The Times Machine
February 25, 2008 6:01 AM   Subscribe

The Times Machine allows easy browsing of every edition from 70 years (1851-1922) worth of New York Times in the original format. Very cool.
posted by peacay (42 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, this is pretty amazing: every page of these things! Bookmarked, and thanks for the post.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:09 AM on February 25, 2008

"Very cool" does it, indeed. Many moons ago I had a fulll-sized copy of the Titanic front page on my university residence wall. (The NYT took a big chance with that story and actually broke it in a smaller front page box with their final edition the day before it lit up everywhere else.) I got it from Ottawa's National Library in the pre-internet days. My own cool factor among my collegues in Journalism rose considerably.
posted by Mike D at 6:12 AM on February 25, 2008

omg this is fabulous! Thanks for the treasure peacay.
posted by nickyskye at 6:17 AM on February 25, 2008

Very cool.

One reason the Times may be doing this: those years through 1922 are in the public domain, copyright has expired. Anyone can scan the microfilm and put up the same archive, and at least one site ( has done so (through 1909 at this point).

I picked a date at random, and by pure chance the very first story I looked at was on this page, bottom of the third column "THE GLENN COURT-MARTIAL.; Evidence that the Water Cure Was Used by New York Police Barred ." (The court-martial dealt with torture similar to waterboarding used by US forces in the Philippines.) The more things change ...
posted by beagle at 6:18 AM on February 25, 2008

Incredible. I weep when I think of the hours I used to spend fiddling with microfilm machines, trying to find the page and story I wanted and hoping it would be legible. Many thanks for this post.

And the fact that when you hover over a story there's a pop-up box from which you can copy without even clicking and opening up that story is amazing. I love:

Absorbed by Lord Mayor's Show, People Accept Abdication News Calmly.

And who remembers this result of WWI any more?

King of Wuerttemberg Abdicates--Sovereign of Saxony to Follow Suit.
Socialists Are Demanding That Every Sovereign in the Empire Shall be Dethroned

Great post!
posted by languagehat at 6:26 AM on February 25, 2008


They certainly knew how to write a headline back then.
posted by DU at 6:27 AM on February 25, 2008

Am I missing how this is different from when it was announced they were opening up its archives?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 6:29 AM on February 25, 2008

posted by otio at 6:35 AM on February 25, 2008

No search?
posted by cashman at 6:37 AM on February 25, 2008

No search?

If you want some powerful searching, and you have a real need for it, I suggest ponying up for a Ancestry subscription. Not only have they had the Times archives up there for a while, but they combine them with local and regional papers.

My favorite stuff is to go through Obits and Marriage announcements and end up finding first-source proof of specific cousins' existence.
posted by thanotopsis at 6:43 AM on February 25, 2008

GhostintheMachine: "Am I missing how this is different from when it was announced they were opening up its archives?"

That was just individual articles that you could search for, this actually recreates the whole paper for each day so that you can read it in context.
posted by octothorpe at 6:46 AM on February 25, 2008

That's just kind of sucky that they didn't put a search on it. Or am I just missing it?
posted by cashman at 6:46 AM on February 25, 2008

Does anyone know when this feature debuted?
posted by mistersquid at 6:52 AM on February 25, 2008

I found this by accident this morning. I was looking for information about my great-great-grandfather, an automobile pioneer who participated in 1894 in one of the first "horseless carriages" competitions. And even though he was not one of the "winners in the road-wagon race", the NYT reported that he got a "twenty-pound consolation award" because his "carriage broke down owing to the bursting of a tube, an accident which was judged as by no means detracting from the efficiency of his steam trap" (here). I also found in the legal archives of Luxemburg some patent information related to the steam-powered road trains that he sold all over Europe a century ago. The internet is fantastic (massive amounts of on-line teh stoopid notwithstanding.)
posted by elgilito at 6:56 AM on February 25, 2008

cashman, there's a drop down search on the NYT front page that purports to search across 130 years of archives. It doesn't seem to like "quoted terms" even on the advance page using the headline field - "titanic sinks" returns no results but "titanic" returns many, many, many contemporary stories.
posted by peacay at 6:58 AM on February 25, 2008

GAMBLERS EAT GAMECOCKS.; Ice-Bound and Forced to Feast on Their Fighting Chickens.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:10 AM on February 25, 2008

Wow, this is very cool. It's the hundredth anniversary of the PATH subway under the Hudson today (free PATH rides until 11 tonight!) so I went and read the coverage from 2/26/1908.
posted by yarrow at 7:10 AM on February 25, 2008

Awesome Peacay. Great post.

