Photos from the Vault

Oakland Tribune founder also worked at San Luis Obispo newspaper

George Stanford, editor of San Luis Obispo Breeze and Tribune, founder of the Oakland Tribune. This photo was circa 1899 in front of the Breeze newspaper office with his dog Ring.
George Stanford, editor of San Luis Obispo Breeze and Tribune, founder of the Oakland Tribune. This photo was circa 1899 in front of the Breeze newspaper office with his dog Ring. History Center of San Luis Obispo

A hopeful sign in the settling West that an emerging community had arrived was the founding of a local newspaper.

Most papers didn’t survive more than a handful of years.

It was a struggle for survival even before the invention of the Internet. Hey, even Internet companies struggle to survive on the Internet.

Remember Pets.com? It flopped in 2000 after losing $147 million in the first nine months of that year. There were 300 jobs lost in that failure, but the popular puppet who acted as spokesman collared another job with Internet loan company BarNone.

When a nameplate publishes its last edition it is like a death in the newspaper family. The final daily edition of the Oakland Tribune was printed this week. It was consolidated with the Contra Costa Times and two other newspapers into a single paper: the East Bay Times.

The Oakland Tribune was the first white-run newspaper to regularly publish a column by a black woman. Delilah Beasley wrote “Activities Among Negroes” from 1923 until her death in 1934.

It was awarded Pulitzer Prizes in 1950 and 1990. The first was for a Bill Crouch photo of a near-collision at an air show. The second went to the staff for its coverage of the devastating Loma Prieta earthquake on Oct. 17, 1989.

The Oakland Daily Tribune was co-founded Feb. 21, 1874, by a man buried in San Luis Obispo.

Though the Oakland Tribune is five years younger than the San Luis Obispo Tribune, it began life as a daily. The San Luis Obispo paper did not achieve that distinction for well over a decade.

Oakland Tribune founding editor George B. Stanford ultimately edited both newspapers.

The Oakland Tribune began small — four pages measuring 6-by-9 inches, slightly bigger than a sheet of copier paper folded in half. But it long outlived founders Benet Dewes and George Staniford.

Staniford had a past.

Many men his age had seen the horror of Civil War, and Staniford had participated in the bloodiest single day of battle in American history.

He was 24 when an estimated 22,717 men were killed, wounded, missing or captured at a battleground now synonymous with sacrifice, Antietam.

George Breck Staniford had enlisted as a private in the 23rd regiment, New York Infantry. When he mustered out he had climbed the ranks to lieutenant, a tribute to his leadership abilities.

After the war Staniford moved west and worked in newspapers in Alameda County, then traveled to San Luis Obispo where he edited The Tribune from 1878-1883.

He also worked here for Wells Fargo, an organization known for integrity and strength. More than a simple transport service, Wells Fargo was an honest pipeline for small communities in the West to the major financial centers when highway robbers and shady cheats were in abundance.

Benjamin Brooks wrote about his fellow editor and Masonic brother in the Morning Tribune on March 22, 1903 (original obituary edited for length):

A Good Man Passes.

Geo. B. Staniford dies very unexpectedly at his home.

Was Prominent in Newspaper, business Fraternal and Social Circles. Funeral Arrangements.

This community was shocked yesterday morning about nine o’clock by the announcement that Geo. B. Staniford was dead. Mr. Staniford, though ailing with la grippe for some four or five weeks, seemed to be recovering quite satisfactorily and after being on the street part of the day Friday and eating a hearty supper at night, he went to bed in an apartment by himself.

Dr. Seaton, who has been the family physician for twenty-tree years, says he believes death came to Mr. Staniford before midnight. ...

George Breck Staniford was a native of New York state and was aged 65 years. He learned the printers’ trade in his native state and at the opening of the civil war volunteered his services in defense of his country, joining a New York regiment of infantry.

After doing valiant service in many battles, particularly the bloody battles of South Mountain and Antietam, the deceased came to Alameda county, California and soon fell into his chosen profession, the printer’s trade, becoming foreman of the Oakland News. Here he was frequently editor as well and in 1866 he published the San Leandro Gazette, San Leandro then being the county seat.

The county seat was later changed to Oakland where in 1875 [1874] Mr. Staniford established the Evening Tribune which is to this day the leading paper of Oakland.

In 1876 Mr. Staniford removed to San Luis Obispo to succeed J.C. Ortega as agent of the Wells Fargo Express office, this city then being a station on the Pacific Coast stage line from San Juan to Los Angeles, of which Wm. Buckley, a brother-in-law, was the proprietor. This position he held continuously until his death. But in connection with the express business Mr. Staniford found time to take an active part in the newspaper life of this county. In 1878 he became part owner and editor of the Tribune, which he retained until 1883. In 1884 he owned and published it for some time. From 1896 until 1901 he was editor of the Breeze and the popularity of that paper during those years was largely due to his powerful and fearless writing and his warm personal friendships.

When an eminent citizen leaves this world, the small service his friends and fellow citizens can render him is to testify to his worth and merits, express their sympathy for those more immediately bereaved and offer such consolation as may be within their power. Every man in his lifetime erects in the hearts and minds of his fellows his own monument. Perhaps it may be no more durable than those other presently crumbling ones which for a few years stand stiffly in our burial grounds, but it is more adequate and perhaps more truthful.

Thanks to Robert Bettencourt, 2012 Master of the Lodge, King David’s Lodge No. 209 for biographical information and photographs. History Center of San Luis Obispo for photo.

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