Creating advocates for history through the stories of greater Los Angeles.
by Paul R. Spitzzeri
In the highly competitive business of print journalism during the late 19th century, newspapers came and went with great frequency. Los Angeles had its share of papers that had short runs, including the Republican, which was published by the brothers John and William Creighton and lasted from early 1876 and about 1879.
The siblings were from Philadelphia and spent some of their youth in Chicago before heading to Leavenworth, Kansas, where William was city clerk in 1870 and John worked in the office. They appear to have remained there several years and then migrated to Los Angeles. The reason may have been the poor health of William’s wife, Mattie, who died in September 1875, shortly after their arrival.
On 10 January 1876, the first issue of the Republican was issued and the paper’s name indicated its aim as a promoter of the national Republican Party, though it doesn’t appear the local party supported the paper. Even if it did, it likely would not have helped the sheet survive, as Los Angeles was still dominated by Democrats, as it had been since the American era in the city dawned a quarter century or so before.
The Homestead has fourteen issues of the Republican from the first months of 1877, including the one highlighted here from 14 February. It was typical in layout for the period, with four pages total, including front and rear pages consisting entirely of advertisements, a second page that mixed national, state and local news and editorials (and, of course, more ads) and a third page that was predominantly local news (and, what else but more ads?)
As for the local doings on that day, there weren’t any breaking news of significance, though there were several items worth noting. One had to do with activities of the city court of Judge Benjamin F. Peel “which was crowded with business this morning” included cases of drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and indecency.
In an interesting case, “two natives [presumably Latinos, though perhaps Indians] were up for violating the health ordinance; one for tearing down a yellow flag.” One of the men was fined $10, but the paper reported that one “did not know he was violating the law as the sickness was not in that identical house upon which that flag was placed.” The report continued that “the Health Officer considered it too near the small pox to be safe for persons to visit.”
The other person was charged with violating an order of the health officer, specifically because he “had nursed a small pox patient who died” and then looked for another residence against that order. However, it was noted that the man “had changed his clothes and buried the infected garments and had not visited any house but his own during that time,” Judge Peel ordered the individual to return to that residence and remain there nine days.
Another pair of short news items are reflected in an accompanying image here. One concerned a petition to appoint John G. Nichols to a federal office in the city. Nichols, an early American resident of town, was mayor of Los Angeles in the early 1850s, but had long been out of the public eye. Still, the Republican observed that Nichols had the support of the mayor, Frederick MacDougall, judges, county supervisors, council members and newspaper editors.
Below that was a curious notice about the fact that “a caravan consisting of camels and dromedaries numbering in all forty head, passed Newhall this morning from Nevada en route to Fort Yuma via Los Angeles to be used in the interior of Arizona for transporting freight.” Camels were imported by Edward F. Beale in the 1850s when Fort Tejon was established and there was, evidently, still some use of the Middle Eastern creatures some two decades later!
Speaking of creatures, a short article and an accompanying ad taken out by Police Chief Jacob F. Gerkins bemoaned the problem of a great many dogs “allowed to roam around the streets” during daylight hours “but at night are chained up.” This meant that neighbors “are treated to a continuous serenade of yells and howls, which last till broad day light.” While Gerkins’ ad merely requested owners to secure licenses on penalty of applicable city ordinances, the Republican had another remedy involving “a leaden pill from a healthy revolver.”
It being Valentine’s Day, a few mentions of the holiday were to be found, including an attempt at humor, in which the paper stated that
Some individual without fear of the Old Man with a crook in his tail [that would be the Devil], to-day sent to this office one of the most abominable ugly valentines we have ever had the luck to gaze upon. If it is a photograph of the sender we can not congratulate him on his good looks. No one in this office wishes to claim this handsome chromo and the owner can claim the same on application.
In its “Local Brevities” section, the paper noted that “Herman Morris is the happy recipient of the ugliest valentine received at this office,” so it appears Morris and one or both of the Creighrons were bosom buddies. In the same section, the Republican observed that “the postoffice boys have been busy today, valentines being the cause of all the trouble” and followed this up with “there are some people in the world who don’t apperciate valentines, notably post-office clerks.”
