Identify Illinois Newspapers

The Illinois Newspaper Directory (Formerly the Illinois Newspaper Project Database)

All the newspapers we have identified and inventoried are recorded in the Illinois Newspaper Directory (formerly the Illinois Newspaper Project Database). For each newspaper title, the Directory includes a list of which issues are available, where they can be found, and how to contact the holding institution.

Why It’s Important

Identifying Illinois newspapers is foundational to all other work performed by the Illinois Newspaper Project (INP). We cannot collect, preserve, or digitize newspapers if we do not even know they exist. There has never been a comprehensive bibliography or catalog of Illinois newspapers, and many Illinois newspapers were not even listed in standard trade directories. To supply this deficiency, we began our work with a statewide survey (see below) of Illinois’s newspapers. This statewide survey took 20 years to complete. Although we successfully identified over 8,000 titles during the statewide survey, we know that many newspapers remain unidentified, and therefore inaccessible to both librarians (who want to preserve and digitize them) and to researchers (who want to use them). Since at least the 1830s, the newspaper industry’s publishing output has far outstripped the capacity of libraries to collect and preserve the newspapers it published, especially when one takes into account the multiple editions that even one newspaper could generate over the course of a single day.

The chart below presents data on newspaper publishing derived from various sources. Numbers for the earliest years come from the U.S. Census Bureau. Later, as journalism professionalized and the industry self-organized, the trade directories begin to provide a more accurate picture, but even the trade directories overlooked smaller, less commercial publications like neighborhood newspapers. The numbers provide an incomplete picture.

It’s also important not to interpret these numbers as steadily accruing or accumulating. For example, between 1840 and 1850 the number of newspapers published in Illinois jumped from 43 to 96. This does not mean that 53 new titles began publication in that decade, and were added to the existing 43.  It could well be that, of the 43 newspapers being published in 1840, fewer than half were still publishing in 1850, so that the number of new titles would be closer to 70 than 50. Newspaper publishing has always been a volatile industry, and many newspapers failed quickly, were sold, or merged with a once-loathed competitor.

Year Total Number of Newspapers Published in Illinois
1828 4
1840 43
1850 96
1860 269
1870 417
1880 855
1890 1,001
1900 1,273
1910 1,260
1920 1,070
1930 727
1940 539
1954 456
1963 379
1970 838
1980 715
1990 730
2000 754
2010 670

For a more detailed breakdown of these data, see our tabulated statement.

The statewide survey ended over a decade ago, and since that time newspapers continue to be published. We estimate that over 700 newspapers are currently being published within the state, but the chaotic publishing climate makes identification as difficult as ever, and that number is based on the Standard Rate and Data Service, which is a current newspaper directory. The Standard Rate and Data Service provides good coverage of newspapers that belong to chains, but smaller newspapers (for example, the Wenona Index, which has been published continuously since 1876) are not included.

How You Can Help

All the newspapers we have identified, including all known issues within the state, are listed in the Illinois Newspaper Directory (formerly called the Illinois Newspaper Project Database). If you know of a newspaper not listed in the Illinois Newspaper Directory, or of a specific newspaper issue not recorded, please contact us!

We also have an INP Wishlist of titles we are especially eager to locate.

The 20 Year Statewide Survey

The purpose of the statewide survey was to identify and locate Illinois newspapers, both original print and microfilm, throughout the state. To make this task more manageable, we divided Illinois into seven separate cataloging regions (see map on right).

First, we sent an introductory letter and survey to every public library, academic library, and genealogical or historical society we could find in each region. Our survey inquired about newspapers, including those on microfilm, that are a permanent part of the institution’s collection.

Next, we visited the institutions that have newspapers. (Click here to view a photo gallery showing some of the institutions we visited.) We also tried to submit a short article to a newspaper office in each county to inform the local community about the INP.

One of the most important ways we discovered newspapers was by word of mouth. People who work at libraries and genealogical or historical societies have a wealth of knowledge about the history of their towns and counties. We often received referrals and suggestions about where to find Illinois newspapers as a result of our web site, surveys, and articles in local newspapers.

The second step in our work was to catalog the Illinois newspapers we found throughout the state.

Cataloging the newspapers created bibliographic access to these resources, which enables anyone to identify Illinois newspapers and determine where they are held in the state. If a particular title has already been microfilmed, it may be available through interlibrary loan. Some institutions will lend their microfilm to other libraries, while others offer only in-house use of their microfilm, as well as their original newsprint.

We visited repositories throughout the state in order to conduct a thorough inventory of their newspaper collections. The inventory included counting microfilm reels or bound volumes of newsprint, examining the masthead of each newspaper, verifying publication information, and determining which issues are held at each institution.

The INP adhered to newspaper cataloging policies developed by CONSER, a cooperative online serials cataloging program. These cataloging practices for newspapers have been developed since the start of the U.S. Newspaper Program (USNP) in the early 1980s.

We provide access to the catalog records we created through the Illinois Newspaper Directory (formerly called the Illinois Newspaper Project Database). The catalog records can be searched by county, city, title, or date. Each catalog record shows when and where the newspapers were published. Underneath the descriptive information about each newspaper, we list which repositories in Illinois have which issues, as well as whether they have original newsprint or microfilm. Anyone interested in looking at an institution’s newspapers should contact the institution directly.

 

 

To organize the statewide survey, we divided the state into seven regions.
To organize the statewide survey, we divided the state into seven regions.

 

Original cataloging codes used during the statewide survey.
Original cataloging codes used during the statewide survey.