Readex's America's Historical Newspapers | Reference eReviews, June 1, 2016

Despite a few usability concerns, these five collections are exceptional additions to America’s Historical Newspapers and are highly recommended for academic libraries seeking to expand their primary source coverage in history.
ljx160601webrefCampaignNews America’s Historical Newspapers Readex, a division of Newsbank;

CONTENT America’s Historical Newspapers (AHN) represents a major subset of Readex’s highly regarded and ever-expanding Archive of Americana, which contains a vast range of primary source research materials. Readex has recently added five specialized collections to AHN, complementing existing databases that include Early American Newspapers and American Ethnic Newspapers.

Together, these five new collections span every U.S. region, focusing primarily on the 19th century and areas such as business, gazettes, politics, and religion. Although still works in progress, all of the collections are projected to be completed by January 2017.

American Business: Agricultural Newspapers contains over 200 titles from more than 30 states published between 1788 and 1894. Its focus is on publications that capture U.S. agrarian heritage, covering technological and economic aspects of farming, along with rural life and agricultural perspectives on larger news stories.

American Business: Mercantile Newspapers comprises nearly 500 works from more than 40 states published between 1783 and 1900, highlighting newspapers that came about in response to the rapidly growing shipping and international trade industries. These materials offer significant statistical data on topics such as commodities prices, demographics, and labor rates.

American Gazettes: Newspapers of Record details over 100 titles from 35 states released between 1796 and 1884, concentrating on newspapers that were required to announce official information from town and city governments. These papers list materials such as laws, notices, legal actions, and coverage of meetings.

American Politics: Campaign Newspapers boasts over 300 titles from more than 30 states published between 1803 and 1876, showcasing periodicals devoted to specific political campaigns and issues, particularly presidential campaigns. These documents also cover political platforms and topics of the day.

American Religion: Denominational Newspapers presents 320-plus titles from more than 30 states published between 1799 and 1900. This resource addresses the wide variety of religious perspectives on major political and social issues such as slavery, women’s suffrage, and the relocation of Native Americans.

usability These collections can be purchased individually or together, and can be searched simultaneously using the AHN interface, along with any other AHN collection available at each institution. Regardless of which databases are purchased, the interface and search options are identical across the AHN ­platform.

Searching is simple and intuitive, while remaining highly customizable. For instance, the advanced search feature allows users to browse headlines in addition to the default full-text searching. There are also tabs that permit specific queries, including the “dates & eras” option, which enables select date ranges or the choice of precise eras such as “U.S. presidential eras” or “eras in American history,” which each break down into helpfully labeled time periods (e.g., Jacksonian Era, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, etc.).

There are also options for filtering searches by “languages,” “newspaper titles,” and “places of publication” in individual states or regions. A final tab offers various “article types” including News/Opinion, Advertisements, Death Notices, and Front Page. A highly useful feature across all of the tabs are check boxes that enable users to choose multiple options within a single category. These selections are retained as other tabs are explored, ultimately facilitating a high degree of precision.

Search results can be sorted chronologically, reverse chronologically, or by relevance. Suggested help topics are conveniently displayed without being invasive. Articles can be viewed individually or within the context of the full page. All of the material within these collections is a facsimile of the actual newspaper, which is excellent for browsing primary sources. There appear to be options for creating a PDF of each article, page, and newspaper issue that can be easily downloaded, emailed, and printed. Search terms are highlighted within the full text for easy discoverability.

Another beneficial feature is that the highlighted terms can be modified within an article or page without conducting a new search, allowing researchers to hone in easily on important details. Articles can be saved (for the duration of the search session), and the most recent 25 queries are stored in a search history (during that particular search session).

However, one option that appeared to be lacking is the ability to limit by collection after searching across all collections. For instance, after entering Hornell, NY, it would have been helpful to see which results came from American Religion: Denominational Newspapers vs. American Business: Mercantile Newspapers.

While users are able to search individual collections and newspaper titles, it would be nice to have the flexibility to cross-search between one and all of Readex’s products. Another suggested addition would be a more readable plain text version for viewing articles. Although the facsimiles are excellent for replicating the feeling of interacting with old archives, plain text would be easier on the eyes, particularly when the scanned image is less clear.

pricing Readex offers AHN via an array of purchase models, including perpetual license, rent-to-own, and subscription. Fees are based on multiple factors. For academic institutions, perpetual licensing costs begin at approximately $4,500 for American Business: Agricultural Newspapers; $7,500 for American Business: Mercantile Newspapers; $5,500 for American Gazettes: Newspapers of Record; $7,000 for American Religion: Denominational Newspapers; and $4,500 for American Politics: Campaign Newspapers. For ­pricing and trial access, please contact

verdict Despite a few usability concerns, these five collections are exceptional additions to America’s Historical Newspapers and are highly recommended for academic libraries seeking to expand their primary source coverage in history. In particular, for libraries whose patrons’ historical research needs intersect with agriculture, business, political science, or religion, these resources provide access to materials not easily obtained elsewhere.

Brian Sullivan is the Information Literacy Librarian, Herrick Memorial Library, Alfred University, NY

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