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Guide to the James H. Barry Papers, 1889-1957 (bulk 1906-1927)
BANC MSS 98/186 c  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: James H. Barry papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1889-1957
    Date (bulk): (bulk 1906-1927)
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 98/186 c
    Creator: Barry, James H. (James Henry), 1855-1927
    Extent: Number of containers: 19 boxes, 1 carton, 2 oversize folders Linear feet: 8.95
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Abstract: The James H. Barry Papers consists principally of Barry's general and family correspondence from 1906 to his death in 1927, along with a small amount of his writings and personal papers. The bulk of the Barry's correspondence relates to his newspaper, The Star, although the line between friends, writers and political associates is often indistinguishable.
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the appropriate curator or the Head of Public Services for forwarding. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], James H. Barry papers, BANC MSS 98/186 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Separated Material

    Photographs transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Barry, James H. (James Henry), 1855-1927--Correspondence.
    Tompkins, E. C., Mrs.--Correspondence.
    McClatchy, Charles K. (Charles Kenny), 1858-1936--Correspondence.
    Reedy, William Marion, 1862-1920--Correspondence.
    Lane, Franklin K.--Correspondence.
    Macarthur, Walter, 1862-1944--Correspondence.
    Phelan, James D. (James Duval), 1861-1930--Correspondence.
    Kent, William, 1864-1928--Correspondence.
    Eggleston, William Green, 1859-1937--Correspondence.
    Kiefer, Daniel, 1856-1923--Correspondence.
    Brown, James R.--Correspondence.
    Goldman, Emma, 1869-1940--Correspondence.
    Gompers, Samuel, 1850-1924--Correspondence.
    Barry family--Correspondence.
    Burbank, Luther, 1849-1926--Correspondence.
    Drury, Wells, 1851-1932--Correspondence.
    Sutherland, Howard V. (Howard Vigne), b. 1868--Correspondence.
    James H. Barry Co.--Archives.
    Democratic Party (Calif.).
    Progressive Party (1912).
    Star (San Francisco, Calif. : 1897). Star (San Francisco, Calif. : 1916).
    Single tax--History.
    Civil rights--United States--History--20th century.
    Labor movement--California--History.
    Newspaper publishing--California--San Francisco.
    Publishers and publishing--California--San Francisco--History.
    Newspaper publishing--California--San Francisco--History.
    California--Politics and government--Public opinion.
    United States--Politics and government--Public opinion.
    James H. Barry Co.

    Administrative Information


    The James H. Barry Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by William H. Barry, Jr., via Professor Emeritus J. B. Neilands, on May 14, 1998.