Re: Lincoln assassination. Did I read the article right that after Lincoln was shot and brought to the doctor that someone else snuck in and stabbed Lincoln twice? Or was it Dr. Seward?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:23 AM on February 25, 2008

Secretary Seward was stabbed in another attempted assassination.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:31 AM on February 25, 2008

This is incredibly cool, btw. Thanks, peacay!

And damn you, item!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:32 AM on February 25, 2008

I should have noted that I really dig this, and could probably spend all day looking at old ads for player pianos and rye whiskey, instead of, you know, quoting a silly headline.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:47 AM on February 25, 2008

further to beagle's point above, I would add that thanks to Sonny Bono, history ends on Jan 1. 1923. This may seem like a sarcastic nit-pick now, but if an effective DRM (aka "trusted computing") system is ever devised it may quite literally be true...
posted by dinsdale at 7:59 AM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

So Seward was stabbed in the face and body (while lying in bed recovering from an unrelated, but near-fatal, carriage accident) and his son was hit on the head with a pistol, nearly killing him...but Mrs Seward is the one who expired? Because of the "toll" the events took on her?

posted by DU at 8:05 AM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

The NYT archives from the front page is free to search but pay to view. So I guess you can use that to search for an article, than go back and find it using the The Times Machine for free.
posted by stbalbach at 8:15 AM on February 25, 2008

It's only pay for view post-1922.
posted by peacay at 8:27 AM on February 25, 2008

There's a fascinating change in tone between the articles in 1865 and 1880. The civil war coverage was very subjective, very much in the first person. By 1880, the articles are much closer to the objective newspaper tone we expect today. Fascinating to see all of these articles in context with each other, and the ways the momentous events of the day were covered ( Lee's surrender vs armistice day).
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:35 AM on February 25, 2008

Superb - any sign of the London Times doing the same?
posted by surfdad at 9:01 AM on February 25, 2008

This Times Machine Rocks.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 9:04 AM on February 25, 2008

posted by octothorpe at 9:43 AM on February 25, 2008

It's only pay for view post-1922.

Correct -- again, I suspect the purpose of this is to bug the freeloaders at, who are charging for this same public-domain content and don't have nearly as good a search.

You can also use Advanced Search, which for some reason doesn't show on the NYT front page, but there's a link that comes up after you do one search via the FP.

One other piece of trivia: beginning in 1927, the Times started printing an archival edition on 100% rag paper years printed an archival edition -- after finishing their normal newsprint press run, they put the top-quality rag paper on the press and printed more copies for library volumes. The microfilm was later produced from these archival volumes; hence it is easier to read scans much more accurately into the digital text form. (See also.)

(In the earliest years of this 1851-1922 archive, nearly all newspapers were still printed on rag paper, but the brittle wood pulp paper starting coming in not long after the Civil War (the Times switched to wood pulp paper in 1870). The Times microfilm up to 1927 was shot from the standard edition, but they must have been careful about archiving their best printed copies during most of this time.)
posted by beagle at 9:54 AM on February 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks, peacay! Public domain is wonderful, isn't it?
posted by Hugonaut at 10:21 AM on February 25, 2008

Oh, this is so cool - I'm such a geek for stuff like this.
I looked up my dad's b-day, June 2, 1920. Then I went back to the previous Sunday for a bigger issue. Articles on the post-war sedition/ deportation controversies (oh, we are a slow-to-learn people).

I'm fascinated by the ads. (Notice, there's no phone numbers in store ads, even in 1920.) I see no sports coverage (too plebian) but my perfunctory glance finds no arts (music/ theatre) coverage either. There was a Review of Books.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:28 AM on February 25, 2008

Um, old news?
posted by dontoine at 10:49 AM on February 25, 2008

Awesomeness. Thanks, peacay.
posted by gaspode at 12:05 PM on February 25, 2008

There was a Review of Books

The New York Times has published a book section since 1896.
posted by stbalbach at 12:55 PM on February 25, 2008

October 10, 1896 - first book review section.
posted by stbalbach at 12:59 PM on February 25, 2008

It looks like we broke it. The service is off line now.

Somebody above asked how long this has been up. I believe the answer is that it was launched today.

Here's the inside scoop on the technology behind this, for the geekishly inclined.
posted by beagle at 2:03 PM on February 25, 2008

The BoingBoing post on TimesMachine says it is "hackable"--what does that mean?
posted by LarryC at 6:04 PM on February 25, 2008

Still "Http/1.1 Service Unavailable" as of now.
posted by orelius at 6:55 PM on February 25, 2008

posted by Dave Faris at 9:46 PM on February 26, 2008

It was fun while it lasted.
posted by beagle at 9:18 AM on February 27, 2008

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