Skip to main content

Historic Newspapers: Newspapers - A History Lesson

This Guide lists available Historic Newspapers as well as Databases where Historic Newspapers are avaliable.

Historic Newspapers Headers

Early Newspapers - A History

The following video created by the University of Illinois University Library provides a detailed, in-depth look at the American newspaper industry.  While fairly long, it provides excellent information on the social and cultural contexts of early newspapers, as well as the evolution of the newspaper industry in general.

This video is fully sub-titled.  Click here to view a full transcript.

How to Research Using Historic Newspapers

There is an excellent blog post (linked below) by Rachel Leow titled "On Newspapers as Sources" that provides guidelines on how to keep your newspaper research on track.  Leow suggests the following:

  • Have a list (of articles, themes, or questions) you want your reading to address
  • Find a common thread of some kind in your reading
  • Don't use just one newspaper
  • Don't read only articles that your keyword search returns; read others that are referenced in the original
  • Use existing secondary literature to point you to interesting articles or themes in newspapers
  • Keep VERY detailed notes on every article you read (including metadata, microfilm reel numbers, or hard copy call numbers), not just basic author, title, date, and page number.
  • Make sure to read letters to the editor, and even advertisements, for additional context
  • "Be open to serendipity, but not to the point of distraction."  

R Leow. (2009, June 16). On Newspapers as Sources. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Special Thanks and Acknowledgement

We would like to gratefully acknowledge the work done at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library in compiling extensive history and background information on American antebellum newspapers.  Please see their original library guide American Newspapers, 1800-1860 for additional information not included here.