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Newspapers at the BPL: History of Our Collections

Newspaper resources at the Boston Public Library and beyond.

Massachusetts Newspaper Collection

The Massachusetts Newspaper Collection consists of newspapers from the beginning of their publication in Massachusetts in the early 18th century to the present as well as sets of the colonial and federalist newspapers that shed light on the founding of the Republic. The collection is augmented by significant holdings of 19th- and early 20th-century American and European titles—many rare, some unique—representing the major business and cultural interests of our citizens. It also holds ephemeral publications often neglected by other research institutions.

Noteworthy items include the Boston Newsletter, August 16, 1706, the first continuing paper in the United States; The Guardian [Boston], 1939-1955, an African-American newspaper started by noted activist William Monroe Trotter; The Woman’s Journal, 1870-1897, a weekly newspaper published by Mary Livermore, Julia Ward Howe, and Lucy Stone that was devoted to the suffrage and the educational, industrial, legal, and political equality of women; the Diario Oficial from Mexico City, 1844-1883, reflecting U.S. trade with Latin America; the Kölnische Zeitung, 1899-1931, one of the leading German papers; and the London Standard, 1837-1899. There are also a number of papers from areas where U.S. military forces were engaged.

The Boston Public Library has collected and preserved newspapers since its founding in 1852. The newspapers are in multiple formats, including bound and wrapped volumes, photographic reprints, microfilm, microfiche, micro-opaques, digital copies, and electronic databases.

Boston Public Library Collections of Distinction

History of Our collections

The Boston Public Library has collected newspapers since its founding, and now possesses one of the largest newspaper collections in the country.

photo of original newspaper room

Original Newspaper Room, Central Library in Copley Square, ca. 1905. This room is now the Guastavino Room.

Here are some additional pictures of the reading room from above and in use.

The Todd Tablet

photo of Todd Tablet

This tablet to the memory of William Cogswell Todd was the work of Boston Sculptor Frank Chouteau Brown, 1876-1947. It was placed in the library after the death of Todd in 1903. It is of made of Terra Cotta except for the center panel which is yellow marble. The tablet is 3 ft, 6 ½ inches wide, by 2 ft. high. The tablet is located in the Guastavino Room on the first floor of the McKim Building. The Guastavino Room was the original Newspaper Room of the Boston Public Library.

Newspaper Room Plaque 1998

photo of newspaper room plaque

This plaque was mounted in the room used as the Newspaper Room in the later 20th century until 2010 and now called the Commonwealth Salon.  It was placed in 1998 in honor of the Jordan and Taylor families whose memorial donation for Eben D. Jordan and Charles H. Taylor was given for support of the room renovation.  This room is currently used for meetings and programs.

Massachusetts Newspaper Program

Since the project began, in 1986, the goal of the Massachusetts Newspaper Program (MNP), in the Boston Public Library, has been to identify and preserve the state’s rich cultural history and heritage through its newspapers. Indeed, beginning with Publick Occurrences and continuing to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts newspapers have been a veritable treasure trove of information for genealogists, historians, and students. MNP holdings include such diverse titles as the Universal Yankee Nation (we believe to be the nation's largest newspaper measuring at 54.5"x 35.5"), the Massachusetts Abolitionist, and the eclectic scandal sheet the Mid-Town Journal.

The Massachusetts Newspaper Program began activities with a planning grant in June of 1986. Over 2,000 potential newspaper repositories were surveyed in order to create a statewide newspaper holdings database. Survey information was analyzed in order to plan for the first part of the program, the bibliographic implementation phase. Over 20,000 U.S. newspaper holdings were located across Massachusetts.

Catalogers and support staff at the Boston Public Library cataloged and created local holdings records for well over 10,000 newspaper titles. Beginning with microfilm holdings at the Boston Public Library, cataloging included original copy and microfilm holdings for the following newspaper repositories in the state: the American Jewish Historical Society, the Boston Athenaeum, Harvard University, Historic Deerfield Memorial Libraries, Houghton Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, Old Sturbridge Village, the Peabody & Essex Museum, and the Worcester Public Library.

The public can find the nearest location of a desired title by searching the bibliographic records. Separate files were pulled together for preservation microfilming purposes, thus insuring that the intellectual value of the newspaper, what one historian termed, "the single most important research tool available," will always be available to the public.