The San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle was founded by teenage brothers Charles and Michael De Young who published the first issue January 16, 1865. The paper began as a small daily theatrical advertising sheet consisting of four pages. Novelty, sensation and scandal were the hallmarks of the paper in its early years. Biographer William Secrest states, "The De Young brothers were indeed a feisty crowd and in the early days they scratched, clawed, and shot their way to the top of their profession in the rowdiest city on the Pacific Slope" (California Feuds, p. 91). And indeed, Charles De Young was assassinated in his office April 23, 1880, the result of a scandalous newspaper feud.
In the fall of 1865 and the early part of 1866, Clemens served as a San Francisco correspondent for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. He often wrote his dispatches from the Dramatic Chronicle offices. In a typescript memoir by Michael De Young (which is now held by the University of California at Berkeley's Bancroft Library) he recalled that Sam Clemens was one of the Bohemian writers who often hung around the newspaper's office and contributed to the Dramatic Chronicle though he had no regular salary. On October 19 Clemens wrote his brother Orion, "the Dramatic Chronicle pays me $ -- or rather will begin to pay me, next week -- $40 a month for dramatic criticisms. Same wages I got on the Call, & more agreeable & less laborious work."
At the time Clemens wrote for the Dramatic Chronicle, it boasted a daily circulation of 6,000 and was distributed free of charge. An editorial cartoon published on the first anniversary of the Chronicle's launch featured the Chronicle as an infant in a cradle taking on the other San Francisco newspapers. The Bulletin was featured as a guard dog; the Alta as an old grandma looking on in horror; the Examiner and Flag as serpents; and the "little Call" as a fence straddler afraid to take a position on any issue.
"The Infant Hercules," San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle, January 16, 1866, p. 3.
Almost all of Clemens's contributions to the Dramatic Chronicle are unsigned and attributing them to Clemens involves a risk of error. Neither the De Young brothers nor Clemens exercised restraint when lampooning their targets. However, scholars and researchers have identified a number of brief unsigned items that appeared in the Dramatic Chronicle with a high degree of confidence that these are the work of Clemens. A number of these were reprinted in Early Tales & Sketches, Volume 2, 1864 - 1865 (University of California Press, 1981). Other items are included in this collection that have not been previously republished because they have the potential to be the work of Clemens and are deserving of further research and consideration.
In many of these items Clemens criticized poor writing and reporting by other newspapers around the San Franciso area. He took particular aim at the San Francisco Daily Morning Call, a paper from which he had been dismissed. He often criticized San Francisco Alta reporter Albert S. Evans who wrote under the pen name of Fitz Smythe -- a man for whom Clemens harbored true animosity. In order to understand many of Clemens's comments in the Dramatic Chronicle it helps to know more about his ongoing feud Evans. Items in the Chronicle attributed to Clemens become less frequent after January 1866 and it seems apparent the De Young brothers were not certain of his whereabouts. "Mark Twain" himself becomes the object of news items in February when the Dramatic Chronicle reported that Fitz Smythe was making physical threats against Clemens and that the police were seeking an opportunity to arrest Clemens. The Chronicle ran a short item advising "Mark Twain" to leave the state, implying it was for his own safety. Samuel Clemens left California on March 7, 1866 and traveled to the Sandwich Islands as a reporter for the Sacramento Daily Union.
May 26, 1865 - The Wickedness of the Police