The Press War

Women compel men to think — that’s what Clara Foltz said.

Clara Foltz is credited with inventing the idea of a public defender.
  • Clara Foltz is credited with inventing the idea of a public defender.

Clara Foltz must have lived at least nine lives. A descendant of Daniel Boone, she was a wife, until her husband abandoned her and their four children. She was the first woman to practice law in California, and in the 1920s, the first deputy district attorney in the U.S. She was a suffragist and a popular speaker. On May 16, 1887, she founded a newspaper in San Diego. “With full assurance of faith,” said her first editorial, “we anticipate the time when the Daily Bee, so modest in its beginning, will rank with the noblest journals of the land.”

Among Foltz’s aims: “Let men and women recognize in each other elements of success…. Women compel men to think. Their mission is to ennoble the race, and no better field for the exercise of her influence can be found than in the publication of a daily paper.”

The inaugural Bee had a six-page spread. Three contained ads for the real estate boom turning San Diego from a backwater village into a metropolis. Subscribers could pay 15 cents a week, or six dollars a year. On the top left of the masthead, words in a rectangle announced that its first edition already made the Bee “The Best Local Paper.”

Although Foltz vowed to “anchor us down for all our days,” on November 17, 1887, she laid “down the editorial pen.”

“The change is not pleasant,” she wrote. “It is with some measure of sorrow that we part company with employees who stood nobly by us when days were dark and when it took nerve and courage as well as a good supply of moral stamina to do.”

Foltz edited the Bee for six months. The “press war” brought her down.

In May of 1887, San Diego was enjoying an apparently limitless real estate boom. There was so much wild speculation, developers even wanted to annex Baja California. San Diego’s four major newspapers ran long, sales-pitch features about the beauties of Ensenada. In the Bee’s second issue, Judge W. F. Clark concluded a three-column article with: “If you seek for health, fortune, and happiness come to this tierra perfecta.”

For the May 28 issue, Q.B. traveled to Ensenada with “as gallant a company of capitalists and their guests as ever sailed out of San Diego Bay.” Q.B. stayed at the “magnificent headquarters of the International Company… never was there a jollier crowd than ours that day.”

In 1883, Porforio Díaz signed the Law of Colonization. The law permitted foreigners to colonize unoccupied lands in Lower California, under many restrictions. In 1884, the International Company of Mexico, formed in Hartford, Connecticut, began acquiring properties. By 1887, they claimed to own 18,000,000 acres in Partido Norte, from the California border to Ensenada. Before the company bought the land, Ensenada had 300 residents. Now, wrote Q.B., “more than 1400 happy, busy people — mostly American — are engaged in thriving enterprises… and thousands of acres of arable land… await the magic hand of labor.”

Foltz’s nickname at the paper was “Queen Bee” — usually shortened to. Q.B. She concludes by quoting Colonel L.P. Crane, spokesman for the International Company, that a railroad, currently under construction, will connect Ensenada with San Diego. Ensenada will become the “Ciudad de Porvenir — the “city of the future,” a title heretofore claimed by boomtown San Diegans.

On June 4, 1887, the Bee interviewed Herbert Howe Bancroft. California’s preeminent historian called the International Company a “magnificent enterprise,” made so by the dictator Porfirio Díaz. “Mexico is a republic only in name,” said Bancroft. “It is an autocratic, an aristocratic government in every sense of the word…They can say what they like about General Díaz, he is eminently a progressive man, and decidedly above avarice.”

The International Company laid out Ensenada’s streets and avenues in the American fashion: names in alphabetical order running east/west; numbers, north/south. They called the main avenue Ruiz, after the original owner.

María Ampara Ruiz de Burton visited the Lincolns in D.C.

María Ampara Ruiz de Burton visited the Lincolns in D.C.

On June 10, 1887, the Bee printed a “Warning to the Public! I hereby warn those who intend to purchase lands at the ‘Ensenada’ that the International Company cannot give valid titles to said lands. This property belongs to me. It is a royal grant, ratified, given in 1804 and confirmed by the Mexican Government in 1859 and 1868.” The warning was signed, Maria A. Ruiz Burton.

In a brief editorial comment, Foltz said the Bee “withholds an expression of union in the matter,” but would investigate and then take “the side of right and justice.”

The “Ruiz,” of Ruiz Avenue in Ensenada, was Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s grandfather, Don Jose Manuel Ruiz. He was the first chief ensign (alférez) of the presidio. On April 30, 1806, the Spanish government honored his earlier request and granted him Rancho Ensenada de Todos Santos, 48,884 acres, for his “gallant services.”

Like Apolinaria Lorenzana and Eulalia Perez, Ruiz de Burton lived much of California history in the 19th century. She was born in La Paz, Baja, in 1832. At age 15 she witnessed the American takeover. She fell in love with Colonel Henry Stanton Burton, who became Yankee governor of the region. They were married July 7, 1849. Burton homesteaded Rancho Jamul. During the Civil War, he was promoted brevet Brigadier General. Maria traveled with him to Washington D.C. and Newport, Rhode Island, and became friends with, among other notables, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. Burton died in 1869, leaving his wife with a land grant in Jamul and her inherited holdings at Ensenada.

When she wrote the warning, Burton was 55. Two years earlier, she published her second novel, The Squatter and the Don. Hailed as “the first published narrative in English from the perspective of the conquered Mexican population” (Beatrice Pita), the novel tells how Americans steal Spanish and Mexican land grants from their rightful owners. Since she was a woman and a Latina, de Burton had to use a pseudonym. She chose “C. Loyal” — “loyal citizen.”

True to her word, Foltz had a reporter interview de Burton the day the warning came out.

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Comments

Was just going to browse this, but found it too riveting to stop until I got to the end - fascinating tales of one of our city's early press wars. I chuckled out loud at nearly every one of Foltz's witty - and increasingly acerbic - quotes, especially this from her farewell column in the Bee, with its one-fingered "salute" to her corrupted competitors in the paper news biz: “The editor who would avoid clashing with the opinions of others must write platitudes merely...we did not care to enter a field already so admirably filled.”

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