(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 Urbana newspaper, the Urbana Union, 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
“The Ohio Historical Society’s work with Chronicling America gives researchers worldwide access to newspapers like the Urbana Union,” said Jane Wildermuth, Head of Digital Services at Wright State University. “The newspaper delivered local, regional and national news to its countywide readership and gives researchers today an in-depth look at Ohio during and after the Civil War.”
About the Urbana Uni
The Urbana Union was established in 1862 by Colonel John H. James after he purchased the plant of the former Urbana Free Press. The weekly publication reported on local, domestic, and foreign news and served as the paper of record for Champaign County until it ceased publication in 1872. In its first issue, Editor John W. Houx declared that “the paper is not in the interest of any party, nor is it meant to be identified with any party, because it will not be fettered.” This claim of political independence was tenuous, as the paper had its roots in the county’s first Democratic newspaper, the Western Dominion, and by 1866, the Union openly supported Democratic candidates and interests as well as the principle of states’ rights.
Throughout most of its ten-year run, the last words of Stephen A. Douglas, the Democratic candidate who lost the 1860 presidential election to Abraham Lincoln, were printed in the paper’s masthead: “Tell them to obey the laws and uphold the Constitution of the United States.” Each week, the editor’s political commentary reflected this viewpoint as it reported on local and national news. Readers could expect to see updates regarding the Civil War and related legislation, speeches, and Congressional debates. In addition to reporting on events of national and international importance, the editor also sought to create “a complete family paper” that was “devoted to…literature, science, agriculture, mechanics, education, matters of commerce, etc.” Each issue contained a variety of content ranging from poetry and fiction to local gossip to advice for farming and housekeeping that extended the paper’s appeal to people of all interests.
Since its beginnings with the Western Dominion in 1844, the Urbana Union underwent multiple changes in both name and editorship. Upon Houx’s retirement in 1869, ownership of the Urbana Union went to the Urbana Union Printing Company, with A.R. Candy and William H. Kernam serving as editors. In 1870, George B. Hunter took over the Union until he sold it to E.T. Harkrader in 1872. Under Harkrader’s ownership, the paper’s name was changed to the Democratic Plaindealer. This paper failed, leaving the Democrats in Champaign County without a paper until 1873 when General Benjamin P. Runkle and Daniel Flannegan revived the Urbana Union. In 1875, Flannegan purchased the Buckeye Democrat and consolidated the two papers to form the Urbana Union-Democrat. Eventually, the paper became known as the Urbana Daily Democrat, which ceased publication around 1935.
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 last year, 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 Urbana Union from 1862 to 1872, 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); Xenia Sentinel from Xenia (1863-1865); Highland Weekly News from Hillsboro (1857-1886); Cincinnati Daily Press from Cincinnati (1859-1862); Gallipolis Journal from Gallipolis (1850-1880), 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 email@example.com.
About the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio History Center.
Founded in 1885, the non-profit Ohio Historical Society (OHS) provides a wide array of statewide services and programs related to collecting, preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history, archeology and natural history. The society has about 1.6 million items in its collections throughout its 50+ sites and within its 250,000-square-feet Ohio History Center at 800 E 17th Ave. (Exit 111 off Highway I-71), Columbus, Ohio, 43211. The Archives/Library is on the third floor of the Ohio History Center and is open: wed.-Sat, 10-5p.m. The Society receives a portion of its funding from the state, but relies on admission fees, memberships, grants, donations and other forms of revenue to continue to serve Ohioans in the future. For information regarding the Society, contact Jane M. Mason, Director of Marketing and Communications, Ohio Historical Society: 614.297.2312, firstname.lastname@example.org. . For more information about programs and events, call 614.297.2300/800.686.6124 or go online at www.ohiohistory.org.
NOTE: The Urbana Union is available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85026309/issues/.