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A Gateway to Maryland History

University Digitizes Old Newspapers, Chronicling Change and Charm

By Liam Farrell


Courtesy of UMD Archives

Courtesy of UMD Archives

Local newspapers are a microcosm of history, both grand and small, and the University of Maryland is helping make them more accessible.

Since 2012, UMD’s Historic Maryland Newspapers Project has been digitizing local papers to make them broadly and freely available to the public. The project, which was recently awarded a third grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has put more than 200,000 pages online, providing a window into 19th and early 20th century life in Maryland.

From poems to national headlines to advertisements showcasing the local economy, newspapers functioned as a clearinghouse of the information that regular people relied on, says Douglas McElrath, UMD director of special collections and university archives.

“You can almost track the social life of a town,” he says. “The great thing about newspapers is they really give you that snapshot.”

Click on the photos for examples of what you can find in the database.

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1 MD Free Press
A weekly newspaper published in Hagerstown, the Maryland Free Press reflected the Civil War divide in the state and was suppressed by the federal government in March 1863 for its Confederate sympathies. This issue, from Feb. 27, 1863, shows its antipathy for the president and the war, with headlines like “The Cost of Freeing Negroes” and “The Abolition Clergy Trying to Make Lincoln an Absolute Monarch.” Courtesy of UMD Archives

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