Wireless Newspaper, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island

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Wireless Newspaper, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island was first published (Volume 1, No. 1) on March 25, 1903 by the Los Angeles Times in an edition of 1000 copies. A second edition had to be printed. Hotel arrivels were announced for the Metropole, Grand View, Bay View, Windsor and Pacific Hotel. Newspaperman, Samue Jay Mathes (c. 1849-1927) was its editor. Mathes came to Los Angeles in 1875 and first took a job with the Los Angeles Herald for three or four years. In 1881-1882 he directed the editorial policies of the newly established Los Angeles Daily Times. When he moved to Santa Catalina Island, Mathes became a correspondent for the Times, establishing the Wireless in 1903. The Wireless office was destroyed in the Avalon fire of 1915. It is said the newspaper was anti-Santa Catalina Island Company, and therefore the Bannings backed the formation of The Wireless as a more company-friendly venue. Prior to The Wireless in 1903, two short-lived newspaper attempts had come and gone:

  • Jewfish (1889), a weekly published by C. A. Sumner
  • Avalon Caruso (1893)

A third attempt at a paper, Catalina Daily Mirror (1908), also failed.

In the News~

March 26, 1903 [LAT]: “The only daily newspaper in the world publishing sure-enough dispatches transmitted by wireless telegraph had its birth yesterday morning at Avalon, Santa Catalina Island. The event is a unique on e in the history of journalism and marks the beginning of an epoch in the dissemination of news in isolated places. The name of the infant journal is ‘The Wireless,’ appropriately so called on account of the method by which it receives the news of the busy world. The unique sheet begins its career in the shape of a three-column folio, the exact size of the pages being 11 x 8 inches. In this convenient form is crowded, in addition to the local news of Avalon, an epitome of the local and general news appreaing simultaneously in the Los Angeles Times, thus giving the residents of the island and visitors to its lovely shores a comprehensive synopsis of all the principal news of the world, hours before the arrival of the steamer from the mainland with the Los Angeles Morning Times enterprise… The manager of the Wireless at Avalon is S. J. Mathes, for several year past the regular correspondent of The Times at Avalon, and, by the way, one of the founders of The Times. Mr. Mathes also collects and prepares for publication the daily happenings on the island, thus giving the islanders and tourists tarrying there a spicy local paper…”

July 29, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Wireless newspaper is again to be resurrected, and will probably appear in the early part of next week.”

August 7, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. ‘The Wireless, the unique newspaper here, has started a prize contest for the most popular lady on the island this season… The prize is a diamond ring…”

August 10, 1978 [LAT]: “Avalon. …According to a booklet published by Pacific Telephone to commemorate the new service, Otto and Oswald Zahn started it all when they totes a basketful of pigeons to the end of the Avalon wharf on July 12, 1894, inaugurating the Catalina Pigeon Messenger Service. That service made possible what was probably the world’s first newspaper ‘suburban’ edition, as the Los Angeles Times started a Catalina newspaper called the Wireless, from the Los Angeles office with stories transmitted by telegraph…”

September 30, 1903 Catherine MacLean Loud notes in her diary: “The Catalina Wireless newspaper has been discontinued. It will be greatly missed.”

March 25, 1937 [TI/Avalon]: “Today marks the thirty-fourth anniversary of the establishment of the first commercial wireless station in the world — that between Santa Catalina Island and White's Point, San Pedro. No less in interest was the printing in Avalon on the same day of the first newspaper obtaining news from all parts of the world by wireless from the mainland. The system of wireless telegraphy used was that of the Pacific Wireless Telegraph Company, having no connection whatever with the Marconi system. In fact, the first Marconi wireless service was not established until one year later, in 1904, from Poldhu and Cape Breton to the Atlantic steamships. Press dispatches were first handled by radio-telegraphy across the Atlantic in 1907. So it is established that the City of Avalon's claim for having the first commercial wireless station, and the first newspaper receiving its news by wireless, is a valid one. The newspaper referred to was 'The Wireless', and was fathered by the Los Angeles Times, with S. J. Mathes in charge of the Avalon plant. A copy of the first edition of 'The Wireless', enclosed in a gilt frame, is the valued property of Pete Lubetich, well-known Avalon resident. He is reported to have at one time refused an offer of $50 for this interesting memento of world progress. 'The Wireless' was likewise the first newspaper ever published in Avalon. The Los Angeless Sunday Times of March 23, 1924, printed a facsimilie of the first page of the first number of 'The Wireless', which Mr. Lubetich will be glad to show any person interested.”