Parts of a Newspaper: Advertisements

In the first installment of Parts of a Newspaper, we’ll dive into an area most people just skim over – advertisements!

Ads can tell us a lot about what is happening in a community during a particular time.  Think about the ads you see in papers today – there are advertisements for goods, businesses, and services offered to name a few.  So what can these tell us?


One way to track the development of a town is to follow the types of goods and services being offered.

  • Shops – Quantity and variety
  • Clothing & housing goods – practical vs. luxury
  • Resources offered & prices – e.g. timber and coal
  • Groceries – variety of stock & prices
  • Entertainment – theaters, bars & billiards
  • Banks & Hospitals
  • Steamships – tourism, transportation, and mail delivery

There are essentials that a town on the Alaskan frontier needed to survive and then there are those that made it thrive.  Comparing businesses, resources, and the price of goods and services across time indicates of how quickly a town is growing.  As industry and business thrived, more people relocated to the towns bringing in more money, this in turn allowed businesses to start offering higher quality goods and luxury items as well as entertainment – something that there previously had not been a market or population to support.


Another type of advertisement to consider is the classified ad.  Job advertisements can tell us what type of work was common/available year-round and seasonally in a community.  By tracking types of and demand for employment over time you can detect shifts in industry and economy.

To conclude, advertisements in historical newspapers can offer a wealth of information on class, industry, economy, culture, and retail if you know what to look.  So next time you’re flipping through the paper take a second to study the ads and think about what they say about the marketing, industry, and economy of where you live!

!! Check out our Instagram post on advertisements to learn more about the featured image and what the editor of the Seward Gateway had to say about advertisements and growth of Seward, Alaska in 1904 !!


On This Day In History: July 18

A plea for the preservation of scenic woodlands surrounding Skagway, Alaska printed in the July 18, 1901 issue of The Daily Alaskan.  It would not be for another six years until that plea was answered by the creation of the Tongass National Forest in September 1907 through a presidential proclamation by Theodore Roosevelt.



“Three years ago the Skagway and Dyea canyons were wooded with stately trees.  The mountain sides were clothed in a mantle of attractive evergreens.  Today the bottoms of the Skagway river have been cleared for the townsite and its extension, and the beauty of the scenery is marred by vast expanses of charred tree trunks.  Much of the primeval attraction of the country is gone forever.  Each succeeding summer marks the recurrence of devastating forest fires.  In most cases they are caused by negligence that is little short of criminal.  There is no closely adjacent timber to Skagway left to protect.  If some concerted action is not taken to preserve the woodlands at the head of Lynn canal it will be but a very few years before the shores of the scenic waters are but blackened and ungainly wastes.

No country on the face of the globe contains a nook more scenically beautiful than West creek, the lower tributary of the Dyea river.  The beetling crags, the walled valley, the pinnacles of the mountains, the glistening glaciers hanging to their precipitous inclines, combined with the sweeping, placid curves of the shaded stream, that in places breaks into a roaring torrent of rapids and waterfalls.  And all this beauty was enhanced with moss carpeted evergreen groves.  This summer must be recorded the defacement of the loveliest feature in this scenic paradise for the green forests in its radius are now but charred and unattractive expanses.  Those who do not care for natural beauties of the country may reasonably remain passive over the destruction of the forests, though people who have cast their lot here must certainly be alive not only to the destruction of valuable timber but to the commercial value of strikingly beautiful scenery.

It will not be many years before people of leasure and means will tarry in Alaska for their summer outings.  The Gun Club, Camera Club, the Chamber of Commerce and all other organizations, called into being for the furtherance of vested interests, or the enjoyment of the beauty and sport afforded by flood, field, mountain and fell, should combine to devise some means whereby Goths and Vandals may be restrained from destroying that which nature has taken centuries to produce.”

What is the National Digital Newspaper Program?

Part II

Why devote national resources to something that was not originally intended to be kept longer than the time it took to print the next issue?

In his 1999 response to an award granted by the Heritage Lottery Fund for the purpose of digitizing U.K. newspapers, Chris Smith, the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, had this to say:

“Newspapers have been called history’s first draft. The conservation of our stock of local newspapers, much of it suffering from acidity and thus difficult to handle, is incredibly important because it forms a considerable part of our nation’s archives.”¹

As one of the first mass produced means of communication, historical newspapers offer a wealth of information and insight into past events valuable to researchers across fields.  Local papers, especially those of small communities, are records of political, social, cultural, and economic development and decline.  Following are just a few examples of the types of information found in newspapers:

  • Advertisements of goods and services offered by local businesses
  • Political commentary of legislation, political figures, and elections
  • Detailed accounts of events, e.g. disasters, social gatherings and celebrations
  • Letters to the editor: what concerns were people having at that time
  • Public notices, e.g. unclaimed mail, emergency notification and instruction, and delinquent taxes
  • Obituaries: often the only source of detailed information on a person’s life in those times

*A note on what historical newspapers do not do: provide a full record of the human experience by largely ignoring or selectively representing minority populations, often in an unfavorable light.

