(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 Xenia newspapers, the Xenia Sentinel, 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.
“Making Ohio Civil War era newspapers, like the Xenia Sentinel, searchable and available worldwide via the web brings in invaluable resource to students, scholars and educators,” said Jane Wildermuth, Head of Digital Services at Wright State University. “Chronicling America gives researchers access to information on the Republican Party views from a state that played a key role both politically and strategically in the Civil War.”
About the Xenia Sentinel
Published in the seat of Greene County, Ohio, the Xenia Sentinel premiered on August 25, 1863. The paper, published every Tuesday, represented the Republican or the Union Party viewpoint. (During the 1864 presidential election, Republicans changed their party name to the Union Party hoping to attract War Democrats who would otherwise refuse to vote for the Republicans; the Union Party nominated the incumbent President Abraham Lincoln and former Democrat Andrew Johnson as vice-president.)
In its first issue, the Sentinel explained that the Xenia Torchlight, the other paper in the county claiming to support the Union Party was not being faithful to the party’s views. The Torchlight was one of the oldest and most extensively circulated newspapers in the county and was edited by William T. Bascom. The Sentinel wrote: “Such conduct on the part of [Bascom] who pretends to the organship of the Greene County Union Party, has necessitated some means by which the treacherous influence of his paper could be counteracted, and the secret and underhanded practices of his clique be showed up to the people. Accordingly a company of persons have made themselves responsible for the publication of The Xenia Sentinel.” The Sentinel prided itself on giving special attention to local interests and news.
Seth W. Brown was chosen to be editor of the Sentinel after having served in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry and having worked for several other newspapers in the area. He later went on to study law and was elected to the United States Congress. Brown expressed himself in language of unmistakable charm, clearness, and brevity. He explained that the Sentinel “must speak for itself. Golden promises will not make it successful. It must succeed upon it own intrinsic merits, or not at all.” In fact, the Sentinel remained in operation for only a few years, and it is unclear exactly when the paper ceased publication.
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 Xenia Sentinel from 1863 to 1865, 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); 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 Xenia Sentinel is available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038244/issues/