Orange Post 1908.jpg

Local News, Local Views

The Story of the Orange Post

[Originally published in Orange Countiana IX (2013)]

There was a time when even most of the smallest communities in Orange County had their own local newspaper. Some of the larger cities had two or three. A local paper helped to build a community of identity and interests, and helped to crystallize public opinion.

For many years, the City of Orange had two local papers – the Orange Daily News, and the Orange Post. The story of the Orange Post sheds light on many aspects of early Orange County journalism, and also introduces a few memorable characters.

The story begins with Orange’s first newspaper, the Orange Tribune, founded in April 1885 by William E. Ward. A later partner recalled:

…big, generous hearted, free-and-easy ‘Bill’ Ward was surely a “character” – a typical Californian who didn’t have much use for new-fangled Eastern ideas of things in general. He believed that water was intended solely for irrigation, laveing, and culinary purposes, and that tobacco was a staple article of food. He lived for the joy of living, and if he ever had a thought or care for man’s future state it was most effectually concealed beneath an exterior of jovial good humor. Ward was a writer of no mean ability, as full of fun as a circus clown and a wit by nature.[1]

Ward left Orange at the end of 1887, and the Tribune passed to Fred Clemons, an ardent “boomer” during those hectic months which included the incorporation of the City of Orange. But when the boom went bust, Clemons set off for greener pastures, leasing the Tribune in March 1889 to his shop foreman, W.B. Woodruff and a young printer named Ulysses Sidney Lemon.

George Howard joined the staff soon afterwards as a printer’s apprentice. In 1933 he recalled:

The foreman of the Tribune was a printer named Leslie B. Woodruff, who was regarded as one of the best mechanical printers in this part of the state at that time. He was also something of an inventor, and invented a number of printing devices, but as far as I know he never made any money out of them, for in unguarded moments the big type foundry houses would step in and cop his inventions….

Along about April, 1889, there appeared an item which read something like this: ‘Boy wanted to learn the printer’s trade.’ I decided to apply for the job. I went around in the evening and being a rather timid lad, paced back and forth in front of the office several times before mustering enough courage to go inside.

Woodruff was something of a phrenologist and had the idea he could tell a person’s character or ability by the shape of their head, color of eyes and hair. This failed to work with himself later on when he took unto himself a wife. Either his head or her head was the wrong shape – they couldn’t get along together. Two sons were born to them before they separated.

Woodruff felt of my head and asked a few questions, which I do not remember, and finally said he guessed I would do and told me to come around the next morning. I went around in the morning and have “come around in the morning” for the last 44 years. If there is any printer in the Southland who has worked as an employee for that length of time in his own home town I have not heard of him.[2]

The Tribune gained a competitor in December 1888 in the form of the Orange News, a weekly published by James Fullerton. In that first circulation battle, the Tribune came out the loser. It published its last issue on August 3, 1889.

But just one week later, on August 10, 1889, Leslie Woodruff was back with a new eight-page weekly called the Orange Post – a “virtual continuance of the Tribune.”[3]

Like many small town papers, the Post relied on “patent” to help fill their pages week after week. Large commercial printing houses in places like San Francisco and Salt Lake City would print up ready-made pages and ship them to local papers. Often it was the first and fourth pages – a patent exterior. In that case, the company would include the paper’s masthead, standing advertisements, and the correct date, volume, and issue number. Then it was up to the local shop to print pages 2 and 3.

As for the articles on the patent pages, they generally consisted of slightly out-of-date news summaries, deathless features on notable people, foreign lands, poetry, short stories, or just about anything else. The company also sold ads to national advertisers.

Most of the patent houses offered a variety of patent pages to choose from. Did you need a country paper, for a largely Republican community? They could provide it. Or how about more of a city journal, with a Democratic slant? No problem.

As for the home print, “Most of the type in straight reading matter in the Post was set by women compositors of whom we had quite a number during the many years I worked on the paper,” George Howard recalled. “Sometimes there would be only one working and at other times two.

“Setting type all day long, day after day, is very tiresome, and the women compositors seldom stayed long on the job. Most of them were unmarried but married later….”

