History of Early Amateur Journalism in California


THE FIRST ORGANIZATION of the amateur journalists of California took place on September 28, 1872, at San Francisco, when the California A.P.A. was formed with these officers: President, Charles B. Turrill; Vice-President, James P. Tracy; Secretary, Thomas N. Kerr; Treasurer, Walter D. Catton. It met monthly for seven months, its last convention being held in May, 1875. At that time J. H. Mallett was President and Harry E. Dore, Treasurer. Dore's paper, the Pacific Monthly, was the official organ from the beginning.


Ten years later another State organization was effected on July 29, 1882, at San Francisco, when the Golden State A.P.A. was formed. Thomas P. Andrews was the first President. Elections were held semi-annually, Myron G. McClinton being chosen President in November, and Frank S. Bentley the following June. The first anniversary was celebrated with an elaborate dinner, September 1, 1883. In December Frank A. Allardt was elected President; in June, 1884, William S. Moore; and in December, Philip Hastings. Frederick L. Hunter was chosen President in June, 1885, and Thomas P. Andrews in November was again made President. But in March, 1886, dissension arose, and the Association ended its career when many of its prominent members withdrew and formed, on March 17, the California A.P.A. with Jerome C. Bull as President. In December J. R. B. Beckman was chosen President, but the further life of the Association was short.


It was reorganized in 1894 with John L. Peltret as President and held semi-annual meetings for three years. Its Presidents were William A. Day, Franklin C. Mortimer, Daniel McCarthy, Harrie C. Morris, Herbert Hauser and Leon M. Voorsanger. During its last year its Secretary was T. A. Dorgan, afterwards the well-known cartoonist "Tad." In 1904 it was again reorganized and enjoyed a brief life, Edward M. Lind serving as President and Franklin C. Mortimer as Official Editor.


Local clubs were organized in San Francisco in 1908, Anthony F. Moitoret, President; in San Jose in 1910, Josephine E. Pratt, President; in Los Angeles in 1912, Ellen Gubser, President, and Mary H. Lehr, Official Editor; in Oakland in 1934 with Donald Ellis as President, followed by Marion Morcom and Robert C. Rolley.


The first recognized amateur journal to be issued in California was the Star, first published in August, 1856, in San Francisco, by W. V. Merriam and D. F. Verdenal. It lived only a few months, but on October 11, 1856, Verdenal and his brother, J. M. Verdenal, with J. R. Clark, began the publication of Young America, which was issued weekly until April, 1857. The following July, D. F. Verdenal and H. P. Taylor issued the Pacific Courier. Nine numbers were published, the last issue being dated September 11, 1857.


During the succeeding ten years no amateur paper is known to have been published in the State, but, in March, 1868, Frank Thibault issued the Boys' Companion, publishing it weekly until May, 1869. About the same time W. C. Ware published Leisure Hours. In August, 1869, James P. Tracy, one of the leading amateurs of the period, issued California Punch. These were published in San Francisco, and at about the same time in San Jose the Spread Eagle was issued by Ames and Wilson. In 1870 W. C. Ford, of San Francisco, published a weekly called the Pacific Youth, and the next year that city saw a number of papers spring into existence, among them the Cub, Alfred A. Wheeler, editor; Star of the West, Thomas H. Kerr, editor; Far West, S. R. Church, editor; California Clipper, James P. Tracy. Tracy published in 1872, with Church, Leisure Moments, and in 1873 the Literary Album. The Pacific Monthly was published in 1872 by Harry E. Dore, and in 1873 the Olive Branch was issued by Miss Amanda Taylor, the first young lady amateur of the Coast. In 1874 many new papers were started, including the San Francisco Gem, published by A. L. Edwards, Jr., the Mail Bag and the Little Joker, a comic monthly, were issued in East Oakland by Knowles and Brown, and in Oakland the next year the Western Shore was published by Frank J. Moffitt, while E. William Gracey issued the Monthly Exchange, later changing the name to the Jug. This latter had an engraved heading and was published for several years. In San Francisco, F. W. Langley issued the Young Athenian in 1875, and A. K. P. Harmon, Jr., the Monthly Visitor. In 1876 Alexander T. Badlam issued the Peanut, and H. B. Standerwick and Fred Lake the Pacific Amateur Journal, a large and ably conducted paper. The next year Lake began the publication of Our Literary Youth, an eight-page, 7 x 9 inch paper. In 1877 San Francisco added to its journals the Busy Bee, Arthur Wheeler, editor; and the Boys of California, A. Armstrong, editor; while Miss Jennie M. Lee issued Tangled Threads, a monthly devoted exclusively to puzzles. With the demise of these journals the second phase of amateur journalism in California came to an end.


