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When the Union-Tribune had no publisher

The Spreckels-Copley gap

The Spreckels estate was the legal owner (of the Union and the Trib) until Col. Ira Copley bought them in 1928. - Image by Rick Geary
The Spreckels estate was the legal owner (of the Union and the Trib) until Col. Ira Copley bought them in 1928.

Dear Matthew Alice: On the editorial page of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the paper lists the names of its publishers, past and present. However, between John D. Spreckels (publisher, 1890-1926) and Col. Ira Copley (publisher, 1928-1947), there's a two-year gap. Who was (were) the publisher(s) during these years? — Colin Evans, San Diego

Time to bring in the deep cover squad of the Matthew Alice Library of Media History and Barbecue Sauce Genealogy. A definitive answer is pending, but your query casts doubt on more than that two-year gap in the ’20s.

The paper did not drift aimlessly for those blank years. The man in charge of operations, the tough, powerful editor-in-chief and general manager, was James MacMuIlen. He’d worked for a Spreckels paper in San Francisco and moved to the Union 1899. (Crouched behind a safe in his San Francisco newspaper office, MacMuIlen once held angry reader Wyatt Earp at bay with a rifle.) By today’s standards, according to my U-T source, MacMuIlen might be considered a near equal to the “publisher.” John and Adolph Spreckels owned the paper, though their business interests were so far flung, they may not have been too much involved with it after a while. They fully trusted MacMuIlen to boost their civic interests editorially.

Adolph died in 1924; John died in June of 1926. The Spreckels estate was the legal owner (of the Union and the Trib) until Col. Ira Copley bought them in January of 1928. MacMuIlen remained at his post until his death in 1933. The Spreckels brothers were San Franciscans, and their heirs were more interested in cash and the society life up north, so they were thrilled to see Colonel Copley and his checkbook walk in the door. Anyway, MacMuIlen was still running the show.

My U-T mole suggests that more digging must be done to figure out who could truly be considered the publisher during the Spreckelses’ tenure. Perhaps a masthead change is in order. We’ll keep you posted.

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The Spreckels estate was the legal owner (of the Union and the Trib) until Col. Ira Copley bought them in 1928. - Image by Rick Geary
The Spreckels estate was the legal owner (of the Union and the Trib) until Col. Ira Copley bought them in 1928.

Dear Matthew Alice: On the editorial page of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the paper lists the names of its publishers, past and present. However, between John D. Spreckels (publisher, 1890-1926) and Col. Ira Copley (publisher, 1928-1947), there's a two-year gap. Who was (were) the publisher(s) during these years? — Colin Evans, San Diego

Time to bring in the deep cover squad of the Matthew Alice Library of Media History and Barbecue Sauce Genealogy. A definitive answer is pending, but your query casts doubt on more than that two-year gap in the ’20s.

The paper did not drift aimlessly for those blank years. The man in charge of operations, the tough, powerful editor-in-chief and general manager, was James MacMuIlen. He’d worked for a Spreckels paper in San Francisco and moved to the Union 1899. (Crouched behind a safe in his San Francisco newspaper office, MacMuIlen once held angry reader Wyatt Earp at bay with a rifle.) By today’s standards, according to my U-T source, MacMuIlen might be considered a near equal to the “publisher.” John and Adolph Spreckels owned the paper, though their business interests were so far flung, they may not have been too much involved with it after a while. They fully trusted MacMuIlen to boost their civic interests editorially.

Adolph died in 1924; John died in June of 1926. The Spreckels estate was the legal owner (of the Union and the Trib) until Col. Ira Copley bought them in January of 1928. MacMuIlen remained at his post until his death in 1933. The Spreckels brothers were San Franciscans, and their heirs were more interested in cash and the society life up north, so they were thrilled to see Colonel Copley and his checkbook walk in the door. Anyway, MacMuIlen was still running the show.

My U-T mole suggests that more digging must be done to figure out who could truly be considered the publisher during the Spreckelses’ tenure. Perhaps a masthead change is in order. We’ll keep you posted.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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