Charles Albert Storke—newspaperman, educator, lawyer, rancher — was born Nov. 19, 1847, at Branchport, Yates County, N.Y. He gained experience as a typesetter on his uncle’s newspaper in Wisconsin and at 14 began earning his own living as a printer on the Shawano County Journal.
On Feb. 28, 1864, Storke enlisted in the Civil War with a Wisconsin volunteer infantry. He engaged in the Battle of Wilderness and was one of the lucky dozen in his ill-fated regiment to survive the campaign. He spent the remainder of the war years in various Confederate prison camps.
Storke attended Kalamazoo College in Michigan, and as a junior he became the first student to enroll in the newly founded Cornell University. After graduation, he taught at Adelphi College in New York. He was later recruited to teach at Santa Barbara College but soon became tired of teaching.
He had always wanted to be a newspaper editor, and at the time he saw a growing demand for another paper in Los Angeles, then a budding town of 10,000. Storke founded the Los Angeles Daily Herald, a morning newspaper, in September 1873. The Herald was printed on Los Angeles’ first steam printing press, which Storke had imported from the East.
A prospectus appearing daily in The Herald stated the paper’s purpose. Among other things, the prospectus said the paper would advocate state rights and oppose centralization, advocate greenback currency for California and oppose every kind of thievery.
The paper’s editorial policy reflected to a certain degree what it had promised in its prospectus, and though the editorials were unsigned, they probably were the work of Storke himself.
The paper campaigned for and got better city gas service, deplored the shaky financial crisis of the country, backed candidates for election and chided the members of a lazy chamber of commerce.
Despite The Herald’s good qualities and the fact that its circulation had grown to the largest of any paper in Los Angeles County, the panic of 1873 had gripped the county, and Storke sold the paper.
After returning to Santa Barbara to study law, Storke was admitted to practice before the district court in 1875 and before the Supreme Court 10 years later.
He was elected assemblyman from the Santa Barbara region in 1882, and later mayor of Santa Barbara in 1899.
Storke’s son, Thomas, in the meantime had become owner of the Santa Barbara Daily News. In 1914, Thomas took the job of postmaster for Santa Barbara. But his duties as postmaster increased with the entrance of the United States into World War I. Consequently, he delegated his editorial duties to his father until the war ended.
Storke was witty in his editorials. He always referred to himself as the “Old Man” rather than the conventional “we.” He carried on a tongue-in-cheek feud with the editor of the rival Morning Press, whom he called “The Old Crab.”
On the whole, his editorials were vigorous, hard-hitting and had great weight in molding public opinion. He campaigned for more efficient county government, better teaching and sought nonpartisan civil service practice.
Charles A. Storke, his son said of him, “… was dedicated to the so-called common man. He always felt that the powerful will take care of themselves. It was the common man whom he felt needed protection and guidance.”
In his later years, Storke actively engaged in the management of his two ranches, one in Santa Barbara County and the other in Ventura County. After leading a full and active life, Storke died Dec. 6, 1936, at the age of 89.
*Hall of Fame inductees are selected annually by a committee appointed by the California Press Foundation. They recognize career achievements of weekly and daily publishers in California who were important and influential in their era, as judged by their peers in the association. The write-ups are a historical and journalistic snapshot in time and not official biographies.*