1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
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. Students and the curious should begin their research process by inquiring within the Social Science & History Department.
Major Holdings of the Newspapers and Microfilm Center
Newspapers published by selected ethnic, racial, religious, or other communities
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 and Daily News:
New York Times (1980 - Present). Detailed instructions for accessing
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:
Philadelphia Inquirer Digital Archive (1860-2001). Full page PDF scans of the original paper.
Access to the New York Times digitally in this period is complicated. These are the basics:
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 examample is Fultonhistory.com 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 4 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 1922 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:
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.