DeGolyer Library has over 2,000 newspaper titles, from single issues to unbroken runs of 50 years or more. Called by some the “first draft of history,” newspapers are useful sources for many kinds of scholarly projects. Especially on the American frontier, a town’s ability to support a newspaper was a sign of its success (which often proved fleeting). We collect newspapers as a means of documenting the spread of printing in the Western states and also as a means of following the development of “print culture” in 19th-century America.
Highlights of the collection include a long file of The Deseret News, the first newspaper printed in Salt Lake City, which we hold from 1850-1878. Another outstanding title is the Pacific Rural Press (San Francisco, 1871-1900), which, as its name suggests, placed an emphasis on farming but also included features on larger cultural questions as well. Probably one of our most unusual newspapers is the Harmon News (Harmon, Tex., 1902-1905), consisting of a virtually a complete run of this amateur newspaper, published and printed by Jesse F. Drummond, “editor and prop.” Drummond was 14 years old when he established the only newspaper in this Lamar County village. Amateur newspapers were much in vogue from 1870-1920, and while most amateur papers did not cover local news and events, the Harmon News did.
DeGolyer Library also has some remarkable holdings of American newspapers published east of the Mississippi, such as the Boston Transcript (1830-1880). For women’s studies, there is probably no more important source than the Woman’s Journal (Boston, 1870-1910). And for those interested in the Spiritualist movement of the nineteenth century, The Banner of Light (1862-1900) is an essential source.
Although most of our newspapers were published in the United States, we also have representative foreign newspapers. Among our Mexican newspapers are some great rarities, including the first newspaper printed in San Miguel de Allende (and the only copy known). Also notable is the Gazetas de Mexico, which we hold from 1784-1809. A great aeronautical rarity is Le Ballon Poste (Paris, 1870-1871), the first “airmail edition” of any newspaper. Printed on India paper, Le Ballon Poste was flown out of Paris by balloon. One of the most useful foreign titles is the London Chronicle, which we hold from 1757-1860. The Chronicle is an outstanding source not only for English history but also for European and international affairs as well.
In addition to our bound volumes and loose issues of newspapers, we also have several hundred newspaper titles on microfilm. Researchers should also consult the newspapers on microfilm held at Fondren Library.
Not every title has been cataloged online; in fact, we have received so many thousands of issues in the last few years that our cataloging is in serious arrears. However, we do have in-house checklists, which should be consulted in addition to the catalog. Also, many of our newspapers are now stored offsite and can take up to a week to retrieve. Please check with staff about the availability of certain titles.
While we purchase newspapers as our budget allows, some of our most important files have been obtained as gifts from other libraries, museums, and historical societies. We encourage other institutions with substantial files of pre-1900 newspapers, especially those printed in small towns in the western states, to contact us. We are happy to give fugitive newspapers a permanent home.