Where can I find a Newspaper!

Library of Congress (October 2018)

While researching for my thesis paper on British Spy John Andre in the fall of 2018, the one thing I was missing was newspaper accounts. I had first-hand diary accounts, but newspaper accounts were equally as important. The Library of Congress has a collection online called Chronicling America where it has digitized ‘America’s historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963.’ After a thorough search online at Chronicling America and my university library, there was no relevant newspaper that mentioned John Andre. After doing research, I found the database Early American Newspapers 1690 to 1922 (Early American Newspapers: 1690-1922 | Readex) had the most extensive database for all 50 states.

As it so happened, I was going to be in Washington, D.C. shortly after I found this information on this new database. The Library of Congress confirmed they carried this database on their patron computer system. Luckily, after I began my search at the Library of Congress in person, I found multiple early American newspapers before and after Andre’s execution that mention him. My search was successful, and I considered myself lucky to be near a library that had a subscription for that database.

John Andre wrote a final letter to British Major General Sir Henry Clinton before his execution on 19 September 1780.  The Independent Chronicle newspaper from Boston, Massachusetts on 23 November 1780 published this letter and the communications regarding Andre’s trial and execution. 

Part of Andre’s letter to Clinton reads, “ … and of the attachment and gratitude I bear you, recurs to me. With all the warmth of heart, I give you thanks for your Excellency’s profuse kindness to me; and I lend you the most earnest wishes for your welfare, affectionate, and respectful attendant can frame.  I have a mother and three sisters to whom the value of my commission would be an object, as the loss of Grenada has much affected their income.”

[John] Andre has met his fate and with all that fortitude which was expected from an accomplished man and gallant officer … The circumstances under which he was taken justified it, and the policy required a sacrifice; but as he was more unfortunate than criminal, and as there was much in his character to interest, while we yielded to the necessary of rigor, we could not lament it.

President George Washington [1]

My senior undergraduate research thesis paper topic required firsthand accounts I needed from a newspaper. I chose South Carolina’s The Charleston Mercury newspaper due to the size of the readership, location, and other aspects. Again, Chronicling America did not carry that and neither did my university library. This newspaper was available online at newspapers.com so I purchased a subscription for the semester while I was working on my paper.

These two stories illustrate two points I want to expand upon. First, the need for better library technology and access to more databases to the academic world and public libraries as well. Especially when it comes to university access, but I believe the cost will have to be lowered and more access could be given. Why cannot my university have all of ProQuest Database Products? All of the Gale Database Products? Yes, I know there are budget issues but more money should be given to library reference products.

Second, and the most practical point, you sometimes have to pay a small subscription fee for database research if you really need that information. I cannot tell the many times I have paid just a one-month subscription fee for access to a database but the information I gathered was priceless. Bottom line, at some point, you have to be flexible in your path for important reference or scholarly information.

Readex database offers the best collection of American history in one database.  Below are other unique history database products they offer: 

[1] Sargent, Winthrop. The Life and Career of Major John Andre, Adjunct-General of the British Army in America. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1861.

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