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McClatchy Company records
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Administrative History
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: McClatchy Company records
    Date Range: 1857-2002 inclusive
    Date (bulk): 1923-1970 bulk
    Accession Number: MS0026
    Collector: Sacramento Bee

    2100 Q Street

    Sacramento, CA 95852

    (916) 321-1000
    Extent: 33 boxes ( 41.25 linear feet) of archival material, 166 oversized documents, 44 blueprints, 319 oversized volumes, 40 photographic prints, 2 oversized photographic prints, 23 framed or mounted photographic prints, 12 photographic negatives, 287 35 millimeter photographic negatives, 34 35 millimeter photographic slides, 2 oversized transparencies, 29 5 Inch Audio Reel Tapes, 52 7 Inch Audio Reel Tapes, 2 10 Inch Audio Reel Tapes, 138 Audio Cassette Tapes, 30 Videotape Reels (1 Inch Tape), 14 Videotape Reels (2 Inch Tape), 56 Umatic Video Cassettes (8 1/2 Inch Cartridges), 37 Umatic Video Cassettes, (7 1/4 Inch Cartridges), 59 VHS Video Cassettes, 3 Betamax Video Cassettes, 2 8 Millimeter Film Reels, 16 16 Millimeter Film Reels, 2 35 Millimeter Film Reels, and 62 artifacts
    Repository: Center for Sacramento History
    551 Sequoia Pacific Blvd.
    Sacramento, California, 95814
    Location: See container list for exact location of materials.
    Abstract: The McClatchy Company records are composed of material transferred to the Center for Sacramento History in August 2005 from the basement vault of the Sacramento Bee's headquarters. The collection consists primarily of material related to the operations of the McClatchy Newspapers, especially those of the Sacramento Bee, and the numerous broadcasting endeavors of the McClatchy Company, along with materials concerning the McClatchy family, as well as the California Central Valley region.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Other Materials

    Materials related to those in the McClatchy Company records may be found in the following collections at the Center for Sacramento History: Eleanor McClatchy Collection (1982/004, 1982/005, 1982/006); Sacramento Bee Collection (1983/001); J. Brown Maloney Collection (1986/119): and the Sacramento Typographical Union #46 Collection (1985/017).

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to Center for Sacramento History for private collections. All requests to publish or quote from private manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Center for Sacramento History as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the patron. No permission is necessary to publish or quote from records.

    Preferred citation

    [Identification of item], McClatchy Company records, MS0026, Center for Sacramento History, Sacramento, CA.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated by from the McClatchy Company to the Center for Sacramento History in 2005.

    Processing History

    Processed by David Uhlich, 2005. Finding aid prepared using DACS by David Uhlich, 2005-06. Machine-readable finding aid created by David Uhlich, 2006. Finding aid updated by Sean Heyliger in 2019 to update title and collection MS #, and series.

