Black History Month: African American Newspapers in the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program

Portland Observer. (Portland, OR.) October 5, 2016, page 1.

In honor of Black History Month, the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program would like to highlight some of the African American newspapers available in our digital collections! These newspapers range from historic titles such as The New Age (1896-1905), to contemporary papers such as The Skanner and the Portland Observer.

The New Age. (Portland, OR.) June 9, 1900, page 1.

The New Age (1896-1905), an African American owned paper published by A.D. Griffin, highlights the active Black community in Portland’s history. A.D. Griffin was an avid Republican during his period as publisher of The New Age, and many of his editorial pieces discuss the political involvement of Portland’s Black community.

The New Age. (Portland, OR.) February 3, 1900, page 4.

The New Age. (Portland, OR.) April 7, 1900, page 4.












The New Age. (Portland, OR.) January 6, 1900, page 4.

The Skanner. (Portland, OR.) September 27, 2017, page 1.


























Oregon Historic Newspapers is seeking to digitize additional Black-owned and operated newspapers in Oregon’s history. The titles we are currently hoping to digitize are The Advocate (1923-1933), The Times (1911-1912), the Portland Inquirer (1944-46), the Oregon Mirror (1962), and the Portland Challenger (1952-1953). If digitized, these titles, as with all newspapers digitized by ODNP, would be freely accessible to the public and could be browsed and searched by keyword online. In addition, all content could be downloaded as a PDF or JPEG file and saved for future reference or research purposes. If you are interested in the digitization of any of these titles, please contact us here!






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Newspapers: A Genealogists Treasure Trove!

Today’s guest blog post comes from Linda Sausen Ivers:

I should probably start by introducing myself. Hello, my name is Linda, and I’m a genealogy addict! I started researching and recording the genealogy of my family in 1988. Although I was lucky enough to have known my grandparents and to have met one of my great-grandmothers, I really didn’t know many specifics about who they were or where they came from.  All I had to go on were some family stories and a lot of photographs.

Genealogy is Detective Work

Genealogists work backward in time to find out more about ancestors. We diligently search records that document facts—birth, death, marriage, divorce, place of residence, military service, land ownership, immigration, etc.—looking for information about our ancestors. We keep searching, looking for the type of things we don’t find in those records, the daily activities of those ancestors. Where were they between census years? Who did they socialize with? Did they travel for enjoyment? Were they involved in local politics? Did they participate in organizations? Did they have children that didn’t show up on a census?

Information about our ancestor’s daily activities can often be gleaned from newspapers. Newspaper stories can provide a richness and context to a family history beyond the recitation of names and dates. Early newspapers tended to be more locally focused in the type of news items they published. The Historic Oregon Newspapers collection and the Library of Congress Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers are treasure troves of information for genealogists. Both are online and fully text searchable.

I use the Historic Oregon Newspapers collection extensively while researching Oregon ancestors. The Lincoln County Leader is a great resource for my extended family on the coast.  For Douglas County, The Plaindealer, The Douglas Independent, and the Roseburg Review are excellent sources.

Letter List from The Plaindealer

The Plaindealer. (Roseburg, Or.) June 19, 1899. Page 3.

Some Examples

To illustrate several of the ways that newspapers can provide information about ancestor’s daily activities, I’ve chosen articles from the Douglas County papers. Using documented facts as background and to create a timeline, the newspapers provide a look at the interactions of my great grandfather, Herbert A. Tompkins, with family members who left Iowa and settled in both Douglas and Coos County, Oregon.

Finding Herbert (“Tompkin, H. A.” [sic]) on the list of unclaimed letters at the Roseburg, Oregon post office published in The Plaindealer (June 19, 1899) helps establish when he arrived.

The Plaindealer snippet

The Plaindealer. (Roseburg, Or.) July 24, 1899. Page 3.


Small mentions of the travels and social activities of area residents were a large part of the content of local papers. A mention in The Plaindealer (July 24, 1899) places T. F. Fisher and H.A. Tompkins in Roseburg on business the previous Saturday.


Olalla News column in The Plaindealer

The Plaindealer. (Roseburg, Or.) December 10, 1903. Page 1.

In the 1900 census, Herbert is living with Vianna and William Matthews (his oldest daughter and son-in-law) in South Slough, Coos County, Oregon. By 1903, he was back in Douglas County as documented in the “Olalla News” column in The Plaindealer (December 10, 1903).  Both Herbert and nephew Albert Tompkins (son of Herbert’s brother Elias) are mentioned. T. F. Fisher is also identified as Herbert’s nephew in the column. Fisher is the husband of Margaret Amelia (Millie) Tompkins, Albert’s sister. The use of the word “Uncle” in the context of the clipping may be a respectful reference to Herbert’s age (57).

