Early US Literature

Home » Annotated Bibliography » Annotated Bibliography of Newsprint and Periodical Databases

Annotated Bibliography of Newsprint and Periodical Databases


This short bibliography features online databases that focus primarily on digital copies of newspapers, periodicals, and print journals. Several of these sites offer readers opportunities to explore vast collections of papers preserved for over 150 years. For literature students, the ability to explore these papers will be invaluable when seeking to place works within an historical and cultural context.

Accessible Archives, Accessible Archives Corp, 1990. Web. 23 July 2013. 

Accessible Archives provides readers with the ability to explore a healthy variety of journals and newspapers printed in the United States during the 1800’s. Aesthetically, the site is nice to look at and easy to use. Tabs at the top of the page give readers the option of the viewing the entirety of the collections or searching for more specific topics. For example, within the search option, researchers can select a newspaper (or journal, periodical or book) such as The Pennsylvania Gazette and search for the word “negro” within the text of every issue available of that specific paper. This search results in 775 items from advertisements for the sale of slaves to reward offers for returned runaways – and that’s just one of many newspapers available for exploration on the site.

Even though it’s called Accessible Archives, a drawback of this site is its lack of accessibility for those who are not subscribers. However, unlike many subscription-based sites, Accessible Archives does allow individuals to purchase subscriptions for $59.95 for 12-months, and they accept credit, debit, and even PayPal as methods of payment. Some people might be unwilling to shell out money in order to gain access for this content, but for those who are have the means, this site can be used as a nice alternative to the more expensive, subscription based sites that are not available to individuals.

African American Newspapers, Readex, Web. 23 July, 2013.

African American Newspapers is a database available through Readex, a subscription based program available only to those who have access to an institution (academic or public library) that has paid for the use of Readex databases. Thus, African American Newspapers might not be available to everyone interested in the topic. That said, AAN is a specialized database, catering to those with a very specific interest. Given the content, the collection is much smaller than many of the other newspaper or journal databases available online, but what it lacks in quantity is makes up for in quality. While the site itself is nothing special to look at and can, at times, be confusing to navigate, it features a strong collection of newspapers published between 1827 and 1998.

One of the nice features of the site is that, rather than looking at the entire paper at once, researchers can look at scanned copies of individual articles. This makes for a much quicker search experience because finding relevant articles is as easy as reading from a list. Another excellent feature of the site is the ability to download full issues in .pdf format (up to 75 pages). Overall, if you have even just a general interest in African American studies, this site will prove invaluable.

American Periodical Series Online, ProQuest. 25 July, 2013.

American Periodical Series Online is part of the ProQuest network of databases and offers researchers access to a wealth of information found in hundreds of newspapers and periodicals published between America’s formative, colonial years and the year 2000. Given the wide range of time that this database covers, it works as a great resource for those looking to examine trends across both time and location. The search features on this site are some of the best available and include the ability to restrict searches by terms, dates, publication types, and even type of document (advertisement, letter to the editor, illustrations, etc.).

As an example, a researcher who is interested in examining the trend of public perceptions of African Americans during the turn of the 20th century can start by searching the term “negro” within letters to the editor and limit the years to those he or she is interested in. This yields very specific and limited results that are easy to access and read. Like most of the databases examined in this bibliography, APS is subscription based and doesn’t allow for individuals to subscribe, which will inhibit many readers from accessing this information. Those who are able to access this database will find that it is both easy to use and incredibly useful.

Chronicling America. Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities, Web. 24 July, 2013.

Chronicling America is an immensely useful source of information for those interested in studying early American literature. Featuring newspapers from across the country, this database provides inquiring minds with the ability to step back in time and read newspapers dating as far back as 1836.  The digitally replicated newspapers featured on this site are of the highest quality available on the Internet and are easily readable. Chronicling America is available free to researchers, and does not require a subscription, making it an accessible choice for those who enjoy working from home.

One of the problems that readers will run into is the struggle to find exactly what they’re searching for. While the site offers the ability to perform an advanced search, the results are normally overcrowded with names, places, and other general terms. For example, performing a general search for the term “negro” results in almost 950,000 hits. The advanced search option is better because it allows you to restrict the search by specific states, newspaper titles, and time frames. This yields fewer results and makes it easier for researchers to find articles that are helpful to their projects. Overall, Chronicling America is an excellent resource.

Making of America. University of Michigan and Cornell University, 1995. Web. 24 July, 2013.

Making of America is a site designed for searching and browsing journals, periodicals, and books. The site boasts over 10,000 books and over 50,000 journal articles. The initial focus of the site was the antebellum and reconstruction period lasting from around 1850 through 1877. The site explores a wide variety of subjects, from algebra to zoology, which are all conveniently catalogued under the “browse” option. General searching on the MoA site is not as easy as it could be. The site offers only a few search restrictions, which means that some people will spend a lot of time picking out what interests them from a large group of topics that are irrelevant.

However, the search option does feature the ability to perform Boolean, proximity, bibliographic, and historical searches, which can be immensely useful when looking for a very specific topic or work. For example, when searching the term “Poe” under the basic search option with no restrictions, 1104 records are found. When searching for Poe under bibliographic, only 14 records are found, making the quest for Poe-centric data much easier. Overall, Making of America is an excellent resource for someone planning a research project on the United States in the late 1800’s.


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