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California's first newspaper

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Joined: 27 Nov 2007
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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:35 pm    Post subject: California's first newspaper Reply with quote

Walter Colton, Alcalde of Monterey and Robert Semple, a pioneer of Kentucky, established the first newspaper ever published in California. It was called the Californian, and made its initial appearance on Saturday, August 15th, 1846.

During the Spanish era in California, there was no press in the country, and not until 1833 or 1834, did the Mexicans import one from Mexico City. A few books were subsequently printed, but most of the work issued was the printing of proclamations issued by the Mexican Government.

The Californian was not such a paper as greets the reader today at his breakfast table, but it did the best it could with the materials available, and sought to make up in spirit what it lacked in appearance. The office was resurrected from the remains of the small Mexican concern of 1833. There being no W in the Spanish alphabet, they were compelled to use two V's (thus, VV) whenever a W occurred. Rough brown paper, the size of ordinary foolscap, such as that used at the time for making cigarettes, was all that could be secured. To attract subscribers from the Spanish population, the paper was printed partly in Spanish, the rest being in English.

Colton says: "Though the Californian is small in dimensions, our first number is as full of news as a black walnut is of meat. We have received by couriers, during the past week, intelligence from all the important military posts in the territory.

"It reached the public for the first time through our sheet. We have, also, the declaration of war between the United States and Mexico. A crowd was waiting when the first sheet was thrown from the press, it produced quite a little sensation, never was bank run upon harder, not, however, by people with paper to get specie, but exactly the reverse."

An emigrant from Kentucky, in a buckskin dress, a foxskin cap, true with his rifle, ready with his pen, and quick at the type case, thus Colton described his partner, Robert Semple.

Semple arrived in California late in 1845. Besides being remembered as one of the publishers of California's first newspaper, his name figures prominently in California's history as president of the First Constitutional Convention which met in Colton Hall, Monterey, in 1849, to draw up a State constitution. Semple towered six feet, eight inches above the ground, his height inspired a man named Blackburn to observe: that Semple had to wear his spurs on the calves of his legs to enable him to hit his horses belly.

Colton is also remembered as the builder of Colton Hall, and the man who empanelled the first jury to be summoned in California.
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