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San Bernardino County Sun: History of San Bernardino Newspapers

Access digital archive of the San Bernardino County Sun

History of San Bernardino Newspapers

The Sun – Rescued at the 11th Hour!

What happens to news, once it’s been told? It becomes history – not just history, but the first telling of the history, the one that everyone learned at that moment in time. Factual accounts, written by reporters who were eyewitnesses to events are “primary sources.”  Even newspaper stories that are “secondary sources” (the reporter did research, interviewed eyewitnesses, etc.) have a depth provided by the context of the newspaper in which they are found, Everything from the language used to what was considered important, to the advertisements on the page give current researchers a feel for what the world was like when the story was written.

Most communities have a local newspaper, and San Bernardino is no exception. San Bernardino’s first newspaper was “The San Bernardino Herald.” Publisher John Judsön Ames had started “The San Diego Herald” in the early 1850s. Ames believed in the plans of U.S. Senator William M. Gwin, who intended to see southern and northern California divided into two states, with southern California to annex Baja California and the Sandwich Islands to form a new state. The capital of the new state would be San Diego. Ames moved to San Diego to start a newspaper and be in the center of the action. By the late 1850s it was clear that Gwin’s plan had failed. Then Brigham Young, head of the Mormon Church, ordered the Mormons who had settled in San Bernardino Valley to return to Salt Lake to stand with him against United States federal troops. Most sold their land as quickly as possible, and new settlers moved into the once-sleepy town; then gold was discovered in nearby Holcomb Valley! Ames decided to move his press to San Bernardino, and start a newspaper here. The prospectus for the newspaper stated (in part):

“the prospectus of a paper to be published at San Bernardino to be called the San Bernardino Herald. To be devoted to the interest of the southern county generally, the erection of a Territory and construction of a Pacific Railroad and all things that will make San Bernardino progress.”

In June of 1860 the San Bernardino Herald began publishing. It was a weekly, with a circulation of 480. It was published by Ames, and designed to be non-partisan. (At this time partisan feeling was running high in the United States. Southern states were considering seceding from the Union.) In late 1860 Ames had trouble with creditors, and was forced out. The newspaper was taken over by J.S. Waite, Esq. At least one issue of the paper was printed in January 1861.

In April 1861 Edwin A. Sherman purchased the press and equipment and began a new newspaper: the San Bernardino Patriot, which was forthright in its support of the Union. Even though it was the only paper published in the county, circulation was low. Many citizens of the county were partisans for the Rebels! The Patriot ceased publication in February 1862. Sherman had preserved issues of both the Herald and the Patriot, but a fire destroyed that archive.

After the closing of the Patriot, San Bernardino County was without a printed newspaper for almost five years. At some point in that interim there was a manuscript monthly paper prepared by the Young Man’s Literary Association, the Echo. No copies have survived.

In January of 1867 Henry Hamilton established the San Bernardino Guardian. This paper lasted until late in 1876. Some issues of the Guardian were preserved, this is difficult as newspapers are usually printed on cheap paper, which yellows and crumbles over time. In the 1950s microfilming rare and fragile materials was undertaken to preserve the information they contained. Not all issues had survived until that time, but those that were available were filmed. You can use that microfilm at Pfau Library. (We have a new microfilm reader/digitizer, so images of pages can be captured and sent via email.) In 1873 William H. Gould founded the San Bernardino Argus. It was published weekly at first, later it was published daily. It ceased publication in 1877.  (Many of these issues were also captured on microfilm and are available in Pfau Library.) The Argus was sold in 1878, but the purchasers were not interested in publishing a San Bernardino newspaper. In Fall 1878 W.R. Porter and F.F. Hopkins purchased material from the Argus and started the San Bernardino Valley Index. (The extant issues, from 1880, were microfilmed, and Pfau Library has the microfilm.)

In April 1875 Fred T. Perris and John Isaacs started the San Bernardino Advertiser, a small newspaper supported entirely by advertisements, printed in runs of 1,000 and distributed freely. In September 1875 the paper was renamed the San Bernardino Times.  It was published as a weekly and a daily. No copies have been located. Isaacs partnered with A. Rodemyre to found the San Bernardino Weekly Times and Daily Times.  The Library has some of the 1875-1888 issues of these on microfilm. In 1889, the San Bernardino Daily Times and the San Bernardino Daily Index merged to become the San Bernardino Times-Index. Again, the extant issues were microfilmed in the 1960s and Pfau Library owns a copy of the microfilm.

Other pre-1900 newspapers of San Bernardino include the Daily Courier, the Evening Transcript, and the Free Press, but the longest running of them all is the San Bernardino Sun (variously called the Sun, the Sun-telegram, and the San Bernardino County Sun), which was first published in 1894 and survives to this day.

Pfau Library has these on microfilm, not always all issues, but all that survived to be filmed. The newspaper itself, had an archive with most of the issues in paper, carefully preserved and bound, but still fragile because of their age. In 2012 the San Bernardino County Sun owners determined to move to smaller offices. CSUSB Associate Vice President of Public Affairs, Sid Robinson, heard that they were going to throw away the archive of the Sun that went back to 1894. Sid called Pfau Library Dean Cesar Caballero, who determined that this archive of San Bernardino history must be saved. There followed a frantic search for a temperature controlled, large, empty space on our campus. None could be found. Cesar asked Special Collections Librarian, Jill Vassilakos-Long, to reach out through library networks to see if there was a library or archives in the area that could (at least temporarily) house the collection. Genevieve Preston, archivist for San Bernardino County, offered to take the newspaper into the County Archives. The County Superintendents allowed her to do this on the condition that the project be free of cost to the county. Everyone agreed, it was the only way to save the archives.

Now Genevieve is working with the staff of the California Digital Newspaper Collection to get the back issues of the Sun digitized. This must be done without funding, so it’s being done as it can be fit in around other projects. In other words, it is going to take some time. However, when the digitization is complete, CSUSB’s Pfau Library has the permissions to make it available to our campus. We can’t name the date, so we can’t promise that it’s coming soon, but it is coming eventually, and will be available to our students, staff, faculty, and other researchers as soon as we can make it so.

Resources:

"Historic Chronology of San Bernardino County" by Emily M Knight, Arda M. Haenszel, and Gerald A. Smith. Published in the San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly Vol. Ix, No. 4 Summer 1962.

"Southern California Newspapers, 1851-1876: A Short History and a Census - Part II" by Muir Dawson. Published in The Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 2 (June 1950), p.139-174. [Accessible through JSTOR.]

 San Diego History Center website page on John Judson Ames