Inside Information

The hidden story behind 120

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Hello. Today I want to call your attention to a part of the paper you very likely take no notice of on a week-to-week basis and talk with you about why it is particularly significant this week.

On the Info page, usually Page 6, we include a lot of information about the Tracy Press and the community. You will find the weather forecast for the coming week — which I brag is as least as accurate as the TV forecasters’ — along with notices about public meetings and a bunch of legal information about the newspaper that we have to put in. It’s our business address, copyright information, a list of employees and some other pieces of data.

It is this column on the left that I want to talk about. Near the top of it, right under the word “Info,” are two numbers reflecting the number of years we have continuously published and the edition within the current year. Last Friday, we rolled quietly into another year and the edition number went back to 1.

Thomas Duffy lived in Tracy for a short time, from 1897-1906, but he served as the justice of the peace and in 1898 he founded the Tracy Press. He didn’t have the newspaper very long. The first edition rolled off the press on April 2 and by the end of that year, after a devastating fire that ripped through downtown Tracy, he had sold it to Dennis. J. Looney. By all accounts, Looney was a colorful frontiersman type, and he sold the paper in 1907 — to open a saloon on Front Street. (Modern-day Sixth Street.)

The next owner also didn’t hang on to the paper very long, selling it almost immediately to two men from Oakland: Frank B. Anderson and Charles P. Fox. Anderson was the editor, and at 19 the youngest one in the state. But he too didn’t last long, leaving Tracy the following year. Fox sold the paper in 1909 to noted Tracy businessman W.P. Friedrich, who helped found the first chamber of commerce — called the Board of Trade at that time.

In 1911, the Tracy Press changed hands again and Ida Ross of Modesto, a political reformer, took over. She sold it a year later to the first long-term publisher of the Tracy Press, Henry A. Hull. Hull was an experienced newspaperman and didn’t shy away from using his paper to advocate on issues and even indulge in public shaming of residents who he felt gave a little too meanly to war bonds for World War I.

Hull would own and run the Tracy Press for the next 30 years, becoming a fixture in Tracy leadership. Several people ran the newspaper on Hull’s behalf, including C.P Button, another longtime newspaperman who was politically active, who took over in 1927 and ran it until 1941.

A young father of two joined the paper in 1939. He bought the Tracy Press four years later, starting a family dynasty that lasted almost 70 years. Harvey F. Matthews — father of Sam, whom I have the honor of working beside every day — bought the Tracy Press in 1943, and his descendants owned it until another family bought it in 2012 and hired a broadcast news producer to run the newsroom.

For 120 years, the Tracy Press has served this community. Dozens of writers, photographers and editors — including the ones I have the privilege to work with today — have faithfully chronicled the history of this community. You can read it if you wish, in thick bound books that line the walls of our library here at the paper. For 120 years, the hopes, joys and agonies of a community have been recorded for all time by men and women who are paid too little, work too hard and care too much.

So as you glance at Page 6’s in the future, take a moment to consider the numbers near the top of the left-hand column and the remarkable story hidden within them. It is history that deserves to be remembered.

If you think Executive Editor Michael Ellis Langley needs to get a life, let him know at or 830-4231.

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