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WVRHC receives third NEH grant to digitize historical newspapers

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
October 1st, 2015

The West Virginia University Libraries’ West Virginia and Regional History Center has received a $155,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue digitizing historic newspapers published in West Virginia from 1836 to 1922.

“This new grant will enable us to increase our digital newspaper database to over 300,000 pages and extend our reach to communities across the state,” WVRHC Curator John Cuthbert said.

The award is the Libraries’ third grant from the endowment as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program. This collaborative effort between the endowment and the Library of Congress enlists libraries and institutions from around the country to provide enhanced access to historical United States newspapers. As part of this project, the NEHawarded the West Virginia and Regional History Center a $266,000 grant in 2011 and a $135,000 grant in 2013.

The extensive digital newspaper database is available on the Chronicling America website hosted by the Library of Congress.

Now, instead of painstakingly poring over page after page to find mention of a desired topic, users can use a few keystrokes to quickly search decades of newspapers.

“This database is a revolutionary tool for anyone looking for newspaper content in any field. Type in a word or name, and one gets instant results that might formerly have taken years to compile,” Cuthbert said.

“One of our goals has been to uncover specialty or unique subject specific papers that document important moments in West Virginia history, says Stewart Plein, managing director of the National Digital Newspaper Program project. ”Among these are Civil War camp newspapers, labor papers with a focus on coal, the first African-American newspaper in the state, and the state’s only Italian-language newspaper.”

So far, the WVRHC has made available a total of 15 historic West Virginia newspapers. Readers and researchers, historians and genealogists will have full access to these historic newspapers on the Library of Congress site, Chronicling America. The following newspapers are currently available on Chronicling America:

  • Cooper’s Clarksburg Register, Clarksburg (1851-1861);
  • Spirit of Jefferson, Charles Town (1844-1899);
  • Star of the Kanawha Valley, Buffalo (1855-1856), later renamed Kanawha Valley Star, Charleston (1856-1861);
  • Monongalia Mirror (1849-1855) and American Union (1855-1859), both Morgantown;
  • The Weekly Register, Point Pleasant (1862-1909);
  • The Democrat (1868-1874) and the Weston Democrat (1875-1902), both Weston.
  • American Union 1863 (Union) Martinsburg
  • Labor Argus 1906 May – April 1913 (Socialist party) Charleston
  • Fairmont West Virginian 1904 Apr – 1922 (Republican) Fairmont
  • Daily Intelligencer, Nov. 12, 1859-June 24, 1865; Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, August 24, 1852-Nov. 11, 1859; and the The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, June 26, 1865-Dec. 31, 1898.

    The following five newspapers will be added to Chronicling America this year:

  • Clarksburg Telegram 1892 – 1912 (Republican) Clarksburg
  • Daily Telegram 1902 – 1922 Clarksburg
  • Socialist and Labor Star 1913 May – 1915 Jan (Socialist) Huntington
  • Pioneer Press 1884/1888 – 1911/1917 (African American) Martinsburg
  • La Sentinella del West Virginia 1911 Feb – 1912 May Thomas (Italian language)

WVU’s 300,000-page contribution to the national newspaper project presents both sides of the Civil War conflict. Although most of western Virginia remained loyal to the Union, Cooper’s Clarksburg Register and the Kanawha Valley Star opposed abolition and the separation of Virginia’s western counties to form a new state.

Researchers also have immediate access to reporting on the growing antebellum conflict between eastern and western Virginia, John Brown’s Raid, West Virginia’s statehood movement and establishment, West Virginia’s Constitution of 1872, Reconstruction, and the United States’ Centennial.


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