A guide to navigating the Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers website

A View of the Chronicling America homepage

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers is chock full of useful information to users wishing to search for newspapers and to learn more about the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). In fact, I thought a proper explanation of how to navigate the site might be in order. In this post, I will provide an overview of the Chronicling America website, focusing on three main areas: the See All Available Newspapers page, the Search Newspaper Pages page, and the Search Newspaper Directory page.

The Library of Congress staff continues to work hard to improve the design and usability of Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Right now, researchers have the ability to search within the current version of which I will provide an overview here, and a beta version which is a  site redesign the Library of Congress staff is currently testing.

There are several links in the upper left corner of the current homepage, where one may find basic information about the program (About Chronicling America), which states are participating in Chronicling America (Awardees), and technical aspects of the program (Technical and API). Users can learn more about NEH, the funding body who, with the Library of Congress, has made this monumental program possible. The Working with Chronicling America box, at the bottom of the page, provides great links to:

See All Available Newspapers

A View of the See All Available Newspapers page

The See All Available Newspapers tab links to a page which provides the number of newspaper pages currently available on Chronicling America. As of now, there are 3,308,613 images available. The number of images continues to grow, as more newspapers are added or “ingested” into the newspaper database, so keep checking in on this page if you are interested to know how much has been added to the overall NDNP program.

The 23 states (of the 25 participating states) listed on this page display which of the newspapers from state programs are now available in Chronicling America. One can select the live link to each State at the top of the page, which will skip down to the table, to that State’s newspaper listings and what is currently available for newspaper titles by State. I find this page to be the easiest path to begin my search when I wish to browse a particular newspaper title. It provides live links to:

  • Newspaper titles, organized alphabetically with other papers in a State
  • to view the MARC catalog record for each newspaper by selecting its newspaper title  link from this table
  • the ability to Browse Issues and begin researching newspapers from this list
  • view the Earliest Issue and Latest Issue currently available for a newspaper
  • the More Info link which opens a page to an essay providing an overview and interesting information about each newspaper.

Keep in mind, this table is a work in progress and will be continually updated as more newspaper content is added.

To see the historic South Carolina newspaper titles selected for this grant cycle, go to http://sc.edu/library/digital/newspaper/title.html. All of the titles on this list will be ingested into Chronicling America and appear on the See All Available Newspapers page. We anticipate, and hope, that all will be ingested by the end of this summer.

Search Newspaper Pages

A View of the Search Newspapers Pages page

The Search Newspaper Pages tab in the upper left corner of the homepage and the View Newspapers box (in the center of the homepage) will open the same Search Newspapers page.

This search page allows users to refine their search by State, Newspaper Title, Year, Date Range, and Search Terms.

In the box on the upper left, one can choose to search All States, or select one state or more at a time from the drop down box. On the upper right, one can select All Newspapers or opt to select one Newspaper Title at a time per search without having to select the State in this search.

Under the Select a Year or Date Range, the user can do just that by either selecting a particular Year from a dropdown box, or by specifying a Date Range. By clicking within the date range boxes, a calendar opens in which one may select month and year from a dropdown box, and select the day by clicking on the day on the calendar. This will input that date into the appropriate date range box.

Users can search newspaper pages to retrieve article level information on:

  • particular people, proper names, family names, and businesses
  • particular cities, towns, and communities
  • specific historical events
  • general news of the time
  • unique passages of text
  • illustrations, advertisements, cartoons, and photos
  • and a vast array of topics like fashion, commercial products, patent medicines, transportation, legislation, crime and punishment, fraternal organizations, industry, technology, disease, etc.

The Enter Search boxes, where one enters the search terms of interest, provide four different ways to retrieve good results: With Any of the Words…, With All of the Words…, With the Phrase…, and With Words …within (5, 10, 50, or 100 words) Proximity of One Another. If one uses the latter search box, choosing the 5 or 10 words in proximity of one another will yield the best results.

When selecting search terms remember to:

  • try and use the historically used terms rather than the modern terms used today, such as the Great War instead of World War One as it is called today .
  • try variations on spelling, i.e. Freedmen’s Bureau and Freedman’s Bureau will retrieve very different results.
  • disregard case letters, the same results will be retrieved whether it is capitalized or not.
  • disregard articles such as a, an, and the.
  • place quotation marks around a phrase to get better results
  • enter words in order they are most likely to occur.

The Help tab, in the upper left of the homepage, offers in-depth searching tips to help in retrieving optimal results when searching the newspaper database, so I encourage you to visit that page.

