Personalized editorship was the mark of Henry Kuchel of the Anaheim Gazette. Kuchel was born June 11, 1859, in San Francisco. The family moved to Anaheim in 1860 and as a boy of 11, Kuchel helped roll the press for the first issues of The Gazette in 1870.
Seventeen years later, in 1887, he returned to Anaheim to buy The Gazette from his brother in law, and for 48 uninterrupted years he was editor and publisher of the newspaper.
Kuchel learned to set type in The Gazette office, and he was 16 years old when he set out to see the world as a printer. He wrote sports and set type on the San Francisco Chronicle, worked with William Randolph Hearst while working on the San Francisco Examiner, set type in San Diego and Escondido and served as composing room foreman for Gen. Harrison Gray Otis on the then young Los Angeles Times. He formed a lasting friendship with Otis and joined him in many editorial campaigns in his later years at The Gazette.
The young Kuchel was as interested in the truth and its dissemination as the handling of the type, and aiding the development of the little town of Anaheim and the surrounding area became his job and for water rights, and it is largely through his campaigns that a third attempt to form Orange County was ratified by the Legislature and the voters in 1889.
In a much-celebrated campaign fought on behalf of the citrus industry, Kuchel was threatened by libel suits. At the time, three growers wanted to collect royalties for patenting the process of fumigating groves at night. Kuchel called a mass meeting of growers to resist the twilight patent proposal and had the satisfaction of seeing the measure upheld by the United States Supreme Court.
His failing eyesight was believed complicated by the poorly-lighted composing rooms and endless hours of handsetting type in his youth, plus limited medical knowledge of treatment. His excellent memory enabled Kuchel to walk confidently around his newspaper plant and downtown.
Blindness did not deter Kuchel from prolific writing. His wife, Lutitia, took his dictation and retained many of the handwritten manuscripts of historical events. His two sons joined the constant reading of publications to their father. One son, Theodore (Ted), carried on the family newspaper and the other, Thomas, became a United States senator.
Historical features were among the most readable stories in The Gazette, many stemming from Kuchel’s enthusiastic delving into files. Many old-timers gathered at The Gazette office and would drink beer as they read the paper.
Kuchel was quick to appreciate radio because it kept him in touch with the world. There were several sets in his home and office, enabling him to catch newscasts, commentaries and other programs of interest to his paper, even after the increasing problems of management were taken over by his son Ted in the late 1920s. Kuchel’s death in 1935 brought many editorial eulogies from throughout the state.
A neighboring newspaper paid this tribute: “Henry Kuchel belonged to the old school of newspapermen who took their responsibility seriously. He was an exponent of sound ethics and jealous of the high repute and influence of his paper. In his younger days, particularly, he wielded a trenchant pen and many of his journalistic tilts are well remembered by his older readers.”
*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.*