What value does the local newspaper have in our research? First, realize that newspapers 100+ years ago were very different from today's publications. Everything then was much more personal, and much more blunt with a "tell all" mentality. If Aunt Jennie came to visit from Flint, it was in the paper. If your neighbor's baby had the measles, chances are it made the local jottings. When farmer Smith had a bumper crop of wheat, there was a prideful note. And, when Mrs. Jones was found to be an adulteress, the details of who, what, when, where & maybe even why were public knowledge. So, ask yourself again - what value does the local newspaper have in learning more about our families?
A good example of a small circulation paper that is in part in peril of being lost to time is The Lawrence Times, published in the village of Lawrence, Michigan, under various additional titles: The Lawrence Advertiser, The Lawrence Lyer, Van Buren County Visitor, The Promoter, and The Lawrence Herald. It was under the name of The Lawrence Advertiser that the paper's earliest history can be traced back as early as 1875, and the last issues were published in 1961 under the name of The Promoter. Approximately 86 years of continuous publication...
Up to 2002, only 14 issues (not years but issues) had been preserved by microfilming. At that time, the Van Buren District Library initiated the Newspaper Preservation Project, and in partnership with the Courier-Leader, the Van Buren County Historical Society, and the Archives & Regional History Department at Western Michigan University, sought to put together as many surviving issues of the Lawrence newspaper as possible for a filming. This was done by combining the holdings of the four facilities, and seeking out other issues through a series of press releases.
The success of the project is that several decades of the newspapers as well as some miscellaneous issues were identified, organized and filmed. However, even through this public effort, about 30 percent of the newspapers are still "missing."
This is truly a loss. You may be asking "what can be done?" More issues of this newspaper are still out there somewhere, in attics, trunks, walls of homes, and basements. The next time you go through your family papers and you encounter a clipping or an entire issue of a Lawrence newspaper, consider that you may have the only surviving piece of that history. To be helpful, it doesn't have to be an entire issue or even a whole page. The following items, even if undated, could be very useful:
- Obituaries, wedding announcements or other social items clippings
- Scrapbook that may have items from the newspaper pasted in them
- Items of a National or Michigan nature clipped from the paper that may have local items on the back
- Any article reflecting a prominent citizen, criminal activity or historical event
Nameless Picture of the Day
unknown boy or girl (hair part suggests boy)
Photographer - M. V. Chapman, Benton Harbor
Can you identify the child in this photo? Are you familiar with the photographer's name? Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog. Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.