Monday, March 31, 2014

Michigan Digital Newspaper Grant Finalists

One of the following five cities will have their chosen newspaper digitized and placed online through the Clarke Historical Library’s Michigan Digital Newspaper Grant Program. The winning city's paper will be available on the Michigan Digital Newspaper Portal at

The finalists are:
  • Cheboygan (Cheboygan Democrat, 1880-1927)
  • Grand Rapids (The Grand Rapids Herald, 1916-18)
  • Lansing (Lansing State Republican, 1859-66)
  • Marquette (Mining Journal, 1868-88)
  • Muskegon (News and Reporter, 1870-99; Muskegon Record & Muskegon Daily Record, 1901-04)

Be Sure to Vote

You get to decide which community will get their papers digitized and placed online. Cast your vote between April 1-April 15 at To keep up on the vote tally, follow us on our Facebook and Twitter.

Read what the nominators said about these papers:

Cheboygan Democrat (March 1880-December 1927), nominated by the Cheboygan Area Public Library

Special features or unique aspects of this paper
There are many special attributes of the Cheboygan Democrat. While the American nation was expanding as we headed west, lumber from Northern Michigan literally helped build up the new territory.

The Cheboygan Democrat covers a period in which there are currently no other papers available online from the Cheboygan region. While mid and southern Michigan were important in this era of the state’s history, the northern portion of the Lower Peninsula has not had its story appropriately told. To that end, the Democrat chronicled the development and maturation of the lumber industry here, along with its impact in building communities in the region.

Another important facet of the Democrat is that it is one of very few reliable sources of information about Duncan City. This small village was separate from Cheboygan, yet still within the corporate boundaries of the city. It was once a booming little lumber town of about 500 people, is now not even a ghost town. Two original structures are yet standing from the village but otherwise there is virtually no trace today that the settlement ever existed. It was home to the largest lumber mill north of Bay City and had its own fire department, post office, store, a second lumber mill, and many homes and other businesses. After the big mill burned in 1898, the community was quickly abandoned and buildings were either moved or fell into disrepair. While it is difficult to see any trace of the town today, through the Democrat readers can get a picture of what it was like to be part of Duncan City. Stories of who was in town, what the mills were producing, what businesses operated there and by whom, are reported in virtually every edition of the paper.

The Democrat provides information that was relevant not only at the time it was written but also to the current reader. It provides detailed information in a format that was published consistently throughout many decades. Many newspapers of the era lasted only a few years (even months in some cases), but what makes the Democrat stand out is the fact that it is today a consistent source of information during an era that had many people moving to or coming through the region. In its pages are recalled the roots and connections many people in this area still have to places like the Northeast, Ontario and Quebec, and homelands farther away like Sweden, France, Poland and Germany.

The Cheboygan Democrat is a unique paper that, in order to accurately tell the history of Michigan and its people, should be preserved and made available to as many researchers as possible.
Reason why you believe this paper should be made available online
Access to newspapers is one of the best ways to study a community’s history and its people. Unfortunately, access to newspapers such as the Cheboygan Democrat is currently limited to microfilm. While this is a minor hindrance for those who live in the community, for many researchers it can be difficult to search these newspapers. Digitizing them would improve access and make it easier for historians and genealogists to utilize the information they contain. As these newspapers were the largest in this part of the state, they have become the definitive window onto the day-to-day history of this region.

Northern Michigan is in many ways unique when compared to the rest of the state. While much of Lower Michigan was settled long before the lumber boom, in the north the region was specifically settled because of lumber. Had there been no demand for lumber, the communities here today would not exist, or certainly not in their present form. The rise (and for some, fall) of these cities and villages needs to be studied in greater detail. Digitizing the Democrat will improve access to this historical paper and not only let individuals connect with their past, but also allow researchers to understand and appreciate this region’s contribution to state history.

Many newspapers from many communities in Michigan are already digitized. While Northern Michigan undoubtedly has a smaller population, the impact this region made on Michigan history should not be underestimated. What is more, people from throughout the state and the nation can trace their roots in some form or another to this area. By digitizing the Democrat, even casual genealogists can research their family’s roots and see how they fit in to the global community.

