Google’s incredible newspaper archive

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At one point in time, I was an avid newspaper reader. I enjoyed being informed about what was going on locally and around the world, and the newspaper had it all right there in one place, every day. This was back when I was working in an office. I would get to the office about 30 minutes before work started so I would have time to read the paper and feel like I was up to date on current events.

Google news archives


Of course, that was before the age of the internet and the 24 hour news cycle. I haven’t subscribed to a newspaper in years. And that’s the overall trend for print journalism, which is why newspaper are gradually declining and going out of business. When all the news is available and up to the minute right on your computer or phone, why would you buy a piece of paper that was printed yesterday? I do have some friends who continue to hold out hope that printed newspapers are going to make a comeback, but I really don’t see that happening.

Still, the newspaper was the public’s best source for news for the past roughly 400 years. That means that the last few centuries of our world is actually documented in those newspapers – from major world events all the way down to tiny local stories. Wouldn’t it be great if most of that information could be seen in one centralized location?

Yep – and the Google News Archive has done just that. You can see it here:

If you’re a history buff, this is a gold mine. There are newspapers here from all over the world. Major cities to small towns and everything in between. For example, if you live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania you can read over 28,000 issues of the Pittsburgh Press – from July 1819 to July of 1992. Not to mention the Pittsburgh Commercial, the Pittsburgh Gazette, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Sun-Telegraph. That’s a lot of news about Pittsburgh!

Google news


Here’s the Cambridge Times (Cambridge, Ohio) edition from June 5, 1908:

Google news archive


If you lived in Montreal in October of 1909, you would have had to cough up 5 cents to read The Canadian Times. Now you can read it for free!

google news archives


The archives are laid out in such a way that they are easy to navigate. The basic structure is alphabetical by the name of the newspaper. But you can also search within the archive in order to get more specific information. Once you click on the name of the newspaper, you’re taken to a page that is laid out so you can scroll through to the decade/year/month you want to see. Here’s part of the page that’s displayed when I click on the Akron Hometowner (Akron, Ohio):

google news archives


From there, you can use a drop-down menu to choose a more specific time period (such as the month), the size you want to have the thumbnail images appear on this page, or even a specific date.

It’s funny how we kind of take for granted that Google takes on projects like this that are overwhelmingly huge. Can you imagine the meeting in Google’s headquarters that day? “Hey guys, why don’t we just get all the old issues of all the newspapers and make them viewable and searchable on the website?”. I mean, where do you even start with a project like that? Then again, this is the company that has pioneered the idea of cars with no human driver, and has given us a street-view map of just about the whole world. Archiving old newspapers is a walk in the park.

Pretty amazing resource.

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