Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New York Times Archives--Free, Full Text and Searchable to 1851!

This announcement from the New York Times--Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site - New York Times--is being celebrated largely as the demise of Times Select, which was the NYTs scheme to charge extra for such "premium" content as Thomas Friedman's inane name-dropping. More significant to we bold historians however is that the Times has also opened up their online archives:

The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. There will be charges for some material from the period 1923 to 1986, and some will be free.

What a boon this is to historians of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries--including historians of the distant northwest A search for Spokane, sorted oldest to newest, reveals the first use of the word in the Times in an 1858 story about the defeat of Colonel Steptoe: "The Indian Victory in Washington Territory." In a somewhat garbled report, the Times announces "The defeat of Colonel STEPTOE by the Indians is confirmed. The original statement was that he had been waylaid by a combined hand of Pelouses and Snakes, amounting to 1,500 warriors, and so routed." The Spokanes appear a little farther down:

A little nineteenth-century humor there. From the same search comes an 1877 editorial on the outbreak of the Nez Perce War ("It is quite likely that the first reports from the scene of the disturbances are exaggerated," the Times soothes) an 1883 article CHINAMEN SLAUGHTERED; THIRTY-THREE OF THEM KILLED BY A RAILROAD COLLISION, and this article about the Coeur d'Alene mines, "A New Eldorado."

For most of the older articles you only get the title and perhaps a few sentences in plain text followed by a link to a PDF of the original article. The Times server is robust, search results pop right up and the PDFs render smoothly. The Times archives are a major new digital resource for historians.

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