Newspaper History is an attempt to exploit an algorithm to answer a question: What is worth reading? What is the value of time spent with text?
- By sheer time and expertise, great writing will appear at some frequency in newspaper pages.
- Poetry holds, in some ways, the most sufficient expression of writing.
Many great works led a more vocal than written life. Those voices are heard again at Newspaper History, in the newspaper’s typed echo. Some classics still circulate, such as Casey at the Bat and the Federalist Papers, but much went underappreciated.
Hats off to Chronicling America, funded by the Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities! Their project has preserved a vast sea of newspaper writing than can be navigated like an ocean.
Newspaper History is an attempted textual voyage, with a map: each day, a single poem is presented that appeared 108 years ago within the Chronicling America newspaper archive. This is the chart being sailed.
Why 108 years?
One century felt arbitrary. Searching for more fertile time spans, I looked at weather, astronomical events, mathematics, business, and religion, for meaningful cycles. Multiples of the Metonic cycle (19 years) were interesting, as were planetary returns. 108 years was tried for its cultural value, and for its interesting factors: two squared times three cubed.
Comparing the results of various timespans, 108 years was consistently fruitful. Newspaper material from 108 years ago is safely in the public domain, and so after some practical research, it became the timespan used for Newspaper History.