Searching a newspaper by keyword is a modern convenience. Historically—and by necessity—newspapers were intended to be perused page by page. Today, we call such online perusing “browsing.”
Browsing newspapers online can be especially enlightening. It’s a great mix of history and modernity. Start with a location, time period, or paper. Then, page by page, story by story, read up on how people lived, worked, and played. Discover how communities handled newsworthy—and not so newsworthy—daily events: social, political, meteorological, and beyond.
From natural disasters to sports, from obituaries to society columns, our ancestors learned about their neighbors in black and white. Today, you can browse the papers on Newspapers.com and meet your ancestors’ neighbors. Read about their joys, tragedies, and scandals; how the crops fared; or if the merchants had a good year.
Once you’ve located an item of interest, searching within a browse can take you to additional stories quickly. While browsing a 1931 issue of The Altoona Herald in Iowa, a notice about F. J. Dunkle’s new store in Berwick caught this staff reporter’s eye.
To learn more about the store and Dunkle, select the “4 June 1931” breadcrumb* above the viewer to open the browse menu. Navigating left and selecting “1931” in the menu for year highlights that year and isolates a search to stories in that particular paper for 1931 only. Typing the words Dunkle and Berwick in the “Search within” box at the top leads to search results with front-page news on February 12: “Berwick Store Burns.” Reassuringly, we also discover that by July 23, Mr. and Mrs. Dunkle had “moved into their new home above the store” from an article that likewise mentions which of their neighbors were busy with trips, parties, and picnics that same week.
Because of the idiosyncrasies of OCR indexing, there are times when you know there’s a story within the pages of a particular edition, but a search doesn’t find what you’re looking for. That’s when you can enjoy reading a newspaper the old-fashioned way online—by browsing. The only experiences you’ll miss out on are the smells and rustle of the paper, and the ink rubbing off on your fingers.
* Breadcrumbs is an online navigation term describing the trail of links, usually at the top of a webpage, leading you back along your path to where you started. Fortunately, a path created by online breadcrumbs is more successful than the one left by Hansel and Gretel.