Chronicling America Temporarily Unavailable

The Library of Congress issued the following advisory today. Unfortunately, this includes the Chronicling America website.

The advisory is as follows:

September 27, 2013 (REVISED September 30, 2013)

Advisory: Possible Federal Shutdown

In the event of a temporary shutdown of the federal government, beginning Tuesday, October 1, all Library of Congress buildings will close to the public and researchers.

Also, all public events will be cancelled, and web sites will be inaccessible except the legislative information sites and

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PR 13-A06
ISSN 0731-3527

Notable Newsies Series – No. 2

Frank Sinatra

Now, I don’t know if Frank was ever a newsboy when he was growing up in Hoboken, N.J., but for the two and half minutes of this catchy tune, he was a Tennessee Newsboy!

Tennessee Newsboy (The Newsboy Blues) was released on Columbia Records in 1952. Writing credit goes to Dick Manning and Percy Faith.


Chronicling America Update

Chronicling America was updated last week and now contains over 6.6 million pages from more than 1,000 titles published between 1836 and 1922 in 30 states. This latest update includes titles from new awardees West Virginia, Michigan, and Iowa.

A further 27,400 pages of Tennessee newspapers have been made available in this update, bringing our overall total to just over 126,000 pages. The following titles were added:

Union and American [Greeneville], 1875-1877; Herald and Tribune [Jonesborough], 1869-1897; Union Flag [Jonesborough], 1865-1869; Memphis Daily Appeal, 1877-1885; Public Ledger [Memphis], 1875-1883; Sweetwater Forerunner, 1868-1869; Sweetwater Enterprise, 1869-1872; Weekly Herald [Cleveland], 1876- 1881; Winchester Daily Bulletin, 1862-1863; Winchester Home Journal (and its many title variations), 1857-1882.

Cleveland weekly herald

Weekly Herald [Cleveland, Tenn.]. April 29, 1881.

A list of all Tennessee newspapers currently available on Chronicling America can be found here.


Whenever you spot a typographical error in TNDP’s 19th century newspapers, spare a thought for the compositors who laboriously composed the text by hand. Until the introduction of the linotype machine to the US in the 1880s (more on that later), newspaper text had to be pieced together one letter at a time. As if that wasn’t painstaking enough, the letter on each tiny block was reversed and the text had to be compiled upside down, with the beginning of the text at the bottom. Confused?! No wonder so many b’s and d’s appear as p’s and q’s in those old papers. Blocks of text were created and locked into position. These blocks were then fitted together to form the page.

Manual typesetting - composing stick. By Wilhei (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Manual typesetting – composing stick.
By Wilhei (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

If that whole process wasn’t tedious enough, imagine being the poor soul who had to dismantle it all after printing was complete, and return each letter to the correct case and section.

Although manual typesetting hasn’t been in general use for over a century, several phrases still used in everyday speech have their roots in the printing process. These include:

Stereotype and cliché – to printers, both these words referred to “a solid plate of type-metal, cast from a papier-mâché or plaster mould taken from the surface of a forme of type.” (OED)

Upper/lower case letters – capital letters were stored in the upper case and small letters in the lower case (see photo below).

For more printers’ vocabulary, take a look at this wonderful book, available at the Internet Archive: The Printers’ Vocabulary; a collection of some 2500 technical terms, phrases, abbreviations and other expressions mostly relating to letterpress printing, many of which have been in use since the time of Caxton (1888)

Technical High School Vocational printing. Location: Fall River, Massachusetts / Lewis W. Hine.

Technical High School Vocational printing. Location: Fall River, Massachusetts / Lewis W. Hine. (Library of Congress)

Notable Newsies Series – No.1

What better way to begin this series than with one of my all-time favourite jazz musicians:

King of the Vibes, aka Hamp, aka ……. Lionel Hampton!

Chicago Defender. March 21, 1963.

Chicago Defender. March 21, 1963.

Hamp was not only king of the vibes, he was master of many instruments and had an extensive knowledge of music. He attributed this to his time in the Chicago Defender Newsboys’ Band. “I got my music training from the Defender. […] The paper had a newsboys band when I was a kid growing up in Chicago, and if I know anything about music, I learned it because of the Defender.”

Hampton recalls hearing the sounds of band music emanating from opera star Mme. Ernestine Schumann-Heink’s house every day on his way home from school. “I was so anxious to join that band that I got a job selling newspapers right away.”

Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the Defender, hired Major N. Clark Smith–a strict disciplinarian–to form a band for the newsboys and teach them music. They used Schumann-Heink’s large house for band practice. Hamp remembered, “[Major Clark Smith] was a hard taskmaster, but we learned music. If you wanted to play under his direction, you had to learn harmony and sight reading before you’d even get your instrument. We studied every day after school. The major wouldn’t put up with loafers.”

Thanks to the Defender and Major N. Clark Smith, a young newsboy went on to create a remarkable jazz legacy. No word on Hamp’s newspaper sales though.



Nasvhille Newsies

[Nashville Newsies] Photographer: Lewis Hines
Source: From the records of the National Child Labor Committee (U.S.), Library of Congress.

