was also staunchly Republican and conservative, which was reflected in the paper's editorial and news content. The strong anti-union bias of the Times resulted in a bombing of the its headquarters on October 1, 1910 which killed 20 people. The paper soon relocated to the Times Building, a Los Angeles landmark.
On Otis's death in 1917, his son-in-law Harry Chandler took over the reins as publisher of the Times. He was succeeded in 1944 by his son, Norman Chandler. In 1960, the fourth generation of family publishers, Otis Chandler, took the position, and began to move the paper away from its traditional right wing, Republican political slant to a more centrist perspective. Otis Chandler stepped down in 1980.
By the mid-1940s, the Los Angeles Times was the leading newspaper in terms of sales in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. In 1989, its last rival for the Los Angeles daily newspaper market, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, went out of business, making Los Angeles a one-newspaper city. In 2000 the Times-Mirror Company was purchased by the Tribune Company.
The Times has won 30 Pulitzer prizes.