Have you ever wondered how your ancestors did in school? You may be lucky and find a School Report. This one is for the South Ten Mile School and was published in The Douglas Independent (July 21, 1883). In the list, “Rec” is their record (grade/class standing), and “Dep” stands for deportment.

school report

The Douglas independent. (Roseburg, Or.) July 21, 1883. Page 3.

There are some other interesting relationships and connections among the students in this school.  Some family groups are easy to see; they share a last name.  What is not obvious is that Ada Byron and Millie Tompkins are siblings, the daughters of Elias Tompkins. Previous research confirmed their relationship and that between their mother’s death in 1876 and the 1880 census, they had been fostered by John Byron and his wife. The report lists Ada as using the Byron surname while Millie, her older sister, still maintains the Tompkins surname.

Other names in this list complement facts found through census data. The McCulloch’s are siblings and nieces of John A. Freeman (married to Herbert’s first wife). The Fisher children are all younger siblings of T. F. Fisher who marries Millie Tompkins in September 1890.

Article in Roseburg Review

Roseburg review. (Roseburg, Or.) September 03, 1886. Page 3.

Newspaper articles can sometimes surprise us with what they reveal about our ancestors. This article appeared in the Roseburg Review (September 3, 1886) about an altercation involving a gun. I think the editorial question in the last line of the article is worth noting.

These are only five representative articles describing the activities of these ancestors and their families. What else have I found? Obituaries, estate filings, marriage notices, social gatherings, family tragedies, visits to and from family members, law suits, public works assessment notices, and advertisements for the rental and sale of property. I use this type of information to provide depth and context to the other research I’ve done when writing and sharing stories with my family.

Welcome to my addiction. I wish you good hunting and a great adventure!


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2017: Year in Review

We had a lot of changes in 2017!  

  • The Historic Oregon Newspapers website underwent a system migration and design update. New features include an “On This Day in History” homepage showcase, an updated map and locations list, a calendar that allows users to browse by date, and an improved look-and-feel to the website. For more information on making the best of these new features, check out the new guide for using the updated website. 
  • We created a fundraising guide to assist users who want to fund digitization of newspapers. The guide has resources, strategies, and grant writing best practices. 
  • Over 71,000 pages were added this year! 
  • We’ve featured stories on our blog from users of the website and shared their research and publications that feature ODNP newspapers. Recently, we added research from UO graduate student Jessica Sokolowski about her use of the newspapers for understanding the public reception of tax reform.  

2018 will bring more exciting additions for Historic Oregon Newspapers! Some things to look forward to include a genealogy research guide and continued improvement to the interface and usability of the website.  

Please let us know if you have any suggestions for content you would like to see this year! 

Thank you for supporting the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program! 

– Carolina and Sarah 

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Guest Blog Post: The Timeless Search for an Equitable System of Taxation

Guest blog post by University of Oregon School of Planning, Public Policy and Management graduate student Jes Sokolowski:

For the last few semesters I have been assisting a professor with a research project on inequality and taxes. Most of my involvement with this project has been with data collection— analyzing tax forms to uncover charitable giving information, and eventually extrapolating enough information to design visuals.

During the project, our team would occasionally talk about the rhetoric involved with a partisan issue, such as taxes. These thoughts on taxes, inequality, and rhetoric, lead me to ask the question “I wonder how tax talk has transformed over time”? Shortly after I posed this question, the new Historic Oregon Newspapers website was released, and historic newspapers seemed like the perfect place to search to discover how tax talk had evolved over the years. Not only would Historic Oregon Newspapers allow me to learn more about the history of taxes in Oregon, but it would allow me to search for tax-related keywords and phrases.

Thus, I proceeded to search through Oregon Digital Newspapers using terms such as “taxation”, “tax policy”, and “tax reform”. This was an exciting search process! I had never read about early 20th century tax reform before this Digital Newspaper search, so it was particularly exciting to read early opinion articles, editorials, and local advertisements either for or against a tax measure. Fun fact: it was common for the list of local tax evaders to be published on the front page of the newspaper— that way everyone knew who wasn’t paying their fair share.

The most important find for my newspaper search project, showed up in the January 24th, 1909 Sunday Oregonian. From this newspaper, it was clear that, for more than 100 years, there has been concern with issues of inequality and taxes in Oregon. The article, titled Procedure for Tax Reform in Oregon, was written by F.G. Young, Professor of Economics and Sociology at the University of Oregon. According to Young, “An equitable system of taxation is necessary not only for social health and mutual good will, but also for internal peace and general prosperity.” Young’s call for equitable taxes is as timeless as his comment on tax evasion: “Classes or interests, who under existing practices are escaping their rightful share of the public burdens, see to it that all the confusion possible is created…”.

Thanks to the Historic Oregon Newspapers website, I began to better understand the history of taxes, and Oregonian’s attitudes towards taxation. Though the people discussing taxes change, people’s polarizing views and writing on taxes seem to be ageless.