These were also the days of the “tramp printers,” who drifted from paper to paper as the mood struck them, or the need impelled them. “Quite a few of the printers were broke, or nearly so, when they came to the shop,” Howard wrote, “and after saving a little money they would leave for pastures new, leaving us to hunt up another printer….”[4]

Sid Lemon returned briefly in September 1889, about the time Woodruff went north on business. He never returned. Joining Lemon in the office was a printer named Will Arne, who was soon joined by his brother, Edward. Eventually Lemon left, and the Arne brothers bought the Post from Woodruff at the end of 1889.[5]

The Post continued to run a poor second to the Orange News, and Lemon and Edward Arne gave up and left before the end of 1890. By then Alice L. Armor had joined the staff as city editor, bookkeeper, and proofreader.

Alice Armor (1848-1939) came to Orange with her husband, Sam, in 1875, when the town was barely four years old. The Armors had been classmates at Oberlin College in Ohio (one of the few co-educational colleges in the U.S. at the time). They were married in 1871, and like many pioneers, came to California for their health a few years later. Alice worked as a teacher for many years. Sam worked as a carpenter and a rancher, then a teacher, and then a store clerk, before finally opening his own book and stationery store on the west side of the Plaza in 1885.

Samuel Armor (1843-1933) was a decidedly political animal and a staunch Republican. He was Orange’s first County Supervisor (1889-1898), served on the board of directors of the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company (1892-1905), and served two terms on the Orange City Council (1900-1908). In his declining years, he served as Justice of the Peace for the Orange Township (1915-1922).[6]

By the fall of 1891, Alice Armor seems to have been running the Orange Post, though Will Arne was still technically the editor and publisher. In November, the Armors arranged to buy the printing outfit of the recently defunct Santa Ana Pilot, and soon after she paid Arne $275 for his interest in the Post. Though the two always insisted that Alice had used her own money for both purchases, Sam’s rivals were quick to point out how valuable the paper would be for his political career.

In January 1892, Alice Armor began her long career as editor and publisher of the Orange Post. “It will be my aim not only to maintain the standard of excellence to which the paper has attained, but to increase its usefulness and effectiveness so far as within my power,” she wrote in her salutatory. “Having lived in the community since quite early times and shared its hopes and fears, its joys and sorrows, no profession of desire and zeal for its welfare need be indulged in. The paper will seek to become a strong factor for good, a safe guide and a firm friend to its readers.”[7]

Alice’s interests are readily seen in the pages of the Post over the coming years – schools, women’s organizations (especially the Women’s Christian Temperance Union), churches, and even women’s suffrage. A pioneer herself, she wrote lengthy obituaries as other old timers passed away. Downtown businesses, on the other hand, while always a source of local pride, earned little space in its columns.

She never apologized for her paper or her point of view. “It has sometimes been said slightingly of The Post that it is read mainly by women and church people, two very good recommendations from the advertiser’s standpoint….”[8]

In a field still almost entirely dominated by men, Alice Armor’s Orange Post was a breath of fresh (if sometimes lilac-scented) air.

Will Arne never bought a printing press. He continued to have the paper printed in Santa Ana. The type was set in Orange, and then the forms were hauled to Santa Ana by wagon each week.

Now, the old Pilot press was installed in the back room of the Post offices at the southwest corner of the Plaza Square. It was a simple flat-bed press, but it did the job. George Howard described the operation years later:

The type forms were laid on the press bed, a paper placed on a kind of a frame, the frame lowered on the type, then run forward under a platen and the paper printed by pulling a hand lever, hence it was called a hand press. Pulling that lever was a sort of a trick that the operator had to catch on to, it being necessary to throw nearly his whole weight on the lever in order to pull it sufficiently to print the paper.

During the many years this press was in use many different persons were employed to run it, mostly high school boys. It was not a very desirable job and nobody would stay with it very long…. The regular printers in the shop either didn’t have time or wouldn’t run the press, except on rare occasions, and we had to depend mostly on outside help and it generally fell to my lot to break in each one of these outsiders.

