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Journalism - Newspaper Research: Historical Newspapers

Find primary sources for newspapers, find Missouri newspapers, international newspapers, historical newspapers and info on doing newspaper research.

Using this page

This page contains information about historical newspapers in general and specific collections focus on papers outside of Missouri. Some listed collections may contain historical Missouri newspapers as part of a larger scope. For Missouri-specific historical newspapers, please see the 'Missouri Newspapers' tab.

This page also includes a glossary of historical newspaper terms. For general newspaper terms, please see the 'Home' tab.

Some tips for starting historical newspaper research:

  • Narrow things down! Identify your specific time period, paper, subject, or all of the above.
  • Use digital databases that index the newspaper you are researching.
    • Most digital news databases begin coverage in the 1990s, but they are often not a complete representation of the print newspaper. Freelance articles may have been removed due to the Tasini Case, therefore the only way to get the entire newspaper is either through microfilm or the digitized version of the whole newspaper.
  • If MU Libraries does not own the digital version or microfilm (miniature scans of newspapers on film viewable on a microfilm reader) of the newspaper you need, try searching Worldcat (a database that has information on the holdings of many libraries). If it is available, request it from another library using interlibrary loan.

Video: How do I search for articles in historical newspaper databases?

This informative video from the University of Alabama Libraries will help you get started with using historical newspaper databases.

Historical Newspaper Glossary

Blanket Sheet: Nickname for very large broadsheet newspapers of the 1830s. They were about twice the size of modern newspapers.
Broadsheet: A large format newspaper, but not as large as a blanket sheet. Newspaper page size increased in the 1800s, due to improvements in printing technology. In the 1900s, the broadsheet format was often compared with the tabloid. The earliest newspapers were large, unfolded broadsheets printed on a single side. Sometimes called broadsides.

Types of historical newspapers:

Extra: An edition of a newspaper--usually a city newspaper--that was published in addition to the regular editions and sold on the street when especially important news broke, such as a fire, the death of an important person, or the arrival of war news.

Mercantile Papers: Newspapers written primarily for city businessmen that worked in finance and trade. They had information about the prices of goods and services, ship arrivals and departures, and political and foreign news. An example is the New York Journal of Commerce. Also called commercial papers.

Penny Papers: Penny papers sold for one-cent per issue and targeted the general public (the working- and middle-classes) through individual street sales. They tended to emphasize more topical news, scandal, and police reporting. Some of the most important penny papers were the New York Sun, the New York Herald, the New York Tribune, the Philadelphia Public Ledger, and the Baltimore Sun.

Political Papers: Newspapers that focused primarily on politics and government.

Volume: Newspaper issues used to be organized into volumes. Volume and issue numbers are usually printed on the nameplate, and less commonly on the masthead. A volume often covers a one-year period, but this one-year period does not necessarily correspond to a calendar year. For example, a paper that:

  • was started March 1st
  • has been around for four March 1sts by your year of interest
  • published 3 complete newspapers since January 1st of the year of interest
  • published 2 complete newspapers since March 1st of the year of interest

would likely have 4 volumes and 2 issues. The volume and issue numbering can help a researcher understand whether a newspaper run is complete. Note: Historically, it was not uncommon, especially in remote areas, for newspapers to publish less regularly than advertised, so the volume and issue numbering can help identify gaps (i.e., if an issue was simply delayed or if it is not in the collection a researcher is looking through).

Terms and definitions sourced from the AP Stylebook, the University of Illinois- Urbana guide 'Newspapers, 1800-1860', Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, 'Newspaper Sections and Terms' by Grace Fleming of ThoughtCo, and the Library of Congress page 'How to Find a Newspaper'

MU Licensed Historical Newspaper Resources

These links will take you to sites that require you to use your MU credentials (i.e. what you use to log into your Mizzou email).

International

 

United States

 

ProQuest Historical News Databases

Public Historical Newspaper Resources

Always be sure to check the cost of materials you engage with! As of May, 2022 these sites are free OR partially free and clearly mark materials that require payment.

International

 

United States

Regional Collections

Need Help?

There are lots of ways the libraries can support you!

Get research assistance from the MU Libraries' staff via email, phone, or in person at the library. There's also a searchable list of frequently asked questions. You can chat with a librarian 24 hours a day (M-F) and Saturday and Sundays starting at 10 a.m. You can contact your subject librarian to ask questions or to set up an appointment to meet one-on-one

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