By October of last year, the site hosted nearly 50 million pages of Amer
February 8, 2018 8:21 AM   Subscribe

As someone who has managed a whole department devoted to digitizing things, this guy has some real dedication to his art. It is a booooring process, even if you can automate most of it.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:39 AM on February 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

Crud, I screwed up the post title.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:39 AM on February 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

By October of last year, the site [] hosted nearly 50 million pages of American and Canadian newspapers—a collection much larger than that of Chronicling America, the joint newspaper digitization efforts sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment of the Arts.

I love that site. I regularly look up my ancient self and my ancient friends and neighbors and our long-dead relatives.

I found out, for just one example, that the old schoolhouse did not burn down by accident, but was torched by a schoolteacher who mailed threatening anonymous letters and then tied himself up and tried to make the whole thing look like the work of antisemitic thugs who wanted him dead. He was judged insane and sent to a federal penitentiary, where he apprenticed with the prison psychiatrists, eventually got his own psych degrees, and apparently became a respected psychiatrist and author. I think he's still alive and supposedly still practicing, though he must be pushing 100 by now.
posted by pracowity at 9:00 AM on February 8, 2018 [11 favorites]

I just stumbled on the site this week as a source for (very poor) scans of WWII morning reports, most of which aren't available online -- but which are an AMAZING resource for historians and people researching family history.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:48 AM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I stumbled across the site several years ago while researching the Ansco Automatic Reflex. It was amazing reading the history of Ansco (and General Aniline) reported as it happened.
posted by jdfan at 9:50 AM on February 8, 2018

Holly heck. I just searched on my grandfather's name, which is very unique, and found a picture in The Riverdale Times of him as a young boy and his father in front of their house in the Bronx showing off some archaeological finds.
posted by octothorpe at 10:20 AM on February 8, 2018 [10 favorites]

See? Isn't that the coolest site?
posted by pracowity at 10:22 AM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd link to my find but I can't figure out how to link to anything on that site.
posted by octothorpe at 10:55 AM on February 8, 2018

Muscling of the free press will never happen
CJR, I think you meant muzzling.
posted by larrybob at 11:19 AM on February 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Amazing site. Thank you.
posted by mwhybark at 11:27 AM on February 8, 2018

Ah, I remember this place! "[F]renetic and charmingly outdated" is right. I just spent ten minutes trying to find the index page for the newspaper collection because it's mislabeled on the Go and browse my Archives page:

Historical Newspapers United States and Canada.

There. Now I won't have to do that a third time.
posted by steef at 11:48 AM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also, from steef's link, keep hitting the right arrow in the upper right to visit all 10 pages.
posted by larrybob at 11:57 AM on February 8, 2018

posted by Kattullus at 12:05 PM on February 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

I've used this site SO MUCH in researching family history/genealogy. Another great site for NYS papers is this one from a group of libraries: NYS Historic Newspapers.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:40 PM on February 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Crud, I screwed up the post title.

No joke, until I looked more closely, I kept thinking this post was about some guy named Amer.

Anyway, great post. I look through a lot old newspapers for my research, and I'm really eager to see what his site has. I'm honestly surprised I never heard about it. I'm also glad he seems so committed to keeping it free to access; I use a bunch of paid services, and most of them I can access through the library, but I had to get a personal subscription to one (NewspaperArchive) and it cost a fortune. It's really remarkable to see so much available for no cost.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:55 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

(I, too, have now been wowed after searching for family history. My grandfather was involved in education, and I'd post a quote from him sounding surprisingly prescient and brilliant in a 1975 article, but you'd probably be able to link it back to my name. I'll just say that I'm very impressed, both by him and by this site.)
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:03 PM on February 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't think has any of this. Would be terrible to lose it. And also the collection is very NY-state biased, so you'll likely be disappointed.

This guy's energy reminds me a lot of the late Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg: in some ways charming, in others utterly stubborn; in all ways, driven by something that others don't ever get to see.
posted by scruss at 2:08 PM on February 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

Ok so on the one hand, poorly digitised, indexed and described copies are probably better than nothing. For now anyway. But his whole one-man-project just makes my skin crawl as an ex-newspaper librarian. I know libraries are moving really really slowly on digitising things, but that's because doing a good job of it takes resources and money and these things are usually in short supply and high demand.

