Compass is an archive of Library news from 2005 - 2008. For the latest Library news check the Library Blogs.
Compass Newsletter Masthead
   Volume IV, Issue 2
November 2007   

America’s Historical Newspapers, 1690-1922.

Faculty requested it and students love it: Falvey recently acquired a digital collection of early American newspapers, adding to its steadily growing collection of digital news sources. History and political science faculty plan to use America’s Historical Newspapers for their own research as well as in the classroom. During the trial period last spring students and faculty enthusiastically used the new collection and told us that “we must keep this!”

The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1860 to1922 is included in the new collection, making the Library’s holdings of this important local newspaper complete for the first time.Villanova faculty and students also have access to a wide variety of other historical newspapers that have been published here in eastern Pennsylvania. Some local historical newspapers included in the collection are the Federal Gazette (1788-1793), the Pennsylvania Gazette (1736-1775) and the Freeman’s Journal (1781-1792), to name but a few.

America’s Historical Newspapers has the complete content of each newspaper, including advertisements and images. It is easy to look for individual newspaper titles or to browse the entire collection for a list of newspaper titles that were published in a given state or city. Over two hundred years of events chronicled in American newspapers, from 1690 to 1922, offer endless research possibilities for faculty and students alike.

A word of caution regarding keyword searching is in order, however. Indexing and full text searching of this digital collection is based on optical character recognition (OCR) software with its inherent flaws: OCR does not change the original spelling, cannot translate different typefaces equally well and is limited by the quality of the original microfilm product that was scanned into the database.

Many of the older newspapers in the collection used the long “s” character which is almost identical with the Latin “f” character. OCR technology generally reads the long “s” as an “f” in the searchable text. Try replacing the “s” character with the “f” character in your keyword searches or replace it with the wildcard character (?). Many of the German language newspapers published in early Pennsylvania and elsewhere are printed in Fraktur or blackletter typeface which poses even more of a challenge for OCR software.

Other notable digital news collections acquired by Falvey include the complete runs of the New York Times and the London Times. To tap into these resources, go to the Falvey home page and find the resources listed under Databases by Title.

Before these digital collections became available, it was rare for a library the size of Falvey to acquire such a historical collection. Although expensive, digital collections are more affordable than microfilm and do not require any physical space to accommodate them.

The Library is looking forward to hearing about your experience, and librarians are ready to help you in your research endeavors.

Contributed by Jutta Seibert.