The ink was put on the type by means of a hand roller manipulated by myself, and I had to move that ink roller pretty fast sometimes. In putting the ink on it was necessary to stoop over the type forms and if I didn’t step back quick enough the boys would bring the paper holder down on my head.

We had certain times for printing the paper, but generally we had to print whenever the boy could come – sometimes late at night or early in the morning. A number of times I have gotten up long before daylight, got my own breakfast, and was at the shop before it was light, just to accommodate the boy because he couldn’t come any other time.

I certainly drew a long sigh of relief when the management finally got rid of the old hand press and purchased a small sized cylinder press. This new press … was run by hand power, Glenn Shoemaker furnishing the power. Later on an electric motor was put in then Glenn was out of a job….[9]

Alice Armor was no printer. During the years she owned the Post, she always needed a shop foreman; sometimes an employee, sometimes a partner. Cyrus Adams filled the role for much of the first decade she owned the paper. But her hand was visible even in the production of the paper. The Post was printed on high quality book paper instead of newsprint during her most of her career; and in 1894 she had a custom masthead designed showing the Orange Plaza (and the offices of the Post) which was used until 1912.

By 1896, Alice Armor claimed the third largest circulation of any paper in Orange County. “The Post is conducted on the old-fashioned time-honored principles of truth, honesty, fairness and square dealing;” she insisted, “it advocates temperance, morality and right living, not for the sake of policy, but because the editor believes in such principles as essential to the welfare and perpetuity of the human race. It tries, to the extent of its ability and influence, to secure good government in city, county, state and nation, and the right management of corporations and institutions for the benefit of this community and the general public.”[10]

Again and again, Alice Armor (and even Sam) asserted her complete editorial freedom from her politician-husband, but there was hardly an issue of the Post during those years that didn’t include a letter or an editorial from Sam Armor.

Sam was willing to take on most any opponent, but his favorite foe was James Fullerton of the Orange News. Over the years, Sam Armor and James Fullerton did battle editorially many times. Sadly for the historian, for most of those years we are lacking either one paper or the other, so we do not get the whole picture.

For an example where both papers survive, in October 1893 Sam Armor published “An Open Letter” to James Fullerton, where he complained that Fullerton was trying to turn “the Olive Mill people” against him in his run for re-election to the board of the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company. (The Olive Mill relied on water power from the SAVI’s canal to operate.) What’s more, he had heard that Fullerton was complaining that his paper had been getting none of the SAVI’s printing business since he had joined the board. Armor, of course, denied this, and goes off into SAVI politics and Fullerton’s reporting of them, suggesting that “As a rule, people do not willingly support a concern that is trying to destroy their work and undermine their usefulness.”[11]

Fullerton replied four days later in an “Open Letter” of his own. He claimed that Armor’s friends were working up fears against the Milling gaining too much power on the broad, and only warned company. Then he accused Armor of trying to turn the company against him, and thus cost him their business. And yes, he added, Armor is trying to get all the SAVI printing for the Post.

Then he went in for a personal attack: “there is not another man in the County of Orange as anxious for place and power, and as hypocritical about it, as you are. Your egotism is so great that you believe nothing can be conducted properly without your direction.”

Armor, he asserted, had never been particularly successful as a rancher, a businessman, or anything else. He claimed the News helped to get him elected supervisor, but that he then turned against the paper when it would not bow to his wishes.[12]

Armor filled another full column in reply, saying Fullerton’s response “misrepresents facts, makes false assumptions, and overflows with the frothings of an angry man.” Fullerton, he added, was unscrupulous and disloyal to the community. “[E]very time the real man comes out and speaks his true sentiments he offends the finer feelings of the community and disturbs its business interests.”

He then dredged up a controversy from a year or two before over the Orange County Collegiate Institute – a failed attempt to found a college in the abandoned Hotel Rochester building. A deal had been proposed to turn the college over to one of the religious denominations, but according to Armor, Fullerton’s attacks on the institution (fueled by an unpaid advertising bill) killed the deal.  

