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Extra! Extra! Old newspapers make news again

April 29, 2009 - Art Smith
Parkersburg has a long and rich history of newspapers serving the area with its daily dose of news.

Recently The Parkersburg News and The Parkersburg Sentinel merged to form the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. Both newspapers served the readers of Parkersburg for more than a century. To mark the exciting start of the combined product, we decided to take a look back at some of the front pages that touched the lives of area readers.

I had the privilege of putting together a newspaper and online section containing the information. On April 30, Front Page News was published in the newspaper. On the same day the materials also went online.

Putting the pages together was no easy task. I wish I could say I simply grabbed the file marked “Important front pages” and put together the sections. It doesn’t work that way.

The task started with making a list of dates. Some dates are easy. The start of wars for instance, or major news events such as Apollo 11. Others dates are more challenging, finding the date DuPont announced it was going to build a plant at Washington Bottom took some digging.

Once I had a good list of dates I needed the papers. Hard copies of 100 years of papers simply do not exist in Parkersburg. I’ve only seen one paper that had its complete set of papers, and it filled a room of shelves larger than my house. My only choice was microfilm.

Our own collection proved to be incomplete, so I turned to the very helpful staff at the Wood County Library.

For some events I would use The Sentinel, for others, The News. In some instances I used both so readers could compare how the two newspapers played the story of the day.

Most college libraries now have computer scanners capable of scanning microfilm. I spent several days in the lower level of Marietta College’s Legacy Library scanning more than 200 newspaper pages.

Scanners produce a pdf file of the newspaper page. The format is very flexible and was perfect for what we needed.

The files were then named by date and printed in chronological order. This massive pile was then cut down to the number of papers that we would be able to put in the section.

Amy Mendenhall, a gifted writer and a fellow blogger, then stepped in and helped to write the small articles that appear next to both the print and online versions of the pages.

We thought some people would want to read the actual stories as they appear on the page. The best way to do this was to put all the pages online.

Therefore, starting today, you will find a link under Online Extras for Historical Front Pages. There you will find all the pages that were included in the print version as well as several additional pages.

Next to each of the images of the pages the reader will find a link to download the page as a pdf. This will allow you to read about the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 in the same way that readers in Parkersburg learned about the news 94 years ago.

On the top of the page you will find a link to a special CU gallery. There you can view the pages as a slide show and also order them on a variety of products. If you have been searching for the perfect gift for your history buff, look no farther.

The important thing is these fascinating pages are now out of the storage cabinets and available to readers wherever they may be. They have always been a part of who we are, both as a newspaper and as a community; they are just a little bit more accessible now.



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Some of the front pages included in the section.


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