Searching America's Historical Newspapers

Open http://www.library.arizona.edu/search/articles/dbDetail.php?shortname=earlyamernews1 in another browser window to work through this tutorial side by side.

Introduction

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In this tutorial, you will learn how to find articles using America's Historical Newspapers. This database includes more than 1,000 full-text newspapers from all 50 states and covers the years 1690–1922. It also includes Hispanic American Newspapers (1808–1980), African American Newspapers (1827–1998), Arizona Newspapers (1866-1931) and New Mexico Newspapers (1844-1920).

Use the arrows below to navigate through the tutorial.

Introduction

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Using the page to your right, select America's Historical Newspapers.

You may be prompted to enter your UA NetID and password.

You are now in America's Historical Newspapers.

Identify Keywords

You are taking an 18th Century American History class and your professor has assigned you a research project. You need to find out about the language that was used to describe enslaved African Americans in the Deep South.

What are the best keywords for searching old newspaper articles on this topic?

Search Database

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In the search box next to For: type the search terms: negro slave

Select the green Search button.

How many results did you find?

Refine Your Search

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Look at the tabs that allow you to limit your search results. Which two would be the most useful for you, given your research topic?

 

Reminder: You need to find out about the language that was used to describe enslaved African Americans in the 18th century Deep South.

Refine Your Search

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You decide to only search up until the end of the American Revolution, which ended in 1783. Select the Dates and Eras tab.

Under Custom Date Range, type: 1700-1783. Now select the Places of Publication tab.

[Note that each state lists titles in parentheses. Many of the states have 0 titles because they either did not publish any local newspapers during this time period or their newspapers for that time period are not included in this database.]

Select the check boxes next to the following states: Georgia and South Carolina.

Notice that the map now has red stars on the selected states.

Return to the top of the page and click the Search button. Now how many results do you get?

Explore Your Results

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Look at your list of results and notice the information provided. The newspaper title is listed first, along with the page and issue number. What tends to not be included in the description of these articles?

Explore Your Results

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Access the first article by selecting the preview image. Who is the author of this advertisement?

Notice that the keywords are highlighted. Did the database highlight all of the times the word “slave” or “slaves” appears in this article?

Explore Your Results

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Near the top left of the page, select the underlined Results link to return to your results page. Scroll down until you find the first article from South Carolina. What is the name of the publication?

Explore Your Results

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At the top of the page, use the drop-down menu next to Return:

Select Best matches first then click the Search button.

Access the first result by select the preview image of the article.

Notice the table of contents on the left side of the page. This advertisement is on page 3. Select the underlined Page [3] link to view the entire page.

Find the advertisement that has an image in it. Select it. Notice that this article is about a runaway slave, written as two words, “run away,” in the text.

Also note that the article does not include the word “slave.” This means you could search the term “run away” as another option. To be safe, it is best to search it as a two-word phrase since this is how it appears.

What would be a good revised search?

Try Another Search

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Select the underlined Results link near the top of the page to return to your results page.

Under the For: search box, click the underlined link Add Search Field.

Click Add Search Field a second time, so that you have three search boxes.

Type the following in the search boxes:

slave

OR run away

AND negro

Rather than typing the words "OR" and "AND," select them from the drop-down menus.

Select the Search button. How many results did you get?

 

In this database, you need to put exact phrases in quotes.

Revise your search by putting quotes around the phrase “run away.” Select Search.

HINT: The search boxes should read:

slave

OR “run away”

AND negro

Now how many results did you get?

Is the database still limiting your results to the date range and places of publication you previously selected?

Try Another Search

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So far you have limited to the date range 1700–1783. This is because you wanted to search for articles through the end of the American Revolution, which ended in 1783.

Let's say you wanted to search for articles that came out during the American Revolution. Select the Dates and Eras tab.

Delete the custom date range of 1700-1783 and click on the Search button. You should retrieve about 42,000 results.

Now select the Dates and Eras tab again, then select the link to Eras in American History.

Select the check box next to American Revolution (1775 to 1783).

Click the Search button again.

How many results did you get?

Final Thoughts

 

Notes of caution:

  • This database finds text using optical character recognition (OCR), and the paper quality of some of the scanned newspapers is poor. This means it does not recognize text perfectly and will sometimes miss results or give inaccurate results. If you find a relevant article, it is often useful to browse the whole issue for related articles that may not have come up in your initial search.
  • As you may have noticed in the results, older newspapers often contain historic spellings and misspellings. If you are not finding many results, try browsing related articles to get ideas for alternate spellings. For example, “flavour” instead of “flavor.”
  • Typescripts and fonts have historic variations. In particular, “S” looks like “F” in most of the articles you looked at today. Keep this in mind when you are searching and interpreting your results.

If you ever need help using this database, ask a librarian.