Who Wants Yesterday's Papers? We Do!

Where do all those papers in Readex’s America’s Historical Newspapers come from? The majority of the issues in the seven series of Early American Newspapers were originally filmed over many decades in partnership with the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. However, a variety of libraries, museums, universities, and historical societies have also contributed a great many issues, as have several current-day publishers with historical back files.

From America's Historical Newspapers

Stanley Shapiro, "our man in Worcester" for over 40 years, forged partnerships with many repositories. Often traveling throughout New England and surrounding states, he identified issues needed, wrote countless query letters, made arrangements for shipping, and transported newspapers himself to the Readex filming office where he and his helpers created and logged thousands of rolls of microfilm. Following in his footsteps, I became Readex’s acquisitions and filming manager for Early American Newspapers in 2004. Taking up the cause of hunting out rare papers has led to many unforgettable experiences. A few years ago I drove hundreds of miles to the eastern edge of the U.S. at Maine’s border with Canada to obtain the Eastport Sentinel. One Connecticut public library hired a locksmith to open their vault for us, where a few scarce early issues of the Republican Farmer, originally published in Danbury, were stored for decades, unknown to current staff because the key was lost long ago.

From America's Historical Newspapers

I spent hours in the spider-webbed basement of a small-town library, perusing a stack of random nineteenth-century titles for needed issues. On my second visit to a certain library’s hot, sunny attic, I brought along cloths to wipe away a century’s worth of dust on gap-filling volumes we needed. "Red-rot," the powdery condition of antique leather bindings, has left dark marks across many of my blouses, though fortunately it does wash out. In my line of work one learns quickly not to wear dry-cleanable clothing on library forays. Acquisitions specialist Sylvan Groth, my Readex colleague, does meticulous research to track down issues missing in the digital collections. She contacts potential sources across the country by phone and email, and makes arrangements to use existing film or to scan unfilmed issues. Gaps of a year or more in any announced title get first priority, but even single stray issues are valuable towards our long term goal of digitizing all American newspapers going back three centuries. Longtime historical newspaper contributors to the Readex microfilm series and now the digital collections include many historical societies, such as those of Wisconsin and Kansas, a number of universities, including Duke, and state libraries, including Connecticut. Our list of partners is long and growing, and the acquisitions team is eager to collaborate with anyone who has film to be digitized or newspapers to preserve on film. We are grateful to all the librarians and historians who continue to aid us in our quest, and look forward to many more exchanges. Here's my contact information: Lynn Way; Readex, Division of NewsBank, inc.; Chester, VT; (802) 875-2397 extension 8087 or lway@newsbank.com.

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