Gallipolis Publication to Chronicle State's Civil War History on Website

Historic Ohio Newspaper Now Online at Library of Congress

(COLUMBUS, OHIO)— Civil War re-enactors, researchers and enthusiasts have cause to celebrate: the hours spent poring over pages of Ohio’s historical newspapers in search of news from the warfront and soldiers’ letters back home is now reduced to minutes thanks to the Ohio Historical Society. One Gallipolis newspaper, the Gallipolis Journal, is among the first Civil War-era Ohio newspapers to be digitized and uploaded to the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America website at www.chroniclingamerica.org. At this site, a researcher can use a term such as someone’s name, hometown or military regiment in the “search” function to instantly find occurrences of that word in the newspapers.

The National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio, a part of the National Digital Newspaper Program developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, will enable the Ohio Historical Society to digitize 100,000 additional Ohio newspaper pages published from 1845 to 1894. These pages will join the 14 papers—over 100,000 Ohio newspaper pages published between 1880 and 1922—that are already available on Chronicling America through the project’s first phase. This is welcome news to blurry-eyed researchers and genealogists who scour old microfilm in search of clues to history’s mysteries and family histories.

“Adding the Gallipolis Journal to online digital archives provides a valuable resource to professional and amateur historians who want to open a window to everyday life along the Ohio River in a very interesting slice of time—a time encompassing slavery, the Civil War and the explosive growth of American industry, communication and transportation,” said Dr. Michael S. Sweeney, former president of the American Journalism Historians Association. “We’re thrilled with how the National Digital Newspaper Program keeps expanding easy access to new accounts of our past, which are a source of our collective memory.”

About the Gallipolis Journal

In 1818, a movement set foot for the establishment of a newspaper at Gallipolis, the seat of Gallia County, located in southeast Ohio and bordering the Ohio River.  This resulted in the founding of the Gallia Gazette, which was first issued on March 26, 1819, and managed by Joshua Cushing, who published the paper on rough brown paper on a homemade press built on a wood frame.  From that time on, the paper was published under many different names and became a weekly visitor to its subscribers with few interruptions.

In 1825, the publication was continued as the Gallia Free Press by Joseph Tingley, who died that same year.  It was then owned by James Harper, Sr. and published until 1831, when Joseph J. Coombs became proprietor and its name was changed to the Gallia Phoenix.  The paper was enlarged and improved in 1832 when H. Maxon became co-publisher, and the name was changed to the Gallipolis Weekly Journal, and Gallia and Meigs Public Advertiser.  In 1834, William Cary Jones purchased the office and changed the name of the newspaper to the Buckeye & Gallipolis Journal.  When Joseph J. Coombs again took charge of it a year later in 1835, the title was changed again, to the Gallipolis Weekly Journal and Gallia, Meigs & Lawrence Public Advertiser.  In 1837, the paper simply became known as the Gallipolis Journal.  It was at this time and under Coombs’ leadership that the paper began to support the Whig cause until 1855, when the paper became Republican.

In 1839, the first patent lever press was introduced and used until one of Wells’ cylinder presses was purchased to take its place.  With improvement in size and mechanical execution, the Gallipolis Journal became one of the largest county papers in southern Ohio by the 1880s.  It described itself as a “family newspaper” devoted to the interest of all citizens of Gallia County.   Regular columns about agriculture, as well as columns relevant to the merchant, mechanic, and businessman, combined with poetry and politics, helped ensure its popularity among a variety of readers.  The Gallipolis Journal ceased publication in January of 1919 and was eventually absorbed by the Gallia Times which was taken over by the Gallipolis Daily Tribune, which is still being published today.

Archived Newspapers Available at Ohio History Center

The Ohio Historical Society’s Archives/Library at the Ohio History Center in Columbus contains the largest collection of Ohio newspapers in existence. The newspaper holdings contain newspapers published from 1793 to present, 4,500 titles, 20,000 volumes, and over 50,000 rolls of microfilm of Ohio titles.

Much of the microfilm in the Society’s newspaper collection was created in 1971 as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities initiative called the United States Newspaper Program. Since then, the information published in the thousands of deteriorating wood-pulp newspaper volumes in the society’s collections has been transferred to more than 16,000 rolls of master negative microfilm. The National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio builds upon this earlier effort. 

Looking to the Future

“Thanks to a $334,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2010, the Ohio Historical Society has been able to continue its efforts to digitize a select number of historical Ohio newspapers,” said Angela O’Neal, director for Collections Services at the Ohio Historical Society. “We are helping to create a national, online, keyword-searchable resource.”

According to O’Neal, both phases of the project have been limited to a small number of papers selected from 10 regions across the state by an advisory group of 18 librarians, archivists, curators, historians, educators and journalists. “This phase will add 26 more papers to Chronicling America,” O’Neal said. “With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we’ve chosen publications from before, during and after the war to provide greater access to researchers on this important time period in Ohio’s history.”

In addition to issues of the Gallipolis Journal from 1850 to 1880, the selected publications include: Perrysburg Journal from Perrysburg, (1854-1880); Hancock Jeffersonian from Findlay (1857-1878); Fremont Journal from Fremont (1853-1875); Tiffin Tribune from Tiffin (1856-1879); Cleveland Leader from Cleveland (1858-1866); Western Reserve Chronicle from Warren (1855-1873); Jeffersonian Democrat from Chardon (1859-1865); Ashtabula Telegraph from Ashtabula (1858-1880); Anti-Slavery Bugle from New-Lisbon & Salem (1845-1861); Holmes County Farmer from Millersburg (1860-1866); Holmes County Republican from Millersburg (1856-1862, 1870-1874); Stark County Democrat from Canton (1868-1890); Daily Ohio Statesman from Columbus (1861-1868); Dayton Daily Empire from Dayton (1859-1867); Urbana Union from Urbana (1862-1872); Xenia Sentinel from Xenia (1863-1865); Highland Weekly News from Hillsboro (1857-1886); Cincinnati Daily Press from Cincinnati (1859-1862); McArthur Democrat (1855-1865), Vinton Record (1866-1874), Democratic Enquirer (1867-1873) and McArthur Enquirer (1873-1884) from McArthur; Conservative and South-eastern Independent from McConnelsville (1866-1871); and the Belmont Chronicle from St. Clairsville (1853-1894).

"We will continue to apply for NEH funds in upcoming grant cycles until we can complete the National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio," O'Neal said. "Eventually, using microfilm for researching newspapers will be a thing of the past."

In addition to the Library of Congress site, researchers also will be able to access the newspapers at www.ohiomemory.org. For more information about the National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio, contact Jenni Salamon at 614.297.2579 or jsalamon@ohiohistory.org.

Established in 1885, the Ohio Historical Society is a nonprofit organization that serves as the state’s partner in preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history, archaeology, natural history and architecture.  For more information about programs and events, call 614.297.2300/800.686.6124 or go online at www.ohiohistory.org.

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NOTE: The Gallipolis Journal is available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038121/issues/