The concept behind Chronicling America is access.  To have this wealth of information preserved is only one aspect of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).  The webpage Chronicling America (, run by the Library of Congress, ensures that the public will be able to access the fruit of the NDNP’s digital labor 24/7.  Currently there are over 12 million pages of U.S. historical newspapers digitized on Chronicling America ready to be used for everything from searching consumer and fashion trends, to tracking weather history and climate change, to inspiring projects like Freedom on the Move.²  By implementing optical character recognition (OCR), these digitized pages are text-searchable, making it an extremely useful resource for researchers and educators.

While newspapers may be considered the first draft, they are still an important source of unique historical information, a chorus of voices reflecting the concerns and opinions of communities, many of which have otherwise not survived the sands of time. Their preservation is in part the preservation of not only local, but national heritage and through this they can serve as tools of education and instruction for future generations.


¹ J. Secker, “Newspapers and historical research: a study of historians and custodians in Wales” (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Wales, 1999), 17.


² Freedom on the Move is a joint project between Cornell University, the University of New Orleans, and the University of Alabama focused on creating a database comprised of all runaway slave ads printed in historical newspapers throughout the South for the purpose of making this information accessible for analysis and education.  For more on this project visit




For Part I of this post visit What is the National Digital Newspaper Program (Part I)

On This Day In History: July 12

An interview with Mr. Hunter, mine foreman of the old Treadwell and Three Hundred mills explains mine operations and how the excavation site the “Glory Hole” got its name in an 1899 interview published in the July 12, 1899 issue of Douglas Island News.

DouglasIslandNews_18990712_GloryHole   DouglasIslandNews_18990705_GloryHole

Left: July 12, 1899 Douglas Island News article; Right: The July 05, 1899 Douglas Island news article mentioned in the July 12 article.

The interview reads:

“The Treadwell Mines.

Two Mills Consume 1950 Tons of Ore Every 24 Hours.


The great mines on Douglas Island are generally known as the Treadwell mines and stamp mills, of which there are in fact five mills and four separate mines.  When the first mill was put in it was called the Treadwell, with 240 stamps.  It is back of this that the Glory Hole, of which we made mention in our last issue, is located.  The new 300 stamp mill is located less than a quarter of a mile from the old mill and the two, with 540 stamps are under the control of one mill foreman, who is Mr. Angus Mackay.

The mine foreman for these two mills is Mr. A. Hunter and the Glory Hole is also in his charge.  Mr. Hunter was seen by the News man a few days ago and from him we gained much information concerning mill operations, which we will give to our readers:

“You are not quite right in assuming that the Glory Hole gets its name from the people who have gone to glory from its confines,” said Mr. Hunter.  “The fact is that for years there hasn’t been a man killed in the Glory Hole and I can remember of but one man ever losing his life in there.”

“But how did it get the name?” was asked.

“Oh, that was because a man, who wanted work, once offered to work for his board and lodging until there was a job open for him and the men said he was working for glory, and ever since it was called the Glory Hole, because he worked there.   No, the Glory Hole is not a dangerous place to work in, but it would be a bad place to fall into.”

“What is the Glory Hole doing for the big mills?” was asked.

“The two big mills, the old Treadwell and the new Three Hundred, consume 1950 tons of ore every 24 hours and this is mined at the Glory Hole.

“How many men are employed at the new Three Hundred?”

“Oh, something like twenty men.  The machinery is the latest improved and nearly everything is done by the machinery.”

“What are they doing down at the other mills?”

“While the other three mills are owned by the same parties they are under a different superintendent and mine foreman, but generally speaking, I can say that the new Seven Hundred, with 100 stamps, consumes 350 tons of ore a day.  The Mexican, with 120 stamps, crushes 400 tons per day, and the Ready Bullion, with 120 stamps, consumes 400 tons a day.  Add these together and you will see that we crush 3100 tones of ore every 24 hours.”

“How deep do you go for this ore?”

“About 800 feet from the top of the Glory Hole and we are down about 450 feet below sea level.”

“How far is it from the new Three Hundred to the Ready Bullion mill, and does the vein of ore extend that far?”

“About 7000 feet.  Yes, the vein of ore extends that distance and is practically the same.  If there is any difference, the ore at the Ready Bullion, the mine farthest south, is a little the best.  The vein seems to stop on the north side of the new Three Hundred.”

“Then you are not worrying any about your ore giving out?”

