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UMD Libraries Digitize Maryland Newspapers Spanning 18th to 20th Centuries

By Sala Levin ’10

Covers of old newspapers: The Maryland Gazette, The Evening Capital and the Federal Gazette and Baltimore Daily Advertiser

The Maryland Gazette, The Evening Capital, and the Federal Gazette and Baltimore Daily Advertiser are among the historic newspapers that will be digitized by UMD Libraries, thanks to a new grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The periodicals will become part of the Library of Congress' Chronicling America project, which compiles American newspapers from 1770-1963.

The Evening Capital image courtesy of the Library of Congress; The Maryland Gazette image from Wikimedia; the Federal Gazette and Baltimore Daily Advertiser courtesy of

One of the first newspapers in the U.S. published by a woman and what was once the nation’s largest Jewish paper are among the Maryland-based local papers that will soon be available online to anyone, thanks to University of Maryland Libraries.

A new $322,532 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will allow UMD Libraries to digitize a number of Maryland newspapers as part of NEH’s Historic Maryland Newspapers Project, which brings together libraries and archives across the state to add periodicals to the Chronicling America digital newspaper collection at the Library of Congress.

“Historic newspapers tend to be very hard to use, if they’ve survived in their original form at all,” said Doug McElrath, director of UMD Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives, and the project’s co-director. “Once it was possible to use digital technology to preserve and make searchable this massive amount of information that’s in historic newspapers, it became a high priority for NEH and the Library of Congress.”

The new grant represents Phase 6 of the project, which began a decade ago and has received over $1 million in NEH support. McElrath estimates that UMD Libraries has already digitized roughly 500,000 pages of 64 newspapers, including The Evening Capital from Annapolis and The Republican Advocate, based out of Frederick.

The project’s goal, McElrath said, has been to highlight the state’s geographic, cultural, racial and economic diversity throughout history. “Instead of focusing on the big metro dailies, like The Baltimore Sun or The Washington Post, which have been digitized anyway, we’ve been trying to focus on papers that would be much harder to find and maybe tell you a little different story than what you’d find in a mainline, official newspaper of record.”

Newspapers in this round of digitization include The Maryland Gazette, a publication that started in 1727 and had one of the country’s first female publishers, Anne Catherine Green, who took over after her husband’s death in 1767. The Federal Gazette and Baltimore Daily Advertiser, a single publication that operated from 1796 to 1825, is another paper that will tell the story of how America emerged from the Revolutionary War and learned how to govern itself in its infancy as a nation.

Other newspapers served more niche audiences. The Baltimore Jewish Times, founded in 1919, tells the story of “an immigrant community that becomes an important part of the identity of Baltimore as a city,” said McElrath.

More modern papers are also part of the project. The 20th-century Prince George’s Post and Laurel Leader chronicle “another important revolution: the growth of suburban Maryland and the move away from Baltimore as the center of power in the state to the Washington suburbs really becoming key economic and political drivers,” said McElrath.

Once digitized, the papers will be available and accessible to the public for free in Chronicling America, the Library of Congress’ largest digital collection; it contains more than 20 million American newspaper pages from all 50 states, two territories and the District of Columbia.

The newspapers provide a valuable resource for UMD students, faculty and the general public to “look at the untold stories, the narratives that got left out of the standard story of America,” said McElrath.



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