Posted in Uncategorized

New Content from Polk County!

The Dallas Itemizer. (Dallas, OR.) February 26, 1876. Page 1.

Oregon Historic Newspapers has recently been able to add new content from Dallas, OR! This project was made possible, in part, by funding from the Polk County Cultural Coalition. The added issues come from The Dallas Itemizer and the The Polk County Itemizer and cover a period of the paper’s publications from 1876 to 1903.

Polk County Itemizer. (Dallas, OR.) October 10, 1902. Page 1.

The Dallas Itemizer was a predecessor to The Polk County Itemizer, changing its name to the latter in 1879 by publisher George E. Good. Our newly added time-span was a formative period for The Itemizer, and the paper underwent an incredible amount of changes in ownership. From 1876 to 1903, a total of 10 different individuals each had a turn as publisher!

One publisher, W. A. Wash, who took over the paper in June 1888 was considered to be quite the ‘interesting’ editor. Wash didn’t utilize much space for set editorials and instead dispensed his own moralistic opinions throughout the paper at will. These examples are taken from just one issue on December 15, 1893.

Polk County Itemizer. (Dallas, OR.) December 15, 1893, page 3.

Polk County Itemizer. (Dallas, OR.) December 15, 1893, page 3.

Polk County Itemizer. (Dallas, OR.) December 15, 1893, page 3.

Polk County Itemizer. (Dallas, OR.) December 15, 1893, page 3.

To see more of the The Dallas Itemizer or The Polk County Itemizer, feel free to browse the span of issues we have digitized on our website. These titles, as with all our historic newspapers, can be browsed and searched by keyword thanks to optical character recognition (OCR). In addition, content can be downloaded as a PDF or JPEG file and saved for future reference or research purposes. All of these services are free and open to the public, so don’t wait and take a look at Oregon’s historic newspapers today!



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Historic Oregon newspapers are source material in recent publication

Scott Stursa, author of the recently published book Distilled in Oregon, shares his interests and processes for researching with local historic resources, including Historic Oregon Newspapers online!









Can you tell us a little about your publication and yourself?

Distilled in Oregon  details the history of spirits distillation in the state, beginning with the “Blue Ruin” being manufactured by fur traders during the 1830s and 1840s. It traces the development of commercial distilling during the nineteenth century as well as the prohibition movement that ended alcohol production in 1916. The Prohibition period was rife with moonshining, and the operations of a couple of practitioners is described. A history of Hood River Distillers (opened 1934) is followed by one of Clear Creek Distillery (1985). The final portion of the book covers the rise of the craft distilling movement in Oregon, with a number of notable distilleries described in detail.

During a 40 year career in Information Technology, writing was a hobby until my retirement in early 2016. I’m now able to devote more time to it.

What interested you in this topic?

I’ve had an interest in gourmet food and drink since my late twenties (early 1980s) and the interest in craft distilling is a facet of that. After arriving in Oregon in 2007 I became acquainted with a local craft distiller and decided to write a book on the topic.

What resources did you use for your research?

The World Wide Web was instrumental in not only finding the content of primary source accounts (digitized books [both old and new], newspaper articles, online media reports, etc.), but also provided the names of out-of-print books (which I could find and buy via Amazon), and catalogs of the contents of historical archives. These last allowed me to visit historical archives (from Medford to Seattle to The Dalles) with a list of requested resources.

What did you use in Historic Oregon Newspapers online? How did you use the site and which newspaper titles were useful to you?

Old articles describing the construction, operation, and fate of various distilleries around the state, along with advertisements placed by distillers and liquor retailers. Google Advanced Search was used, restricting the domain to and inputting various relevant keywords such as distillery, moonshine, whiskey, etc.* Probably the one most useful title was The Oregonian.

Where can we purchase/access your book?

It was available at a number of retail outlets around the state (ranging from Powells to Costco). Most of these have sold out, but it can be ordered from Amazon or from the publisher (Arcadia/History Press).

What’s your next project?

Currently working on a book about the history of wine making in Oregon.

Thank you for sharing, Scott! We are looking forward to your next publication.

*The Historic Oregon Newspapers website also features advanced search functionality!

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Forthcoming book about Coquille features ODNP newspapers!

Bert Dunn, an avid Oregon Digital Newspaper Program supporter and contributor, will soon publish a book on Coquille, Oregon that uses ODNP newspapers for source material. It will be published by Arcadia Publishing as part of their “Images of America” series, and it will feature about 200 pictures and captions, as well as chapter narratives.

Bert described his searches on Historic Oregon Newspapers and how he used the website:

“I have been using the UO site to search for information on early sawmills, creameries and other businesses and individuals related to Coquille’s past.”

