Take a look at the masthead on this week’s SUN. As is the case every week, there is a Volume and Number listed, along with the date. The Volume indicates the year of publication, relative to first issue printed; the Number shows you the particular issue during that year.
This week’s Volume is 100, the Number is 1.
With this week’s newspaper, The SUN begins its 100th year of news work in this community. The SUN has published a newspaper every week for 99 years and begins its century year with this issue.
The late David Mitchell, once the publisher and editor of The SUN, was fond of saying that, when a small-town newspaper grows as old as The SUN, it is “an institution, not just a newspaper.” In at least one respect, he was clearly right: A newspaper this old becomes a fact of public life toward which many people feel a proprietary interest. For better, or for worse.
As the custodians of the institution, it is interesting for us to visit the first issue of The SUN, to see what it’s editor, W.J. Wright, had to say about its mission and role at its birth early in the last century.
The language is very much of its time.
Wright informs his readers that, regarding the announcement of The SUN’s intentions, “like the victorious contestants in the great Saturnalia during the winter solstice of the Augustian period, who marched up to the royal booth, bowed low, received their garlands, and passed on, we march up before the public altar, bow as low as we dare with safety to our summer’s broadcloth, lift our somewhat antiquated sky piece, and outline, as best we can at this time, the policy of The SUN.”
That policy, according to Wright:
“To push every interest of Archuleta County for all it is worth.”
To “ promote the cause of any legitimate enterprise that will increase the wealth, intelligence and moral character of our people.
“To steer clear of ‘limburger politics.’”
To “reserve the right to criticize or condemn either or any political party for such activity or policy as we may deem inconsistent or out of harmony with the best interests of the people, or commend such policy or action which is good or worthy.”
To “stand for law and order and at all times be a fearless exponent of the principles of truth and justice.”
And, to “print the news, while it is news.”
What a flowery, and worthy beginning.
And, in that first issue?
A report of a man accused of stabbing a local resident, then making a jail break, then captured.
A plea for improvement of county infrastructure — specifically the creation of a standard-gauge railroad.
A school report. An article about the county teacher’s association,
A tongue-in-cheek story about a “villain,” David Lowenstein (a relative of a certain contemporary downtown businessman) who is supposedly under investigation by a special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General concerning nasty doings in the “Odorless Sock Trust.”
Community briefs, titled “Sun Beams.” Lawrence Lee killed a bobcat; the Masonic Hall is nearing completion; the Blanco Land and Cattle Co. is taking cattle to Denver, to market.
There is an obituary for Rafael Jacques, 89, “the oldest and perhaps one of the best known residents of Archuleta County.”.
The First Methodist Episcopal Church lists the week’s activities.
It was all there 99 years ago. As it is all here now: Good and bad, funny and sad, savory and unsavory.
While we no longer ascend thrones as Roman celebrants to fit laurel wreaths to our heads and trumpet our intent, we continue on, inheritors of an institution, ready to make our way through this 100th year, serving the widest span of interests in Pagosa Country.