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James Henry Barry was born on February 15, 1855 (another source cites 1856) in New York City to Mary Ann Harris Barry and William Barry. In 1859, his parents came to California via the Isthmus of Panama, but his mother died in 1862, leaving five young children. His father then married his sister-in-law, Mrs. Fischer, and together they had two more children before his death in 1870. (The second Mrs. Barry raised the children, and lived until 1910.)
James H. Barry attended San Francisco grammer school until obliged to join the work force at age 12, although he attended night school and studied privately. He worked in the composing room of a general book and job printing office. After 10 years he became a master printer, and embarked on his own business without any capital.
In September 1881, James H. Barry of Barry & Baird, Printers, ran for "Regular Democratic Nominee" for supervisor of the Fourth Ward.
In 1884, Barry founded the Star, a weekly journal published by him until its suspension in 1921. The paper was conceived for and consecreated to the fight against corruption in government, extremely rampant at the time of its inauguration, especially in the judiciary. Every effort was made to crush Barry's paper, and his life was threatened more than once. Barry had some libel suits to defend in unfriendly courts, which brought financial problems, but he always won, successfully backing up his accusations and swaying public opinion so that no judge or jury would convict him.
Barry was a supporter of the 8-hour day for labor, and unilaterially implemented it at his business years before the Typographical Union demanded it. He also supported and adopted the Saturday half-holiday and the "forty-four hour week," and was an early advocate of the doctrines of Henry George and the "Single-Tax" movement.
Barry was active in civic and social life in San Francisco. His "Good Cheer Dinners," which took place just before New Year's Eve, were festive affairs with speeches and humorous songs. The guest lists show the presence of prominent San Franciscans in addition to friends and family. Barry was often a speaker for organizations such as the Sailor's Union of the Pacific. He was in close touch with Mayor Rolph, and was a member of the Commonwealth Club and other social and political organizations.
Barry published a booklet entitled The Vigilance Committee of 1856 by James O'Meara, 58 pages, San Francisco, 1890, written "By A Pioneer California Journalist," being the first account of the Vigilance Committee written by someone who was not a member.
November 10, 1886, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
Tbe Barry-Brown Libel.
The examination of James H. Barry, who was arrested on a criminal charge of libel preferred by Carl Brown, was again continued yesterday by Judge Rix- until next Saturday. As Judge Rix considers himself disqualified to sit in the case, a Justice of the Peace will occupy the bench during the proceedings.
November 3, 1889, Daily Alta California
Editor Barry Banqueted.
A History Of California Newspapers, 1846-1858
The Annals of San Francisco
The Golden Gazette:
The Free Press Defense Association, a new organization, gave a banquet last night at Scottish Hall in honor of James H. Barry, editor of the Weekly Star, who was convicted some time ago of contempt of court, the facts of which have already been published. Between 100 and 150 members of the association and their friends sat around the banquet table, and an enjoyable evening was spent. Ex-Judge James G. Maquire presided, and at his right sat Mr. Barry, the guest of the occasion.
During the evening speeches were delivered by ex-Congressman Charles A. Sumner, Coll Deane, C. J. Swift, David Farquharson, A. Sbarboro, E. P. Coles, Thomas V. Cator, William Wagner, Dr. W. N. Griswold, Walter Gallagher, ex-Judge Maguire and James H. Barry. Most of the speakers dwelt on the contempt case in which Barry so prominently figured.
On April 1, 1890, the Daily Alta California reported in the matter of James H. Barry on habeas corpus, now before the Supreme Court, an order was entered yesterday resubmitting the case. Barry was convicted of contempt of court in publishing a statement impugning the integrity of Superior Judge Lawler.
February 27, 1893, San Francisco Call
James H. Barry's name has been added to the long list of candidates for superintendent of the Mint. His friends assert that he will have the support of Senator White, Congressman Maquire and other ardent followers of Cleveland during the last campaign.
May 4, 1895, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California
Dr. Levingston Pilloried
By James H. Barry in this week's Star. The paper literally teems with roasts of rogues.
September 22, 1895, San Francisco Call
Will Speak at Colusa.
COLUSA, California, September 21. An invitation was recently extended to James H. Barry, Editor of theSan Francisco Star, to make an address at this place next Saturday night, on the occasion of the opening of the Catholic ladies' fair. Today word was received from Mr. Barry accepting the invitation, and announcing that his subject will be, "The Single-tax Theory and Its Relation to the Agricultural Interests of the Country."
On September 30, 1895, the San Francisco Call reported that James H. Barry will be unable to make the address at the big Catholic fair in Colusa as arranged. The injuries he sustained by a cable-car last Friday night will. It is now said by his physician, keep him confined for several weeks.
His business prospered and in 1904 was incorporated as the James H. Barry Company.
In 1904, "James H. Barry's San Francisco Star says that Hearst is a false alarm. . . That he has never paid any attention to affairs; that, finally, his character is such, in the matter of devotion to the ladies of the chorus, that the White House would have to be fumigated after his presence."
The company's plant, at the corner of Montgomery and Sacramento Sreets, was totally destroyed in the fire started by the 1906 earthquake. Barry began printing in Berkeley two days later, and in six weeks returned to San Francisco to a newly erected corrugated iron building on Leavenworth St. near the old City Hall.
April 23, 1907, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California
JAMES H. BARRY ISSUES ANNIVERSARY NUMBER
Publisher of The Star Establishes One of the First Permanent Plants in Burned District
The Star, a weekly paper edited and published by James H. Barry, appears this week with an anniversary number containing much good original matter and well printed. The first page is devoted to pictures of the old and new homes of theStar, showing views of the office, pressroom and composing room and in the center "the old man himself." The oldStar plant at the corner of Montgomery and Sacramento streets was completely destroyed, but with characteristic pluck and promptness, Barry established himself in Berkeley so early that the papers issued from his office did not miss a single number.
Work was begun upon the new home in Leavenworth street at once and in a few weeks the Star was back again.