Territorial Tabloids and Jovial Journalistsby John Scott on Apr. 11, 2013, under Uncategorized
I think we realize there wasn’t a six-o’clock news in Arizona when it was a territory. There also wasn’t CNN.com. If you wanted to know what was going on in the world or in your township, you had to read a newspaper. Sure, incoming stagecoach and train passengers had some info, but they weren’t as reliable as print. Old Pete the miner could relay a story about an indian attack as he downed a glass of coffin varnish, but the paper was solid. Mostly.
With towns sprouting up in frontier Arizona, the need for newspapers was escalating. Hopeful journalists from the east were heading out to start papers. Our own Tucson Citizen was founded in 1870 by Richard McCormick and John Wasson. Back then it was known as the Arizona Citizen. Up until it became an online publication, it was known as the oldest continuously published newspaper in Arizona. That honor has now been passed on to the famous Tombstone Epitaph (founded in 1880 and still going). Now, the oldest newspaper in our state award actually goes to Tubac’s Arizonian, published in 1859. Incidentally, it moved to Tucson and closed its doors in 1871. The original printing press (Arizona’s first) can be found at the Tubac Presidio Museum.
Okay, it’s starting to sound like a weird awards ceremony. Oh heck, I’ll keep it in.
Other notable newspapers are the Weekly Journal Miner, Arizona Weekly Star, Phoenix Herald, and Tombstone Prospector (to name a few). Some titles that amused me are Ferrocarril, Tucsonense, and Fronterizo. I’ll bet the crossword puzzles were good in those periodicals.
Thanks to the Arizona Historical Society and its library, many of these historic newspapers can be read on microfilm. Researchers use them to verify dates, places, witnesses, etc. Most times, this is the only proof we have of certain events. In a recent post I mentioned author David Grassé just published a book on Commodore Perry Owens. David’s intrepid research found him searching through many, many historic newspapers to get the facts. Due to articles and “blurbs” we can trace Sheriff Owens’ footsteps through time.
If you are interested in seeing more newspaper history, the Tombstone Epitaph museum displays type cases, composing stones, casting machines, and printing presses. All stuff that the historical journalism aficionado will love. If you’ve never learned about leading and kerning, it’s pretty fascinating stuff.
Old Tucson Studios is having it’s last hurrah until after the summer. This coming weekend is the Wild West Performing Arts competition. Whip crackers, gun spinners, rope twirlers, and knife throwers battle it out to see who is the best. Of course the public is welcome to attend, and I encourage you to do so. The kids will love it, and I bet you will, too.