Historical Newspapers


The First Woman Elected to Congress: Jeannette Rankin’s Historic Victory

On Nov. 7, 1916, the U.S. Congress—and the entire nation—forever changed when Montana’s Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress, winning a seat in the House of Representatives. Women at that time did not have universal suffrage—the 19th Amendment, granting all American women the right to vote, was passed by Congress in 1919 but did not become law until it was ratified on Aug. 26, 1920.
The First Woman Elected to Congress: Jeannette Rankin’s Historic Victory

UFO Fever in America’s Historical Newspapers: The Mysterious Airships of 1896-97

Before Roswell and Area 51, before the Wright Brothers and heavier-than-air flying machines, America’s attention was seized by reports of a “mysterious airship.” For five months beginning in November 1896, newspapers across the country described strange aircraft and lights in the night sky above many Western states.  Although the country was not without its skeptics, and opportunists, by April 1897 much of the Midwest was afflicted with UFO fever.

On November 23, 1896, a story originally reported by the San Francisco Chronicle was picked up by many newspapers across the United States. Under various headlines—such as “All in the Air: A Mysterious Airship Puzzles the People of California” (Minneapolis Journal), “Airship a Fact: A Son of Maine has Mastered the Secret” (Boston Daily Journal), and “An Airship: Residents of Sacramento, Cal., Are Treated to a Rare Sight; Aerial Navigation a Reality” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)—the newspapers all reported the same general story.

About 1 o’clock last Monday morning the inhabitants of Sacramento, who were astir at that hour, claim to have seen an airship passing rapidly over the city. Some merely said they saw a bright light, while others went so far as to say they saw a cigar-shaped flying machine and heard human voices from it. The residents of Oakland also say they saw the same sight a few nights ago. (Duluth News Tribune, November 23, 1896)

UFO Fever in America’s Historical Newspapers: The Mysterious Airships of 1896-97

The Utterly Sad Anniversary of the “War to End All Wars”: A Look Back Through America's Historical Newspapers

August 2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of what we now call World War I. The wars in Europe since 1815 had been brief affairs. The expectation was that this would also be brief. The Colorado Gazette of August 23, 1914, called it “the Biggest Family Row of History.”



The war would last four years and mark the end of what some historians call the long 19th century, which they date from the French Revolution to 1914. It was the beginning of the end of several European societies; the empires of Russia, Austro-Hungary and Germany did not survive the conflict. Eastern Europe was completely reshaped politically by the war and the peace that followed it. Great Britain struggled with its economic consequences. The European conflicts of the 1930s and World War II are direct results of it, too. America’s Historical Newspapers can help students and scholars explore and understand this conflagration in new ways.

The crisis that started it actually began six weeks earlier, when the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by Serbian nationalists. Other European royalty and government officials had been assassinated in the three decades previous to this killing, but they did not set off a general European war. This killing of the archduke, and the death of his wife in the same attack, would.
The Utterly Sad Anniversary of the “War to End All Wars”: A Look Back Through America's Historical Newspapers

Nineteenth-Century Newspaper Editors Imagine the Twentieth-Century Newspaper

In 1895 editors at thirteen major American newspapers were asked to use their “prophetic powers” to forecast the news publishing world a century hence.

Over the previous decades, many of them had personally witnessed a host of “advancements in the art of newspaper making”: “from the Washington hand press to the perfecting press; from the stage coach to the telegraph; from paper at 10 cents to good paper at 2 cents a pound; from handset to marvelous typesetting machines…”

In this full-page article found in America’s Historical Newspapers, each of those prominent journalists “draw aside the curtain and peer into the future” to imagine the newspaper of 1995.

Here are excerpts from their predictions published nearly 120 years ago.

