What’s in a flag? | TheUnion.com
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What’s in a flag?

When The Union launched its redesign on June 17, the No. 1 complaint was the elimination of the sunset flag, or masthead.

Readers said they missed the sunset flag because it was so bold and unique. And that’s exactly the point.

The redesign team The Union hired had helped change the look of papers on different continents and all over the nation, including the San Francisco Chronicle. The team’s first comment was that the sunset flag was so dominant, it detracted from everything else on the page.



The Union’s redesign team agreed with that assessment, because we want the news, headlines and photos we produce to carry the front page. The sunset was appropriate when The Union was an afternoon paper, but it seemed a bit ludicrous after the switch to a morning edition on July 12, 1999.

The Union looked at the past and found that within the last 10 years, the paper has had five different flags. Ironically, the flag of 10 years ago is very similar to the one we switched to June 17.




Looking further back, the number of flag changes was boggling.

Despite a multitude of variations of the name, “Union” has always appeared in the title and the paper has always been published six days a week.

Occasionally, the name of a publication combined with The Union has been included. It has at times published a weekly edition in addition to its daily offering; it has also gone from a morning to an evening publication, and then back again. Sometimes it was published “daily except Monday,” and at others, “daily except Sunday.”

The listed place of publication has varied from Grass Valley to a mythical Grass Valley-Nevada City (for which no ZIP code can be found); to Western Nevada County, California; and now to a simple Nevada County on page A2.

Price has also been a large variant: from 55 cents a month in 1902 to 50 cents an issue 100 years later in 2002.

Oct. 28, 1864, is usually given as the founding date of the Grass Valley Daily Union, the antecedent name of this newspaper. That date appears in Gregory’s List of Newspapers and other source material. Edmund Kinyon, then The Union’s editor, wrote in 1939 of his experiences at the University of California at Berkeley’s Bancroft Library while searching for a first issue of his newspaper. He claimed that none is known to exist.

The history of newspapers in Nevada County, however, is relatively well documented in the microfilm holdings of various libraries, including the Doris Foley History Library in Nevada City.

The Union is the longest, continuously published newspaper in Nevada County and ranks among the top in longevity in California and the West.

Since its founding in 1864, it has had many owners, publishers and editors, but has always been exceptionally proud of its heritage: “Founded in 1864 to Preserve the Union … One and Inseparable.” It was the only newspaper in Nevada County to support the election of Abraham Lincoln; hence the name.

It has boasted many innovations during its years of publication. In 1894, under W. F. Prisk’s ownership, The Union became the first paper under 1,000 circulation to become a member of the Associated Press; i 1895, it purchased one of Ottmar Mergenthaler’s typesetting machines called a Linotype; and in 1963, then-publisher Robert T. Ingram installed the first offset press.

Prisk was probably the paper’s greatest innovator. In 1906, he moved operations to new quarters at 151 Mill St. in Grass Valley into a new building literally built around and over the paper’s first web-fed flatbed press. The Duplex was then state-of-the-art and replaced an outmoded sheet-fed press. The durable Duplex operated some 57 years until 1963.

– The Union has had five flags in the last 10 years.

– The flag 10 years ago is much like the new one.


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