Welcome to Chronicling America!
A collaboration between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress, the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) awards organizations grants to create state partnerships for newspaper digitization. As a result, state partners contribute digitized newspapers to Chronicling America. As of January 2021, Chronicling America contains over 17 million pages of digitized newspapers that are freely accessible to the public. Newspapers from 48 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico are included in this remarkable collection (check out this map for a visual!). Newspapers in Chronicling America go as far back as 1777, but as seen in this data visualization, most of the digitized newspaper titles were published between 1850 and 1922. For the state of Maryland, the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project at the University of Maryland Libraries partners with other archives, libraries, and historical societies throughout the state to digitize newspapers published in Maryland for Chronicling America.
For the Maryland collection, Chronicling America contains issues from 50 newspaper titles from across the state published between 1840 and 1951. Some highlights from the collection include:
- The Pilot, Maryland’s oldest newspaper in Chronicling America; publication began in Baltimore in April 1840.
- Specialty newspapers, such as labor unions (The Voice of Labor, The Voice, and The CIO News) and the suffrage movement (Maryland Suffrage News).
- Newspapers from immigrant communities in Baltimore and across four different languages (English, German, Polish and Czech) – with more to come!
With so many newspapers, time periods, and geographic areas, navigating Chronicling American can present a learning curve at first. Here’s some search tips to help get you started researching on Chronicling America:
Know what newspapers are available
One great feature in Chronicling America is a list of all digitized newspapers in the database by state. The list includes the name of the newspaper, its city of publication, how many issues are digitized, and the date ranges (plus a calendar view!). As part of the grant terms outlined by the National Endowments for the Humanities, the goal is to digitize newspapers that reflect each state’s history and geographic region; you won’t be seeing digitized copies of The Washington Post or the New York Times on Chronicling America! By taking a look at this list view, you get a general idea of what is available in the database and how to best tailor your research.
Try searching by or around major historical events
Although the newspapers in Chronicling America are not necessarily nationally-known, many of them still cover major events that occurred in the United States. Such events include the stock market crash of 1929 that led to the Great Depression, the attack on Pearl Harbor, battles during the Civil War, World War I and World War II, sporting events, and presidential elections. Even if you’re struggling to find a national event, you can most likely find the reactions at the local level, which provides a unique perspective for well-known events. Additionally, with Chronicling America, you may discover more local events – labor union riots, suffrage events, updates of crops and farming, and high school graduations – that bolster your research.
Explore the Advanced Search options
When it comes to searching for an article or newspaper issue in Chronicling America, finding the right keywords – and the right amount – is certainly one of the most challenging components to figure out. This may be where the Advanced Search box comes in handy. In this search feature, Chronicling America allows you to search with several arrangements of keywords:
- “With any of the words:”
- “With all of the words:”
- “With the phrase:”
- “With the words ____ within “X” words of each other” (“X” can be 5, 10, 50, or 100 words)
With several different options, how do you know which will yield the best results? Let’s look at an example; say you are looking for articles on Maryland crabs. How would searching “Maryland crabs” in each Advanced Search option look?
- “Maryland OR crabs”
- “Maryland AND crabs”
- “The phrase “Maryland crabs””
- “Maryland crabs”
Essentially, the best search option depends on your topic and what you are searching for. Sometimes, the best way to find out is to give each a try!
Use the date ranges
Date ranges are great for narrowing down your results! If you know you’ll be looking for newspaper articles on how the Great Depression impacted the residents of Baltimore, you’ll want to change the date range to reflect that; articles from the 1850s may not help you out too much! However, if you’re looking to examine changes over time, you may want your date ranges to be a bit broader. As mentioned above, Maryland newspapers in Chronicling America range from 1840 thru 1946; this provides plenty of options to customize date ranges to tailor to your research needs.
To access the Maryland Newspaper Collection, visit the Chronicling America newspaper database, and be sure to follow @HistoricMDNews on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more fun content!
This post is part of a monthly guest blog post series featuring the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and Chronicling America. The Historic Maryland Newspapers Project at University of Maryland Libraries is the Maryland state awardee of the National Digital Newspaper Program. National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress developed this program for state partners to digitize historic newspapers from across the country and make them freely accessible in the Chronicling America newspaper database.
Sarah McKenna is a student assistant for the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and a second year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies. Additionally, McKenna is a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
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