The Valley of Heart's Delight

Controversial Journalist

The Franklin Hichborn Papers on file at the Online Archives of California


Rated as among the leading controversial journalists of the Pacific Slope, most successfully active in reform movements and legislation affecting the welfare of the entire Golden State, Franklin Hichborn has become also a national figure, wielding an influence for political and social betterment effective far beyond the confines of California.

 He was born at Eureka, Cal., on October 7, 1869, the son of John Edwin Hichborn, a descendant of Thomas Hichborn, who landed in Boston about 1640.  Thomas Hichborn, was the grandfather of Deborah Hichborn, a native of Boston, who was the mother of Paul Revere, of midnight ride fame. Robert Hichborn, Deborah's brother, was Franklin Hichborn's Revolutionary
ancestor, his great-great-grandfather. He was militant in the Revolution, and fought at Bunker Hill. He was a member of the Boston committee of Safety, and was commissioned first lieutenant in Jonathan Stoddard's company, Henry Bromfield's regiment, of the Massachusetts militia. After the Revolution, Robert Hichborn moved to Maine with his family, and established the first shipbuilding plant at Stockton springs, Maine. Franklin Hichborn's ancestors were thus among the first pioneers of Massachusetts and Maine, as his father was one of the early pioneers in California. John Edwin Hichborn, his father, married Frances Hunt and came around the Horn in 1852, when he was seven months on the way, landing at San Francisco in the fall of that year. Later he went to Humboldt county, where he built the first wharf on the Eureka waterfront, and established the first produce business in the country.

Franklin Hichborn attended both Santa Clara College and Stanford University, studying at the latter institution during 1892-94. Santa Clara College eventually, in 1903, conferred upon him the honorary degree of Master of Arts. From 1894-97, he was the publisher of the San Jose Letter; in 1897-98 he was the city editor of the Fresno Expositor; in 1899 he edited the Winnemucca, Nevada, Silver State; for a year, beginning with 1900, he published the San Jose Spectator; from 1902 to 1904 he edited the San Jose Herald from 1904 to 1906 he was news editor of the Sacramento Union; and from 1906 to 1919 he was active as both a writer and a lecturer on political and economic subjects, while from 1915 to 1917 he published the Legislative Bulletin at Sacramento.

As a lineal descendant of some of the best American families, Franklin Hichborn's voice and pen have ever been at the service of justice, truth and right, and he has conducted several state-wide publicity campaigns of great value in their salutary effect under initiative provisions and the state constitution, to restore race-track gambling in California. In 1913, his historic work, "The System, as Uncovered by the San Francisco Graft Prosecution," did a great deal toward cleaning in up San Francisco. In 1914 he brought about the ratification of the "red-light" abatement act, and as late as 1920 he published an effective brochure on "Red Morals," in which he discussed the social evil in Europe and America. He has become one of the most conscientious and ablest advocates of national prohibition and defenders of the eighteenth amendment, and his power to handle this difficult theme against other able and differing advocates is shown in his reply to Father Jerome Sixtus Ricard, the famous astronomer

Other publications of Mr. Hichborn are the "Stories of the California Legislature"--4 volumes, 1909, 1911, 1913, 1915, "The Social Evil in California as a Political Problem," and "The Parochial School vs. The Melting Pot," and just what value these fruits of the number of critical reviews from sources worthy of national consideration. Francis J. Heney, who conducted the San Francisco graft prosecution, said;
"I have read "The System' with deep interest. It is the only accurate and complete account of the San Francisco graft prosecutions which has ever been published in any form. Mr. Hichborn has performed a most important public service. The perpetuity of republican institutions depends upon the masses being able to secure correct information, and to thus acquire a correct understanding of the underlying causes of corruption and of bad government in our cities, states, and nation. "The System" will make plain to every intelligent reader just what these underlying causes of corruption and bad government are. It ought to be read by every person in the state above the age of twelve years. It is a clear, logical, sane, and fair history of one of the most important periods in the life of San Francisco." So, too, Harper's Weekly praised Mr. Hichborn's searchlight inquires into California legislative proceedings, when it said; "To Franklin Hichborn, more than to any other journalist, is due the sweeping tide of political reform in California. The stern facts, marshaled in his "Stories of the California Legislature"
for three successive sessions have been fatal to those condemned by them. In the preface to his latest book, "The System," he says; "It is my purpose-as far as it lies in my power--to keep the cover off." In that phrase lies the temper of his service. Dispassionate as a recording angel, keen as a detective hero, he does not need to muckrake  to content to let the logic of his facts bring their own unsparing conclusions. While the traditional 'machine' of his generation was still dominant in California, he saw that it was not so important to know what was done as how it was done: so he merely turned the clock around, took out the back and showed the voter how the machine worked. In other words, for the last six years he has devoted himself to telling, without fear or malice, the record of every man in the Legislature, on every important measure; to tracing the influences of special privilege through lobby and hall; to laying bare the hidden and interwoven roots which produce corruption." And Collier's Weekly, equally famous as a national periodical, added; "Roosevelt's speech, in which he made famous the phrase, "the strenuous life,' was delivered at Chicago in 1899. Reading it, we find the exhortation; 'Read the Congressional Record.' And then follow several paragraphs of an emphatic call to search the votes, roll-calls and other official records of Congress, and to base approval or disapproval of public men upon these records. Exactly this sort of searching of the records is one of the things that has led to the porlitical revolution of the past decade. Among the more potent agents of this political revolution are the men who have gone into official records which were obscure and comples, and made them simple and available to the general public. Conspicuous among the men who have done this is Mr. Franklin Hichborn, who, at the end of each session of the California Legislature, compiles a book in which he analyzes the record of every member, and the history of all the important bills. Every voter in California should read it. Voters elsewhere should know about it, and try to secure a like institution in their own states."

At Fresno, on December 31, 1897, Mr. Hichborn was married to Miss Mabel Houlton, of Santa Clara, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Greenleaf Houlton, and granddaugther of the founder of Houlton, Maine. Five children have blessed this union. The eldest bears, very appropriately, the historic name of Paul Revere, while the next in the order of birth is Deborah, who in 1920 married David T. Rayner. The others are Drusilla, Mabel, and Frances. A Progressive Republican, Mr. Hichborn is a member of the San Francisco Press Club and the National Economic League. He resides with his family at 1091 Fremont street, Santa Clara
and director of Santa Clara Observatory, who, in the San Jose Mercury-Herald, attacked the amendment and the proposition of prohibition and pleaded for the American's rights to personal liberty.
Transcribed by Marie Clayton, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California,  published by Historic Record Co. , 1922. page 436