Page Search Results

A View of the Page Results page

Once a search has been instituted, the retrieved results will open in a new page. The Page Search Results page will provide the number of retrieved results in the upper right corner, and will also display newspaper pages in Thumbnail View (default). One may also select to view results by List View, and sort results by State, Title, and Date. Keep in mind that the retrieved results will first be displayed with the most relevant results at the top of the results. One has the ability to go back and forward in the Results pages by selecting the Previous and Next buttons or going to any results page by entering a number in the Jump to Page box. The search terms that match the search will be highlighted in Pink on the Results Page Images.

To view a newspaper page, left click on the page image or select the issue information link below the newspaper image.

A View of the Image View in Page Results

In the new page, the Newspaper Title, Place of Publication, Date Range of the Newspaper Title, the Issue Date, and the Image Number appear in both the black banner and white banner above the Image View. Also, the Persistent Link which can be saved, and will always take you back to this page, is present. This link should be used if a citation is necessary.

All of the commands such as Zoom, Draw Zoom Box, Reset, move to Previous and Next Pages and Previous and Next Issues links are located above the newspaper image. One great feature is the Draw Zoom Box, which one selects then draws a box around the text one wishes to read, and that box zooms in to make that passage readable. The Reset button allows one to revert back to the original view size showing the whole newspaper page. One can also Zoom In and Zoom Out by selecting the + and – signs for zooming in and out. My favorite feature is a nifty Pan toggle button which one can select and drag the newspaper page around to enable reading content on the newspaper page. LC recently improved the view image page by placing the Zoom In and Out, Zoom Draw box, and Reset buttons at the top and the bottom of the View Page.

A View of the Browse Issues page

The View button allows one to see the OCR text, which is not perfect but can provide useful information. One can view the newspaper page as a PDF document which provides a clear image of that page, with the ability to zoom in and out easily, and save the Page in several formats.

The Browse Issues link is great. One can select this to see a calendar view of issues available by day of the month and by selecting Year from the Issues For dropdown box. The days of the month that have live links show the issues available for viewing. This page also provides the ability to Browse First Pages Only, Browse Issues, read the essay about the newspaper in More About This Newspaper, visit the Search Newspaper Directory information by choosing the About This Newspaper link. Those who want to view the MARC record, mostly librarians, can view that here as well.

Search Newspaper Directory

A View of the Find Information About Newspapers Box

The Chronicling America Newspaper Directory is an extensive directory that allows researchers to find out about particular historic newspapers and to learn whether a newspaper title is included in Chronicling America. This directory contains almost 140,000 separate historic American newspapers titles that were published dating from 1690 to the present. It also contains the most complete catalog information about each newspaper, including dates of publication, places of publication, associated newspaper titles such as those previous newspapers that preceded and those newspaper titles that continued a particular newspaper.

A View of Browse Newspaper Titles by Alphabet

The Search Newspaper Directory tab in the upper left corner of the homepage and the Find Information about Newspapers from 1690 to Today box (in the center right of the homepage) will open the same Search Newspaper Directory page. One can Browse the Directory by Newspaper Title by selecting a letter of the alphabet, as shown in the illustration above, then choosing the live link to the newspaper title of interest. This will open the directory page with the catalog record of that newspaper.

A View of the Search Newspaper Directory page


Selecting the Search Directory link, one can begin searching in the Newspaper Directory. Researchers have the ability to search by State, County, City, Date Range, Keywords, Frequency, Language, Ethnicity of the Publication, Labor Press, LCCN, and Material Type. The first four search criteria, State, County, City, Date Range, and Keywords will probably be used in this type of searching more often than the other criteria.

When a newspaper title search is performed, a new box will open showing a list of results of newspapers that meet the criteria searched. These newspaper titles have live links to open the catalog records for each newspaper, called the About this Newspaper Page.



A View of an About this Newspaper record

This page provides the following info:

  • Title
  • Place of Publication
  • Date Range
  • Geographic Coverage (i.e. City, County, State)
  • Publisher Name
  • Dates of Publication
  • Description
  • Frequency of Publication (i.e.Weekly)
  • Language
  • Subjects
  • Notes
  • LCCN (Library of Congress identification number for each paper)
  • OCLC (another id number assigned to each paper)
  • Holdings (live link to a list of libraries and other institutions who possess original copies and microfilm holdings of a title)

This information should be plenty to get you started on your newspaper searching. I hope that some of you find it to be helpful! Happy searching!

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