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THE NEW MEDIA CENTER: What Happened on Your Birthday? Newspaper Archives Tell the Tale

By Mary Alice Anderson - Posted Nov 1, 2012
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Help! I am a teacher and would like my students to look in newspapers for what happened on their birth date 100 years ago. Does anyone know where we can go so they can actually see the newspaper, like microfiche?

YES!! There are numerous online sites where you can find exactly what you are looking for. Many have actual newspaper images. These digital resources can be used for the popular “What happened on my birthday,” “Today in History,” or “100 Years Ago Today” instructional activities. This month we’ll look at three specific, comprehensive digital collections: Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers; Today in History; and The Newseum’s Global Digital Archives. We’ll also learn how to locate city and state newspaper archives.

Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers from the Library of Congress provides access to more than 500 historic newspapers representing large cities and rural areas in 25 states and the District of Columbia dating from 1836 to 1922. A landing page displays thumbnail images of selected newspapers each day from “100 Years Ago Today.” Different newspapers are represented every day. Select a thumbnail to begin browsing the pages. You can zoom to read or you can click on the icon to select “normal” text. Use other icons to clip or download.

Use the Search Pages tab to quickly search all newspapers and all dates. Simply enter a topic or Month and Day in the search box. For example, the search phrase November 16 yields more than 31,000 pages. There are also drop-down menu options to specify a state or range of years.

Recommended Topics is another helpful landing page feature. It lists topics widely covered in the press at the time the papers were published. Many topics (Vote for Women) are familiar and expected; others are more unusual. An interesting headline in The Washington Herald, Nov. 24, 1912, proclaims “More Than Hundred Lives Sacrificed to Roller Skates.” Browsing and scanning for dates is easy.

The Advanced Search tab offers options for locating information from a specific year or month/date/year. Refine searches by selecting a specific state and newspaper and specifying words, phrases, and word proximity. (See Figure 1.)

The All Digitized Newspapers tab makes it easy to browse by state or to locate newspapers representing selected ethnicities and languages. Be aware that the lists are short. Ethnicities include All, American Indian, German, African American, Irish, Jewish, and Pacific Islander. Language choices are All, Choctaw, Hawaiian, English, French, Japanese, and Spanish.

The U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690–Present is a list of more than 150,000 newspapers and is intended to help users identify what newspapers have been published. A drop-down menu to search by state is helpful because many newspapers have changed names, merged with others, or have been discontinued.

Teachers get excited when they see how the Chronicling America collection is just what they were looking for and it’s chock-full of primary sources!

Today in History is another content-rich resource from the Library of Congress. It pulls together historic information from the Library’s American Memory collections...


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-to-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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