Let us take a break from the endless chatter (and my trade’s pity parades) about the future of the newspaper and consider its history. That is much more exciting than it might sound thanks to an interactive map created by Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West using data from the Chronicling America collection at the Library of Congress, which is gathering an scanning America’s newspapers.
The map shows the growth of newspapers across the United States beginning in 1690 and ending in the present day. Drag a slider across a timeline and watch a mass tightly clustered dots slowly move towards their invasion of our home state. Beginning, in this collection, with the Minnesota Chronicle and Register and the Minnesota Pioneer in 1849.
All told, the Library of Congress has indexed close to 140,000 publications (read some of the Minnesota papers here). There are known and unknown gaps in the database, however, and the Stanford people have created a form for submitting information about newspapers that are missing from the database.
Want to go a bit deeper into the story? Read the Bill Lane Center’s two essays that accompany the map, “Rural newspapers doing better than their city counterparts” and “Did the West make newspapers, or did Newspapers make the West?“
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some really old newspapers to read.