(Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Searching for Newspaper Pages in Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Everything you know and love about Chronicling America  just got better. The Library of Congress  recently updated the website, which is home to select digitized American newspapers from 1860 to 1922 and information about American newspapers from 1690 to present. Now, with increased search options, enhanced image-viewing functionality and other new and improved features, digital newspaper content created by states participating in the National Digital Newspaper Program  is easier than ever for users all over the world to access. So what exactly are these new features and how do you use Chronicling America to unlock this rich primary source material? Keep reading to find out.

Chronicling America front page.

One of the best features of Chronicling America is that, through the digitization process, each newspaper image has become keyword-searchable. Instead of hours of painstakingly searching through pages of hardcopy or microfilmed newspaper looking for articles about President McKinley’s assassination or for your great-grandmother’s birth announcement, you can type your search terms into a search box (just like you would with Google), hit enter and voila! With any luck (and depending on your search terms), tens or even hundreds of results populate at your fingertips for you to review.

Ready to get started? No longer is it necessary to go to a specific screen to do a search: Chronicling America’s search feature is now on the website’s front page, and the blue search bars stay with you as you move throughout the site.

Search Bar

Chronicling America also now offers a basic search option – called “Search Pages” – that is separate from the Advanced Search. For a basic search, you have the option of limiting your results to newspapers from a particular state or year range using the limiters in the light blue boxes.

If you click on the Advanced Search tab, you will see search options that you’ll recognize if you’ve used the old Chronicling America:

Advanced search screen.

With the Advanced Search, you can limit your search to a specific state or year range, but the following limiters are also available:

  • Select States(s): can select more than one, but fewer than all states (use CTRL + left-click to highlight more than one state)
  • Or Select Newspaper(s): can select a newspaper (use CTRL + left-click to highlight more than one paper title)
  • Or Date Range: input MM/DD/YYYY to limit results to specific day, month, etc.
  • Limit Search: select to view results from only the front pages or a specific page number

Using these features will help you get the most out of this resource by excluding results from states, papers and time periods that are irrelevant to your search.

The search boxes at the bottom of the Advanced Search box let you ask the search engine to look for your terms in different ways:

  • with any of the words (type: dog cat, then any page with the word dog, cat or both words will appear in your results list)
  • with all of the words (type: dog cat, and only retrieve pages on which both words appear)
  • with the phrase (helpful for looking for specific quotations, sayings, place names and people names – don’t forget to put quotation marks around your phrase!)
  • proximity search – search for words within 5, 10, 50 or 100 words of one another

Note: When selecting your search terms, it’s important to be aware of historical vocabulary differences: often, words we use today to describe people, places and events of the past are not the same as the ones people living during that time – those people who were reading and writing the news – would have used. For example, the country we know today as Thailand was called Siam until 1939. If you did a search for Thailand in Chronicling America, you would get few or no relevant results. Use the search termSiam to get the results you want.

After you decide what you want to search for and what sort of limiters you want to use, type your search term into the box and hit the enter key. You can also click on the “GO” button if using the basic search or the “Search” button if using the advanced search.

Your results page will show a gallery of mini-newspaper pages on which your search terms appear, sorted by relevance (relevancy determined by how often your search term appears on one page and how close your search terms are to one another).

Search results for "pepper" in Ohio newspapers.

You have the option to sort your results by state, title and date, and can also view your results as a list. The list view takes out the images and provides the title of the paper, date of issue and image (page) number on which your search terms appear.

Another great new feature is the option to “Show only front pages” once your search results appear. This can help you narrow down your results.

Wondering what all those pink dots are? Those are your search terms highlighted so that they are easier for you to find. If you want to look at a larger version of the image, click on the newspaper page or on the hyperlink below the image. Your search terms will remain highlighted when viewing the larger version of the image.

Image-viewing screen.

Image Zoom located in the upper left corner of the image-viewing screen.

Once on the image-viewing screen, you can zoom in on portions of the image by either left-clicking on whatever part of the page you want to see close-up or by using the + and – buttons located to the left of the newspaper page. Moving the image around is easy too – just click on it and, holding down the left mouse button, move your mouse around to reposition the image. Clicking on the home button next to the – button resets the image. If the screen is still too small, don’t worry. The new Chronicling America allows you to toggle to a full-screen view by clicking on the button to the right of the home key.

Arrows in the gray bar above the image allow you to navigate to previous and next pages and issues. From this screen, you can also browse a calendar view of all issues available for that paper, view the text version of the page, download the image or save it as a PDF to your computer.

Want to print? Click on the scissors next to
“Clip Image” (on the far right side of the gray
bar above the image).

A new screen will open up, providing citation information and a printable version of the image. If you have zoomed in on any portion of the image, this feature allows you to print only the zoomed in version of the page. The printing option isn’t available in the full-screen view, so if you are using that feature, click on the link in the top left that says “Back to Normal Screen Mode” so you can print the page.

Sample print screen with portion of image zoomed-in.

Chronicling America contains over 3.5 million pages from 25 different states. If you’re interested in browsing the site to see what’s available, click on the “All Digitized Newspapers 1860-1922” tab in the search bar.

Search Bar

You can see the entire list of over 500 newspapers currently available on the site, or filter that list by state, ethnicity or language. For each newspaper title, the state in which it was published and the date range available digitally is listed. When doing a search, it’s important to keep in mind that not every newspaper ever published inAmericabetween 1860 and 1922 is available. This list is helpful because it will tell you exactly what’s on the site.

Another way to become familiar with the site is by browsing the “Recommended Topics” section (formerly known as “Topics in Chronicling America”). These subject guides provide a timeline, search terms and sample articles about topics that were often reported on by the American press at the time, such as significant people, events and fads. The link is on the left side of the screen, underneath the search bar.

There are over 75 topics to choose from, including Clara Barton, Football Reform, Halley’s Comet, President Garfield, Orchidelirium, Yoga and many more. Check these out if you don’t have a particular search query in mind but would like to explore the site.

“Curious cases of…” shows you how to find news of the weird and stories of history’s oddities

Another new feature appears on the front page of Chronicling America. 100 Years Ago Today showcases front pages of newspapers that were published – you guessed it –on that day 100 years ago. This offers users another way to browse the site to see exactly what was happening in their country, region, state or even city 100 years ago.

Over the coming months, Chronicling America content will begin to span as far back as 1836 as institutions participating in the National Digital Newspaper Program continue their efforts to digitize microfilm historic newspapers in their collections. Civil war era newspapers fromOhio will be among the new additions to the site, and by the end of 2012, it is expected that users will have access to over 4 million newspaper pages. The site is updated quarterly, so check back often to see what’s new.

Now that you know the basics of searching for newspaper pages in Chronicling America – get started! It’s amazing what you can discover when you start to explore the past through the lens of historic newspapers. For more tips and information, see Chronicling America’s Help page.

The National Digital Newspaper Program is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Library of Congress and state projects to provide enhanced access to United States newspapers published between 1836 and 1922. NEH awards support state projects to select and digitize historically significant titles that are aggregated and permanently maintained by the Library of Congress at Chronicling America. As part of the project, the Ohio Historical Society contributed 100,000 newspaper pages to the project over a two year period ending July 2010 and will contribute an additional 100,000 pages by the end of August 2012. For more information about the Ohio Historical Society’s participation in the program, see the National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio Project Wiki.

Jenni Salamon

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This entry was posted in Digital Projects, Digitization, Research Tips, Research Tools. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to (Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Searching for Newspaper Pages in Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

  1. Ruth Ferris says:

    You did a great job. This is a very good tutorial.

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