MS 220 Douglas Gunn Papers

Summary Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection
Gunn, Douglas
Douglas Gunn Papers
MS 220
Date [inclusive]
0.25 Linear feet (1 box)
This collection contains information on Douglas Gunn who was the owner of the San Diego Union newspaper (1873-1886) and served as San Diego’s first mayor (1889-1891). It includes essays, speeches, correspondence, and information on Gunn’s business affairs.

Preferred Citation

Douglas Gunn Papers, MS 220, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

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Biographical / Historical Notes

Douglas Gunn was born in Southern Ohio in 1841 to Dr. and Mrs. Lewis C. Gunn. He had three sisters along with a brother, Chester C. Gunn. The Gunn family moved from Ohio in 1852 and settled in Sonora, California. Douglas’ father, Lewis, was involved in the newspaper business and became editor of the San Francisco Times. In 1868, the Gunn family moved to San Diego. Initially Gunn served as a reporter and printer for the San Diego Union, and in June 1873 he purchased the newspaper interest from Edward Bushyhead, becoming the seventh owner. Gunn introduced the first steam printing press to San Diego, which greatly increased printing speed and efficiency. He served as the newspaper’s owner for thirteen years, selling it in 1886.

Gunn was involved in various aspects of San Diego civic affairs. He worked to promote the railway line that linked the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe system to San Diego and purchased interest in the rail line. He wrote several literary pieces on San Diego, including a Historical Sketch of San Diego, Picturesque San Diego and San Diego Illustrated. In May, 1886, a new city charter was adopted, which organized San Diego as a city of the sixth class . In December, 1888 fifteen freeholders were elected to frame a new charter and Douglas Gunn was one of the appointees. In 1889, he was elected the first mayor under this new charter and served until 1891. He passed away in 1891 from a heart condition.

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Scope and Content

The collection contains documents related to Gunn’s involvement in the newspaper, the railroad and the municipality of San Diego. Correspondence for the San Diego Union Newpaper includes letters from Charles Nordhoff, who worked as a New York journalist. Several letters mention the politician Horace Greeley, who served as the newspaper editor for the Jeffersonian in New York. Of particular interest is the sale of interest for the San Diego Union newspaper, signed by Edward Bushyhead.

Documents related to the railroad include a promissory note dated August 13, 1880 to E.W. Morse in the amount of one hundred dollars to connect the rail line with the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. Once the railway connected to San Diego, Gunn invited various politicians and businessmen to a celebration of its completion. Correspondence declining the invitation to attend includes letters from: George Stoneman, Governor of California; Lucius G. Pratt, railroad representative; and E.F. Spence, Mayor of Los Angeles.

Various literary pieces written by Gunn are in the collection, including essays on the freedom of the press and the role of newspapers, and a copy of Gunn’s publication “A Historical Sketch of San Diego.” Thank you letters acknowledge receipt of Gunn’s book “Picturesque San Diego” which he mailed as a gift to colleagues.

The collection also contains a number of speeches, including one that Gunn gave in 1887, making his endorsements for the upcoming city elections, and another that was given on the day of President Benjamin Harrison’s visit to San Diego in 1891.

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Items in the collection are arranged by subject.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

San Diego History Center Document Collection November 7, 2011

1649 El Prado, Suite 3
San Diego, CA, 92101

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Jody Valente on November 7, 2011.

Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company.

Family Name(s)

  • Gunn family

Geographic Name(s)

  • San Diego (Calif.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Bushyhead, Edward
  • Evans, Taliesin
  • Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872
  • Greely, Henrietta Hudson Cruger Nesmith
  • Gunn, Douglas
  • Harrison, Benjamin, 1833-1901
  • Nordhoff, Charles, 1830-1901
  • Stoneman, George, 1822-1894


  • Local government
  • Newspapers
  • Political science
  • Public speaking
  • Publications
  • Railroads
  • Speeches, addresses, etc.

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Collection Inventory

Business papers – San Diego Union newspaper, 1873–1889


Sale of interest for San Diego Union, signed by Edward Bushyhead, June 23, 1873

Article from San Diego Sun announcing Gunn’s retirement from the San Diego Union, March 1886

Correspondence, November 13, 1876–January 17, 1889

Business papers – Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, 1880–1885


Promissory Note for railway connection to San Diego Bay, signed by Douglas Gunn, August 13, 1880

Correspondence, October 14-November 15, 1885

Civic affairs – San Diego, 1888–1889


Petition for new city charter, 1888

Correspondence regarding Gunn’s election as Mayor

Speeches, 1887-1891


Speech celebrating completion of the railway to San Diego, 1885

Speech given at President Benjamin Harrison’s visit, 1891

Literary works and essays, 1886 and undated


Essays regarding free press and role of newspapers, undated

“A Historical Sketch of San Diego,” published July 4, 1886

Correspondence, 1888 January 2–1891 February 22 1:6

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