“As I work to write for a book about my hometown of Coquille, I have found the UO Digital Newspaper website to be an essential tool. I am consistently finding new information that fills gaps in our stories. Not only am I able to search my hometown papers for historic content but many other papers in the state in the same search. The search tools are flexible and powerful. With the papers fully digitized, even ads are preserved offering additional information about business products and services.”

“I really appreciate this UO service.  [Above] is one example of an ad from the Coquille City Herald, June 17, 1884.”

Thank you, Bert, and we look forward to reading your book!

Do you have a publication or project that uses newspaper content from ODNP? Let us know and we will feature it!


Posted in Project Highlights

New Content from Nyssa, OR!

Nyssa Gate City Journal. (Nyssa, OR.) March 4, 1937, page 1.

This summer, thanks to the generosity from the Friends of the Nyssa Library, Oregon Digital Newspaper Program was able to add new content from Nyssa, Oregon. This new content makes available the Nyssa Gate City Journal during an interesting time span we usually don’t see on the Historic Oregon Newspapers website, from 1937 to 1953!

This span of the Nyssa Gate City Journal covers life in Nyssa through the last of the Great Depression, WW2, and post-war American life. More locally specific, this selection chronicles the introduction of sugar beets to Nyssa’s agricultural economy, a crop that quickly became the foundation upon which the far eastern Oregon town came to survive on.

Nyssa Gate City Journal. (Nyssa, OR.) September 30, 1937, page 1.

The start of our available issues of the Nyssa Gate City Journal could not be timelier for they coincide with the construction of the Amalgamated Sugar Company’s factory in Nyssa. The newspaper positioned itself as a promoter of the budding industry and began to push the people of Nyssa to grow sugar beets.

Nyssa Gate City Journal. (Nyssa, OR.) February 4, 1937, page 4.

The Amalgamated Sugar Company did well in Nyssa; its factory remained operational until 2005. Perhaps it was due to solely the quality of the town’s surrounding land, but looking through the Nyssa Gate City Journal’s aggressive advertising campaign it seems that paper-based factors may have been equally at play.

To see more of the Nyssa Gate City Journal, feel free to browse the span of issues we have digitized on our website. This title, as with all our historic newspapers, can be browsed and searched by keyword thanks to optical character recognition (OCR). In addition, content can be downloaded as a PDF or JPEG file and saved for future reference or research purposes. All of these services are free and open to the public, so don’t wait and take a look at Oregon’s historic newspapers today!

Posted in New Content

New website for Historic Oregon Newspapers!

Yesterday, the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program launched the new website for Historic Oregon Newspapers. Developed from the Open-ONI initiative, the new site has an updated look-and-feel that’s easier to navigate and more consistent with web presence of UO Libraries. It also has a “This Day in History” feature that showcases a different newspaper every day that corresponds with that day’s date. New functions include browsing by date with the Calendar and an improved Advanced Search. An updated Map, along with a Location list, allows for simplified title access by city. Along with the updated site, we have developed a fundraising how-to guide to assist the public with funding their newspaper digitization. Several digitization projects are underway. We are frequently adding new stories and updates to the blog, so check back regularly!

Screenshot of the new homepage.

Today, we are featured on the Digital Library Federation website as part of their Contribute Series!

Thank you to Jeremy Echols, Linda Sato, Duncan Barth, Azle Malinao-Alvarez, Tyler Stewart, and Holli Kubly for their hard work and contributions to the website!

If you have any questions or feedback, please contact us.

-Carolina and Sarah

Posted in Uncategorized

A Cure-All?

Oregon City Enterprise. (Oregon City, OR.) January 8, 1897, page 6.

If you think direct-to-consumer prescription medication advertising is bad today, take a look at the historic newspapers we have digitized on the Oregon Historic Newspapers website! Likely, if you have taken the time to peruse just a few issues, you will have noticed an overabundance of strange medication advertisements.

Rogue River Courier. (Grants Pass, OR.) December 13, 1900, page 2.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, a lack of adequate medical care in combination with few government regulations resulted in a flurry of business called the patent medicine industry. These questionable concoctions promised lofty claims, and in large part helped fund Oregon’s early newspapers through their advertisements.


The Dalles Daily Chronicle. (The Dalles, OR.) January 15, 1901, page 2.


Merchants had little obligation to truthfully describe the contents and effectiveness of their products, creating tonics, pills, and syrups that often contained dangerous substances such as opium, morphine, cocaine, and alcohol. While consumers might have found temporary relief from these ingredients, patent medicines were an unfortunate cause of accidental overdose, intoxication and addiction.


The Eugene City Guard. (Eugene, OR.) January 26, 1889, page 8.


Next time you are on the Oregon Historic Newspapers website reading your favorite historic papers, take notice of the patent medicine advertisements on the side of the page; I’m sure you’ll find something that surprises you!


The New Age. (Portland, OR.) May 12, 1900, page 7.

Posted in Project Highlights
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