Newspapers and Microfilm Center

1901 Vine Street, Room 214
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Open today 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday Closed
Monday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday Closed

Upcoming Closures

  • Mon., Oct. 9 : Closed Indigenous Peoples' Day
  • Sat., Nov. 11 : Closed Veterans Day
  • Thu., Nov. 23 : Closed Thanksgiving Day
  • Mon., Dec. 25 : Closed Christmas Day
View all holiday closings


  • Computers for public use
  • Photocopier (black/white)
  • Printing (black/white)
  • Wireless internet access (wi/fi)
  • Scanner

Upcoming Events

Military History Club: Conflicts in the Middle East - The Civil War in Syria

Thu, September 28, 2023 11:00 A.M.

Join our monthly discussion group! We are continuing a discussion series centered on military conflicts. This month, participate in a thoughtful, guided discussion of the Civil War in Syria.  Group meets 11 AM to 12:30 PM in the Heim Center, Room 131/132. 

Microfilm Collection and Finding Aids

The Newspapers & Microfilm Center is our region’s largest collection of newspapers from the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Over 400 newspapers dating back to 1720 are on microfilm. Our collection includes newspapers from major cities around the world, local community papers, as well as microfilmed versions of academic, underground, and trade periodicals collected by the subject departments. 

Major Newspaper Holdings of the Newspapers and Microfilm Center

Newspapers published by selected ethnic, racial, religious, or other communities

Underground and Alternative Newspapers

Databases: Electronic Access to Newspapers

Newspapers from the late 1970s / early 1980s to present

In the late 1970s, newsrooms accelerated their use of computers to produce their newspapers. These "born digital" news articles were the easiest for publishers to make accessible digitally. As a general rule accessing information published in newspapers in the 1980s and beyond is the simpler than for prior decades. The Free Library pays for subscriptions to several full text databases to assist researchers in easily accessing news normally behind paywalls in the computer era:

Access World News covers news sources worldwide, but the most important local sources are the Inquirer, Daily News and the Philadelphia Tribune:

New York Times (1980 - Present). Detailed instructions for accessing

Independent Voices : a free and Open Access Collection of Alternative Press (1950 - 2016)

Welcomat (1984-1994) - a free and Open Access Index to the "Editor's Notebook" and other article contributions by journalist Dan Rottenberg

Newspapers from 1923 through late 1970s

The Free Library's most robust electronic access point to news during this time period comes from ProQuest's Philadelphia Inquirer Digital Archive (1860-2001), which owns the rights to distribute scans from the Inquirer:

The Free Library also offers access to Black Historical Newspaper Collections through ProQuest:

  • Historical Newspapers - Black Newspapers (1893-2010). Full page PDF scans of the following papers:
    • Atlanta Daily World (1931-2003)
    • The Baltimore Afro-American (1893-1988)
    • Chicago Defender (1909-1975)
    • Cleveland Call and Post (1934-1991)
    • Los Angeles Sentinel (1935-2005)
    • Michigan Chronicle (1936-2010)
    • New York Amsterdam News (1922-1993)
    • Norfolk Journal and Guide (1916-2010)
    • Pittsburgh Courier (1911-2010)
  • Philadelphia Tribune (1912-2001). Full page PDF scans of the paper.

Access to the New York Times digitally in this period is complicated. These are the basics:

Independent Voices : a free and Open Access Collection of Alternative Press (1950 - 2016) can be an important source for underground, counter-cultural, or other independent perspectives from this time period.

Because newspapers before the late 1970s were not "born digital" most electronic access is in the form of full-page scans in PDF form. Full text searching through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is often imperfect. These documents can be cumbersome to navigate. A prime example is Amateur historian and retired engineer named Tom Tryniski has scanned several million pages worth of the newspaper record of New York State and elsewhere in the US. Although his work covers the period before 1923, as an individual he's been among the few to take the legal risk of scanning papers between 1923 -1963 that may or may not be in the public domain. Of local interest are several Philadelphia papers:

Microfilm or major clippings collections can be a serious alternative access point for research. Many of the subject departments at the Central Library maintain clipping files that can often act as an index to this period. Inquire at each department's reference desk. Temple University's Urban Archives includes the George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin News Clippings Collection, which is currently the best index to this time period in Philadelphia.

Newspapers prior to 1923

Every newspaper published at or before 11:59 pm on December 31st 1926 is almost certainly in the public domain, which makes it legally simple for others to scan, store, and make the oldest newspapers searchable. The task, however, is expensive. Some companies, institutions, governments, and individuals have taken on the task.

The Philadelphia Inquirer (1860 - Present) is an excellent source of news from Philadelphia for this time period. And it is a useful source of national and sometimes international news.

The New York Times (1851 - Present) is of course an excellent supplement to national and international news for this time period. Detailed instructions for accessing:

Beyond the Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times, we also subscribe to or can recommend several other databases for accessing a variety of large and small papers from this time period:

  • America's Historical Newspapers (1690 - 1876 depending on paper. Click on Newspapers Tab to limit searches to specific newspapers such as the Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Historical Black Newspapers (1893-2010) - Primary source material from ten historic Black newspapers, including the Chicago Defender, The Baltimore Afro-American, New York Amsterdam News, Pittsburgh Courier, Los Angeles Sentinel, Atlanta Daily World, the Michigan Chronicle, the Norfolk Journal and Guide, and the Cleveland Call and Post.
  • Pennsylvania Historic Newspapers (1790 - 1922)
  • Philadelphia Press Index (1898-1912) Citations only, full text on microfilm at the Central Library in the Newspapers and Microfilm Center
  • Philadelphia Tribune (1912-2001) - Full access to the oldest continuously published daily Black newspaper in the United States.
  • Chronicling America (1836-1922). This is a project of the Library of Congress, and is free to all. No library card required. The main Philadelphia papers in this database are: Philadelphia Evening Telegraph (1864-1918) digital coverage includes 1864-1871 and Evening Public Ledger (1914-1922)
  • described in detail above in the "Newspapers 1923 through late 1970s" section can also provide access to papers in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  • Google Newspapers Google offers a newspaper archives database that allows users to search through digitized newspapers. Coverage is international, and includes a few Pennsylvania newspapers:
    • The Philadelphia Record (1881-1910)
    • The Pittsburgh Commercial (1859-1965)
    • Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette (1887-1901)
    • Pittsburgh Daily Commercial (1863-1864)
    • Pittsburgh Daily Gazette (1847-1872)
    • Pittsburgh Daily Gazette and Advertiser (1816-1847)
    • Pittsburgh Gazette (1795-1962)
    • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (1916-2007)
    • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Sun-Telegraph (1960)
    • Pittsburgh Press (1819-1992)

Additional tricks for finding the right database

TDNet is the tool for researchers to use to determine which databases provide electronic access to periodicals. Search a newspaper (or magazine) by title, and TDNet will tell you which database(s) to which we subscribe provide full text. TDNet is an imperfect tool, if something seems missing consult with a librarian for assistance.

City and Telephone Directories for the Philadelphia area

The Newspapers and Microfilm Center also maintains a strong collection of city and telephone directories for the Philadelphia area, useful as a starting point for property history, business history, and family history research.

Our directory fact sheet provides a detailed overview of our microfilm and microfiche holdings for the city of Philadelphia. 

Our suburban telephone directory guide provides a chronological list of holdings (white and yellow pages) by county.