The First Newspapers in California

On November 11, 1848, the last issue of the first newspaper to appear in California was published.  The Californian had begun life in August 1846 under the editorship of Walter Colton and Robert Semple in Monterey. By the fall of 1848, with gold fever rampant, it became impossible to continue printing the paper. Everybody was running off to the goldfields: as Colton wrote in Three Years in California: “the blacksmith dropped his hammer, the carpenter his plane, the mason his trowel, the farmer his sickle, the baker his loaf, and the tapster his bottle.”

In the last issue, the Californian (under another editor and printed in San Francisco), gave a brief history of the newspaper, like a ship now “deserted by master and mate.” It ended on a hopeful note, insisting that the paper would continue, but the editor himself had been “called abroad” (to the goldfields?) and this was the last issue.

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The Californian would be resurrected by Edward Kemble and combined with the California Star (which he bought from Sam Brannan), to become the Weekly Alta California. Kemble was only twenty years old, but he was already an experienced newspaperman, having grown up in the business under his father, an editor in Troy, New York. At the age of 18 he had come with Sam Brannan (and a printing press) on the ship Brooklyn to California with a ship-load of Mormon emigrant refugees.

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Edward C. Kemble, A History of California Newspapers, 1846-1858.

Since he now had two printing presses, Kemble took one of them and went to Sacramento to start another newspaper, the Placer Times. The first issue appeared on April 28, 1849.

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November 11th is not only the last date for the Californian, it was also Kemble’s birthday in 1828. So “Happy Birthday” to Edward Kemble. Anyone researching California Gold Rush history owes a great debt to Kemble and his newspapers.

 

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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