30 July, 2006

In 1887, The Morning Press said it began in 1868

At the right is a short article from the Sept. 20, 1887 edition, page 2, of The Morning Press, on the occasion of an upgrade in the format and typeset (the `number') of the newspaper. This quote is evidence that the birthdate of today's Santa Barbara News-Press is in May, 1868, and neither 1855 (as currently claimed by that newspaper) nor 1863 (as was claimed for many years, starting roughly in May of 1889). The article above is in agreement with the WPA guide of 1941 shown in an earlier blog post here. The article is also evidence that the News-Press is not the oldest newspaper in Southern California; it appears that the Bakersfield Californian is the oldest.

In case the image is unreadable, here is
a transcription:

The Santa Barbara Press was established
in May, 1868, as a weekly, and for a short
time was published under the title of the
"Post." The first daily was issued
Sep. 9th, 1872. It was our intention
to issue the enlarged number on the
fifteenth anniversary of the daily, but
non-arrival of the material prevented. We
believe the Press is the second oldest
paper in Southern California.

The Morning Press was the successor to The Santa Barbara Press; the name change actually occurred on the date of the short article above. The Morning Press became the `Press' part of the Santa Barbara News-Press in 1937 as the final step in a takeover by the Santa Barbara News, which was a younger newspaper.

I have made some progress on what Neal Graffy called the `1863 error,' which is the change in the birthdate of The Santa Barbara Post, the progenitor of the Press, from 1868 to 1863. Starting on Sep. 20, 1887 the Morning Press put `Established May, 1868' in its masthead, which is a bit hard to read in the image at left. But on about May 17, 1889, the phrase in the masthead changed to `Established May, 1863'. The shift may have been induced by a mistaken calculation based on the assumption of one volume number per year for the Press. In fact, starting in 1882, the Press used two volume numbers per year, causing the volume number to advance to 26 by 1889; mistakenly subtracting 26, under the assumption that there was one volume each year, from 1889 yields an apparent, but wrong, starting date of 1863.

Starting on Dec. 15, 1894, the founding date of 1863 was placed on the front page of the paper, just under the paper title.

21 July, 2006

Neal Graffy takes up the N-P Birthdate Issue

Yesterday in Edhat Neal Graffy took up the same issue... how old is the News-Press? A direct link is here. Hooray for Neal!

There are some minor differences between his research and mine... he indicates that the first SB newspaper, The Santa Barbara Gazette, folded in 1858... the WPA article posted just below says 1861, and actually gives an anecdote about the demise of the Gazette. I cannot find any library copies of the Gazette after May 14, 1857.

Neal argues that there was a gap in Santa Barbara Newspaper publishing... he says 1858-1868, which might actually be 1861-1868. One bit of evidence of a gap during this interval is the lack of earthquake information during roughly that period... see this link.

The special News-Press issue of Mar. 30, 1952, where the paper changed its birthdate from 1863 to 1855 seems unknown to Neal. That issue of the News-Press has its own history of newspaper publishing in Santa Barbara, and specifically says the Santa Barbara Post started publishing in 1863. I'll eventually post that article here.

Also, Neal mentions the `1863 error,' which is the change in the founding date of Press part of the News-Press (which is the older) from 1868 to 1863. Neal thinks that the change from 1868 to 1863 occurred sometime in the 1890's, but to me it looks like there was never really a shift in birthdate, but a non-standard enumeration of volumes during the 1870's and 1880's. The non-standard enumeration started with the Santa Barbara Daily Press, which started publishing on Sep. 9, 1872, and then in the subsequent 13 years between 1872 and 1885, their volume number increased by 19. That means that several volumes were packed in to one year; the standard procedure is to make one volume equal a year's worth of editions.

Then the successor of the Santa Barbara Daily Press, the Santa Barbara Press went through 4 more volume numbers in the next year, 1886. Then, starting in 1887, this paper became The Morning Press, and standard volume numeration started, but 9 or 10 extra volume numbers had been introduced. Later, people probably thought that the volume number and the assumption of one volume per year could be used to deduce a birthdate for the earliest predecessor, but this assumption was wrong, and led to a calculation of 9 or 10 years before 1872, which probably explains the 1863 date and error.

