History of Journaliam in Imperial County, California
From: The History of Imperial County, California
Edited by: F. C. Farr
Published by: Elms and Franks
Berkeley, CA 1918

JOURNALISM

PRESS, STANDARD AND ZANJERO. - The need for publicity was felt at the very beginning of the development of Imperial Valley. L. M. Holt, who in pioneer days, as publisher and editor of the Riverside Press, had forty years ago gained State wide recognition as the chief newspaper authority on the irrigation and horticultural resources of Southern California, was publicity agent for the Imperial Land Company and the California Development Company. It was he who had interested George Chaffey, the builder of the irrigation system, in the Valley, and Mr. Holt was also instrumental in interesting Edgar F. Howe, who had come to Southern California in 1884, and had witnessed from a newspaperman's viewpoint the development of practically all Southern California from semi desert.

As the years had piled up on Mr. Holt and he had become less active in newspaper work, the especial field he had held in the newspaper field had in large part passed to Mr. Howe. In 1890 he had founded the Redlands Facts, the first daily newspaper in that town, and thence he had gone to Los Angeles, where he had gained recognition as the principal writer on irrigation, horticulture and the oil industry. He was in 1900 the industrial editor of the Los Angeles Herald when, in October, Mr. Holt induced him to inspect the first work on the great irrigation system, less than a half mile of canal then having been dug.

From the site of the proposed heading on the Colorado River Mr. Howe came to the Valley, being driven by George McCauley, as about the first passenger of that pioneer stage driver, from the main line of the railroad to Blue Lake, near the projected town of Silsbee, and back. On that drive of ninety miles, which led over the town sites of Brawley, Imperial and El Centro, only two persons were seen, Engineer D. L. Russell and an assistant, who were making the first survey.

Because of his experience in watching the developments of other parts of Southern California, Mr. Howe believed he could see in this development work a movement of vast potential benefit to the country, and articles from his pen following the visit to the Valley were published with illustrations in the New York Tribune, New York Times, Scientific American, Philadelphia Press and other leading publications of the East, as well as in the Los Angeles Herald, undoubtedly giving to the Valley colonization its first great impetus.

So beneficial had his work proven that the Imperial Land Company was anxious that he should become identified with the development work. The following May the Imperial Valley Press was founded at Imperial by the Imperial Land Company with H. C. Reed as editor, but in October, 1901, one year from his former trip, Mr. Howe assumed the editorship.

Those pioneer newspaper days were trying ones because there was little to do and there were none of the conveniences of life. The stage came to town three times a week, and a census showed population of 158 persons in what is now Imperial County in the spring of 1902. The following summer, without ice, electricity, fresh meat, vegetables, eggs, milk or butter, life was barely worth living, but it was under these conditions that the foundations were laid for the newspaper as well as all the other institutions of the Valley.

After a year of this privation, Mr. Howe thought he had had enough of pioneer life, and he left the Valley, but by April of the next year - 1903 - he was induced to return, this time as owner of the newspaper, which he purchased and published for a little more than a year, selling to Charles Gardner.

The new town of El Centro had been founded in 1905, and early in that year Mr. Gardner sold the Press to W. F. Holt, who moved it to El Centro, where it passed successively under the editorial management of F. G. Havens and D. D. Pellett.

Before leaving Imperial the Press had a competitor in the Imperial Standard, started by a stock company with H. C. Reed and later David De Witt Lawrence as editors.

This publication was bought in June, 1905, by Mr. Howe, who came to the Valley for the third time, accompanied by his two sons, Armiger W. and Clinton F., who were associated with him during the second stage of pioneer newspaper work, that of publishing the first daily newspaper. This publication was started while the Colorado River was pouring its whole volume into Salton Sea, and Mr. Howe says that to this day he has never been able to decide whether the venture was a matter of inspiration or of imbecility.