Nineteenth-Century Newspaper Editors Imagine the Twentieth-Century Newspaper

The Beatles Launch the British Invasion: As Covered 50 Years Ago in the American Press

For American teenagers of the millennial generation, it may be difficult to imagine that a band as established as The Beatles was once viewed as exotic. Yet when they landed at Kennedy Airport on their first U.S. tour in February 1964, they were viewed as curious foreigners with a completely fresh sound, humor and style.

During late 1963, the American press had begun to note The Beatles’ rising popularity in Britain, but coverage dramatically expanded that December when the Beatles reached agreement to appear on America’s most watched variety hour, The Ed Sullivan Show.

The Beatles Launch the British Invasion: As Covered 50 Years Ago in the American Press

Readex Announces Early American Newspapers, Series 10, 1730-1900

Today Readex distributed this press release:

Readex Expands Early American Newspapers with Series 10

Hundreds of rare and essential titles from all 50 U.S. states

Readex Announces Early American Newspapers, Series 10, 1730-1900

Published by Authority: The Boston News-Letter, 1704-1776

The Boston News-Letter was the first continuously published newspaper in the British Colonies of North America, surviving for 72 years.  It appeared 13 years after the one and only issue of America’s first multi-page newspaper, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, was published in 1690. Established more than 300 years ago, the Boston News-Letter was first published and printed on April 24, 1704, by John Campbell and Bartholomew Green, respectively. The News-Letter was noted for its pro-British sympathies, and the words “published by authority” appeared on its front page.

Also of note was the News-Letter’s coverage of the movements of pirates during what we now refer to as the “Golden Age of Piracy” (1650s to 1730s). This information often came from firsthand accounts related to publisher Campbell by sailors arriving in the port of Boston. And there were many such accounts, including numerous mentions of Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. Perhaps of most interest among them would be the news of Blackbeard’s sensational death. This item, which describes his 1718 decapitation in hand-to-hand combat on-board ship, was published in the News-Letter dated Monday February 23, to Monday March 2, 1719.

Published by Authority: The Boston News-Letter, 1704-1776

Just published—The Readex Report: November 2013

IN THIS ISSUE: A pensive primer on the teaching of history research classes, a mysterious presidential embargo exemption sparks envy and anger, and a gifted group of Chinese students succumbs to Western ways.

Librarians and History Instruction: Getting the Most Out of the One-shot Session
By Alexandra Simons, History, Political Science, and Government Documents Librarian, University of Houston

Just published—The Readex Report: November 2013

November News History: A Short Quiz

This month we offer a short news quiz, which focuses on five historical events that took place between 1811 and 1922, all during the month of November.

Can you answer four or more of these five multiple-choice questions correctly and get a passing grade? All of the answers can be found in America's Historical Newspapers, as can be seen upon completion.

Try the Readex quiz today.  

November News History: A Short Quiz

Eyewitness Accounts of President Kennedy’s Assassination: A Look Back after 50 Years

In Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963, one undisputed fact occurred: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and his wife Nellie. Beyond that almost every detail is disputed, and Kennedy’s assassination remains the subject of vigorous debate, with many competing conspiracy theories.

Did Lee Harvey Oswald actually kill the president, even though he denied it before Jack Ruby in turn murdered him? Was Oswald a lone assassin, as the official government-sponsored Warren Commission concluded after a 10-month investigation? Were there three shots or four? Did all the shots come from the Texas Book Depository, or did at least one shot come from a grassy knoll on the north side of Elm Street? If the killing was a conspiracy, who was involved? The questions, and the speculation, are endless, and now at the half century mark it looks like we may never know the whole story.

The Dallas Morning News thoroughly covered the Kennedy assassination. After all, it was a major story happening in their own city, and one of their correspondents was chosen to be one of the four reporters allowed to travel in the presidential motorcade that fateful day. The News printed that reporter’s eyewitness account of the assassination, as well as an eyewitness account from another staff reporter who was standing on the infamous grassy knoll at the time the shots rang out.

Eyewitness Accounts of President Kennedy’s Assassination: A Look Back after 50 Years

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