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Searching for old newspapers
December 7, 2011 - Jim Smith
After more than 40 years in the newspaper industry, I have a very soft spot for newspapers, newspaper history and preserving old nameplates.
Recently I received an email from Vincent Golden, curator of the newspapers and periodicals at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass. (www.americanantiquarian.org/newspapers.htm), which he described as the "third oldest historical society in the country and the oldest with a national rather than regional focus.
"Our mission is to document early American history, society and culture through what it has printed. Toward that end we collect almost everything printed in America 1876 and earlier. This includes books, pamphlets, almanacs, newspapers, periodicals, broadsides, prints, maps, sheet music and ephemera.
"For newspapers we have over 2,000,000 original issues in 16,000-plus titles on seven miles of shelving. They are housed on site in a climate-controlled stacks. We also have our own conservation lab and use archival-quality boxes and folders for storage.
"Next year is our bicentennial. We were founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a newspaper publisher and author of 'A History of Printing in America' published in 1810. His collection formed the nucleus of our library. When he died in 1831 he left the society the original printing press he apprenticed on in the 1750s. We still have it on display."
Golden's email was seeking help from the readers of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel in adding to the society's collection. He wrote:
"Would you be interested in doing something for us? Would it be possible for you to ask your readers if they have any newspapers from West Virginia or nearby states before 1877 they would like to find a good home for? You never know what people might have stored away in attics or closets.
"Because we are located in Massachusetts we have strong holdings of newspapers for New England and the major cities along the eastern seaboard (New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC). For the rest of the country, there is room for improvement. I've been trying to acquire newspapers from the Midwest, South and West so we have better representation in our collection for researchers. For Parkersburg, we have just eight issues in our collection. The oldest is a copy of the Parkersburg Gazette dated Dec. 7, 1861. I wish we had more issues from your area."
I'm a newspaper nut, which I readily admit. Consequently I'd love it if our local historical society had a vast assortment of early editions of area newspapers. But barring that, it would be fitting that any early editions could find a good home with the American Antiquarian Society.
Contact Vincent Golden, Curator of Newspapers and Periodicals, American Antiquarian Society, www.americanantiquarian.org, 185 Salisbury St., Worcester, MA 01609-1634 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, 508-471-2148.
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