Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Fullerton Tribune: 1894 Edition!

For the past few years, I've been working on a history of Fullerton, which I have called "The Town I Live In: A History of Fullerton."  My latest research has taken me to the microfilm archives at the Local History Room of the Fullerton Public Library, in which I am reading, year by year, the archives of the local newspaper, The Fullerton Tribune.  I have just finished reading the papers from 1894, and here's what was happening both nationally and locally in 1894...

U.S. News 

In 1893, the United States was plunged into an economic depression called The Panic of 1893.  As a result of this depression, unemployment reached around 18 percent in 1894.  Consequently, there was a fair amount of unrest in the country.  An "Industrial Army" of unemployed people marched on Washington as a form of protest, and to demand that the government take action to help the unemployed.  It was like an early form of Occupy Wall Street.  This massive group of unemployed protesters was called Coxey's Army, and they are mentioned (a bit disdainfully) by the Fullerton Tribune:



1894 was also the year of the Pullman Strike, which pitted the American Railway Union, led by famed socialist Eugene V. Debs, against the Pullman Company, the major railroad companies, and the U.S. Government.  It was a a major David vs. Goliath type story which the railway workers did not end up winning.  In an effort to please the masses of workers who took part in the strike, the federal government officially designated Labor Day as a holiday in the United States just six days after the strike ended.


After the strike, workers who'd participated faced pretty serious employment discrimination and harassment from the railroad companies, as this article shows...


Basically, 1894 was a year of great unrest in the U.S. mainly on account of the financial depression the country was suffering.


Perhaps sparked by the depression going on, some people in America were considering other forms of government (or lack thereof).  One such school of thought was anarchism.  The most prominent anarchist of 1894 was Emma Goldman.  She was imprisoned for her civil disobedience.  The editor of the Fullerton Tribune, Edgar Johnson, had no love for these anarchists, focusing on their bombings, and not their ideas so much. 


The question of the annexation of Hawaii was very much in the American consciousness of 1894. 


Lynchings still happened with some regularity in America in 1894.


Destruction and relocation of Native American tribes was still happening, and Native peoples were not depicted sympathetically in the American press.



The question of Women's Suffrage was being debated by some politicians and activists.  Women would not be granted the right to vote in America until 1920, with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Anti-Chinese sentiment in America was still strong, as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was in effect.  It had been extended by the Geary Act of 1892.





California News

In California, with the increase of settlement and establishment of towns (like Fullerton), the era of the large Spanish/Mexican ranchos was basically over in 1894.  Prominent Californios like Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, had lost much of their lands and political power.


As was mentioned before, the United States in 1894 was in the throes of a major economic depression.  Along with bank closures and high unemployment, this meant a lot of homeless people or, as they were called back then, "tramps."  As they are today, homeless people were often arrested for being homeless, as this article shows:


Local News

The widespread anti-Chinese sentiment, as demonstrated by the Chinese Exclusion Act, found expression in a series of local incidents in Fullerton.  Local growers called the Porter Brothers apparently had hired some Chinese laborers.  This sparked such outrage in the Fullerton community that a group of local citizens literally forced the Porter Bros. "Chinamen" to leave town, as shown in this article:


Apparently, even after this incident, the Porter Bros. continued to employ Chinese workers, much to the chagrin of the local community.  People were so outraged that they got a petition going, urging the Porter Bros. to only hire white workers...


Perhaps the most consistent local news item of 1894 was water.  As Fullerton was mainly an agricultural area at this time, water rights and irrigation were hotly contested issues.


Dissatisfied with the management of the "Irrigation District," residents of Orange County (including Fullerton) voted to dissolve the Irrigation District in favor of something more democratic and less (potentially) corrupt.  In southern California, those who control the water basically control the economy, as Orange County was largely agricultural at this time.


In addition to orange growing, oil production continued to develop in 1894 to such an extent that the great Union Oil Company (later calld Unocal) bought a large tract of land for oil production.  This may very well have included present-day Coyote Hills.


One of the largest landowners in Fullerton at this time was a Col. Robert J. Northam, who was in charge of the land which had been the Stearns Rancho, one of the old Spanish/Mexican land grants.  Right around this time, Northam had a series of legal troubles that caused him to seek legal counsel.  Chapman Ave. in Fullerton used to be called Northam Ave., but it seems that after his financial/legal troubles, Northam sort of disappears from Fullerton history.



The Temperance Movement was well underway, with activities in Fullerton, as represented by the Women's Christian Temperance Union, who regularly held meetings at various churches in and around Fullerton.


The question of whether Fullerton would be a "wet" or "dry" town (that is, if there would be saloons or not) was debated in Fullerton at this time.  There was a petition about whether or not to grant liquor licenses.  Interestingly, booze and bars in downtown Fullerton remain a controversial issue today.



The Fullerton community was so divided over the question of saloons that local elections had to be guarded by the Orange County sheriff, Theo Lacy, to keep the peace.


Because Fullerton, at this time, had no police department, some local citizens went ahead and organized a "Law and Order League."  Their main interest, however, was in closing down the saloons.




In addition to the local "Law and Order League," there was also an Orange County "Anti-Saloon League."  Booze was certainly a hot topic in 1894.


1894 was also a year of state and local elections.  Fullerton was not officially incorporated as a city at this time, so all the elections were for either county or state positions.  However, some Fullerton residents ran for office, like Dr. George Clark, who ran for county coroner on the Repiblican ticket.


Here's what the Orange County democratic ticket looked like in 1894:


The election resulted in a Republican landslide.  Typical Orange County!



Also, in 1894, the topic of evolution was a controversial one, as shown in this letter to the editor.  Interestingly, 120 years later, evolution remains a controversial topic in America.


As I scanned over these old newspapers, I got a big kick out of the advertisements.  My favorite ads, by far, were for Hood's Sasparilla (basically root beer), which was touted as a kind of cure-all in a series of very dramatic ads...





And those were the hi-lights of the Fullerton Tribune in 1894.  Stay tuned for The Fullerton Tribune: 1895 Edition!  Coming soon to this very blog!

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