    Administrative History

    The McClatchy Company is a prominent newspaper and internet publisher headquartered in Sacramento, California. Once also the owner of numerous radio and television stations, the McClatchy Company currently owns 32 daily and 17 community newspapers, as well as its internet subsidiary, McClatchy Interactive. The McClatchy Company also has interests in Newsprint Ventures, Inc., which operates the Ponderay Newsprint Company, and a regional wire service, the Scripps-McClatchy Western News Service. While it has been associated with the same family for nearly 150 years, the McClatchy Company is a publicly-traded corporation, and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MNI.
    Although its first official incarnation, James McClatchy and Co., was not formed until 1872, the roots of the McClatchy Company lie in the formation of Sacramento's Daily Bee in 1857. First published on February 3, 1857 as a morning newspaper, the Daily Bee was founded by L.C. Chandler, L.P. Davis, John Church, and W.H. Tobey, and initially edited by John Rollin Ridge. Less than three months later, on April 6, 1857, the Daily Bee became an evening newspaper, although it did not adopt the Evening Bee moniker until December 1890; the Evening Bee was not re-named the Sacramento Bee until March 1908. In July of 1857, Ridge retired from the Daily Bee, and James McClatchy, a writer for the paper whose family name would henceforth be associated with the Bee, took over as the newspaper's editor.
    A native of Ireland, James McClatchy (1824-1883) immigrated to the United States in 1840, and spent the next eight years in New York, where he became a member of the editorial staff of Horace Greeley's New York Tribune. McClatchy moved west to Sacramento in 1849 (reportedly as a correspondent for the Tribune) and prior to working for the Daily Bee had been associated with no less than six other area newspapers: the Placer Times, the Sacramento Transcript, the Settlers and Miners Tribune, the Californian, the Daily Democratic State Journal, and the Daily Times. In 1866, McClatchy became a part owner of the Daily Bee; by 1872, he was majority owner of the newspaper. Aside from a two year hiatus to serve as Sheriff of Sacramento, McClatchy served as editor for the Bee until his death in 1883.
    After his death, James McClatchy's widow, Charlotte McClatchy (1840-1916), bought out the only remaining partner in the Bee, John Francis Sheehan, in 1884, giving her full ownership of the newspaper; she then turned over the newspaper's operations to her two sons, Charles Kenny (C.K.) and Valentine Stuart (V.S.) McClatchy. The McClatchy sons subsequently divided responsibilities at the newspaper in such a way that V.S. (1857-1938) became publisher of the newspaper, in charge of all its financial matters, and his younger brother C.K. (1858-1936), who at the time of his father's death had already been working at the Bee for eight years, became the newspaper's editor. This arrangement lasted for nearly forty years, until C.K. bought out his brother in 1923 to become sole owner of the newspaper.
    Many changes came about at the Bee during the years of the McClatchy brothers' partnership, including the pair of revisions to the newspaper's title mentioned previously. In what was to be the first of many corporate name changes, subsidiary formations, and mergers, the James McClatchy Co. was formed in 1898 for the purpose of owning title to the new Bee building at 911 7th Street, which was completed in 1901. The McClatchy brothers' partnership also oversaw the licensing and operation of the company's first radio station from 1921-1922, the short-lived KVQ of Sacramento. In addition, the McClatchy Company started its second newspaper, the Fresno Bee, in October 1922. Despite these advancements, it was agreed that the partnership would be dissolved though a blind auction, with C.K., after outbidding his brother, assuming control of the company in September 1923.
    Already well-known for his editorial capacity, including his widely-read "Private Thinks" columns that were later collected in a single volume, C.K.'s tenure as sole owner of the McClatchy Company was also marked by the perhaps the peak of its expansion and influence. In collaboration with his son, Carlos (1892-1933), C.K. further extended the company's budding newspaper conglomeration, as well as making a reappearance in the broadcasting industry. Over a span of six years, the McClatchy Company took over operations of five radio stations: KFBK, Sacramento and KMJ, Fresno in 1925; KWG, Stockton and KERN, Bakersfield in 1930; and KOH, Reno in 1931. The company also began operating its third newspaper, the Modesto News-Herald, in August 1927, changing its name to the Modesto Bee in July 1933.
    Although the company was thriving, the death of Carlos--who was slated to succeed C.K. as head of the McClatchy Company--in 1933 brought about some uncertainty concerning its future leadership. These uncertainties were compounded over the next few years by C.K.'s age and failing health. Lacking another family member capable of taking over the helm, C.K. decided to enlist his youngest daughter, Eleanor (1895-1980), a playwright and theatre producer living in New York; although Eleanor at first resisted the proposal, when her father took ill in 1936, she acquiesced. By this time, C.K. had also hand-chosen Walter P. Jones as his successor as editor of the newspapers, marking the first time in nearly eighty years that a McClatchy did not perform these duties. When C.K. died in April 1936, Eleanor became president of the McClatchy Company, a position that she held for over forty years, ending in 1978.
    Although not experienced in the newspaper business, Eleanor proved to be an adept leader for the company, loyal to both her father's editorial principles and her brother's interest in expansion into other media. Within months of C.K.'s death, the McClatchy Broadcasting Company was founded to further organize the company's burgeoning radio business; although the broadcasting company would be absorbed by McClatchy Newspapers in 1957, its tenure as administrator of the company's broadcasting interests would see the company's growth into FM radio with the launches of KFBK-FM in 1947, KERN-FM and KBEE-FM in 1948, and KMJ-FM in 1949. The McClatchy Broadcasting Company also directed the purchase of another AM radio station in Modesto, KBOX, which subsequently had its call letters changed to KBEE, and the company's initial foray into television with the founding of KMJ-TV in 1953; later, in 1964, the McClatchy Company bought a second television station, KOVR in Sacramento. In addition to these developments, in 1950 the Sacramento Bee began construction of a new building at the corner of Q and 21st Streets, which was also to serve as the McClatchy Company's headquarters.
    With the death of Walter Jones in 1974, Eleanor McClatchy returned to within the family ranks for a successor, selecting her nephew (Carlos' son), C.K. (1927-1989), as the new editor of the newspapers. Four years later, in 1978, Eleanor's health began to fail, and the younger C.K. took over as president of the McClatchy Company. In an interesting parallel to events nearly one hundred years prior (following James McClatchy's death), C.K.'s younger brother, also named James (1920-2006), became the chairman of the board of directors for the McClatchy Company in 1980.
    Although most of the McClatchy Broadcasting Company's interests, as well as KOVR, remained with the company, the McClatchy Company's flagship newspaper chain remained at the same number when C.K. took over as it had for over fifty years. Over the next ten years, C.K. would drastically alter the company's emphasis, selling off all of its remaining broadcasting interests and doubling the number of newspapers it published: in 1979, the McClatchy Company bought the Anchorage Daily News and Washington State's Tri-City Herald; in 1986, the company purchased Tacoma, Washington's News Tribune. C.K. also presided over the McClatchy Company's transition into a publicly-traded company in 1988.
    In 1989, C.K. passed away suddenly. Although his brother, James, had already been named the McClatchy Company's publisher in 1987, for the first time in company history a person outside the McClatchy family, Erwin Potts, became head of the company. Under Potts' direction, the company extended the reach of its newspaper chain into the southern states, buying newspapers in North Carolina and South Carolina. After Potts retirement in 1996, the current leader of the company, Gary Pruitt, took over; in the years since Pruitt's takeover, the company has purchased newspapers in Minnesota and California, as well as internet publishing companies. Despite his family's more limited involvement in the company of late, James McClatchy continued to serve as publisher of the McClatchy Company until his death in 2006. The company' headquarters remain in Sacramento at 2100 Q Street, the same location as its flagship newspaper, the Sacramento Bee. remaining in Sacramento, at 2100 Q Street.

