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I am an audiobook narrator and radio broadcaster, and can be heard on Washington, DC’s NPR News radio station, WAMU 88.5.

This site is the result of a project that lasted from 2020 to 2023. A newspaper poem from 108 years prior was posted each day for approximately 3 years. This resulted in a collection of 1,055 newspaper poems from 1912 to 1915.

Newspaper History is an attempt to efficiently extract great writing from a vast newspaper archive. I assume two things:

  1. By sheer time and accumulated experience, great writing will appear at some frequency in newspaper pages. The frequency might not be entirely random. It could be possible to extract great writing from preserved newspapers in an efficient way.
  2. Poetry holds, in some ways, the most sufficient expression of writing. It is brief, complete, and detachable. It is the most convenient type of writing for this project.

Many great works were under-appreciated. Some classics still circulate, such as Casey at the Bat and the Federalist Papers. But so many simply disappeared in the churn of production.

Many thanks to Chronicling America, funded by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Their project has preserved a sea of writing, with the tools to navigate it.

Newspaper History is an attempted textual voyage, following this chart: each day, a single poem is presented that appeared 108 years ago within the Chronicling America newspaper archive.

Why 108 years?

A 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.

I hope you find something you like among this website’s myriad gems.

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