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Dusty old newspapers are treasure troves of fascinating information, valuable historical context, and rich primary source material. They are also a great way to encourage students to immerse themselves in the past—on their own, in school, or at home. Created through a partnership of The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, Chronicling America offers visitors the ability to search and view newspaper pages from 1836–1922 and to find information about American newspapers published between 1690–present.
EDSITEment has added a new portal to help users navigate and utilize the Chronicling America site.
Chronicling America is a boon for teaching primary source research skills such as gathering and evaluating information, analysis, comparison and contrast, critical thinking, and the use of technology. These newly digitized newspaper pages can also enrich and extend EDSITEment lesson plans by providing students with first-hand accounts of the past time.
Through Chronicling America you can view newspaper pages from 1836 to 1922 from Arizona, the District of Columbia, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. As the project is ongoing, the greatest concentration of material that is currently available online is from 1900–1922, but Chronicling America is continuously expanding the date range and States of the newspapers in its collection. You can search Chronicling America by keyword or by using the suggested list of topics. The Library of Congress also has an RSS feed that regularly highlights notable news items from 100 years ago. (Remember, however, that since these newspapers are unfiltered primary source material, they reflect the opinions and attitudes of the writers and the times and may be offensive to our modern sensibilities.)
In the sections that follow are some articles that you might consider using in your classroom with EDSITEment lesson plans. Take some time to delve into the past and to enjoy what you will find there! (To isolate text, draw zoom-box around red highlighted areas.)
See art with a different perspective! Chronicling America ties in with Picturing America, NEH's exciting project that brings masterpieces of American art into classrooms and libraries nationwide. A number of the artists featured in Picturing America were producing art at the turn of the century and articles and features on their work complement EDSITEment's Picturing America lesson plans.
- For example, read this revealing article on the unveiling of the Shaw Memorial by Picturing America artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens while learning about the men who fought with Robert Gould Shaw in EDSITEment's lesson plan The Massachusetts 54th Regiment: Honoring the Heroes.
- Supplement EDSITEment's lesson plan Martin Puryear's Ladder for Booker T. Washington with a full-page biographical news feature on Booker T. Washington and his achievements that shows students how he was viewed by reporters in 1903.
- For more light-hearted Picturing America material from Chronicling America, check out this amusing article about a competition to satirize paintings of well-known artists of the time. The winner of the ""two hundred and fifty pennies"" prize went to a creative burlesque rendition of Mary Cassatt's A Caress, which would make for a wonderful visual aid for the EDSITEment spotlight on Mary Cassatt and her work.
- Use EDSITEment's feature about Thomas Eakins and leisure activities, Eakins' Vision of American Recreation — ""In the good old summer time,"" to teach your students about what Americans did to have fun at the turn of the century. This 1904 sports page highlights sculling, the subject of many of Eakins' paintings, and also provides reports on other popular sports of the time.
Below are some other links to artists showcased in Picturing America as they appeared in turn of the century newspapers.
- A short piece from a local paper on Albert Bierstadt's visit to Salt Lake City
- An ad for an New York gallery exhibition of Childe Hassam's works
- One of Winslow Homer's paintings used as a newspaper illustration
- For instance, to enhance EDSITEment's lesson plan Nature and Culture Detectives: Investigating Jack London's White Fang, Chronicling America offers a newspaper advertisement for London's White Fang from when the novel first was published.
- This newspaper article about Mark Twain's death and legacy complements EDSITEment's lesson plan Mark Twain and American Humor by helping students contextualize Twain in American literary history.
- While they study Walt Whitman's poetry in EDSITEment's lesson plan Walt Whitman's Notebooks and Poetry: The Sweep of the Universe, students might also enjoy getting to know Whitman a little more personally through this article about his conservative views as described by one of his close friends.
- Or have students check out this article on the haiku, or ""hokku"" as it was called at the turn of the century, while learning about haiku through EDSITEment's lesson plan The World of Haiku.
Consider making use of material in Chronicling America to:
- serve as prompts for creative writing assignments. Some of the stories are too good to be true!
- explore differences in journalism and journalistic styles of yesterday and today;
- teach students about editorial writing;
- study the history of American English and see which spellings are holdovers from Theodore Roosevelt's simplified spelling campaign.
Historical newspapers provide valuable primary source material because they allow students to investigate the past directly.
- Students can trace the history of Thomas Edison's inventions through EDSITEment's lesson plan Thomas Edison's Inventions in the 1900s and Today: From ""New"" to You! and this fascinating article on the history of the incandescent bulb from Chronicling America.
- Technological innovation isn't always entirely beneficial, however. Read Upton Sinclair's first hand account of the abuse that accompanied the industrial revolution while studying The Industrial Age in America: Sweatshops, Steel Mills, and Factories from EDSITEment.
- Like Sinclair, women at the turn of the century were fighting for social change. Enhance EDSITEment's lesson plan Voting Rights for Women: Pro- and Anti-Suffrage with an article that reveals the opinions of prominent turn of the century women on suffrage.
- Fascinated by the media's coverage of First Lady Michelle Obama? Use Chronicling America to find out how First Lady Edith Roosevelt was covered in the newspapers of her time. Learn more about the role of first ladies through history in EDSITEment's lesson plan Remember the Ladies: The First Ladies.
- In 2009, EDSITEment honored the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth with a wealth of resources and lesson plans in our Teaching Abraham Lincoln portal. Pair one of the resources you find here with this article on the laying of the foundation stone for the Lincoln Memorial to help students understand the significance of Lincoln's legacy.
You might also be interested in reading about:
- Woodrow Wilson's political career before he became President of the United States;
- reflections on the cost of the American Civil War;
- the history of presidential inaugurations from George Washington to William Howard Taft.
Chronicling America is a gold mine for records of historical moments relevant to events in today's news. For example, explore the NAACP's one hundred plus years of fighting for the civil rights of ethnic minorities in the United States. Using newspaper reports, teach your students about the horrific historical realities of lynching and the Jim Crow laws to help them understand how much the NAACP has accomplished.
Below are some links to additional suggestions for articles that connect the past to the present.
- Compare current media coverage of the swine flu epidemic with coverage of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.
- As the automobile industry struggles, take a look at this amusing cartoon about the automobile's lack of reliability as it became a popular commodity.
- Learn about the role of banks in past economic downturns to help students recognize the cyclical nature of the economy.
- Read conversations about immigration—prevalent at the turn of the century as they are now.
- Explore how baseball, football, and amusement parks provided entertainment in American life in the early 1900s.
- The First Amendment: What's Fair in a Free Country?
- Investigating Jack London's White Fang: Nature and Culture Detectives
- Jack London's The Call of the Wild: “Nature Faker”?
- Mark Twain and American Humor
- Martin Puryear’s Ladder for Booker T. Washington
- The Massachusetts 54th Regiment: Honoring the Heroes
- Regulating Freedom of Speech
- Remember the Ladies: The First Ladies
- Thomas Edison’s Inventions in the 1900s and Today: From “New” to You!
- Voting Rights for Women: Pro- and Anti-Suffrage
- Walt Whitman's Notebooks and Poetry: the Sweep of the Universe
- American Memory Project (Library of Congress)
- Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
- Picturing America