Saturday, January 28, 2023


CORONADO – A rare and complete collection of 1903 Tent City newspapers has just been donated to the Coronado Public Library. The donation involves 92 issues of the Tent City Daily Program. The cache of newspapers was discovered on eBay by Debbie Riddle of Lee Mather Co., Realtors in Coronado, and purchased as a donation to the library.

Each 8-page issue of the Tent City Daily Program consists of everything from train timetables to Pacific Coast Steamship arrival and departure times. It contains concert agendas and advertised trips to Tia Juana [sic], as well as ads for the Coronado Ostrich Farm:

“15 cents to Tent City People. Tuesdays and Fridays. W.H. Bentley Proprietor.”

The newspapers were originally hard bound, which protected the contents. The years, however, have damaged the covers and binding considerably. Riddle’s donation will include having the documents professionally re-bound.

“This donation obviously contains great historical value,” said Christian Esquevin, director of the Coronado Public Library. “Each newspaper informed visitors of daily activities, such as Henry Ohlmeyer’s Tent City Concert Band schedule, upcoming Vaudevillian entertainment, bioscope films playing at the theatre, and much more. It was the society news of its time. It’s extremely rare to find a complete and chronological volume such as this,” said Esquevin.

Esquevin said the library plans to professionally scan each newspaper before re-binding the volume. Once they are bound the actual publications can be looked at through the research library as an in-house reference tool. “Our goal is to digitize them and make them available on the Coronado Public Library website as well,” said Esquevin. He expects the public to be able to view this donation by the first of the year.

The Coronado Public Library is currently digitizing historical photographs and maps, and making them available to the public on the Internet. Many of these images can be viewed, along with their background information, by accessing the library website at

“It’s very easy to use,” said Esquevin. “Click on Local History Digital Images, and then Online Archive of California. From there you can visit the Coronado Local History and Map Collection.” More images from Coronado will continue to be added.

The Library also has a collection of historical Coronado Newspapers from 1887 available on microfilm for public viewing. What makes this donation even more special is that in 1903 John D. Spreckels would have read the newspaper on a daily basis. Spreckels, owner of the San Diego Union, also owned Tent City, the Hotel del Coronado, the San Diego-Coronado Ferry System, the Electric Railway as well as the San Diego & Arizona Railway – most of which were promoted thoroughly in the pages of the Tent City Daily Program.

In 1909 Spreckels donated the Coronado Public Library and the property it sits on to the city of Coronado in a grand philanthropic gesture. He hired architect Harrison Albright to design and build the landmark structure. Thus the donation comes full circle.

The Coronado Public Library is open Monday-Thursday 10-9, Friday-Saturday 10-6, and Sunday 1-5. They are located at 640 Orange Avenue.

For more information call or visit (619) 522-7390 or All programs and events at the library are free to the public.

The Tent City Daily Program was the society news of the time for Tent City,
Coronado and much of San Diego. This issue dates from September 1903.

This page from The Tent City Daily Program offers readers a choice of things
to do and see around Coronado, including music at Tent City, the old adobe
house in what is now Spreckels’ Park, the offshore Los Coronados Islands
and the local Ostrich Farm.

Christian Esquevin, director of the Coronado Public Library, examines the volume of Tent City Daily Programs with donor Debbie Riddle of Lee Mather Co., Realtors in front of a painting of Tent City by local artist Sue Tushingham McNary. Photos by Joe Ditler and Part-Time PR.

Coronado’s Tent City, the city of a thousand tents. This page from The Tent City Daily Program features a visit by the USS Iowa and a close look at Coronado’s first Japanese Tea Garden.

A crucial “lost” piece of Coronado’s ongoing puzzle of history was revealed by the recently

discovered 1903

Tent City Daily Programs. In this cover story we read of Cash, the


horse. Cash would dive several times a day, according to the story,


a platform

roughly 40 feet high, into a small container of water. Spectators could see

Cash do his

death-defying dive for ten cents. The entire collection of


Tent City Daily Programs

will be on display and available for research soon at

the Coronado Public Library,


anyone with a library card can access

Coronado history free


Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler is a professional writer, publicist and Coronado historian. Formerly a writer with the Los Angeles Times, he has been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Europe. He also owns Part-Time PR (a subsidiary of Schooner or Later Promotions), specializing in helping Coronado businesses reach larger audiences with well-placed public relations throughout the greater San Diego County. He writes obituaries and living-obituaries under the cover "Coronado Storyteller." To find out more, write or call [email protected], or (619) 742-1034.