Fremont Older

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Fremont Older
Fremont Older 1919.jpg
Older circa 1919
BornAugust 30, 1856
DiedMarch 3, 1935(1935-03-03) (aged 78)
OccupationNewspaper editor

Fremont Older (August 30, 1856 – March 3, 1935) was a newspaperman and editor in San Francisco, California for nearly fifty years. He is best known for his campaigns against civic corruption, capital punishment, prison reform, and efforts on behalf of Tom Mooney and Warren Billings, wrongly convicted of the Preparedness Day bombing of 1916.


Born in a log house in Appleton, Wisconsin,[1] Older began his working life at age 12 about the year 1868 as an apprentice printer, he claimed, after reading the story of Horace Greeley.[1] He worked in Virginia City, Nevada, on the Enterprise, then moved on to the Redwood City Journal, later writing for the Alta California.

In 1895, Older became managing editor of the San Francisco Bulletin[1] (later merged with the San Francisco Call in 1929), and gained notoriety when he took on the Boss Abe Ruef machine in San Francisco, during the mayoralty of Eugene Schmitz, which led to the corruption trials during the rebuilding of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake and fire. On September 27, 1907, Older was kidnapped and threatened with murder by private detective Luther Brown,[2][1] said to be working for the grafters.

In his later years at the Bulletin, Older was offended by the owner's rewriting of his editorials and refusal to commit to a lifelong appointment, so after twenty-three years of service, he resigned in 1918 and went to William Randolph Hearst's paper, the San Francisco Call. Along with talented staff, he brought the Mooney case and numerous other stories that the Bulletin owner had refused to carry, including the James Graham Fair will case involving former state Supreme court justice Frederick W. Henshaw and a bribe amounting to $400,000.

Older originally believed Mooney was guilty, but changed his mind and spent twenty years working for the release of Mooney and Billings, although it was reported that he disliked Mooney, thinking him worthy of jail for real crimes, but not for the bombing at Steuart and Market for which he was jailed. For his efforts, Older was called a communist, a Wobblie, a syndicalist and traitor, but Hearst backed him. Older died a few years before Mooney was pardoned by California Governor Culbert Olson in 1939.

Older was also an early defender of prostitutes, having published a story at the Bulletin in 1917 entitled "A Voice from the Underworld, by Alice Smith." The article also increased the circulation of the Bulletin.

Older was a long-time friend and correspondent of Clarence Darrow and was known as a friend to the poor. He regularly tried to reform drunkards and criminals with mixed success. After twenty years of attempting to help such persons, Older said, "I'm sorry, but I must admit that of the scores I have helped, all but one or two have failed me."

Older died at a hospital in Stockton, California after suffering a heart attack while driving.[3]



  1. ^ a b c d "Fremont Older, California Editor, Passes; A Leader in Profession Half Century (continued)". The Independent Record. March 4, 1935. p. 3. Retrieved December 30, 2015 – via open access publication – free to read
  2. ^ Irwin, Will (1 April 1909). They Who Strike in the Dark. American Magazine, April 1909. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  3. ^ "Fremont Older, California Editor, Passes; A Leader in Profession Half Century". The Independent Record. March 4, 1935. p. 1. Retrieved December 30, 2015 – via open access publication – free to read


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