Library 101: America's Historical Newspapers

Posted on: Monday, January 25th, 2016 by Jody Hanshew

“A distressing case of insanity occurred at Emory & Henry College, Virginia, a few days since. Professor Stevens has been suddenly bereft of his understanding, accompanied with such symptoms of violence that the strongest restraints upon his person were necessary.”

Don’t worry, this isn’t current news. This quote is from the January 7, 1844 issue of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, accessed through one of Kelly Library’s online databases, Readex’s  America’s Historical Newspapers. This collection contains scans of hundreds of historical newspapers from 1690 to 1900. Through eyewitness reporting, editorials, legislative updates, letters, poetry, advertisements, election returns, matrimony and death notices, maps, cartoons, illustrations and more, these historical newspapers offer researchers essential local and national perspectives on American history, culture and daily life across three centuries.

The newspapers can be searched by keyword or browsed by individual newspaper title, geographic location, or era. The full text includes a scan of the original article, which can be zoomed, downloaded, or printed. Our collections include thirty three Virginia titles, the earliest being a 1784 issue of the Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser.

You will find some mentions of Emory & Henry College in these historical newspapers, including the Times-Picayune article mentioned above, back as early as the 1840s. A July 25, 1845 article in the Richmond Enquirer said of Emory & Henry that “no similar in the state is more delightfully situated or more worthy of public patronage than this”. The article also mentioned that in 1845 “the entire expenses for board, tuition, washing and rooms do not exceed $18 per session of five months.” Another Richmond Enquirer article from the same month again mentions the “flourishing institution” and its “handsome quota” of 177 students. The author hoped to get better acquainted with the college “when the good people of the Southwest shall get their road.” Until then the author “could scarcely be prevailed upon to devote the time and labor to the Herculean task of passing their rocky roads, even for the gratification of enjoying the charms of that fine region.”

If your research needs are for more current newspaper articles the library has some good database options there as well. The America’s Newspapers database provides the full text of more than 700 newspapers, including the Bristol Herald Courier, the Washington County News, and the Roanoke Times. Other options include Newspaper Source Plus, a comprehensive collection of the world’s major newspapers, newsmagazines, and newswires, and Lexis Nexis, which offers national, local, and international news, as well as financial and legal information.

All of the newspaper databases mentioned (and much more) can be accessed through the Kelly Library website ( under the A-Z Databases link.

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