“No, indeed.”

“What is your manner of getting the gold out of this rock, Mr. Hunter?”

“It is very simple indeed.  After going through the stamps the free gold is collected on the copper plates, which are coated with quicksilver.   The balance of the ore goes through the concentrators.  The first is put into the bricks at the company assay office, the second is sacked and shipped to the smelter at Tacoma.  These sulphates or concentrates that are shipped will run about fifty dollars to the ton.  The final result is about two-thirds free gold and one-third that is shipped in the shape of sulphates.”

Mr. Hunter has been with the Treadwell’s for years and is one of the best and most expert mine foremen living.  Nearly every tunnel, shaft or raise in the old Treadwell mines were mapped out and ordered by him, and the fact that he has held his position for so long a time is proof of his competency.”

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What is the National Digital Newspaper Program?

Part I

There are two main principles behind the National Digital Newspaper Program which are also cornerstones of library and archival science, ACCESS and PRESERVATION.

Newsprint, especially in older titles, is rapidly deteriorating. Newspapers were not printed with the intention of perpetuation, instead they were a means to distribute current information to a large audience and discard as the newest issues and information became available.  In 1982 a joint effort between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress created the U.S. Newspaper Program  (USNP).  This program recognized the exigent need to preserve the nation’s historical newspapers through microfilming and worked with each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to inventory and film their state and local newspapers.

The National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) is a continuation of the earlier USNP, which ended in 2011. The focus of NDNP is to provide greater access to the nation’s newspapers by digitizing the (mostly) already microfilmed titles.  The key feature of this new program is the introduction of Chronicling America (  Each of the states participating in NDNP send their data and digital images of the digitized newspaper reels to the Library of Congress, who then upload the content into Chronicling America, a text-searchable web-based database, where the public can search and read the now digitized newspapers for FREE.

In addition to sending digital data, each state is also responsible for providing Library of Congress with silver negative copies of the digitized microfilm reels, which are housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. in perpetuity as an added preservation measure.




Stay tuned for Part II – an explanation of the historical significance and need for preservation of our nation’s newspapers!

Opening Statement: Alaska Daily Empire

The Opening Statement series features the foreword or introduction given by  editors or publishers in the first issue of the paper addressing its readers. 

Alaska Daily Empire


Alaska Daily Empire, November 2, 1912, Vol. 1, No. 1

Publisher: J.F.A. Strong


With this, the first issue of the Alaska Daily Empire, a few lines as to its purpose may not be altogether inappropriate. In the first place every effort will be made to make it a newspaper for Alaskans and those who wish to learn of Alaska, its resources and its people, wherever they may be located.

Politically it will be strictly independent, reserving the right to honestly commend or fairly criticize any political party that may be in control of the federal or territorial administrations. The people of Alaska ask for and expect a square deal from the Congress and government of the United States. We believe they have seldom received it, but in the coming years conditions may change, and wrongs inflicted be redressed, with a more intimate and comprehensive knowledge of this territory and its needs, on the part of our national lawmakers.

Notwithstanding the many disabilities under which Alaska has labored for years past, partly due to politics and particularly due to ignorance, misinformation and misdirected zeal, on the part of the national school of ultra-conservationists, the growth and development of this great commonwealth—the last of the continental territories—has been greatly retarded, if not absolutely prohibited in important sections. A change of policy by the federal administration we believe to be indispensable to the end that the people of Alaska may be permitted to enjoy the fruits of their labors in developing its great latent natural resources. The land is the people’s and the fullness thereof; the treasures of the sea should be for the benefit of all, not a few.

The Empire received its name because of the fact that Alaska is an empire within itself, and as such this territory is fairly entitled to imperial treatment at the hands of the federal government.

In the development of Alaska’s magnificient natural resources there should be unanimity of purpose. There should be no room for sectional strife; factional differences produce nothing but a crop of dragon’s teeth.

This newspaper has been started as a legitimate business enterprise. Its proprietor has been closely identified with the territory for many years and in a small measure, at least, is acquainted with its history, the people of the various sections. Every honest effort, therefore, will be made to further every legitimate interest, and give the fullest publicity to the progress being made in the development of its resources.

Southeastern Alaska is especially rich in minerals, in fish and lumber. It is believed that this section is on the eve of a wonderful development, which will result in a vast increase in its mineral output and a consequent large increase in its permanent population and substantial growth in its trade and commerce. The Empire desires to bear a modest part in the upbuilding of Alaska and in the betterment of the conditions which environ its people. It will always be found to have the courage of its convictions on all matters of public moment. Patriotism and civic pride, harmony and unity of purpose are prime essentials in the upbuilding of country or community. For all these The Empire will consistently labor.”