Below we continue our series in which we post the “stories” graciously submitted by our collecting friends during the pandemic of 2020.
The Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, California, east of Los Angeles, interprets the region’s history from 1830 to 1930 and, among the approximately 30,000 artifacts in the artifact collection are hundreds of historic newspapers, most dating to the 1870s, a key time period in our interpretation. Among the more unusual of the papers is the first of twelve issues of the “Willow Dale Press,” an amateur paper published by 13-year old Florence Carter and her 10-year brother, Arthur, children of rancher and developer Nathaniel Carter. The family migrated in 1874 from Lowell, Massachusetts to the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles for a reason many others did: health. Nathaniel Carter suffered from serious pulmonary issues and the temperate climate of the valley proved to be a balm for his ailments. The Carters, who bought their 17-acre spread from George Stoneman, a Union Army general during the Civil War and future California governor, and christened it “Willow Dale.” Widely known for its picturesque location, fine home, and its landscaping, Willow Dale was photographed by Carleton Watkins, famed for his images of Yosemite. The site is in today’s city of San Marino, very near the Huntington Library, Art Galleries and Botanical Gardens.
The Carter siblings were provided with a small foot-treadle operated press with a self-inking action made in Boston and which produced a dual-column sheet measuring 6 inches by 9 inches. The duo’s sheet was among many so-called “juvenile papers” published throughout the nation as literacy rates skyrocketed. This first issue, for January 1879, appeared late the following month, as one of the major dailies in Los Angeles, the Herald, noted in its Christmas 1878 edition that “we are indebted to our editorial confreres of the Willow Dale Press for a handsome chromo of the ‘Village Mill’,” this chromolithograph produced on their press being a free gift with a subscription, a savvy marketing tool for the young entrepreneurs, who were appealing “to our young friends” in making their “editorial bow.”
In fact, Florence and Arthur felt compelled to state “one of us has hardly reached, while the other has just entered our teens, and so our readers as they look over the paper will please pass judgment accordingly.” They intended “to present each month, a good selection of reading matter, with articles which will be written expressly for this paper.” They also added that “we will be glad to receive communications from any of the young folks, also charades, enigmas or conundrums which are original.” Moreover, the Carters expressed a willingness to exchange with other like publications and made the offer to “each month present for THE OLD FOLKS a column which we hope they will find interesting and profitable, as we find it the most profitable to us.” Another promotion was that a person who secured the most subscribers would get 500 cards with more than 200 types to choose from and room for up to three names, while the second and third highest producers would receive 300 and 100 cards, respectively. Elsewhere, the pair advertised for the “latest styles” in New Year’s presentation cards.
Humor, or the attempt at, proved to take up much of the space in the issue, including this example: a small store about ten feet by twelve in East Los Angeles [a neighborhood now known as Lincoln Heights] has three large signs—MARKET—upon it, which nearly cover the building. Florence said we rode along, she did not think they need “Mark-It” any more. Another bit of humor was reprinted from the popular Youth’s Companion, and told of a woman who got chills from sitting on a rock until she learned that it was a block of ice covered with carpets to delay its melting. For the “Old Folks Column,’ that consisted of an ad for a local doctor, a nearby nursery, and for the well-known resort, the Sierra Madre Villa, which was north of the Carter’s place.
Though the paper moved up in summer to a larger size of 9 ¼ x 7 ¼ with three columns and a new masthead with an increase in the subscription rate to 25 cents per year, at which time the Herald acknowledged receipt of the sixth issue and called the Press “a spicy, readable sheet,” the Carters only kept the journalistic endeavor going to the end of 1879. Two issues were produced by their father because Florence and Arthur took a long trip to see their maternal grandmother in Northern California. When the paper folded, the explanation was that the closure was due to “school work, baseball and archery,” these being childhood concerns that made eminent sense for the practical business decision reached by the young proprietors.
Just after the shuttering of the paper, the Carters moved to a new 103-acre tract known as “Carterhia,” while Nathaniel developed another 1000 acres and developed the town of Sierra Madre at the base of the chain of mountains once known by that name and later changed to the San Gabriel range. Florence later married a prominent Y.M.C.A. official in Los Angeles and raised a family. After she was widowed, she worked as a librarian and a Christian Science practitioner. Arthur, who remained at Sierra Madre, became a ranger in the newly created national forest in the mountains above the town and ran the Carter’s Camp resort in Big Santa Anita Canyon above Sierra Madre. Later, he was an orange grower in town, where he and his wife raised their family.
So, while the Willow Dale Press was short-lived, it was significant in that it was the first amateur or juvenile paper in greater Los Angeles and, in fact, was the first paper at all in the western San Gabriel Valley, as even the new town of Pasadena did not have one until the early 1880s.
As additional “stories” are posted they will be available at: MY COLLECTING STORY . We did this many years ago as well – and their posts are also included.