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Monterey--First printing

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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:09 pm    Post subject: Monterey--First printing Reply with quote

ENTIRELY in the spirit of the Old Capital is the fact that the first printing in California was done in Monterey. Entirely logical that it should be, since all legal papers of importance were drawn up at the seat of government.

George L. Harding, in his recent comprehensive brochure, A Census of California Spanish Imprints, 1833-1845 says: "The earliest known piece of printing that might possibly have been printed in California is a letterhead for the Comisaria Suhalterna, y Aduana Maritima Provicionales del Puerto de Monterey on a document now in the Bancroft Library, dated August 25, 1830."

Agustin V. Zamorano, arriving in 1825 from Mexico, with Governor Echeandia, brought with him a small seal press, with an alphabet sufficient for government purposes. Not more than enough to produce one hundred words. The type "belongs to the classification known to typographical students and printers as 'old style', quoting Mr. Harding. "It is a sturdy, round face with no hair lines, heavy serifs, and was evidently of Spanish origin."

In 1834, Zamorano announced the establishment of a printing office in Monterey—the first, obviously, in California. The old town was growing up. The first piece of work bearing a full date was issued July 28, 1834, now in the Bancroft Library.

"The new type," says the brochure, "was in design of the group called 'modern' by typographical students . . . Without question, it was not of Spanish origin. It appears to have been a newspaper face cast in the United States."

In the spring of 1836, new typographical material arrived, considerably broadening the facilities of the first printing office on the Pacific.

Though Zamorano appears to have been the personal owner of the press and the equipment, the revolutionary leaders of the period seem to have overlooked the fact; and in 1836 we find the press and type reposing in Sonoma, to which Comandante Mariano G. Vallejo had ordered them.

But by 1840, both were back in Monterey, this time to announce to the waiting world that Juan Alvarado had been appointed Governor of California, bearing the date March 1, 1840.

The first printing in English appears to have been a letterhead for Thomas Oliver Larkin as United States Consul, the work of Jose de la Rosa.

The last item noted by the Harding brochure is a proclamation concerning the expulsion of Governor Micheltorena by the politicos. Robert E. Cowan's list, however, includes Fr. Ripalda's Caiicismo de la Docttina Cristiana, Monterey, 1842, often quoted as the first printing in the province.

Pio Pico, who followed Micheltorena, chose to remain in Los Angeles during his term. He apparently was not addicted to the printed word, and the old press and type lay idle for three years, stored in the Customs House.

Came then the Americans to occupy the Old Capital. "What, no newspaper?"

Alcalde Walter Colton was not long ashore before he fell upon the old press and its mongrelesque type. Interesting his friend, Robert Semple, the two set about to supply the Yankee need.

On August 15 th, a month and a week after the raising of the Stars and Stripes over the Customs House, the Californian was issued—California's first newspaper.

The old press was later moved to San Francisco, thence to Sacramento, to print the Placer Times; then on to Stockton, to produce the Stockton Times. Still another move—this time to Sonora, in 1850, where it was used to print the Sonora Herald. Once again on wheels, now to Columbia, where it came to rest, rather tragically. Not wholly paid for—ever the grief of the craft—the Pioneer Press was, by the party of the first part, unfeelingly dismantled. "And," says Douglas C. McMurtrie, in his History of California Newspapers, in the Quarterly of the California Historical Society (Vol. 3, No. 3) "the old wooden frame was left out over night, during which a crowd of vandals, probably instigated by the purchaser, who did not, or could not, pay for it, kindled a fire under it, and the historic timbers went up in smoke.” Thus, there is not extant anywhere in California—nor outside of it—the Pioneer Press of the Pacific Coast, notwithstanding that two museums claim to possess the original.
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