The paper was founded on August 22, 1924 as the Lakeland Evening Ledger. In 1927, it bought its main competitor, the morning Lakeland Star-Telegram. By 1930, it was obvious that Lakeland could not support two papers, so Ledger Publishing Company merged the two papers into a single morning paper, the Lakeland Ledger and Star-Telegram. In 1941, Star-Telegram was dropped from the masthead, and in 1967 the name was shortened to simply The Ledger.
The New York Times Company bought The Ledger in 1970 and owned it until 2012, when it sold its entire regional newspaper group to Halifax Media. In 2015, Halifax was acquired by New Media Investment Group.
Jerome Ferson became publisher of the newspaper on July 30, 2007. Kevin Drake became publisher of the newspaper on January 21, 2014. 
According to nationwideadvertising.com, approximate circulation is 65,987; on Sunday, 81,366. In 2010 Alliance for Auditing approved a rule change allowing traditional print newspapers to combine their online readership to their print circulation. Actual circulation data for print delivery subscriptions is no longer reported.
The Ledger also publishes "Polk Life" magazine.