As for his desire for “place and power,” “not one individual can truthfully say that he ever heard me ask for place or votes,” Sam replied.[13]

Considering the number of elective offices Armor held over the years, that seems a little unlikely, but Fullerton lets that typical bit of hyperbole pass and instead turned back to the college situation:

“Mr. Armor is quite well aware that no action of ours, public or private, interfered in the slightest degree with the consummation of that deal,” he wrote. But since he brought up the college, what about Armor’s roll in failing to demand a security bond from the promoters, which led to local donors losing their money?

Or what about the sale of school supplies to the local elementary school district through his book and stationery store? Fullerton claimed that Armor’s last bid had been 40% higher than one from a Los Angeles firm, yet he still insisted the district should buy locally.

“Mr. Armor then made the threat, that if he was to be deprived of his legitimate trade at Orange he would move away to Redlands or some other place and the result would be that this valley would revert to a sheep pasture.”[14]

“To him everything is hypocritical, humbug, or egotistical that is done or said by one whom he regards as an enemy,” Armor replied. And if bidding on government contracts was to be the issue, what about Fullerton’s roll in trying to raise county printing rates for local printers over outside firms back when the county began in 1889?[15]

Another letter – twice as long – in that same edition of the Post came from “One Who Sees Both Sides.” It praised Armor at length for his many contributions to Orange. “It would be impossible to enumerate all the instances in which Mr. Armor has contributed of his own time and money for the advancement of the community.” Fullerton, on the other hand, had lived off the community from the day “members of a certain political party” put up the money for him to bring his printing plant here from Canada.

After six years in town, Fullerton replied, “we are perfectly willing to leave the verdict with the respectable people of the city and neighborhood.”

As for the original county printing, the county had initially secured a low bid from a big San Diego firm, and then expected similar rates from local printers on smaller jobs. “The newspaper men, who had worked hard to bring about the formation of this county, felt that they were being unjustly dealt with, and finding protests unavailing, met and organized for the protection of their interests,” he explained. They only asked for 25% increase – as opposed to the 40% increase Armor had wanted for school supplies.

As for the anonymous letter from “One Who Sees Both Sides,” he noted, “If Armor did not write the letter he dictated it.” (And certainly it betrays a detailed knowledge of Armor’s charitable donations.) “The man who will resort to such low and cowardly expedients is too contemptible to be worthy of notice,” Fullerton concluded, “and the newspaper that would publish such a letter is a disgrace to the profession.”[16]

But Armor kept at it, hammering away at the county printing in 1889, the college complaints of 1890-92, and his previous bids for school supplies. Naturally he denied being “One Who Sees Both Sides,” but said he could understand his desire to remain anonymous, “to keep out of the range of the abuse and vilification that is being hurled at my devoted head.”[17]

By now, Fullerton seemed to be tiring of the game. He only went on to defend himself in the college matter. It was P.J. Shaffer’s lawsuit over the college debt that block the transfer to the denomination, he insisted, and he even published a letter from Shaffer confirming that Fullerton had not encouraged him to file suit, and in fact had advised against it.[18]

That seemed to quiet Armor – for a while.

Take the summer of 1905, for example. Sam Armor was then on the Orange city council, and in a report of one of the meetings, Fullerton mentioned some “smirking” and “giggling” at one of Sam’s comments – with Fullerton apparently doing some of the smirking.

Incensed, Armor responded that the record of a city council meeting should only report what was done, citing the laws covering city clerks in their duties. Fullerton replied that he claimed “the right, in common with all reporters, to enter a little into what is said as well as what is done, for the benefit of the public….”[19] Armor, he added, was “a person whose egotism verges on insanity and who has not the slightest regard for truth. It is a waste of time arguing with such a person.”[20]

Sam, of course, replied in kind. Fullerton’s “so-called arguments are about as reasonable and effective as those of the city miss with the cow. On meeting such an animal for the first time she stamped her foot and called out, ‘Lie down, sir.’ No doubt she thought the cows ‘egotism verged on insanity’ because that animal did not immediately get down and crawl to her. Suppose for the sake of argument, contrary to the fact, that I am egotistical, what business is it of his?”[21]

