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California’s first newspaper…

CalifornianFor much of the information below we credit John Oswald’s work “Printing In The Americas”.

Printing in California began in 1825 when it was under Mexican rule, being not much more than engraved wood blocks used to make seal impressions. Some years later in 1833 with a new governor for the province an announcement of his arrival in California was issued, being the oldest known California imprint.

As for newspapers, the very first published in California was on August 15, 1846 with the beginning of the “Californian” in the city of Monterey, just five weeks after the United States flag has been raised over the city and California was proclaimed a part of the United States. The newspaper was published by Rev. Walter Colton, a champlain of the U.S. frigate ‘Congress” docked at Monterey and a one time editor of the Philadelphia “North American“, and Robert Semple. On April 24, 1847 Semple became the sole proprietor of the “Californian” and two weeks later he moved it to San Francisco.

The second newspaper in California was published as a venture of the Mormons. They created the “California Star“, the first regular number of which appeared January 9, 1847.  On November 18, 1848 the Californian” and the “Star” merged, the name becoming the “Alta California“.

Since the population of California was relatively small before the gold rush of 1849 newspapers from this decade are exceedingly difficult to find. They become much more numerous from 1850 onwards, but any title from the 1846-1849 period would be considered a terrific find by any collector.

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2 Comments To "California’s first newspaper…"

#1 Comment By Charles Signer On 11/12/2009 @ 5:56 am

It takes some mental readjustment to imagine the Golden State before gold, but in 1847 California was just another sparsely-populated rural area like New Mexico.

According to sfgeneology.com, the total population of San Francisco in August 1847 was 459, rising to 850 in 1848. Many of those probably didn’t speak English. A paper like the California Star couldn’t support a circulation of more than 100. How many of the number printed survive today? Even after 1849 Gold Rush, the population of San Francisco at the beginning of 1850 was still only 25,000.

It’s always difficult finding pre-statehood papers, but pre-statehood California before 1850 is really hard to find. I think the only one harder to find is Texas, particularly during the Texas Republic period.

California didn’t have much of a territorial experience like other western states. I’m not sure it was ever formally organized as a territory. The people there assumed California would be a state sooner or later and didn’t wait around for Congress to act on statehood. San Francisco papers in the early part of 1850 before statehood refer to the “State of California” as though it had already been admitted to the union.

#2 Comment By james karlsen On 10/18/2010 @ 1:43 am

Sir, I have an original Californian news paper. The date on this paper is November 24th 1847, vol. ll, NO.28. You mentioned that the United Stated flag was over the state of California and part of the united stated is in question when an artical was printed in my paper which states as follows: Its title reads: BEEF & PORK One hundred and seventy five barrols of Beef & Port of very superior quality just received from the United States, and for sale by ROBERT A. PARKER San francisco, August 4, 1847 The news paper name on is printed ‘CALIFORNIAN’ . It was under the state hood of California in 1850 ! And I though that everything after 1850 was United States and this printing of this for sale item states ‘just received from the United States’ was still Moexico land ! Even so, I very pleased to own one of the original papers of this historical eara. Thank you for letting me share this with everyone. Thanks.