Bees have buzzed since Plato's day
How did those Californian newspapers, the Sacramento Bee, Fresno
Bee and Modesto Bee acquire such odd names? There are even quirkier
titles in other states: De Queen Bee in Arkansas and the Beeville
Bee-Picayune in Beeville, Texas.
The mystery has been solved at last, thanks largely to two dedicated
bloggers, Dan Brekke and Ted Shelton, from Berkeley, California, who have this
year launched the most recent Bee of all, The Personal Bee, an
experimental online news publication. They have investigated how the name Bee
has long been associated with news and commentary.
Shelton wrote: "I believe that there are a number of different reasons for
publications to have hit upon Bee as a name -- certainly one is that the Bee is
viewed as an industrious insect. Also one that is social. Of course it is also
interesting that news is sometimes referred to as the buzz."
Shelton traced the word back to ancient Greece, where Plato, who lived about
427-347BC, was referred to as the "Athenian Bee" for the "honeyed words" that
came from his mouth. Similarly, Xenophon (about 444-357BC) was called the "Attic
In his blog, Apiculture, Brekke, who calls himself "a career news guy
and lifetime nitpicker", wrote:
The image that first jumped into my head when I heard the phrase
"personal bee" was of the old community bee -- say a quilting bee -- where a
bunch of people get together to work on a project together.
At The Personal Bee, I've got a sense that we're each part of a
growing community working on a common project: assembling our own
well-informed news editions every day ("news" in as many ways as it can be
defined). That picture also calls to mind bees, the insects, themselves: a
group buzzing along in a big social enterprise. They make honey and keep
their queen happy. We create new ways of getting at and understanding the
Of course, the word "bee" has a much more direct connection with the idea
of news and publishing. Here's a non-definitive historical survey: Since at
least the early 18th century, publishers have produced periodicals named
In sifting the Web search results, we happen first across Eustace
Budgell, a British poet, essayist, politico, and spectacularly unsuccessful
land speculator who was also something of a news pioneer. In 1733, he
brought out a weekly pamphlet called The Bee...
The Bee published more than 100 issues but Budgell was forced to
fold the publication in 1735 because of his habits of "quarrelling with his
booksellers, and filling his pamphlet with things entirely relating to
More Bees followed. Irish novelist/poet/playwright Oliver Goldsmith
started a literary magazine in London in 1759 called The Bee. A
little further on, and across the Atlantic, you find L'Abeille de la
Nouvelle-Orléans (the Bee of New Orleans), a French-language paper
launched in September 1827 and soon joined by an English counterpart, the
New Orleans Daily Bee.
A few years later, François-Xavier Garneau, whom the Dictionary of
Canadian Biography describes as a "notary, poet, and historian", started
up L'Abeille canadienne. Garneau did not make a big splash in the
world of journalism. The DCB summarizes L'Abeille's history thus:
"The paper proposed to encourage 'the spread of knowledge and a liking for
reading.' It was an unpretentious weekly, and ceased publication two months
[after it began], on 8 Feb. 1834. ..."
But whether in French or English, why did "bee" suggest itself as a
The best-known U.S. paper to use the title, The Sacramento Bee,
came forth with an answer in its very first number. When the news sheet,
then called The Daily Bee, hit the streets on February 3, 1857,
founding editor John Rollin Ridge's note to readers explained:
The name of The Bee has been adopted, as being different from that of
every other paper of the state, and as also being emblematic of the
industry which is to prevail in its every department....
Scoopy, the cartoon mascot of The Sacramento Bee and its sister
papers in California's Central Valley, was drawn by Walt Disney (the
caricature is a dead ringer for Disney's better-known rodent creations)...
The Personal Bee has rich antecedents in the natural, social, and
publishing worlds. We're glad to have you joining us in adding the next
chapter to that story.
[Our thanks to Dan Brekke for permission to quote that lengthy extract from
Surprisingly, the Beeville (Texas) Bee-Picayune didn't take its name from
bees (insects) but from a human Bee.
In The Historical Story of Bee County, Texas, Camp Ezell wrote:
Bee County was created by an act of the Texas Legislature on December 8,
1857, when General Hamilton P. Bee, a "planter of Goliad", was Speaker of
the House of Representatives. He asked that the new county be named in
memory of his father, Colonel Barnard Elliot Bee, who served as President
Sam Houston’s Secretary of War and as President Mirabeau B. Lamar’s
Secretary of State during the days of the Republic of Texas. The request was
(Two of Colonel Barnard E. Bee's sons—Hamilton P. and Barnard E. Jr.—
served as generals in the Confederate Army in the War Between the States,
and General Barnard E. Bee is credited with the honor of giving General T.
J. Jackson the title of “Stonewall Jackson” when he declared, “There is
General Jackson standing like a stone wall” in the first Battle of
Monday's Internet Edition, 10:37 AM, March 6,
First Lady Kicks Off Main Street
By GARY KENT
Bee-Picayune staff - Hundreds of Bee County residents braved a
hot, still afternoon to gather in between the Bee County Courthouse and the
Joe Barnhart Bee County Library in downtown Beeville Thursday to welcome
Texas First Lady Anita Perry and her entourage as they arrived here to kick
off the three-year Main Street Program. Decked out in a bright red suit and
carrying the small-town Texas charm she acquired growing up in tiny Haskell,
the wife of Gov. Rick Perry spoke of the benefits of growing up in a
community where everyone not only knows everyone else in town but the names
of their dogs too. She poked fun at her husband, who grew up in an even
smaller town and considered her a big city girl...
De Queen Bee is published in De Queen, Arkansas, which calls itself The
Town With The Wrong Name. It was originally named for Jan de Goeijen, a
Dutch coffee merchant. Most of the early settlers found his name (pronounced
"duh hoy yen") too hard to say, so they called their town De Queen.
Naturally, the name De Queen proved a great hit with punsters. If you visit
the town (population 6000), you can stay in the Palace of De Queen, aka
the Palace Motel.
Meeting in Nashville, Arkansas in 1897, attorney J. W. Bishop and printer
Walter Boyd heard that a railroad would be built through De Queen, 30 miles away
They talked about starting a newspaper there, and one of them asked what it
should be called. Quick as a flash, the other suggested "De Queen Bee",
and the name stuck... like honey.