But Fullerton made it his business. “We made a mistake in paying any attention to S. Armor’s ravings. The humane course, we are convinced, is to humor him in his hallucinations. One of these is that he is indispensable to this community…. Another is that those who do not agree with him are necessarily lacking in intelligence, honesty of purpose and respectability.”[22]

And again: “S. Armor favored us with a whole column in The Post last week, drawing illustrations from a recent lecture at the high school commencement and a prize fight at Reno, and then goes on to give what he calls a ‘statement of facts,’ then he arrives at ‘conclusions.’ Having drawn on his imagination for the ‘facts,’ his ‘conclusions’ are valueless.”[23]

Both papers were still milking their manufactured controversy on into September.

In all their squabbles, Sam simply sounds like . . . well, like Sam Armor – a self-important, humorless little man. But Fullerton’s tone is somehow even more annoying because he is so obviously baiting Sam and enjoying it – like a sober man taking advantage of a friend who’s been drinking. Sam, at least, is sincere; but Fullerton seems to be simply enjoying pushing Sam’s buttons (which he clearly knew how to do).

Their endless squabbles made for lively reading, and no doubt satisfied their supporters on both sides. Yet there seems to have been nothing personal in it. When they met on the street, the two were cordial – even friendly.

In 1903, Cyrus Adams left the Post, and Alice Armor was once again in need of a shop foreman. Charles W. Meadows, a recent arrival from the Midwest, got the job. Meadows (1868-1931) was an old tramp printer and proud of it. He had finally settled down a few years before, married, and had a son – Donald Charles Meadows (1897-1994), who grew up to become one of Orange County’s leading historians.

Don Meadows always valued his years tagging behind his father at the Orange Post. “The editorial office of any newspaper is a magnet for the great and ordinary who come seeking publicity, political favors, social recognition, to keep some escapade out of print, or just to talk about the early days,” he later recalled. “A newspaper office is a wonderful place to gain an education.”

Alice L. Armor, he recalled,

was a quiet, dignified, cultured lady who spent most of her time at a long wooden table writing news or correcting proofs with a pencil. Several years passed before a typewriter entered the building. She had many friends and was a civic and social leader in the town. The daughter of a Congregational minister, she devoted her whole life to the welfare and happiness of other people. Jammed closely against her work table was another table where Sam Armor sat in a captain’s chair and maintained his importance.

Sam Armor was a little man who wanted to be big, a sharp contrast to his soft spoken, concise and practical wife. He was a Civil War veteran, and had been a school teacher, a carpenter and a merchant. In 1889, when the County of Orange was formed he was elected Supervisor from the 4th District by just four votes. He took his county position seriously and wanting to be considered important he gave more attention to county business than he did to his own. He was now the secretary of the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company and a foe of the Democrats. Behind him a tall tier of bookshelves reaching to the ceiling held government documents, law books and periodicals. He was busy most of the time writing long, involved editorials or talking in his slow, precise, low-pitched, monotonous monotone to anyone who would listen.

The Orange Post was a country newspaper. It was four pages, printed on good quality white newsprint, and sedate. A good part of the front page was given over to advertising, the next two pages contained all the local news. The front and back pages were devoted to national affairs, clips from other newspapers, syndicated fillers, and political bombast. Sam Armor usually had a long winded editorial that was profound, meandering and petulant. Mrs. Armor wrote in a lighter vein. The paper was definitely Republican in politics, with no sense of humor, but it was respected by its readers. It was a self-righteous, moral, temperate, conservative publication that had a high literary quality. It never offended anyone, and overlooked unsavory information. [24]

Charles Meadows stayed with the Post until the end of 1906, when James Fullerton decided to sell the Orange News and retire after 18 years in the editorial chair. Meadows formed a partnership with George Wright, and the two published the paper together for the first five months of 1907. But financial pressures and political opposition finally put an end to their partnership. A small town weekly barely produced enough income to support one owner, much less two; and while Meadows was a Republican, Wright was a rabid Democrat. In the days of thoroughly partisan newspapers, that simply wouldn’t do.

Finally, in May 1907, the two flipped a coin to decide who would buy out the other. “Dad always said he won,” Don Meadows used to chuckle – Wright bought him out.

