Rodney Dangerfield used to have a joke, "I had a rough childhood. Talk about a tough school. Our school newspaper had an obituary column."
In the 19th century San Luis Obispo was a tough little town, no joke.
Back in 1878 two of the six columns of the front page were advertising. The heaviest advertisers were doctors, dentists and a drug store.
If the doctors in the first column didn't work out in the second column had the biggest image on the front page — an ornate coffin. The copy read:
San Luis Obispo.
Undertaking in all its branches on the
We keep on hand
Plain and Ornamental,
Also the best Silver-Plated Handles.
Names with emblem plates.
I'm going to have nightmares about glass topped coffins.
At the time advertising was sold for $1.50 a square inch for a one time insertion or a discount of under 35 cents for a yearly rate. Even though the newspaper had been founded by a lawyer, politicians and legal ads required cash in advance. "Transient, Election and Legal Advertisements must be accompanied by the cash."
At this time the paper had passed ownership from founder Walter Murray to the troika of J.K Tuley, W.W. Waters, and G.B. Staniford, who called themselves Publishers and Proprietors.
Under the advertising rates was a notice that hinted at how difficult it was to keep a newspaper in business at the time. I'll quote the rules and give you my reaction in brackets.
LAW OF NEWSPAPERS.
1. Subscribers who do not give express notice to the contrary, are considered as wishing to continue their subscriptions.
[This clearly establishes the owners are not mind readers, even though the town was small enough you probably knew what everyone was thinking anyway.]
2. If subscribers wish their papers discontinued, publishers may continue to send them until charges are paid.
[This doesn't make any sense and contradicts #1. Why continue a subscription to a deadbeat? Unless it is a ploy to keep circulation up and keep running up the bill.]
3. If subscribers neglect or refuse to take their papers from the office or place to which they are sent, they are held responsible until they settle their bills and give due notice to discontinue.
4. If subscribers move to other places without informing the publisher, they are held responsible. Notice should always be given of the removal.
[Repeating #1 yet again.]
5. The Courts have decided that refusing to take a paper from the office, or removing, and leaving it uncalled for, is prima facie evidence of intentional fraud.
[Sounds like they had a problem with folks pilfering copies of the paper without paying. Not unlike the trade in pirate MP3s today. Human nature, some things never change.]