Online Digital Newspaper Archives for History Research

I love reading old newspapers online.

Actually, I love reading old newspapers even if they’re on paper.  But the advantage of online historical newspapers is not only the ease of pulling up such and such a date from 150 years ago, but the sheer wonderfullness of full-text searching.  Researching historical newspapers used to be a painstaking, mind-numbing, onerous task.  Now it’s a breeze.

That is, it’s a breeze if you happen to have access to the right digital archives.  Proquest is the biggest and best, but also the most exclusive, available at large libraries and universities, but not to most mere mortals.  But if you’re lucky enough to have access to it, then you’ll find a century or more of newspaper heritage online.  Depending on what particular papers are subscribed to, you might find The New York Times (1851-2003), Washington Post (1877-1990), Los Angeles Times (1881-1985), Wall Street Journal (1889 – 1989), The Chicago Defender (1905 – 1975), Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1985), or the Atlanta Constitution (1868 – 1929), among others.

But even without Proquest, there are options for historical newspaper research.  I’ve written before about the wonderful service from newspaperarchive.com, so I won’t repeat myself here, except to say this is one of my most frequently-visited research sites.  If you haven’t had a look, please do.

newspaperarchive.com is a subscription site, but there are a few options for completely free access to some historical newspapers. 

 You can search historical Georgia newspapers covering the period from 1750-1925.

The Northwest History Database  out of the University of Washington has extensive clippings from around 1900-1950.  Here’s a cool shot of the Bonneville dam under construction in 1937. 

The University of Virginia makes an interesting resource available…almost a century of the school newspaper, The Collegian (1914-2003).  Almost a century-worth of The Cornell Daily Sun  is also available, beginning with 1880, though the coverage over the years is not complete.  Anyone out there old enough to remember these quaint pre-Ipod music delivery devices, that rocked the dorm rooms back in 1937?  Another college newspaper, The Argus out of Illinois Wesleyan University is keyword (not full text) searchable from 1894-2003.

Into cowboys, indians, shoot-outs and prospecting for gold?  Check out the archives of newspapers from Colorado (1859-1923)  or Utah (roughly 1850-1950). 

For a slice of the Big Apple, old time, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle has been digitized and is online from 1841-1902.

If World Wars are your thing, then check out these two.  The Stars and Stripes from 1918-1919 are online…the complete seventy-one-week run of the newspaper’s World War I edition.  The Canadian War Museum has available more than 100,000 newspaper articles from World War II.

Canada isn’t the only non-US country to offer some free newspaper archives (though they are surprisingly few and far between).  Some others to note are:

Tel-Aviv University makes available the Palestine Post (1932-1950) and a few other Jewsih newspapers.

The Guardian Newspaper in London offers about a century of searching, though with a rather limited search interface.  The British Library Online Newspaper Archive  offers a few isolated years of archives between 1851 and 1918, and a rather clunky interface, but still…on occasion, it can be a fun and useful site. 

And I can swear I once found an Australian newspaper archive back to the 1920’s or so, but for the life of me, I can’t find it now.  Sound familiar, anyone…?

pafalafaga Dave Sarokin

4 Responses to “Online Digital Newspaper Archives for History Research”

  1. Dave Brown says:

    As far as I can tell the Newspaperarchive.com site is a complete fraud. They took my money but haven’t provided access to a single article. They’ve failed to respond to any of my inquiries to fix the problem. I’ve contacted not only customer service, but higher-ups in the company as well. No one ever responds. I cannot recommend this service to anyone.

  2. Nigel Sellars says:

    As a history professor, I’ve found Newspaperarchive.com incredibly useful. Through I I’ve located material for two book-length projects I’m working on.

    The main problem many people have with the site seems to be viewing the files, which is, I suspect, the result of their not having a PDF plug-in on their browser. I’ve used both Safari and Firefox and have had excellent results once I installed the newest plug-in. Firefox have plug-ins that allow you to download the file, view it in the browser, or view it in a standalone program like Adobe Reader or Mac Preview.

    So I’d say don’t trash the company if your system isn’t up to snuff.

  3. pafalafaga says:

    Thanks for the note, Professor.

    You’ll probably be interested in a collection I’ve pieced together of online newspaper archives that are all available at no charge. The diversity of coverage — geographic, chronological and topical — is pretty impressive.

    You can see the US state and regional archvies here:

    http://xooxleanswers.com/newspaperarchives4.aspx

    and be sure to visit the pages for college newspapers, international news, magazines, and the other links on the Newspaper Archives pages.

    Cheers,

    David

  4. wendy says:

    Does anyone know any good books / guides for techniques on researching newspaper archives which have not been digitised? My daughter needs to search some Austrian archives for reviews of performances by a particular composer and is dreading having to read through hundreds of newspapers to find one or two reviews thanks!