One of the most prominent figures in the history of amateur journalism in California was Philip I. Figel. He wrote stories and sketches and published a number of substantial books, some of them cloth-bound, containing poems and short novels. In 1879 he began the publication of a large, finely printed paper called Ubiquitous, filled with excellent original matter. The years from 1881 to 1888 were active ones in California amateur journalism. San Francisco became one of the most prominent centers of amateur publishing. In 1881 Myron G. McClinton and his brother issued the Microgram, and J. A. Ephraim the New Moon, both of which papers were continued for several years. They were joined during the next two years by Thomas P. Andrews with the Critic; David L. Hollub, the Golden Gate; M. G. Jonas, Fact and Fancy; Jennie M. Martin and Zebbie A. Hunt, the Mirror, and Will S. Moore, the Golden Crescent. Moore in 1884, with Fred L. Hunter, began the publication of the Pacific Courant, which became one of the leading journals of its day. In 1885 A. Fred St. Sure issued the Rising Star. In Alameda, Robert H. Magill issued the Bumble Bee in 1881, and published it for seven years. In Sacramento, E. G. Palmer issued the Press; in Oakland, Frank S. Bentley the Elf, and F. A. Allardt and George R. Lukens the Observer.


These were, most of them, small papers, but their editors were filled with the true amateur spirit. Young in years, they were in earnest in their work and achieved results. By 1885 several of them had enlarged their papers and broadened their scope. Jerome C. Bull, author of a number of excellent descriptive tales, issued in 1883 the Nut Shell, a diminutive sheet, but in 1885 he published a high class magazine called Quartz. Robert Mackay sent out a small paper called Three, but in 1888 he issued a large journal entitled Pasquinade. The Observer, published by Lukens in 1882, was taken over by Edward DeWitt Taylor in 1885 and greatly enlarged. In 1886 Lukens, joined by Frank S. Arnett, who had removed to the State from Ohio, published a large literary journal called the Idler. Other notable San Francisco papers of the period were the Graphic, J. R. B. Beckman, editor; and Index, Leland S. Boruck, editor. In Berkeley, Philip Hastings issued Chic.


In the early years of the last decade of the century San Francisco again became a flourishing amateur center. In 1891, W. A. Day issued the Stage Coach and later the Paragraph. Edward M. Lind published the Pagan, noted for its literary flavor, and followed with a many-paged magazine called the Amateur Bohemian. Franklin C. Mortimer published the Tribune and the American, W. Radius the Newsboy, John L. Peltret La Petite, and Harrie C. Morris the Banner and Marginalia. By 1895, 30 amateur papers were published in San Francisco. Among the additions to the fold were the Clarion, Leon Voorsanger, editor; Thoughts, Daniel J. McCarthy, editor; News, David L. Hollub; Eureka, Sidney Hamilton, editor; Sunset, Walter H. Levy, Jr.; Recruit, Henry Hauser, editor.


Edward Devlin and George Chadderdon published the Sun in Sacramento in 1886. David L. Hollub was editor of the Golden Gate, San Francisco, in 1886. Editor of the Oakland Amateur in 1880 was George H. Swasey, Oakland.


Jerome Hamilton, San Francisco, published the Buzzwheel and the Eschscholtzia in 1895.


