(COLUMBUS, OHIO) – Ever spent hours while doing research wading through reels and reels of microfilm looking for information from old Ohio newspapers? Thanks to the Ohio Historical Society those days are numbered now that The Mahoning Dispatch, once published in the city of Canfield, has become the first of 13 historic Ohio newspapers to be digitized and uploaded to the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America Web site at http://www.loc.gov/chroniclingamerica.
The Ohio Newspaper Digitization Project, a part of the National Digital Newspaper Program developed by National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, will enable the Ohio Historical Society to digitize 100,000 Ohio newspaper pages from 1880-1920. This is welcome news to blurry-eyed researchers and genealogists who scour microfilm of old newspapers for historic facts and clues to family histories.
“The Mahoning Dispatch was an important and longstanding newspaper of record in Mahoning County,” said H. William Lawson, executive director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and advisory board member for the project. “It offered a different, more rural perspective on local and national events from those of the larger daily papers in the nearby Youngstown. The Dispatch was a top choice of local historians and archivists who were consulted in the selection process.”
Lawson added, “The Ohio Newspaper Digitization Project is a very important statewide project that will result in historic newspapers from all regions of the state being reformatted for the sake of preservation and accessibility to a wider audience.”
The Mahoning Dispatch
When the town of Canfield ceded its position as the seat of Mahoning County to the rapidly growing industrial city of Youngstown, there was a concern that the rest of the largely rural county would be forgotten. The Mahoning Dispatch debuted on May 4, 1877 as an answer to this problem. Based in Canfield and published by Henry Manning Fowler, it quickly became the established weekly in the surrounding region.
The paper maintained a rural and folksy demeanor in sharp contrast to the modern Youngstown a few miles away. Catering to all local villages and townships of Mahoning County, the format of the Dispatch changed little throughout the 91 years of its existence.
The Dispatch also reported on national and world events with local insight and opinion. When Republican William Howard Taft won the presidency in 1908, the Dispatch covered the event as well as local Republican victories. The editorial on the election in Youngstown captured the flavor of the newspaper: “Youngstown painted things red while it lasted. There was no bloodshed here during the campaign but there was a might lot of booze shed.”
The Fowler family continued to publish the Mahoning Dispatch until 1968, becoming the longest continuously published family-run newspaper in the county. After the paper stopped publishing, it continued on as a printing company until the death of Ralph Fowler in 1991. Today, it is maintained as a printing museum by the Canfield Historical Society.
The Ohio Historical Society’s Archives/Library contains the largest collection of Ohio newspapers in existence. The newspaper holdings contain:
- Newspapers published from 1793-1996
- 4,500 titles
- 20,000 volumes
- Nearly 48,000 rolls of microfilm of Ohio titles
Much of the microfilm in the Society’s newspaper collection was created in 1971 as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities initiative called the United States Newspaper Program. Since then, the information published in the thousands of deteriorating wood-pulp newspaper volumes in the society’s collections has been transferred to more than 16,000 rolls of master negative microfilm. The Ohio Newspaper Digitization Project builds upon this earlier effort.
Looking to the Future
“Thanks to a $353,069 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities last year, the Ohio Historical Society has been able to digitize a select number of historically significant Ohio newspapers,” said Sharon Dean, OHS director of collections.
According to Dean, the initial project was limited to a small number of newspapers published from 1880-1920, so an advisory group of journalists, historians, educators, scholars, librarians and archivists selected runs from 13 titles to be digitized. The newspapers eventually will be uploaded to the Chronicling America Web site over the next year.
These include: Perrysburg Journal, in Perrysburg, from Nov. 26, 1880 to Aug. 26, 1920; Marion Daily Mirror, in Marion, from Jan. 1, 1907 to April 17, 1912; Marion Democratic Mirror, also in Marion, from Jan. 1, 1880 to Dec. 31, 1906; Akron Daily Democrat, in Akron from May 1, 1899 to Dec. 31, 1902; Stark County Democrat, in Canton, from Jan. 1, 1891 to April 14, 2910; Knox County Democratic Banner, in Mount Vernon, from Jan. 4, 1910 to Dec. 29,1922; Springfield Republic, in Springfield, from Jan. 1, 1885 to Sept. 11, 1888; Hillsboro News-Herald, in Hillsboro, from April 17, 1886 to Dec. 31, 2914; Hocking Sentinel, in Logan, from Jan. 3, 1886 to March 15, 1906; Ohio Democrat, in Logan, from July 10, 1886 to March 15, 1906, and also the Ohio Democrat-Sentinel from March 22, 1906 to Dec. 30, 1909; and the Marietta Leader, in Marietta, from Jan. 1, 1896 to Sept 28, 1901.
“These newspapers are just the beginning,” Dean said. “We’ll continue to apply for NEH funds in upcoming grant cycles until we can complete digitizing our collection of Ohio newspapers.”
In addition to the Library of Congress site, researchers also will be able to access the newspapers at http://www.ohiomemory.org. For more information about the Ohio Newspaper Digitization Project, contact Eric W. Schnittke at 614.297.2613 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Established in 1885, the Ohio Historical Society is a nonprofit organization that serves as the state’s partner in preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history, archaeology, natural history and architecture. For more information about programs and events, call 614.297.2300/800.686.6124 or go online at http://www.ohiohistory.org.