Leaving aside things like newspaper titles being incorrectly applied (the town in New Jersey is Paterson, not Peterson; it says so right there in the masthead) and the poor quality of many of the scans (which may not entirely be his fault, depending on the quality of the source), my main objection is the complete lack of search functionality. But what can you expect from someone who "has no formal training in archiving and isn’t particularly interested in working with any of the various other online newspaper directories, especially those with regimented archival requirements". Standards? Nah, screw standards, just make it up as you go along.

Also, for all that the article has a go at libraries and other sites that host repositories of online newspapers for their lack of funding and instability, it's not like Tryniski's set-up is particularly stable or confidence-inspiring. Where is it hosted? Are there any backups? If he got hit by a bus tomorrow, what would happen to all this stuff? But the press always loves mavericks.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:10 PM on February 8, 2018 [9 favorites]

So still searching on my grandfather and I find out that he went to highschool at The McBurney School in Manhattan where Henry Winkler, Adam Horovitz and J.D Salinger also went.
posted by octothorpe at 6:49 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I definitely see where you're coming from Athanassiel. His searching and indexing is pretty lousy. Why is everything just one page? I was kind of annoyed when an article would say "continued on C6" and I couldn't get to that. Some stuff seems fine, though. The scans themselves don't look too bad to me compared to other stuff I usually see online (text is readable, and pictures are sometimes OK). The OCR is actually way better than the OCR on NewspaperArchive, as far as I can tell, but I've got about a million complaints with them anyway. But yeah, it's kind of hard to do stuff on his site.

I'm really glad it's free, and I guess at worst this seems pretty harmless to me. It doesn't seem like he, himself, is holding onto any rare materials, and he gives his scans back to the libraries who send him microfilm. I didn't so much get the sense that the article was condemning libraries, but I may have missed that.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:14 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

my main objection is the complete lack of search functionality.

I select Boolean, enter something like Susan w/3 Smith and Albany, and click Search.

What kind of search functionality are you looking for?
posted by pracowity at 10:14 PM on February 8, 2018

Speaking for myself, I did notice right away that it's lacking a ton of search options. You can't search by time period or geographical location. You can't, for example, search for a particular phrase that appears in all newspapers published between March 1, 1857 and June 20, 1890 in Rockland County, NY. You can't search by publication, and typing in the name of the publication doesn't seem reliable, because that depends on the OCR (it was already noted that the title of one newspaper was misspelled). And so on. Even sorting the results is surprisingly bad: I noticed that if you try to organize by "oldest" or "newest," you'll still get dates all over the place, for reasons I don't understand. That's a big problem if you're trying to sort 3000 hits. And you don't even know which ones are coming from different issues, because it looks like the results are all titled by the name of the microfilm reel they were scanned from. That's a big problem.

The basic search functionality I'm looking for - granular control over date, location, publication title, in addition to basic keyword searches and other fields - is available on every other digitized newspaper service, including Chronicling America, which is also free. I'm still happy that he's taken the time to scan all these small, local papers, but his site is seriously lacking in some pretty important ways.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:29 PM on February 8, 2018

Also, the Personals. Not personals like the ads, just personal events.

Yes, the new in the old days always had sections for community chat: someone from Colorado is visiting someone's family, Mrs. So-and-so has just left for a vacation with her sister in the next state, the such-and-such family has moved from their house on one road to the old so-and-so place on another road, someone else has just returned from the hospital, etc.
posted by pracowity at 11:54 PM on February 8, 2018

I remember that sort of news being mentioned in Lake Wobegon Days.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:20 AM on February 9, 2018

So I'm hoping this guy eventually donates his data to some organization who can write a better front end interface for it.
posted by octothorpe at 7:40 AM on February 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I found my Dad's wedding announcement for his first marriage! And announcements for the births of my dad's 5 sisters! And my grandparents attending weddings and dinner parties! And my grandpa buying cars. I'd take a 57 Ford for less than $3,000!! Thank you for this, it's super cool!
posted by shmurley at 8:50 AM on February 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

I take it back about the search. I had looked at the site at work, and for some reason I could see the search boxes but nothing happened when I did a search. Work has weird things disabled though, so that probably explains it.

Somehow, knowing that it is actually a searchable archive instead of just lots and lots of PDF pages whacked up on a website makes me like it a lot more. Though I still have my reservations about its stability.
posted by Athanassiel at 8:15 PM on February 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

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