Again, the vaunted archives of the News-Press might resolve all this.

18 July, 2006

Source: 1941 WPA Guide to Santa Barbara

Below are several pages from the 1941 WPA Guide to Santa Barbara. The information supports a May, 1868 start date for the earliest predecessor (the Santa Barbara Post) of the modern News-Press. The News-Press claims it started in 1855, which I have been unable to verify.

17 July, 2006

How Old is the Santa Barbara News-Press?

Like many in the Santa Barbara area, I've gotten interested by the ongoing drama at our local daily, the News-Press. One thing I got obsessed with... how old is the News-Press? The newspaper takes great pride in declaring itself oldest in Southern California, and `since 1855'. Is it true? Not that I have been able to verify.

What I can verify: the earliest predecessor of the News-Press was the Santa Barbara Post, which commenced publishing on May 30, 1868 (the original Memorial Day, see the posting below). The Post published until June 10, 1869, then became the Santa Barbara Weekly Press starting June 24, 1869. The same business started publishing a daily edition, the Daily Press, on Sep. 9, 1872, which eventually evolved into The Morning Press. Oddly enough, the Morning Press did not quote its start date as 1868, but instead quoted a start date of 1863, which I cannot verify.

The Morning Press was acquired by Tom Storke (who was running the Daily News, founded later than the Post) in September of 1932. At least one edition of the Morning Press - June 1, 1935 - says the paper was founded in 1869. But the volume numbering corresponds to the 1863 founding. Storke re-christened the combined operation the News-Press, starting in 1938, and adopted the 1863 founding date.

Then on March 30, 1952, the News-Press, on occasion of a golden celebration of Tom Storke and the dedication of its new building, changed its date of origin from 1863 to 1855, just saying they carried on the tradition of the Santa Barbara Gazette, which did start publishing in 1855. There is no thread of business continuity between the Gazette and the News-Press.

The verifiable birthdate of the News-Press of May 30, 1868 would make the News-Press younger than the Bakersfield Californian, which dates from Aug. 18, 1866. The San Diego Union-Tribune dates from Oct. 10, 1868. Both those papers give pretty clear histories on their websites, unlike the News-Press... I have not scrutinized the self-asserted histories of the Californian and Union-Tribune.

The archive of the News-Press might have new info that would support a claim of 1855 or 1863, however. It would be very nice for the News-Press to clarify the situation for once and for all.

I note that the New York Times claimed today (July 17, 2006) that the News-Press was 105 years old... this date comes from Barney Brantingham, and corresponds to the date of Tom Storke's first acquisition of a newspaper, the (then) Santa Barbara Independent, in late 1900. But that Independent was sold by Storke in 1909 or 1910. Then he left the local news business and moved to the Bakersfield oil fields, and did not return until 1913, when he purchased the Santa Barbara Daily News. A few months later in 1913, he purchased that Independent back.

California State Library Info for N-P Predecessor

From the California State Library, the info for Volume 1, Number 5 of the Santa Barbara Post, ultimate predecessor to today's News-Press is below. One can work backward to surmise that Volume 1, Number 1 was published on May 30, 1868.

Title: The Santa Barbara post.
Published: Santa Barbara, Calif. :
Boust & Ferguson,
Description: v. Volume
Designation: Began in 1868.
Ceased in June 1869.
Notes: Description based on:
Vol. 1, no. 5 (June 27, 1868)..
Subjects: Santa Barbara (Calif.) Newspapers..
Later title: Santa Barbara press
(Santa Barbara, Calif. :
1869 : Weekly) (DLC)sn 85025118
LCCN: sn 93051509
DBCN: AEO-2626

California State Library:

Location: Calif. History Room (B)
06/27/1868 - 12/19/1868