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Another new tool, for finding news images

If there’s a genealogist alive who doesn’t love newspapers, The Legal Genealogist hasn’t encountered such.

And if there’s a newspaper-loving genealogist alive in the United States who doesn’t love Chronicling America, well, there’s clearly something wrong with you.

I mean, seriously, what’s not to love about an online collection of 17,013,539 pages from 3,263 newspapers starting in the 1780s — all available for free?

This treasure from the Library of Congress, with the full title of Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, is a go-to site for all kinds of researchers. It’s the outcome of “a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages” and is “produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). NDNP, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC).”1

The site has always had an advanced search tool to find text from the newspapers it digitizes, and though it can be a little quirky, it works pretty well. You can search by state or by newspaper, choose a year or years or a date range, select a language, and do proximity searches for words or phrases.2

What you haven’t been able to do is search for images and photographs.

Until now.

Launched as part of the 2020 Innovator in Residence Program at the Library of Congress, there’s now Newspaper Navigator, a project by Benjamin Charles Germain Lee and designed “to extract visual content from 16+ million pages of digitized historic American newspapers in Chronicling America and … re-imagine how you, members of the American public, can search the visual content using machine learning techniques. The first phase (extracting the visual content) was completed in April, 2020, and resulted in the full Newspaper Navigator dataset… The second phase of Newspaper Navigator consists of the application … All Newspaper Navigator photos in the app and dataset are in the public domain!”3

At the moment there are 1.56 million historic newspaper photos and sketches included — and it’s a lot of fun.

Of course, the first search term I entered was “court.” 4 And up popped the first 100 of 22,084 images between 1900 and 1963 where the term court appears somewhere in the OCR data for an image.

Now… it’s not perfect. You get things like “courtesy” and “courtyard” and “fore court” — that last one turning up in one of many OCR entries that read like hieroglyphics. It’s from the 14 October 1900 Indiana Tribune and reads in part: “In 332cTi:fiS.:Ki2-, iSS” “ST- v ”. ‘i-.. ‘1 — 5 -‘: . , ; “-N -, Lc 5 i . ‘ ; : ?”,’ 4 5″‘ . – -l . : —– – -r- :- :v:v -t-i.- r-‘v -” ‘ ‘ – r.– –‘. – i y M r” .vtit’ rr f lUJT.tVv’-5. “: -‘.fitj–“‘”.. .-As V: ‘vV’r.-. ‘i”‘”?r’.”j!” -l- ‘v-‘ -” I -A;. ;y …” Almost the only part that can be read is “NORTHAVEST STFtOM füHEi COURT : FROM PHOTOGRAPH TAKE.N “AUGUST i5-3 I&OO.”5

But think about it — just one word that is enough — and the Indiana Tribune was a German language newspaper, printed in the Fraktur script, chock full of umlauts and more complications. And I know that because — having clicked on that image — I was given options to download the image, view the full issue, learn about the newspaper and cite the image I found. And when I viewed the full image, this first-generation American of German heritage found it pretty easy to read the Fraktur script.

So… what kinds of goodies can you find this way? Oh my. There’s just so much. Let me give you just one example:

Julia Schreiber

This is “Miss Julia Schreiber, one of the leading models for the artists of San Francisco,” who in 1900 married a young blacksmith and, six hours later, was planning how to get a divorce. Why did she marry him at all? “Because she was dared.”6

Now I mean really… don’t you want that story for your files? With that image to go along with it?

And while you look at that image, look at the rest of the newspaper. “Mother” Mary Jones, a leader of the anthracite coal strikers, is on page 1 along with the Duke of Abruzzi, headed for the North Pole. A millionaire who took in a friend who then burglarized his house — and the “friend” — are on page 2. A swimmer who saved a boat adrift who was suing for salvage is on page 3. And so on.

So now not just the newspapers.

The newspapers and their images.

Free from the Library of Congress, and its Innovator in Residence program, and the new Newspaper Navigator.

Check it out.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Newspapers and their images,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 17 Sep 2020).


Image: “9/6/1900 The evening world,” Library of Congress, Newspaper Navigator Dataset: Extracted Visual Content from Chronicling America.

  1. About Chronicling America,” Library of Congress, Chronicling America ( : accessed 17 Sep 2020).
  2. See ibid., “Advanced Search.” See also ibid., “Help: Advanced Searching in Chronicling America.”
  3. About,” Newspaper Navigator, LC Labs, Library of Congress ( : accessed 17 Sep 2020).
  4. Seriously? You wondered?
  5. Image, “10/14/1900 Indiana Tribune,” from the Library of Congress, Newspaper Navigator Dataset: Extracted Visual Content from Chronicling America ( : accessed 17 Sep 2020.) That citation form, by the way, is mostly generated automatically by the tool itself.
  6. “On A Dare, Model Weds Blacksmith,” The (New York) Evening World, 6 September 1900, p. 4, cols. 4-5; digital images, Library of Congress, Chronicling America ( : accessed 17 Sep 2020).
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