Newspapers on the Frontier: The San Diego Union

By Nathan Fogerson, San Diego State University Intern, Spring 2021

Life on the frontier was isolating in many ways—communities were small and often insular, communication was limited and delayed, and it was hard to keep up with current events. Newspapers were one way that American settlers on the frontier stayed up to date with what was happening in the rest of the country. San Diego was no exception to this, but it took a little time before the new community had a consistent newspaper published on a regular basis. The first attempt at a newspaper in San Diego was the San Diego Herald. It published weekly but was ultimately cancelled in 1860. Subsequently, San Diego was left without a newspaper until 1868. The San Diego Union Tribune, proposed by Phillip Crosthwaite, brought a steady newspaper to San Diego, which still publishes to this day.

Phillip Crosthwaite, a San Diego pioneer, had ambitions to introduce a regularly published newspaper back into San Diego. He hoped that a newspaper might bring some interest from locals back into the community, which had seen a decline in business. Crosthwaite’s sister was married to attorney Colonel William Jefferson “Jeff” Gatewood, and together the couple resided in San Andreas, California. There, Gatewood published a local newspaper. As a result, Crosthwaite hatched a plan and left for San Andreas. During his trip, he made a proposal to Gatewood; Crosthwaite wanted Gatewood to stop publishing in San Andreas and bring a publication down to San Diego. Curious, Gatewood decided to take a trip to San Diego. Locals were enthusiastic about the prospect and gave him subscriptions and advertisement contracts. Inspired by the possibilities, Gatewood accepted the proposal to move his paper business to San Diego.