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Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County
Serving Jefferson County, Ohio Since 1899
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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

200 years of the Herald Star

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, June 18, 2006

 

The Herald Star is celebrating its Bicentennial this year, as one of the oldest continuously published newspapers in Ohio.

 

Local newspapers provide local history, a fact sometimes unrecognized by the reader of the daily newspaper.

 

Without a local newspaper, many local events would simply disappear into history leaving no record for future generations.

 

Due to the generosity of the Herald Star, the library system has a complete archive of the newspaper back to 1806.

 

The newspaper was first microfilmed in the 1950s and that film contains what existed of the paper edition of the newspaper at the time of the microfilming.

 

There is a gap in 1917 as a fire at the newspaper office destroyed those newspapers.

 

Other gaps exist as the original was lost over time, but essentially it is a complete run of the newspapers back to 1806.

 

The newspaper staff over the years contained people important to the history of the community.

 

James Wilson, grandfather of President Woodrow Wilson, owned the newspaper from 1815-1838.

 

The Herald and the Evening Star came together to form the Herald Star in 1897.

 

Joseph B. Doyle was the editor, a name known today for his landmark history of Jefferson County published in 1910.

 

Other newspapers served the county, but only issues of the Toronto Tribune and Ohio Press have survived into the 21st century.

 

Our newspaper microfilm collection is important to our Local History and Genealogy Department.

 

We are currently re-bar coding the entire collection to provide better access from our public online catalog.

 

In addition, we are replacing the original boxes that house the microfilm to acid-free archival boxes that provide better storage for the microfilm.

 

The library staff has indexed the first 60 years of newspapers, but there is another 140 years that has not been indexed.

 

Much of the access is by date, or crosschecking with other sources to find the information.

 

Often the search is for obituaries contained in the newspapers, but early editions are unlike the newspaper of today.

 

Local and national news are intermixed into the 4 page edition, obituaries are often not found for weeks or months after the death, if found at all.

 

If a death is noted, sometimes the obituary contains little information unless the deceased is a local businessman or civic leader.

 

Newspapers of the 19th century often sensationalized tragic events.  Train wrecks, shipwrecks, and fires were favorite events described in every detail.

 

International events were covered in lengthy detail, since the newspaper was the only source of information in those days.

 

People today are surprised that the newspaper archives aren't all online today.  Some are, but the cost of digitations and electronic storage is enormous.

 

It is doubtful that local newspapers around the nation will be converted from their microfilm format in the near future.

 

Newspaper information finds its way into other sources.  The Mayor Miller Scrapbooks from the 1960s extracted news articles into a specific format for easier use of the information.

 

Congratulations to the newspaper for maintaining 200 years of local history, and thanks for giving the library the resources to use it.