Then came the struggle over county division, Mr. Howe being the spokesman for Imperial. Mr. Holt sought a strong editorial force for the Imperial Valley Press as an offset to him, and interested Captain Allen Kelley, Louis Havermale and W. L. Hayden in that paper. Captain Kelly had been city editor of the New York Evening Sun and of the Los Angeles Times, and editorial writer for the Philadelphia North American, Boston Globe and San Francisco Examiner. Mr. Havermale was one of the best detail reporters in Los Angeles and Mr. Hayden was a clever business manager. It was a strong aggregation, but it was an overload for the weekly to carry, and after the bitterness of the county seat election had passed,Messrs.Howe, in May, 1911, bought the Press from W. F. Holt and consolidated with it the Imperial Daily Standard, continuing the paper as a daily under the name of the Imperial Valley Press until September, 1916.

Messrs. Howe had had the experience in Imperial of many pioneers in the newspaper business of a hard struggle with little recompense. When they purchased the Press they added considerably to their indebtedness. Their business in El Centro grew with great rapidity, forcing heavy purchases of equipment, with added obligations. The earthquake of June, 1915, wrecked their plant and brought about a loss of business which proved fatal to their enterprise, and they lost the newspaper in September, 1916.

But 400 farmers in mass meeting called on Mr. Howe to re-enter the field, pledging their support, and many of them volunteered financial aid, with the result that within thirty days there was issued the first number of The Zanjero, a weekly paper, but with the intention, avowed from the first, of eventually issuing daily.

The Calexico Chronicle was founded August 12, 1904. It's first home was in a tent house at a point near the Southern Pacific depot. The early days of the paper were the usual early days of a pioneer newspaper - much work and little remuneration for its owner. For several years it had a number of owners, and for a while essayed to be a daily paper, even when Calexico was only a town of something like 500 people.

During those early days of daily newspapering it was the frequent boast of its publisher that it was the only daily newspaper in the world in a town with so few people in it, which was about all there was to boast about.

In July, 1912, the Chronicle became the property of the present owner, Bert Perrin, who, early the next, year, took Ray E. Oliver as a partner, which partnership continued until November, 1917, when Bert Perrin again became the sole owner.

Beginning in 1913 the great struggle of the Chronicle has been to keep pace with the rapid growth of the town. In 1914 the Chronicle once more began publication as a daily, with Associated Press news service.

The El Centro Progress was established in its present location on Main Street, El Centro, February 3, 1912. First a weekly. In October of the same year it was changed to a morning daily, and as such made its way swiftly to the present place it occupies. Mr. and Mrs. Otis B. Tout were first engaged in publishing the Calexico Chronicle, Mr. Tout having taken charge of that newspaper in 1907. They sold the business in 1912 to Bert Perrin and purchased the remains of the Daily Free Lance plant in El Centro, on which the present business was founded.

The Free Lance was established in 1908 by A. D. Medhurst. It ran a precarious existence for three years and was finally discontinued on account of financial difficulties.

Mr. and Mrs. Tout, both practical printers, have had the assistance of Mrs. Tout's brothers, both in the mechanical department and the management. O. W. Berneker is advertising manager, W. A. Berneker is foreman of the composing room, E. A. Berneker is Intertype machinist operator, and A. E. Berneker is in the mailing and stereotyping department. This "family affair" has become quite successful as shown by the patronage accorded the Progress since its establishment. The records show a steady increase in every year's business, 1917 outdistancing all the others by a wide margin. The business is a co-partnership with Mr. and Mrs. Tout sole owners.

The policy of the Progress has been independent, the editor believing that the selection of the best in all matters is better than blind partisanship in any. That this policy has been approved by a large constituency is attested by the fact that the Progress lays undisputed claim to the largest circulation of any newspaper in the county. The paper makes it a point to boost every worthy cause and to flay every unworthy propoganda that raises its head. Imperial Valley has had seven special, illustrated editions during the twelve years' work of the publishers of the Progress, and much of the broadcast information that the world has regarding Imperial Valley can be credited to these efforts.

The Progress is the only morning newspaper in the Valley, and is a member of the Associated Press.


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