Other local brief notes included a reference to significant finds of oil in the San Fernando oil region in today’s Santa Clara, where the Star Oil Company made a big strike in 1876, essentially opening the Los Angeles area to major oil prospecting and that former county sheriff William R. Rowland, whose father John Rowland secured the original grant to Rancho La Puente, returned home from a trip to San Francisco.
Unfortunately, the late 1870s was a particularly difficult time for the Chinese in California and the Republican had a couple of short pieces about Los Angeles’ Chinese community, then centered on the Calle de los Negros, a notorious street for violence, gambling and prostitution, but also the home and places of business for Chinese residents.
One article noted that Chinese New Year celebrations had been held and included a “row that took place among them last night.” However, it was reported that “under the advice of influential Chinamen the trouble was soon settled, and peace again reigned supreme without the shedding of any blood.” The other notice concerned a Chinese man injured by an explosion at the recently opened Southern Pacific railroad depot, but that the reports were conflicting as to the severity of the incident and of injuries.
Advertisements are always interesting to peruse in the press and there are several worthy of noting. Two dealt with the smallpox epidemic then raging in Los Angeles, one being a reward of $500 offered by a manufacturer of a medicine for anyone who could prove that a medicine sold by a local druggist was not effective against the disease. The other was by a “small-pox nurse” offering services in town.
Another interesting ad was for “Ned Berry’s Varieties,” a show held somewhere on Main Street and featuring music, dancing and “Ethiopian Sketches,” which sounds like minstrel performances in blackface, a highly racist form of entertainment very popular among whites for many years in America. Admission prices ranged from 25 cents to a private box at $2,50.
Then there was Professor R.H. Hyers, a “tonsorial artist” who used a bit of poetry for his ad promoting his establishment on Commercial Street near Main and Los Angeles streets by saying that he “has fallen! fallen!” presumably in prices charged:
And why not fall, since all have fell?
Better for all the truth to tell;
I will cut hair, shampoo and shave,
Each fifteen cents, and money save
And all my pa-ins
Shall be my ga-ins
And none shall suffer by it
Finally, a small advertisement on the front page was taken out by artist Paul Petrovits to announce a new location in the building of merchant Charles Ducommun at the corner of Commercial and Main streets. Petrovits, a native of Serbia, rose to some prominence in Vienna, but traveled widely in such disparate places as the United States, South America, Hong King and Hawaii.
Petrovits painted works of several Los Angeles-area residents that have been documented including Andrés Pico, William Workman and Workman’s grandson, Thomas W. Temple. The portrait of Workman, completed in 1876, undoubtedly hung in the Workman House, but also was displayed in the main hall of La Casa Nueva, the home of another grandson, Walter P. Temple. Sadly, it was stolen in the early 1970s and a reproduction by Beverly Girvigian, an artist and wife of the Homestead’s restoration architect, Raymond Girvigian, was completed and is now in the original frame in the house.
As for the Creightons, not much was located about John, although there is a book, Comstock Commotion by So-and-So, that noted that a former publisher of a mining town newspaper in eastern California went to work for the Republican and “in a moment of vexation, he achieved the dream of every reporter since the beginning of time by shooting his own managing editor” before committing suicide. Nothing else was found about this, but John was also not located in the 1880 census, so who knows?
William meantime was accused of attempted murder by the editor of the French-language paper in Los Angeles and acquitted. After selling the Republican, he settled in Tucson, Arizona Territory, and worked as a journalist. One of the residents in the same household as Creighton in 1880 was L.T. Fisher, former proprietor of the short-lived Santa Monica Outlook. Within a few years, Creighton returned to Los Angeles and worked for the Express as a journalist. In December 1885, he was heading to his hometown of Philadelphia to visit his daughter, mother and a brother, but when the train arrived at Needles at the Arizona border, Creighton was found dead. He was just 43 years old.
Look for future posts in the “Read All About It” series on other issues of the Republican and other Los Angeles-area newspapers!