The Sacramento Bee is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. This story is part of our ongoing coverage.
In 1998, Theodore John Kaczynski pleaded guilty in Sacramento federal court to planning and carrying out 16 Unabomber explosions and was sentenced to federal prison for the rest of his life.
Between 1978 and 1995, he mailed and planted homemade bombs that killed three people – including two in Sacramento – and injured 23 others. After one of the longest manhunts in U.S. history, he was captured in 1996. Kaczynski, a mathematics prodigy, taught at UC Berkeley before retreating to a survivalist lifestyle in the Montana woods.
Although there was a guilty plea before trial, the case attracted worldwide media attention, with news reporters, their mobile homes and equipment trucks filling a city block across Capitol Mall from the courthouse, which became known as “Camp Kaczynski.”
Prosecutors and defense attorneys secured Kaczynski’s agreement to the plea bargain after U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. denied the defendant's request to act as his own attorney.
The development capped 18 months of legal wrangling and brought to a resolution one of the country’s most fascinating and closely watched criminal cases.
Now 74, Kaczynski is incarcerated at a “supermax” prison in Florence, Colo., with no possibility of release.
In 2011, Kaczynski’s voluminous handwritten journals were the biggest draw at the online auction of his personal belongings. The journals fetched $40,676, while bids for all 58 lots on the block during the two-week auction totaled $232,246.
The money was applied to the $15 million Kaczynski was ordered to pay as restitution to the victims of his homemade explosive devices at the time he was sentenced to life in prison. The items sold were all taken from the Montana cabin.
Why they called it The Bee
The choice of “the Daily Bee” as the name of the fledgling newspaper was both pragmatic and symbolic.
The name was chosen, the paper’s initial editorial explained, “as being different from that of any other paper in the state, and as also being emblematic of the industry which is to prevail in its every department.”
Names of other newspapers in Sacramento at the time include the Times, Tribune, Transcript, Water Fount and Recorder.
Candidate Lincoln got decent press
1860: Although editor James McClatchy was a member of the 4-year-old Republican Party in 1860, The Bee was fiercely independent when it came to political endorsements, and did not actively campaign for any of that year’s presidential candidates. It disdained the two Democrats, Sen. Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Vice President John Breckenridge of Tennessee, who had split the party.
When it came to the Republican Party’s candidate, Abraham Lincoln, the paper was intrigued. After Lincoln secured the GOP nomination, The Bee noted on June 11, 1860:
He seems to have been the second choice of everybody, and therein lies his great strength. ... He is comparatively a new man – is not blasé in politics as most of the other candidates are – has no enlarged political record – is a Kentuckian by birth – an old line Whig and a fair representative of the growing West.
Century of steady growth celebrated
Feb. 4, 1957: A century ago, The Sacramento Bee was born.
The paper made its maiden appearance on the streets of the bustling trading center on Feb. 3, 1857.
In an era marked by tumbling fortunes and shaky schemes, the first edition announced The Bee’s determination to strive for “permanence” in the young community.
Today this aim is sealed by the stamp of prophetic vision. The Bee not only is celebrating its 100th anniversary; it also is one of the oldest California newspapers in terms of continuous operation and has grown in circulation from a few hundred copies in 1857 to more than 48,000 today.
Four generations of a single family have working members of The Bee and have provided the leadership for the paper’s rise to local, state and national prominence.
James McClatchy, its early editor, was followed in that capacity by his son, Charles K. McClatchy, better known as C.K., who later became as well the president of McClatchy Newspapers.
A 1913 Arthur Buel editorial cartoon about Pacific Gas and Electric’s control of all of Sacramento’s gas, electric and streetcar service: