Publication History

Place of Publication:  Sitka, Alaska Territory

Frequency:  Weekly (irregular)

Volume and Issue Data: Sept. 19, 1868, 1:1; Oct. 19, 1868, 1:6; Oct. 31, 1868, 1:7; Nov. 7, 1868, 1:8

Size and Format:  8 x 12 in.; two cols.; four pages; cursive pen and ink.

Editor/Publisher:  Thomas G. Murphy, aka “Barney O. Ragan” or “Regan”

Title Changes and Continuations:  The Sitka Times (Sept. 19, 1868-Nov. 7, 1868) continued as Alaska Times (printed), 1869-1870.

General Description and Notes:

Editor Murphy (“Regan”) claimed The Sitka Times was “the first paper published in Alaska.”  The “introductory” column on page two outlines the editor’s intention to publish local news and to promote the general economic development of the region:

“To day we present the Sitka Times to the citizens of  Sitka and the world at large.  It is the first attempt ever made to publish a paper in this vast land of Alaska.  The Times will be devoted to local and general news.  We shall, when we deem it practicable, discuss all question of public interest, touching the affairs about Alaska.  In Politics and Religion the Times will be neutral.  The Pacific Rail Road we are in favor of and would love to hear the scream of its whistle echoed from the peaks of Alaska, and the musical strain of humanity shouting a chorus of  ‘Let the iron horse speed along with its precious burden of emigration.’  We are strongly in favor of a civil government and strictly opposed to military rule.  Give Alaska a civil government, you may soon expect to hear of rich minerals having been fully developed by our latent industry, but not before.

“Having no ‘devil’ in our office the ‘Times‘ should be virtuous.

“As our local items will be few we shall spare no pains in giving a well defined description of all fights; recording in language of flowers the matrimonial pursuits of mankind; with the respectful details of those, whose souls have fled to the ‘spirit land'” (1:1, p. 2, cols. 1  and 2a).

The editor explained and defended the handwritten format of his paper in the first “Editorial:”

“The appearance of the ‘Times‘ being written instead of printed will perhaps cause many a laugh.  In olden times a laugh would be out of place, as written pamphlets and the town crier were the means alone employed of conveying news, as no [?] parties at that time had been established by the fair.

“To invest in the purchase of a press would incur great expense and until we see better inducements than are now offered, a press can be dispensed with, although the copying of even so small a sheet, as this is, requires much labor and some means.

“Our budget in producing such a paper is not with the view of making a fortune, but chiefly if possible to gratify the citizens of our Town and for this we shall do our best” (1:1, p. 2, col. 2)

The paper’s script is relatively large and the cursive hand is quite legible.  The front page of the first number includes a large, bold name and masthead and the rest is advertisements for Sitka businesses.  Page two is the editor’s introductory comments and the editorial.  Page three covers seven local news stories including ship arrivals and departures.  The fourth and last page is even divided between local news and advertisements.

According to Hinckley, Murphy was known by contemporaries as a “politician, lawyer, priest, editor, printer, author and poet.”  He organized early efforts to establish a civil government for the territory and was elected by a small but apparently unrepresentative group to head the new government.  Within three days a second vote removed Murphy from office.  He later became the city attorney.

Murphy eventually imported a printing press, but had insufficient money to print his newspaper.  The Sitka mayor invested the necessary funds and, on April 23, 1869, Murphy edited the first printed issue of the (retitled) Alaska Times.

Information Sources

Bibliography:  Ted C. Hinckley, The Americanization of Alaska, 1867-1897 (Palo Alto, Calif.:  Pacific Books, Publishers, 1972), 39-46; Nichols, “History of Alaska Under Rule of  the United States,” (1924), 426; James Wickersham, A Bibliography of Alaska Literature, 1724-1924 (Cordova, Ak.:  Cordova Daily Times Print, 1927), 253-254.

Locations:  Cu-B; DLC (photocopy, 1:1 only); Territorial Library-Juneau.

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