Viewing Pennsylvanian Newspapers from the 1850s to the 1870s

Besides recognizing the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War over the next few years, this is a time to reflect not just on those ancestors who may have served during the war, but also on the type of life-style such a major conflict had on the home front.  If you had ancestors living between 1861 and 1865, anywhere in the United States or its territories, they were affected in numerous ways by this internal fighting.

There is a wonderful digital program offered by Penn State University Library of many newspapers from the Civil War era from communities across the state of Pennsylvania.   If you had ancestors living in those locations during that time period, this site offers a fabulous opportunity to read of local activities, events, people and national news just as your ancestors would have read it.  Even if your relatives were not from the Pennsylvania area, it still offers the mood and concerns of the people in Pennsylvania which would be similar to other regions during this period of time.

Go to the Penn State Digital Newspapers site.  There you will see the listing of communities and the newspaper available. Some of the digital newspapers from certain areas are from before 1861 and those cover also years after 1865.

The following is a sampling of some communities and their papers.

Clearfield, PA has three newspapers covering 1845 to 1865.

Gettysburg, PA has two major newspapers, ‘The Star’ from 1831 to 1871 and ‘The Compiler’ from 1854 to 1868.

Huntington, Pa has three newspapers from 1855 to 1880.

Philadelphia, PA has three newspapers from 1860 to 1870.

Pittsburgh, PA has three major newspapers covering 1842 to 1864.

Reading, PA with two newspapers covering 1862 to 1869.

You can browse a certain time period or a specific location.  There you view the full newspaper, turning page to page. There is an advance search to plug in a surname or event and find any articles with that name. There is a brief preview of the article from which you can click on it to bring up the full page where the name or event searched will be highlighted.  Literally there can be hundreds of articles with certain names listed.

An article, an illustration or an AD are available to look at, read, save in HTML format or print from your computer. Newspapers in the 19th century carried all types of information. The articles varied and could be of social news, listings of businesses, non-payment of taxes by individuals to arrivals at the local hotels, etc.

The two examples illustrate a portion of a major historical event – the Harper Ferry’s Raid of 1859 and a hotel advertisement welcoming back its patrons in 1865.  All fascinating reading for anyone in the 21st century to better understand the times of mid-1800s.

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