In 1908, Charles Meadows, returned to the Orange Post, lured back by opportunity to buy a half-interest in the paper. He stayed on until October 1913, when he sold his share back to the Armors. He “makes the change for business reasons,” the Post reported, “thinking he can find more profitable employment elsewhere.”[25] Though written between the lines, the message was clear – the Post was losing ground. In fact, Meadows soon went to work for the rival Orange Daily News then in 1916 he opened a print shop in downtown Orange which he ran until his death in 1931.

After a couple false starts, Wright promoted the Orange News to a daily in April 1908. He sold out a year later to two lively young men – William O. Hart (1885-1942) and Justus Craemer (1886-1966). Hart was the editor, and Craemer the business manager. Under their leadership, the Orange Daily News catered to the business community, and the many newcomers moving to town as the citrus industry began to take off.

Hart and Craemer threw themselves into local issues, advocating for paved streets, sewers, and the general improvement of the community. After nearly a quarter of a century, Sam Armor and his political allies found themselves being pushed aside by a new generation of community leaders. Some of the old guard clearly had a tough time accepting their loss of local control.

The declining influence of the old guard was mirrored by the decline of the Orange Post. Circulation and ad revenues dropped in the early 1910s. Alice Armor – now in her 60s – simply could no longer compete. In May of 1915, after 23 years, she announced the sale of the paper to a former Riverside County newsman, A.A. Smith

“The editorial path has not been strewn with roses to any noticeable extent,” she wrote, “and has often been rocky and thorny; but there have been compensations…. There have been blunders and shortcomings, but the paper has gone forward and has won and retained many friends.”[26]

Smith (1868-1927) redesigned the Post, adding larger headlines and a more up-to-date appearance. He also increased the Post to a semi-weekly, published every Tuesday and Friday. And to fill all those extra pages, he purchased $3,000 linotype machine, putting an end to the days of hand-set type. Around that time, even George Howard left for the Orange Daily News, where he soon learned how to run a linotype machine. Though he officially retired in the 1930s, he could still be found in the back shop almost until his death in 1946.

Editorially, Smith took the Orange Post from pure bred Republican to independent – though “not spineless by any means,” he assured his readers.[27]

His first big project was a magazine-format “Progress Edition” of the Semi-Weekly Orange Post full of features and photos. One of the big “patrons” of the special edition was prominent pioneer rancher David Hewes, and the Post devoted two full pages to his story, and photos of Hewes Park, a popular tourist destination he had built at his own expense.

But four days before publication, Hewes died at the age of 93, and according to Smith’s daughter, his offer of financial help was only a handshake agreement, and the administrator of his estate refused to pay up. Smith lost several thousand dollars on the deal.[28]

Following the debacle, the Post went through a bewildering succession of editors, proprietors, owners, and lessees that rivaled the unsettled days of the late 1880s and early ‘90s. Seeking a partner (or perhaps just a fresh infusion of cash), Smith turned to his nephew, Leon Whitsell, who became “Proprietor and Manager” of the Post in January 1916, with his uncle remaining as editor. But just two months later they sold out to L.P. Coffman, who became both editor and proprietor of the Post.[29] Coffman held the paper for barely a month before selling out in April 1916 to W.L. Taylor and Roy Lovell.

William Taylor had previously worked for The Hemet News then was a part owner of the Lake Elsinore Valley Press. Roy Lovell was his brother-in-law. They reduced the Post to a weekly in October 1916, while at the same time attempting to launch a new daily paper, the Orange Daily Star. It lasted just three months. In January 1917, they shut down the Star and transferred the name to the weekly Post.

The weekly Orange Star continued to struggle. With the coming of World War I, it also began to move away from local coverage and give more and more front page space to national and international affairs.

The parade of owners continued, with Roy Lovell leaving in February 1918, and W.P. Hagthrop joining William Taylor as a partner. Having failed with a daily, Taylor and his new partner decided to try making the Star a tri-weekly (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays). But they still couldn’t compete with the Orange Daily News.

