Chronicling America: Searching Made Easy

This is a guest post from Celia Roskin, Teaching with Primary Sources intern in the Library’s Center for Learning, Literacy and Engagement. This post is directed toward student researchers and is a follow-up to last week’s post about our new student research guide

Chronicling America is the Library of Congress’ digitized newspaper archive where you can access hundreds of thousands of newspapers from 1789 to 1963. On this blog, we have mined Chronicling America for holiday baking and Halloween treats, as well as puzzles and mazes. At first, Chronicling America can seem rather overwhelming to navigate. However, after doing a lot of research myself and getting to know Chronicling America, I have developed some tips and tricks to getting the most out of your search.

Women holding signs in support of suffrage

Evening public ledger. (Philadelphia (Pa.), 29 Oct. 1915. 

Starting your search

  • Find a topic that fascinates you. Research is always more fun when you’re interested in what you’re searching!
  • Type keywords into the Search Bar. These can be people, places, events, etc. Use quotation marks (for example, “Woman Suffrage”) around keywords to ensure that your results contain the whole phrase.
  • Enter specific dates and locations to help narrow down your search.
  • Browse through the “100 years ago today” feature on the front page. This changes every day.

Saving your search results

  • Use the clip tool in the upper right hand corner of your results to save a small piece of the newspaper. Zoom in on the section you want, press the blue scissors symbol, and save an image of your clipping!

Building on your research

  • Consider many perspectives and points of view. Who wrote the article? Who published it? Is there any kind of bias? What other perspectives can you find?
  • Did you find something surprising? Follow that thread!
  • Look at what else is on the page: an opinion column, a game, an ad? These items can help you understand the context of that time period even more.

    The Washington times. (Washington, D.C.), 30 April 1922. 

Chronicling America is a wonderful platform to build and develop your research skills, but it can also be a resource of great fun as well. When taking the time to explore the pages of newspapers, I stumbled upon many challenging, thought provoking, and entertaining puzzles, quizzes, and games. These included mazes, crosswords, anagrams, riddles, color-by-numbers and more! Here are some of my favorites:

You can find more on our earlier post on puzzles and mazes. Finding these puzzles was a fun puzzle in itself! Remember that searching takes time and, as mentioned earlier, the right keywords make all the difference in your search results. When looking for fun newspaper pastimes, I suggest using keywords such as:

  • “Puzzles and Pastimes” or “Puzzles & Pastimes”
  • “Can+you+solve”
  • “Maze” or “Mazes”
  • “Glidogram”
  • “Color by number”
  • “Word ladder”
A math puzzle using a grid

The true northerner. (Paw Paw, Mich.), 09 Sept. 1910. 

These are just a few ideas and examples to consider when beginning your search with Chronicling America. Now, you may be wondering what you can do with the new information you have found. A couple suggestions are:

  1. Incorporate your research into a school project or paper. What better way to impress your teachers?
  2. Create or remix your own newspaper.
  3. Share your findings with friends, family, peers, and teachers. Your newfound information can spark fascinating conversations.

With all of these suggestions, remember to always cite your sources.  It gives credit to the source of your information. Chronicling America makes it incredibly easy to cite your sources. Under every newspaper in the database, there is an available citation. Copy, paste, and you’re done!

It’s no secret that we are seeing fewer newspapers today; almost everything is online now. However, newspapers are one of the greatest ways to learn about documented history. Chronicling America gives people the opportunity to interact with history and gain a greater understanding of it. Think of it like a mystery to solve: what can you learn from the past?

The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.