Since the start of the TNDP in 2010, I’ve read just about anything I can get my hands on that’s newspaper history-related. I’ve enjoyed books about printing presses, typesetting machines and typography, newspaper design and layout, Civil War reporters, the Southern press, and I’ve learned about the towns’ histories whose newspapers are featured in the project. I plan on writing more on some of these topics in the future. However, one topic that has been a source of constant fascination for me is “newsies” – the boys and girls who were the final link in the chain delivering the news to the people. Thousands of children across the country–from the late 19th century through the 20th century–were responsible for delivering newspapers to customers on the street and to their houses. In the early 20th century, newsboy associations were formed, often by local philanthropists and/or social reformers.  In addition to social welfare (many offered libraries, religious and moral education), the associations organized social events such as an annual picnic with food, fun and games for the boys. Although there was camaraderie between the newsies, rivalries developed too. The newsies usually formed and stuck to their own moral code. I’ve found so many intriguing stories about these children and their work, I thought it would make a great topic for an on-going series. Many newsies became local characters, others went on to greater fame; this series will include both. Check back later this week for the first in this series. I’ll add more information about newsies in general, as well as individual newsy’s stories, over time.

In the meantime, take a look at the Library of Congress’ extensive collection of photographs of newsies, many taken by the photographer Lewis Hines for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC). They can be accessed online here. Several books and many newspaper articles have been written about these young workers, who were also the subject of a WPA project, and Disney even made a musical about them, [No comment - Ed.] and subsequently a Broadway musical.


The Capitol Building at Night, 1903

State capitol at night 1903

From the Bolivar Bulletin, November 13, 1903.

Here’s a neat nocturnal photograph of the State Capitol Building in Nashville, taken in 1903. The photo appeared in Rutledge Smith’s “Tennessee Topics” column in the Bolivar Bulletin. The writer provides some history about the “State’s most perfect building, from an architectural standpoint” and boasts of the building’s nocturnal beauty in particular. “The building, which is Grecian in its architecture, has on all its exterior lines myriads of incandescent lights, around the caves, on the cornice and reaching to the top of the dome, and is lighted every evening until ten o’clock by the city of Nashville. From the city and surrounding country this brilliant illumination presents a most beautiful appearance.”

A number of things interest me about the appearance of this photo in this newspaper. Firstly, electric lighting was still a relatively new technology* so it’s interesting to see it being used somewhat creatively here. It must have been costly, hence the 10 o’clock lights out! Secondly, the limitations of contemporary photographic processes would have made nocturnal photography very difficult. I’m going to try to find out more about the photograph, such as who took it and why. If I find anything, I’ll post it on this blog. And lastly, the appearance of any photograph in a newspaper (especially a rural Tennessee paper) was not terribly common then. The process of converting a photograph into a newspaper printable image was still being refined. Larger city’s presses would usually print two or three photographs per issue at this time, usually portraits. The ability to reproduce a halftone photograph on a printing press running at full speed had been around only a few years when this image was printed.

This issue of the Bolivar Bulletin has been digitized as part of the TNDP and will be available on Chronicling America later this year. Earlier issues of the paper are currently available here.

* Nashville got its first electric lights in 1882, but technology moved a lot slower in those days.


Our TNDP partners, the Tennessee State Library and Archives, recently started a blog. The blog features neat stories about items in the collection, Tennessee history articles, and some extraordinary curiosities.

Check out this recent post about TSLA’s newspaper preservation efforts. TNDP would not be possible without the magnificent work of TSLA’s Preservation Services, and in particular, the Micrographics Department.

Source: TSLA In 1957 the call went out for “old newspapers” and thousands of pages in every condition came into TSLA. Almost all were salvaged, stabilized and microfilmed. By 1966 the project proudly preserved over 6,000,000 pages, 1200 rolls of microfilm and over 1000 different Tennessee titles.

Source: Carol Roberts/TSLA
In 1957 the call went out for “old newspapers” and thousands of pages in every condition came into TSLA. Almost all were salvaged, stabilized and microfilmed. By 1966 the project proudly preserved over 6,000,000 pages, 1200 rolls of microfilm and over 1000 different Tennessee titles.



Batch Names

In an earlier post, I mentioned that we send our data (the digitized newspapers and their metadata) to the Library of Congress in batches. The Library of Congress asks us to give each batch a name. This can be anything we like, as long as the sequence is alphabetical. At the beginning of the project I decided to use Tennessee musician/singers’ names. The person didn’t have to be born in Tennessee, just as long as they had a strong connection with our state. We decided to continue this theme into Phase II. So here are the folks on whom we have bestowed the honour of having a TNDP batch named after them. Better than winning a Grammy?!

See if you can guess who they are (answers below).

Arthur Q Smith Brownie McGhee Charlie Hagaman Dottie West Tennessee Ernie FordFramnk Smith Gordon Stoker Hubert Carter Ida Jimmy Hartsook Kay Starr Leola Manning

If you managed to identify all of those people, you are truly a Tennessee music aficionado extraordinaire!

Answers: Arthur Q. Smith, Brownie McGhee, Charlie Hagaman, Dottie West, “Tennessee” Ernie Ford, Frank Smith, Gordon Stoker, Hubert Carter, Ida Cox, Jimmy Hartsook, Kay Starr, Leola Manning.