In 1896 J. Merritt Weed, San Francisco, put out the Concord, while in the following year in the same city, Edgar C. Levey launched the Friend. Edward M. Lind added to his publishing record with the appearance in 1898 of Alter Ego. The same year in San Francisco came the New Era, with J. Wolfsohn as publisher. Lind and Harrie C. Morris jointly issued the excellent Ocean Waves from 1897 to 1899. J. G. Lyle gave San Francisco another paper, the Quill, in 1898.


With the new century another group of amateur editors arose. Among them were Alfred Kohlberg, Westerner, San Francisco; F. F. Thomas, Jr., Acorn and the Star, Berkeley; D. Halley Clift, Calendar and the Chump, Palo Alto; Chester E. Crosby, Vagabond, Arlington; Mary H. Lehr, Progressive Amateur and Westcoast Advocate, Redlands; Florence Shepphird, Forget-me-not, and Anthony F. Moitoret, Meteor, San Francisco.


In 1901 A. H. Hutchinson published Our Youth. Thomas R. Ford, Riverside, launched the Barbarian in 1903 and later also published the Prodigal Son.


In 1907 the Irishman appeared in Alameda, with Robert P. Reid as editor. He also published the Towhead in the following year. In 1906 E. V. Weller, Los Angeles, put out the Monthly Owl. Stanley Abel began publication of Editorea in Whittier in 1909. Lucinda M. Rafuse published the Practical Bachelor Girl in Los Angeles in 1911. From the same city in the same year came the Meadow-Lark, with Lillian Barker Beede as editor, and Silver Linings, of which Blanche L. Warner was editor.


The San Francisco resurgence of amateur publishing in 1908 and the next few years saw the appearance of San Francisco Sun, Anthony F. Moitoret; the Meteor, Francis V. Curtis; Pacifico, Harry E. Heilmann; the Outsider, Joseph O'Connor; and the Californian, the official organ of the San Francisco Amateur Press Club.


In 1914 Walter John Held, Oakland, launched the Spectator, and in 1916, the Dreamer. He resumed publication of the former recently [ca 1940].


During the 1930's Oakland was the seat of an amateur press club that boasted 29 members in 1936, and another score of members of the N.A.P.A. were clustered about San Francisco. They successfully entertained the 60th convention of the National in 1935 and the 64th in Berkeley in 1939. Spark-plugged by Anthony and Dora Moitoret and their sons Felix and Victor, the club members produced a large output of papers, among which the more notable were Oakland Sun (Anthony Moitoret), Victorian (Victor Moitoret), Home Town News, Silver Lining  and Coleur de Rose (Benton Wetzell), Tom-Tom (Robert Rolley), Oaklander (Donald Ellis), Marionette (Marion Morcom), Bloodstone (C. Hamilton Bloomer), Purple Cow (Lorraine Lindblad), Coffee and Ink (Mary Knowlton), and the Encinal, official organ of the club.


In the same period (1934-8) Hyman Bradofsky of Los Angeles issued one of the largest and most remarkable amateur papers of all time, the Californian. Beginning as a small four-pager, it quickly developed into a 6 x 9 quarterly of as many as 80 pages, its columns attracting numerous contributions from oldtime amateurs as well as an excellent fare of the best literature written in those years.


A notable feature of amateur journalism in California was the books published by Philip I. Figel. Back in 1872 Thomas H. Kerr published the first amateur book issued on the Pacific Coast, and followed it with several others, as did A. L. Edwards who in 1875 published five. These, however, were really pamphlets, containing less than 20 pages. Figel's volumes were books in fact, several of them bound in cloth and leather, and their pages numbered as many as 135. Among them were Jack's Mistake, a novel in verse, by Ella Ferre', who wrote under the name of Hannah B. Gage; a collection of her poems entitled the Land of the Sunset Sea, which ran through two editions; stories called Through a Thermometer and Did She Care For Him? by Eliza Douglas Keith, known as Erle Douglas; and a short novel entitled Jim Skaggs of Skaggsville, written by Figel himself under the name Laurence Legif.


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