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 Learning Our Community's American Lore

Primary Sources » Newspapers

Historical newspapers, available in most town libraries on microfilm, offer a glimpse of local events and opinions. To avoid being overwhelmed by the volume of material, select one year—say the end of WWI in 1919, or the turn against the Vietnam War in 1968—and scan the headlines. This approach allows you to see how national and international events were reported, experienced, and debated on the local level.

But newspapers offer more than just the headlines. Sometimes the most interesting articles are buried in the back pages with barely a headline at all.  The 1918 Somerville Journal, for example, contains several headlines relating to the WWI home front: school groups planting victory gardens to conserve food rations and sewing bandages for the Red Cross. Editorials call for residents to come together in support of a common cause. But in the back pages, short police reports describe efforts of the Somerville Police to "round up German enemy aliens." These papers, if read without the back pages, would give the mistaken impression that all ethnic divisions melted away in World War I.

Medford Mercury, Medford Public Library, (phone: 781.395.7950)

Somerville Journal, Somerville Public Library, (phone: 617.623.5000)

Revere Journal, Revere Public Library (phone: 781.286.8380)

Winthrop Sun Transcript, 1882- present, Winthrop Public Library (phone: 617.846.1703)


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