But it wasn’t finances or circulation that finally forced out Taylor and Hagthrop. In February 1919, Taylor was hit by a car while riding his bicycle through downtown Orange. His recovery was long and slow, and in June, the two finally agreed to sell the paper to their rivals – Bill Hart and Justus Craemer of the Orange Daily News.

It seems that some of the local business leaders put up at least some of the cash for the purchase. “For some years the merchants of Orange have been complaining that two newspapers was an unnecessary tax on the community, and the business men aided the effort at consolidation.”[30]

But surprisingly, Hart and Craemer didn’t shut down the Orange Star. They kept William Taylor on as editor, dropped the Star back to a weekly, and even revived the weekly Orange Post, giving Orange a daily and two weekly papers for most of the next two years. Taylor finally left in March 1921, and the Star and the Post were combined and continued as the Orange Post, with W.L. Smith as editor.[31] He stayed just six months, before V.D. Johnson, a one time local businessman and former Arizona editor, took over the paper. But Johnson left at the end of 1922 to become secretary of the Orange Community Chamber of Commerce – a job he held for the next 23 years. For the next couple years, various employees of the Orange Daily News (including Guy Buhrman and W.S. “Si” Lentz) took charge of publishing the Post.

Why did the owners of a popular daily paper continue to publish a weekly in the same town? Two reasons, really; first, to discourage anyone else from starting a rival weekly in town, and second, to lure the big national advertisers who wouldn’t buy ads in hometown dailies. In short, it was good for business.

In November 1926, Hart and Craemer made a deal with two local printers – Robert Steele and John McInnis – to take over the Orange Post. “Craemer asked us to take it over,” McInnis later recalled, “they didn’t want to be bothered with it, but they didn’t want to kill it.”

Steele and McInnis had to agree not to solicit any local advertising, just the national ads (railroads, telephone companies, even Campbell’s Soup). They could also run political ads, and legal notices (where their low overhead would allow them to undercut competitors’ prices). And if there was any profit, they got to keep it.

“Craemer was very frank about it,” McInnis recalled. “He said, ‘I don’t want any competition … and any time I want it [back], I want it.’”[32]

As for the news and features, all the contents were lifted from Orange Daily News of previous week, right down to the headlines. Their print shop, in fact, backed up to the Daily News. Steele and McInnis would make up the pages, and seven or eight hundred copies were run off every Friday on the Daily News press. There were no paid subscribers – the copies were sent out free by mail.

“Bill Hart was one of the most wonderful men I have ever known. Quiet, unassuming, ready to talk to anyone – take the time, give advice – and it was good advice….

“Justus Craemer was fiery…. He had an analytical mind, in figures. He could take a whole column of figures … look at it, and give you the total…. Another thing he did … he would take the paper and spread it all out on the counter and go through [and mark] every misspelled, mis-divided word there was in that outfit, just by going over it. I have never seen a mind like Justus Craemer’s.”[33]

Copies of the Orange Post after 1922 are almost impossible to come by. It’s difficult to even say just how long Steele and McInnis had the paper, but it was into the 1930s, if not later. A 1944 issue simply lists the owner as the Orange Post Publishing Company at the Daily News address (44 Plaza Square). Subscriptions were $1 per year. In 1946 they claimed a circulation of just 531 copies. By then, Bill Hart was dead, and Justus Craemer had moved to Northern California.

Rising costs and limited availability of newsprint after World War II finally spelled the end for the Orange Post. On August 6, 1946 a tiny news item in the Orange Daily News reported that the final issue had been published a few days before.

“The pages of the Orange Post, little known to the average citizen, was Orange’s only legal weekly newspaper, and was generally circulated in the rural areas by mail,” they noted, “having few local subscribers.”

By 1946, the world – and hometown journalism – had changed many times over. Gone were the days when newspapers served as an extension of editor’s personal opinions and ideas. Newspapermen were supposed to be utterly objective (in principle at least), and check their politics at the door.

Meanwhile, buying out the competition meant there were fewer and fewer independent local papers. It was a strategy the Register would later use this technique to great advantage in solidifying their position as the leading Orange County paper. In 1964, they finally managed to buy out the old Orange Daily News, eventually reducing it to a weekly before shutting it down for good in 1968.


