COLUMBUS — Ever spent hours while doing research wading through reels and reels of microfilm looking for information from old Ohio newspapers? Thanks to the Ohio Historical Society those days are numbered now that the Mount Vernon Democratic Banner is among the first historic Ohio newspapers to be digitized and uploaded to the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America Web site at www.loc.gov/chroniclingamerica.
The Ohio Newspaper Digitization Project, a part of the National Digital Newspaper Program developed by National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, will enable the Ohio Historical Society to digitize 100,000 Ohio newspaper pages from 1880-1920. The statewide project will result in historic newspapers from all regions of the state being reformatted for the sake of preservation and accessibility to a wider audience.
“The Ohio Digital Newspaper Program opens up access to a wealth of information in Ohio’s historic newspapers. It is truly invaluable to be able to search and read these newspapers online from anywhere at any time, and a tremendous benefit to not only the people of Ohio, but the nation as a whole,” said Susan Allen, director of technology services at the Worthington Library in Columbus. “The Democratic Banner reflects the political, social, economic and cultural diversity of the central Ohio region during the first quarter of the 20th century. Students of all ages, genealogists, historians, teachers and everyday citizens interested in learning about the history of their community and the state of Ohio will find this to be a great resource.”
Established in April 1838 by Chauncey Bassett and Joel Robb, the Mount Vernon Democratic Banner changed ownership and editorship nine times until it was finally purchased by Lecky Harper in December 1853. Under Harper’s 64-year editorship, the Democratic Banner flourished, with increased subscriptions and a distinctive point of view. Harper was a Peace Democrat with a national reputation for being strongly critical of big government, child labor, Whigs and the Civil War. He was also a strong defender of foreigners, having emigrated from Ireland when he was five. Harper often used editorials to criticize the Ohio State Times and the Mount Vernon Republican.
After Harper’s death in 1895, his sons, Frank and William, took over the weekly paper. The strong political viewpoint and sensational headlines continued, with a focus on national political news. Readers were kept informed about laws, taxes and politicians. Many articles also related incidents of crime, death, and injury. Yet local news was not forgotten, and several sections of the Democratic Banner, including one titled “County Correspondence,” were devoted to local affairs and gossip.
Under subsequent editorship, starting in 1917 when Frank Harper began to lease the paper to Stephen J. Dorgan, the Democratic Banner became more conservative, although it was still considered progressive. National and international news items, especially those relating to World War I, filled the front page of each edition, but overall, the newspaper focused more on local developments. Dorgan included cartoons and sports news in the paper as well. In 1935, the newspaper was sold to the Republican News to form the Republican News Daily Banner, which later changed its name to the Mount Vernon News.
The Ohio Historical Society’s Archives/Library at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus contains the largest collection of Ohio newspapers in existence. The newspaper holdings contain: newspapers published from 1793-1996; 4,500 titles, 20,000 volumes; and nearly 48,000 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 Ohio Newspaper Digitization Project builds upon this earlier effort.
“Thanks to a $353,069 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities last year, the Ohio Historical Society has been able to digitize a select number of historically significant Ohio newspapers,” said Sharon Dean, OHS director of collections.
According to Dean, the initial project was limited to a small number of newspapers published from 1880-1920, so an advisory group of journalists, historians, educators, scholars, librarians and archivists selected runs from 13 titles to be digitized. The newspapers eventually will be uploaded to the Chronicling America Web site over the next year.
The 13 selected publications include: Perrysburg Journal, in Perrysburg, from 1880 to 1920; Marion Daily Mirror, in Marion, from 1907 to 1912; Marion Democratic Mirror, also in Marion, from 1880 to 1906; Akron Daily Democrat, in Akron from 1899 to 1902; Stark County Democrat, in Canton, from 1891 to 1910; Knox County Democratic Banner, in Mount Vernon, from 1910 to 1922; Springfield Republic, in Springfield, from 1885 to 1888; Hillsboro News-Herald, in Hillsboro, from 1886 to 1914; Hocking Sentinel, in Logan, from 1886 to 1906; Ohio Democrat, in Logan, from 1886 to 1906, and also the Ohio Democrat-Sentinel from 1906 to 1909; Marietta Leader, in Marietta, from 1896 to 1901; and the Mahoning Dispatch, in Canfield, from 1877 to 1968.
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 Ohio Newspaper Digitization Project, contact Eric W. Schnittke at (614) 293-2613 or .