    Biographical Information

    James Henry Barry was born on February 15, 1856 in New York City to Mary Ann Harris Barry and William Barry. In 1859, his parents came to California via the Isthmus of Panama, but his mother died in 1862, leaving five young children. His father then married his sister-in-law, Mrs. Fischer, and together they had two more children before his death in 1870. The second Mrs. Barry raised the children, and lived until 1910.
    James H. Barry attended San Francisco grammer school until obliged to join the work force at age 12, although he attended night school and studied privately. He worked in the composing room of a general book and job printing office. After 10 years he became a master printer, and embarked on his own business without any capital. His business prospered and in 1904 was incorporated as the James H. Barry Company. The company's plant, at the corner of Montgomery and Sacramento Sreets, was totally destroyed in the fire started by the 1906 earthquake. Barry began printing in Berkeley two days later, and in six weeks returned to San Francisco to a newly erected corrugated iron building on Leavenworth St. near the old City Hall.
    In 1884, Barry founded the Star, a weekly journal published by him until its suspension in 1921. The paper was conceived for and consecreated to the fight against corruption in government, extremely rampant at the time of its inauguration, especially in the judiciary. Every effort was made to crush Barry's paper, and his life was threatened more than once. Barry had some libel suits to defend in unfriendly courts, which brought financial problems, but he always won, successfully backing up his accusations and swaying public opinion so that no judge or jury would convict him.
    Barry was among the first and most ardent supporters of the Australian secret ballot, as well as the initiative, referendum and recall measures. He advocated public ownership of utilities such as the water supply and street railroads. He sounded the alarm against an undercover and secret early renewal of the franchise of the Geary Street Railroad, and fought for public ownership of it. This achievement was the foundation for San Francisco's Municipal Railway System.
    Barry was a supporter of the 8-hour day for labor, and unilaterially implemented it at his business years before the Typographical Union demanded it. He also supported and adopted the Saturday half-holiday and the "forty-four hour week," and was an early advocate of the doctrines of Henry George and the "Single-Tax" movement.
    Barry ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in 1898. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson appointed him Naval Officer of Customs at San Francisco, an office he held until December 1921. He received the nickname of "Commodore" at that time, fitting since the original Commodore Barry of American Revolutionary War fame was an ancestor.
    Barry married Nellie V. Barnum of Utica, New York on January 11, 1883. Her father, Henry Barnum, an editorial writer for the Utica Observer, was at one time editor of the Pacific Rural Press. The Barry's had three children: Edith Barry Walthew, William Henry Barry, and James Milne Barry. In August 1925, returning from a European vacation on the liner Franconia, Barry slipped and fell while disembarking and seriously broke his leg. He died on August 20, 1927.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The James H. Barry Papers consists principally of Barry's general and family correspondence from 1906 to his death in 1927, along with a small amount of his writings and personal papers.
    The bulk of the Barry's correspondence relates to his newspaper, The Star, although the line between friends, writers and political associates is often indistinguishable. Among the regular correspondents with Barry were contributors to The Star, such as Mrs. E. C. Tompkins. Barry maintained close touch with C. K. McClatchy of the Sacramento Bee, and other progressive editors around the country, such as William Marion Reedy in St. Louis. Also included here are many letters and testimonies sent by subscribers in response to an appeal from Barry and his Circulation Manager, James Murray, to reestablish accounting records and begin collecting payments after the Barry Press and all its records were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire.
    Barry was deeply committed to democratic principles, and strongly supported the Democratic Party, especially Woodrow Wilson. He was a close associate of a number of officials at Cabinet rank or close to it, especially Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, and Walter MacArthur of the Dept. of Commerce, as well as elected officials, including Senator James D. Phelan from California. Barry's devotion to the Democratic Party prevented him from endorsing progressives outside the party; he steadily supported independent San Francisco Congressman William Kent, and worked to persuade the Democrats not to oppose Kent's reelection bids. The extensive correspondence between the two sheds light on political strategy uniting progressives during the first two decades of the century. Barry's progressive ideas included support of the "Single-Tax"and his correspondence with its allies and leaders, such as William Green Eggleston, Daniel Kiefer and James R. Brown, shows factions divide as disagreements about strategy sapped that movement of much of its strength. Barry's reputation for broad-minded support for the civil rights of others whose ideas might differ from his own, such as Emma Goldman, earned him the attention of illustrious visitors to San Francisco, including Helen Keller. A friend of labor, Barry was a regular correspondent of Samuel Gompers, and many local labor leaders. His reputation as an honest crusader caused many individuals seeking redress to write to him. His espousal of parole for Abraham Ruef, convicted of bribery, enhanced his reputation as a man who followed his conscience. Especially after his selection for the post of Naval Officer of Customs (in reward for his loyalty to the Democratic Party), Barry was the target of many requests that he use his influence with contacts in Washington and elsewhere.
    Barry was active in civic and social life in San Francisco. His "Good Cheer Dinners," which took place just before New Year's Eve, were festive affairs with speeches and humorous songs. The guest lists show the presence of prominent San Franciscans in addition to friends and family. Barry was often a speaker for organizations such as the Sailor's Union of the Pacific. He was in close touch with Mayor Rolph, and was a member of the Commonwealth Club and other social and political organizations.
    Barry was close to his family throughout his life, and correspondence with most of his siblings and their families, many whom lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, reveals a generous and affectionate man. He corresponded extensively with his son, James M. Barry, an engineer in Alabama, and often addressed political issues of the day. Because his other son, William H. Barry, joined him at the Barry Press (and later became manager) correspondence between them is less extensive. Correspondence with daughter, Edith Barry Walthew, who was unmarried and apparently living at home during most of the period covered by the collection, is limited to vacation correspondence.