Before automobile and airplane travel became widespread, before television was a thought and even radio hadn’t been invented, there were newspapers. Lots of newspapers. Anyone who was literate and lived in any town from 200 to 200,000 had the world at their fingertips, courtesy of a newsboy, a nickel, and any light source, whether a candle, a lantern,or a light bulb.
The State Historical Society of Missouri has been busy recently, adding 333,000 pages of content to expand the scope of the Missouri Digital Newspaper Project. Madison County’s Democrat News is one of the 42 papers, which include periodicals from Clark, Ralls, Jefferson, Perry, Madison, New Madrid, Dunklin, Johnson, Callaway, Worth and Nodaway counties.
The combined new content of all the newspapers spans the years 1860 through 1946 and has been added through grant funding supported by Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Missouri State Library, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.
Alan Kopitsky, managing editor of the Democrat News who has been working there since the 1980s, said he’s pleased people will be able to freely access some of the earliest editions of the Democrat News.
“This is a great benefit for a wide range of interests,” Democrat News editor Alan Kopitsky said. “By digitizing the Democrat News from 1898 to 1946, the State Historical Society of Missouri is providing a useful tool for people doing all types of research. It also will be a godsend for local history buffs and the countless people wanting to trace their genealogy.”
Many of the 350 newspapers in the collection are now defunct, and hail from 108 of Missouri’s 114 counties and St. Louis. They can be found at https://shsmo.org/collections/newspapers/mdnp. The access is free and the content is searchable by keywords.
The Democrat News pages alone number 16,050.
“The digital newspaper content from Fredericktown will engage citizens to reflect on the events that have shaped their community,” read the SHSMO release. “Newspapers are the first draft of history and serve as primary sources for historical research, and provide a glimpse into society at that point in time.”
One can also see what kinds of “clippings”, or screen-captures, have been made of the various pages. The picture that accompanies this article, for instance, is a clipping of advertisements from the Aug. 6, 1898, edition of the Democrat News. Another person clipped a news item from 1930 about social visits paid in the long-gone Madison County village of Faro.
Another clipping was from four days before Armistice Day (predecessor to Veterans Days), Nov. 7, 1918:
The Americans are giving Fritz a good thumping all along the line. Several of our Fredericktown boys were wounded in the battle. I think Ed Reeves was killed. Chas. McCarver was wounded and Elijah Simmons too. I think Lige was shell shocked and the fellow who was with him was killed. They were completely covered up and I dug them out and saw that Lige was taken care of... I never see any of the Madison county boys over here outside of our Regt. ...Yes, I got the pictures you sent me, they were real good... Oh yes, I got four D-N papers too....
— Pvt. Wm Floyd Thomas, Co. E. 138th Inf., AEF, Via NY
Additional newspapers that can be freely accessed at the State Historical Society of Missouri include the Iron County Register's 1867-1922 editions, Farmington Times's 1898-1902 and 1905-1922 editions, Farmington Times & Herald's 1902-1905 editions, Ste. Genevieve Fair Play's 1872-1921 editions and Potosi Journal's 1894-1922 editions.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at email@example.com.