    Scope and Content

    The McClatchy Company records are composed of materials transferred to the Center for Sacramento History in August 2005 from the basement vault of the Sacramento Bee's headquarters; prior to transfer, these materials were inventoried and appraised as part of a cooperative project between the Sacramento Bee and SAMCC during the spring of 2005. The collection encompasses a wide body of materials, ranging from over forty linear feet of archival material documenting company activities throughout the 20th Century to 288 bound newspaper volumes covering the first 73 years of publication for the Sacramento Bee in nearly its entirety; a broad array of audiovisual materials and artifacts, including various audio and video tapes of broadcast advertising for the company, a 35 millimeter film reel documenting an interview with former Chief Justice Earl Warren (1891-1974) in its original shipping container, printing press slugs, and other company memorabilia round out its diverse contents. The bulk of the McClatchy Newspapers and Broadcasting Collection is comprised of materials related to the operations of the McClatchy Newspapers, especially those of the Sacramento Bee, and the numerous broadcasting endeavors of the McClatchy Company during the first half of the 20th century; also present are materials concerning the McClatchy family and California's Central Valley region. Prominent in the material related to the newspapers and broadcast stations are historical documents and publications regarding the company's day-to-day operations, its dealings with its employees, as well as associated governmental agencies, and how it marketed itself to the general public, including the use of logos designed specifically for the company's ventures by Walt Disney (1901-66); in addition, these materials detail the company's buildings and equipment, as well as those of competing newspapers, and include various corporate stock and financial records. Also prominent in the collection are numerous corporate and family histories, materials documenting company policies and milestones, such as the script for its for its first television broadcast at KMJ-TV, as well as nearly thirty years of correspondence between long-time Sacramento Bee editor, C.K. McClatchy, and his close personal friend, former California Governor and Senator, Hiram Johnson (1866-1945).


    The McClatchy Newspapers and Broadcasting Collection is subdivided into eight series:

    Indexing Terms

    Personal Names

    Johnson, Hiram
    McClatchy, C.K.
    McClatchy, Eleanor

    Corporate Names

    Fresno Bee
    McClatchy Broadcasting
    McClatchy Newspapers
    Modesto Bee
    Republican Party (U.S.: 1854- )
    Sacramento Bee
    Sacramento Typographical Union #46
    United States. Federal Communications Commission


    Advertising, Newspaper
    Collective labor agreements--Newspapers
    Collective labor agreements--Radio broadcasting
    Fresno (Calif.)--Newspapers
    Labor unions and mass media--United States--History
    Newspaper buildings
    Newspaper layout and typography
    Newspaper presses
    Progressive movement, 1900-1920--efforts to reform America's new industrial society
    Radio advertising--United States--History
    Radio--Equipment and supplies
    Radio--Law and legislation--United States--History--20th century
    Radio operators--California
    Sacramento (Calif.)--History
    Sacramento (Calif.)--Newspapers