A searchable, digitized newspaper from Northern Michigan will have an impact on many people not just from a historical standpoint, but from a familial one as well. Ancestry isn’t just about individuals; it’s about their lives, their relations, their occupations, and more. These are things that only a newspaper can shed concise light upon.

As [historians], [we] can confidently say that current literature on state history does not appropriately take into account the impact that the northern part of the state played in the history of Michigan. The lack of availability of digitized newspapers from this region certainly plays a role in that, but one which can be corrected. From local history to the region’s people and events, newspapers are a crucial component for learning more about Michigan. We would hope that you would give the strongest consideration to digitizing the Cheboygan Democrat.

The Grand Rapids Herald (1916-18), nominated by the Grand Rapids Public Library

Special features or unique aspects of this paper
The special features or unique aspects of the Grand Rapids Herald are many.

First, future Senator Arthur Vandenberg was the Editor in Chief of the Grand Rapids Herald from 1916-1918. Second, the Grand Rapids Herald was one of the two primary newspapers of the city of Grand Rapids. Third, the Grand Rapids Herald was the Society newspaper of Grand Rapids. Fourth, from 1916 to 1918 Grand Rapids saw the emergence of several important political figures who were to figure prominently in city, state and national politics. Finally, during this time period Grand Rapids was to see its very political structure change. It is these features and aspects that are unique to the Grand Rapids Herald.

First, Senator Arthur Vandenberg was editor in chief of the Grand Rapids Herald during this time period. Senator Vandenberg was a leading light in the Republican Party on the state and national levels. From 1916-1918 the researcher would be given access to Vandenberg's views on the outbreak of World War I. Due to this the editorials within the Grand Rapids Herald would be especially significant since they would reflect the ideas and opinions of a man who was destined to be a leader within the Republican Party during the Great Depression and World War II. He also was to become the one of the primary figures in the founding of the United Nations.

Second, the Grand Rapids Herald was one of the two main newspapers in the city of Grand Rapids from the late nineteenth century to the latter half of the twentieth century. As one of the primary papers during this time period the Grand Rapids Herald gives insight not only into the city of Grand Rapids, but of the state and the nation as a whole. This is especially true since Grand Rapids was and is the second largest city of the state of Michigan.

Third, the Grand Rapids Herald was the society paper of the city of Grand Rapids. This is especially important since many of the leading societies, clubs and fraternal organizations would be represented within the pages of the Herald. This would have included the Masonic bodies, Elks, Peninsular Club, Ladies Literary Club and on and on. These different clubs and organizations were populated by the leading personalities of the city at that time.

Fourth, several important political figures emerge in Grand Rapids city politics from 1916-1918. George Welsh, future mayor/manager of Grand Rapids and candidate for Michigan governor, was serving his first term as city alderman. Frank McKay, future head of one of the major political machines in Michigan politics, was just beginning his political career in Grand Rapids during this time.

Finally, it was in 1916 that the city government of Grand Rapids was to evolve into the city-manager form of government that is still used to this day. This political evolution was the final political chapter of the 1911 Furniture Strike. This upturned the strong mayor form of city government that was in power in Grand Rapids up to this time. It is for all of these reasons that give the Grand Rapids Herald its unique aspects as a newspaper in Michigan. First, the editor in chief was Senator Vandenberg. Second, it was one of the leading papers in the second largest city in Michigan. Third, the Herald was the society paper and gives a glimpse into the leading circles of the time. Fourth, several important politicians were just beginning in Grand Rapids at this time. Finally, the very political structure of Grand Rapids was changing during the period from 1916-1918. A political structure that still exists and governs Grand Rapids to this day.
Reason why you believe this paper should be made available online
The reasons why [we] believe the Grand Rapids Herald should be online are several. First, the Grand Rapids Herald, as stated previously, was one of the leading papers of Grand Rapids. Second, researchers would be greatly assisted in their research by having this paper online. Finally, having this paper online would fit in nicely with the digitization efforts of the Grand Rapids Public Library.

