Newspaper or Magazine Articles

Historians use newspapers extensively in their research. Newspapers are an excellent resource and a mine of information and data on many events. They inform us of the latest agricultural techniques, the price of commodities, deaths, births, marriages, and dramatic as well as everyday events that occur in our community, in the region, and even in the world. Newspaper articles also reflect the attitudes of the reporters and their opinions of their contemporaries. Historians are often skeptical about the accuracy of the ‘facts’ that newspapers report, but there is little doubt that newspapers provide historians with a pretty good idea of the kinds of issues and events that people of the time were interested in, and what people thought about them.

Newspaper articles on this site are drawn from newspapers with a wide audience (such as the Toronto Daily Star or Toronto Globe), as well as papers with smaller audiences (such as the Owen Sound Sun). How each of these types of newspapers reported on stories differed – according to the resources they had available to cover a story, and how they perceived the story to be of significance to their readers. In the early decades of the twentieth-century, it was highly unlikely that a national newspaper would have a reporter in a thinly-populated area such as Algonquin Park. Because communication technology such as telephones was not widely available (especially in rural areas), reporters’ ability to report on stories such as Tom Thomson’s death would be limited. Similarly, without the ability to send a reporter to “chase” the story, papers would predominantly rely on news about Thomson’s death that could be gathered from family members and friends living in the areas covered by their staff.

For historians and other researchers, gaining access to newspapers of the past can pose a number of challenges. Most newspapers with large audiences have been microfilmed and are readily available in larger libraries, or can also be access through Library and Archives Canada. Some of these publications have also digitized their ‘back catalogue’ in the last decade – making research much more convenient. Microfilms are rolls of celluloid upon which thumbnail size photos are printed. Special microfilm viewers allow users to magnify the images on the films. Accessing old copies of newspapers that served smaller communities can be quite difficult. Some of these papers have not been collected reliably, and the most reliable collections are often held in hard-copy or microfilm only in a local public library or museum. This site reproduces articles, for instance, that had to be ordered from Owen Sound (Ontario), Regina (Saskatchewan), and Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa.

Although information gleaned from historical newspapers is invaluable for many historians, collecting that information can be time-consuming and stressful. It might surprise you to learn that research using microfilm can be physically exhausting. Eye strain is a significant risk when reading small print, and hunching over microfilm machines for several hours at a time can also lead to back strain. Digitization of archival newspaper resources is really helping to solve some of these challenges.