Alameda in history: Extra! Extra!

Alameda in history: Extra! Extra!

David Baker
Alameda newspapers

BREAKING NEWS: Veterans Lost in the Wilds of Alameda!

Okay, admittedly no veterans got lost in the “wilds of Alameda” this week. However, on May 25, 1902, a group of veterans of the Civil War did in fact get lost trekking across the Island.

The story about the lost veterans describes the journey of six Civil War veterans through Alameda after leaving a service at Christ Church on Grand Street, when they exited the church through a different door then they had entered. Being deep in conversation, the soldiers – each of which was described as “an old-timer in the town” who had lived there since it was “a village of oaks” – did not realize their error until they looked up and discovered they did not recognize their surroundings.

After wandering around toward the West End of Alameda, they finally broke down and knocked on the door of a house to ask for directions back home. Luckily, the veterans were able to find their way with the help of a friendly Alameda resident, none the worse for the wear.

With all the changes in media and news outlets in this modern era, it can be interesting – not to mention fun – to reminisce by looking back at newspapers from yesteryear. The lost veteran is an example of front-page news from Alameda’s premier newspaper, The Daily Encinal, around the turn of the century.

Alameda has a rich history in the news business, with hometown newspapers published as early as the 1850s. The list includes the Alameda Daily Argus, an Alameda Post and the Island Journal.

Alameda had a Journal in the 1930s and a Sun in the 1960s, the latter a biweekly paper that offered screaming headlines about a local pastor who criticized city leaders for failing to address troubled race relations and a housing authority claim that it wasn’t responsible for public housing – along with an editorial chastising a competitor, the Alameda Times-Star, for its “hostile, insensitive and anti-intellectual” commentary on the Vietnam War.

The 1960s Sun billed itself as “Inquisitive! Informative! Provocative! The pulse of Alameda’s aspirations!” while the Encinallisted itself as Alameda’s official newspaper and also, the county’s oldest. It offered “Moderate Prices” for “New Material” that included local news stories, announcements and national briefs.

Naval Air Station Alameda even had its own weekly paper, The Carrier, which offered news on local servicemen along with national military news.

One of the more interesting aspects of looking at newspapers from yesteryear is what the advertisements can tell us about life in that time. The big rage in coffee and tea alternatives at the turn of the century was something called Figprune Cereal, a concoction of figs, prunes, and a type of cereal. Imagine waking up to this delicious sounding beverage every morning instead of Starbucks.

Today, the southwest corner of Park Street and Central Avenue sports a Peet’s Coffee & Tea shop. In 1902, this commercial space was the home of Alameda’s “most reliable” pharmacy: F. Binders Alameda Pharmacy.

Like today, Alameda was a desirable place to live, with new housing being in demand – except in 1902, a six-room, two story Colonial cottage could be purchased for only $2,850, quite a contrast to modern real-estate prices. In 1930, a writer for the Times-Star theorized that the Island’s population could grow from 35,000 to 100,000 over the course of the decade.

“Alameda is a wholesome Home City, with good moral ideals, well-managed government, excellent schools, just the place for salutary residential life. It IS and WILL BE attractive not only for more residents, but for the best class,” Richard L. Rowe wrote in a front-page article printed on April 5, 1930.

One of the more humorous sections in The Daily Encinal was the personal and social page detailing the lives of some of Alameda’s residents. It would seem that Dr. and Mrs. Walter Hughes made a trip to Napa for several days, while the Bell family of Mozart Street was en route to Los Angeles for the summer via steamer.

Echoes of those old papers can be found in the local media of today – a list that includes the Alameda Journal and Alameda Sun newspapers, a bevy of blogs and of course, The Alamedan.

It was definitely a different society at the turn of the century. Enjoy looking back at what the daily news was like 50, 80 and 100 years ago as you continue to read our modern news outlets.


Submitted by luczai (not verified) on Fri, May 30, 2014

There is so much locked up in microfilm that is really difficult to access. New equipment that can scan microfilm reels for key words would be a wonderful addition to the library, if any one is interested in making a large donation! I spent several hours in a large university microfilm room during finals week. I had the whole place to myself. Our collection of old Alameda newspapers isn't even indexed. It really is a shame.

Submitted by Joseph (not verified) on Fri, May 30, 2014

Amazing to think back to a time when there were convenient trolleys everywhere on the island, and ferries ready to sail you across to your job in the city. In our modern sophisticated times we sit an hour on our six billion dollar bridge, and await the developments on the NAS that will add another 30 minutes. LOL