By Jan. 15, 1870, The San Luis Obispo Tribune — founded as an upstart alternative newspaper — had survived its first newspaper battle, and within a few weeks would be engaged in another.
The only other media at the time were stage plays, concerts and speeches. A stream was a place to go trout fishing.
At the time, San Luis Obispo County’s population stood at 4,772 — or slightly larger than the present-day graduating class of 4,500 at Cal Poly.
For the first 18 years as an American territory, the county did not have a newspaper. Legal notices were published with a hammer and a nail, tacked on the wall of an adobe in town.
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The county’s first newspaper, the San Luis Obispo Pioneer, had started as nonpartisan but soon became a shrill party organ of the Democratic Party.
The Tribune was Republican but had been much more moderate in criticism, lively in writing and newsy in content. Within four months of The Tribune’s first edition on Aug. 7, 1869, the Pioneer closed its doors and its editor left town.
Rather than rest on its laurels, The Tribune’s editor Walter Murray took a moment to give readers a reason to subscribe to the weekly paper. Many of those reasons still apply today.
Murray’s column was published on Jan. 15, 1870:
Take the Tribune.
“We are about to give reasons for subscribing to the TRIBUNE, any one of which is sufficient to justify the outlay of five dollars; and if more are wanting, we can furnish them as plentiful as blackberries, or leaves in Vallambrosa (Vallombrosa — originally misspelled — is a reference to John Milton’s epic 10,000-line poem, “Paradise Lost.”)
1. It is the only paper published in this county and should be supported as a means of public advertisement.
2. It will inform you faithfully of what is going on in the county government.
3. If you have a bill before the Board of Supervisors, it will inform you when action is taken on it and what.
4. If you owe taxes, it will give you a timely notice, that you may avoid the expense of a suit.
5. If you are the owner of school lands, it will keep you posted as to the time and payment of interest, and will inform you when any document is on hand and ready for your reception.
6. It will cull for you from the many newspapers which are necessarily beyond your reach, such items of intelligence as are most interesting, and advantageous for you to be informed of.
7. It is always open for you to address the public upon any matter of public interest, provided that your communication be written in accordance with the ordinary rules governing newspaper correspondence.
8. Though Republican in politics, it does not abuse you for holding an opposite political faith, but seeks to avoid all extreme doctrine, and adhere always to courtesy in discussion, charity in dealing with error, and truthfulness in detail of facts.
9. It has attained a circulation larger than ever before enjoyed by any paper published in the county, and is read by nine-tenths of the reading community on the regular lines of travel therein.
10. It furnishes to the outside world some notice that there is such a county as San Luis Obispo, and gives some idea of what kind of country lies here-about. In so doing, it tends to attract population, which is the great desideratum, to enable us to build up a prosperous community.
11. It affords an excellent medium whereby such of you as have friends in other counties and states, may inform them in regard to the section of the country in which you reside. Send them a copy.
Finally, it has long ago been established, and any newspaper editor will assure you thereof, that nothing smooths the death-pillow so effectually as the consciousness that you have dealt liberally with the printer.
David Middlecamp is a photographer for The Tribune. 805-781-7942, email@example.com, @DavidMiddlecamp
Visit www.sanluisobispo.com/photos-from-the-vault to see old photos and read selected archives.