Free research tool lets you browse old newspapers

I am always looking for ways to research old stories and articles — and I stumbled across a site which has a searchable database of U.S. newspapers from 1836-1922. Chronicling America is a Library of Congress project that lets you search actual newspaper images — or even create pdfs of the page.

They also have a Flickr account with select images of old newspapers.

The Library of Congress invites you to explore ‘history’s first draft’ by looking at illustrated pages in old newspapers selected from our online collections. We welcome your tags and comments. There’s so much more to discover in yesteryear’s news!

One of the cool things I did when I was playing around on the newspaper site was conduct a search for my surname since it is fairly unique. Some of the stories I found were both interesting (I learned more about Tinker Dave Beaty) and disturbing. For example, there was a Claywell kid who murder a 13-year-old over a ‘Kick me’ sign that was placed on the Claywell teen’s back. This is the news blurb from a January 1906 edition of the Deseret Evening News:

Boy Stabs a Boy

Chicago, Jan. 6 – A dispatch to the Tribune from Dallas says:

Ollie Claywell, 14 years of age, last night stabbed Carl Ownes[sic], aged 13, and is in jail charged with murder. The boys were employed in the Texas Pacific general office. Someone pinned a placard on young Claywell’s back reading, “kick me”. The Owens boy kicked and a fight started. The boys were separated, but went into the street and the stabbing followed.

As disturbing as that story was it wasn’t the most disturbing one I uncovered. I was reading another story — this one involving a Claywell who shot a teen for allegedly stealing a 15 cent watermelon from a freight train (Blue Simmons Shot Friday Night By Frisco Guard: In Hospital). As I read the story, I glanced at the headline next to it and — let’s just say it is amazing how racist newspapers were in the 1920s. I won’t quote the headline (yes, it uses the N-word), but the story — actually more of an editorial — was blaming black teen females for the demise of the Democrat party in Missouri.

When using the site, remember to use the advance search feature. It will let you narrow down your terms, the state and years in a more refined manner. The only downside of the site, that I found, was the images can be slow to load and the convert to text feature is limited at best — but that should be expected since the newspapers are so old.

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Categories: American History, Family History, Genealogy, Tools for historical search | Tags: , , ,

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