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Newspaper Mirror of the Times (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1857-1862

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About Mirror of the Times (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1857-1862

The Mirror of the Times was the first African American newspaper published in California. It was one of the first papers to come out of the first Colored Conventions in California. The paper was published in San Francisco, California most likely in October 1856 between the First State Convention of the Colored Citizens in November 1855 and the Second Annual Convention of the Colored Citizens in December 1856. African American editor Jonas Holland Townsend became involved with the California Colored Conventions after migrating West during the Gold Rush. He was either born in Philadelphia or New York and became involved in New York Colored Conventions in the 1840s. During his time on the East Coast, he attempted a degree at Waterville College from 1845-1848 (now known as Colby College). He also edited and published the Hyperion, a journal, which only lasted for a month before Townsend went West.

By the mid-1850s, Townsend had established himself as a political and cultural leader in San Francisco, CA. Townsend became involved in state conventions organized to fight inequalities against African Americans in the state. These conventions particularly focused on the California Testimony and Witness laws. These laws denied the right to testimony for African Americans in court cases involving White citizens. Townsend was a delegate at the First State Convention where they created a State Executive Committee to handle press matters. The delegates wanted their voices heard by the state legislature but also wanted to educate and mobilize their constituents.

At and after the convention in 1856, the delegates raised funds for the Mirror of the Times and appointed Townsend and W. H. Newby as editors. W. H. Hall, C. M. Wilson, J. Freeman, and Thomas Duff became the paper’s corresponding editors. The paper was supported by a host of subscription agents across the state and a publication board. African American women in San Francisco and Sacramento created organizations and efforts to aid the paper. The newspaper would serve as “the State Organ of the colored people of California” with the prospectus “that as a free and intelligent people, we should occupy in common with our white fellow-citizens; showing beyond a doubt, that we possess talent, industry and enterprise in our ranks.”

Published weekly, the masthead of the four-page, five-columned Mirror of the Times declared that it was “devoted to Freedom, Morality, Industry & Intelligence among all classes.” It followed the motto, “Truth, Crushed to Earth, Will Rise Again.” Along with numerous literary and poetic pieces, the paper reported local, state, and regional news, especially local and regional gatherings and events of California African Americans. Groups like the Young Men’s Repeal Union and the Ladies of the City of Marysville, delegates from local conventions in Stockton and Volcanoeville, and numerous local Masonic lodges advertised events. These groups also published proceedings, and they sought to support the paper financially. The paper printed opinion pieces on topics such as the abolition of slavery and showed how the African American communities organized and raised funds against the institution of slavery. The Mirror of the Times also contained a variety of advertisements from local African American and White owned businesses.

Despite support from these communities, the newspaper was in trouble in 1857. Delegates met again in San Francisco in October 1857 and proposed plans to sustain the paper. By December 12, 1857, Duff reflected on this convention in the paper’s last known issue. He hoped, with new interest in the paper, “we shall not have to deplore the loss of the only journal devoted to our interest.” His wish was not fulfilled. The paper did not resume publication.  By 1858, some members of the publication board had relocated outside of California. Townsend went back East to New York where he worked briefly in the New York Customs House and then migrated to Brazoria, Texas in the 1870s and died in 1872.

Note: A portion of the issues digitized for this newspaper were microfilmed as part of the Miscellaneous Negro newspapers microfilm collection, a 12-reel collection containing issues of African American newspapers published in the U.S. throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Creation of the microfilm project was sponsored by the Committee on Negro Studies of the American Council of Learned Societies in 1947. For more information on the microfilm collection, see: Negro Newspapers on Microfilm, a Selected List (Library of Congress), published in 1953. While this collection contains selections from more than 150 U.S. newspapers titles, for further coverage, view a complete list of all digitized African American titles available in the Chronicling America collection.

Provided By: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

About this Newspaper


  • Mirror of the Times (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1857-1862

Dates of Publication

  • 1857-1862

Created / Published

  • San Francisco [Calif.] : State Executive Committee


  • -  African Americans--California--San Francisco--Newspapers
  • -  San Francisco (Calif.)--Newspapers
  • -  African Americans
  • -  California--San Francisco
  • -  United States--California--San Francisco--San Francisco


  • Periodicals
  • Newspapers
  • Electronic journals


  • -  Weekly
  • -  Began in 1857; ceased in 1862.
  • -  Available on microfilm from the Library of Congress, Photoduplication Service.
  • -  Description based on: Vol. 1, no. 42 (Aug. 22, 1857).
  • -  Pacific appeal (DLC)sn 83027099 (OCoLC)2265603


  • v.

Call Number/Physical Location

  • Newspaper

Library of Congress Control Number

  • sn83027100

OCLC Number

  • 10103020

ISSN Number

  • 2995-6455

Succeeding Titles

Additional Metadata Formats


Rights & Access

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Mirror of the Times San Francisco Calif. -1862. (San Francisco, CA), Jan. 1 1857.

APA citation style:

(1857, January 1) Mirror of the Times San Francisco Calif. -1862. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Mirror of the Times San Francisco Calif. -1862. (San Francisco, CA) 1 Jan. 1857. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,