50 Features of Special Collections: The Sacramento Union Records

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The  Sacramento Union was a daily newspaper founded in 1851 in Sacramento, California. It was the oldest daily newspaper west of the Mississippi River before it closed its doors after 143 years in January 1994. For further information about the history of the paper, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sacramento_Union

The Union’s early years are also recognized for its famous contributors who included Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and Dan De Quille. A large bronze of Mark Twain was donated along with the archives. See blog post: Mark Twain Bronze Scuplture

In 2000 a back run of hard copy newspapers and the surviving company archives, including a newspaper clipping subject file and photographs, were donated to UC Davis library. Researchers should know that to access the newspaper articles, they will be referred to microfilm versions of the Sacramento Union available in California libraries as the original newspapers are held in preservation storage.

The Sacramento Union Records at UC Davis do not include the early years, but provide a wealth of information for researchers interested in the Sacramento region in the last quarter of the 20th century. The collection contains some accounting and business records of the newspaper including records that cover the last eighteen months of the newspaper’s struggle to survive. The photograph files run from 1966 to 1994. Many can be accessed back to their articles by the date of the newspaper itself. Possibly one or two photographs were published but a number of images might have been taken by a photographer on his scheduled assignment and not published but are to be found here in negative film strips. Of particular interest are the notes by the editor to the photographer on the photograph file envelopes, indicating exactly what should be photographed and providing insightful notes on the emphasis. These provide an interesting view of photo-journalism.

The clipping files provide subject access for 1972 through 1992. Dates are stamped on most of the clippings and would also be a guide back to the paper. Clippings are arranged alphabetically by subject and evident in the files are the many topics of interest in a city’s history including national and state news, politics, murders, accidents, fires, visiting VIPs, and social and theater and art events.

Digital versions of the Union are available via the California Newspaper Project and the Library of Congress. The California Newspaper Project has digitized the Sacramento Daily Union for 1851-1899. Search for articles and browse available issues via their website. The Library of Congress Chronicling America Collection has digitized the Sacramento Daily Record-Union for 1880-1891 and the Record-Union for 1891-1899.

Shields Library holds microfilm of the Union for the years 1851-1854; 1856-1864 and 1869-1994.