[1] - John H. Lee, “Newspaper Beginnings in Pomona” (unpublished typescript, 1916, Pomona Public Library). Ward (1842-1930) came across the prairies in a covered wagon with his parents at eleven years of age. The family settled in Plumas County, where he began his newspaper career as an apprentice on the county’s only paper, the Old Mountaineer. He was editor and publisher of the Plumas National at Quincy before coming to Orange. After a stint in Pomona, he left the newspaper business in 1891. Ward followed mining booms as far afield as Nevada and Alaska before finally settling in Dunsmuir, where he died at age 87.

[2] - Orange Daily News, April 11, 1933.

[3] - A copy of the first issue of the Orange Post does not seem to have survived. The Orange News of April 5, 1905 supplies the exact date. The earliest copy that has come to my attention is August 24, 1889.

[4] - Orange Daily News, April 12, 1933.

[5] - In 1890, Woodruff and a new partner founded the St. Helena Daily Reflector, but soon got tangled up in a libel suit. In 1894, he was publishing a paper in Los Gatos. Beyond that, I lose track of him. Lemon went on to found the Huntington Beach News (1904) and the Garden Grove News (1909). He died in 1929.

[6] - Sam Armor also served as “Supervising Editor” of both editions of The History of Orange County (1911, 1921). Biographies of the Armors (probably written by them) can be found in both volumes.

[7] - Orange Post, January 16, 1892. Quoted in the special edition of the Post, August 1909.

[8] - Orange Post, December 25, 1913.

[9] - Orange Daily News, April 12, 1933.

[10] - Orange Post, January 6, 1910.

[11] - Post, October 14, 1893. See Wayne Gibson’s The Olive Mill (1975) for a history of this important early enterprise.

[12] - News, October 18, 1893.

[13] - Post, October 21, 1893. The Orange County Collegiate Institute was only in operation for about two and half years, from 1889 to 1891.

[14] - News, October 25, 1893.

[15] - Post, October 28, 1893

[16] - News, November 1, 1893.

[17] - Post, November 4, 1893.

[18] - News, November 8, 29, 1893. It is interesting to note that Armor continued to advertise in the News all through the controversy – and many to follow.

[19] - Orange News, August 9, 1905.

[20] - Orange News, July 12, 1905.

[21] - Orange Post, July 15, 1905.

[22] - Orange News, July 26, 1905.

[23] - Orange News, August 9, 1905.

[24] - Collated from various notes and several unpublished autobiographical manuscripts in the Meadows Collection, Special Collections, the UC Irvine Libraries.

[25] - Orange Post, October 23, 1913.

[26] - Orange Post, May 13, 1915.

[27] - Orange Post, May 20, 1915.

[28] - Frances Scanlin interview, March 21, 1982. The Post had done two similar special editions in 1903 and 1909. For Hewes’ biography, see Leo Friis, David Hewes, More Than the Golden Spike (1974).

[29] - Leon Whitsell went on to serve as an Orange County Supervisor, and then a prominent member of the State Railroad Commission (the forerunner of the Public Utilities Commission). He was also a leading figure in state Masonic circles, and one of the “revivifiers” of the E Clampus Vitus in the 1930s, when the old Gold Rush fraternity was reborn as a historical organization. A.A. Smith moved on to the Central Valley where he edited the Visalia Times for decade. He died in an accident on the old Ridge Route in 1927 (Santa Ana Register, December 27, 1927).

[30] - The Hemet News, June 20, 1919. Both the Daily News and the Star are suspiciously silent on the sale, but Taylor’s former employer, The Hemet News, did carry a small item.

[31] - Taylor went on to a long career with the Santa Monica Outlook. Hagthrop founded the Orange County Legal Reporter in 1921, which he and his family published for decades.

[32] - Personal interview, April 23, 1982. McInnis (1901-1991) had previously worked for the Orange Daily News. He went on to have a long career as a local printer, both with Bob Steele and later on his own.

[33] - Personal interview, April 23, 1982.