First, the Grand Rapids Herald was one of the leading papers of the city of Grand Rapids. The city of Grand Rapids is home of the second largest metropolitan area in the state of Michigan. From 1916 to 1918 Grand Rapids had over 100,000 people living here. Today there are over 1 million people living within the metropolitan boundary of Grand Rapids. This alone would provide a ready-made audience for any Grand Rapids paper that was to go online. But, there is also the fact that Grand Rapids is a Midwestern, medium sized city. Researchers come to Grand Rapids many times to research American life outside of the typical large American city. These researchers include scholars who are researching the African-American experience, industrialization, immigration, and a myriad of other topics. The draw is the very size of our community and the picture that does not represent a Chicago or New York City.

Second, researchers would be greatly assisted in their research by having the Grand Rapid Herald online. As stated above the Grand Rapids Public Library has many researchers, locally and nationally, who come to study the Grand Rapids Herald. Having the paper online would allow any researcher to view the Herald at any time and from anywhere. This could be the local genealogist who is looking for an obituary of an ancestor, or a researcher of the labor experience in the Upper Midwest. Either way each researcher would benefit by having ready access to this important publication. Also, the ease of searching an online paper would ease the search for a researcher. By having the Herald keyword searchable, information that previously would have been hidden will now be able to be found easily.

Finally, having the Grand Rapids Herald online would fit in nicely with the digitization efforts of the Grand Rapid Public Library. As of right now the Grand Rapids Public Library has over 10,000 images online. On average these images are visited over 30,000 times a month. A digitized version of the Grand Rapids Herald online would only enhance our digital efforts and give the researchers who are presently using our site greater access to the historical richness of our city.

The Lansing State Republican (January 1859 – September 1866), nominated by the Capital Area District Libraries of Lansing

Special features or unique aspects of this paper or papers
The Lansing State Republican reflected the views of the Republican Party just prior to and during the Civil War. The editors and owners made their views on slavery and the abolition movement very clear in this capital city newspaper and these views were then carried throughout the state. The Lansing Republican was established in Lansing on April 28, 1855 by Henry Barnes; shortly afterward the newspaper was acquired by Rufus Hosmer who served as editor and George A. Fitch as proprietor. The firm of Fitch & Hosmer was established to be succeeded by the firm of Hosmer & Kerr after the retirement of Fitch. Rufus Hosmer was born in Stowe Township, Massachusetts on July 19, 1816 and attended Harvard University where he graduated in 1834. After college he studied law in his father's law office and attended Dane Law School in Cambridge. Hosmer became an ardent Republican and spokesman for the party in the state of Michigan. After the election of Lincoln, Hosmer was to become the Consul General to Frankfurt am Main in what is now Germany. Unfortunately Hosmer died on April 20, 1861 before he could assume his diplomatic duties. Rufus Hosmer was considered one of the finest political writers in the state of Michigan and as such was a major supporter for the Republican Party and the ideals that it represented.

John A. Kerr was born in New York on June 7, 1825 and spent his early life in Auburn, New York. John studied medicine under Dr. Thompson in Buffalo, New York. While attending medical school John worked in the summer as a traveling salesman for the publishing firm of Porter & Sanborn. While traveling for the firm John realized he was better suited for the publishing industry then he was as a doctor and established the retail and wholesale publishing firm of Wanzer, Beardsley & Company in Rochester, New York. The firm specialized in works concerned with slavery and its abolition. In 1854 John moved to Detroit and founded the firm of Kerr, Doughty & Lapham a wholesaler and retailer of books. After receiving a state contract to provided stationary to the state of Michigan, John realized that there was a market in Lansing for his services and sold out to his partners and moved to Lansing in 1859. He purchased the State Printing office and partnered with Rufus Hosmer and became a partner in the Lansing Republican. John quickly moved to the front of Lansing business and political leaders, first becoming the supervisor of Lansing Township and in 1860 the second Mayor of Lansing. Kerr was an active member of the Republican Party throughout the Civil War, which took a toll on his health. After visiting the German health spa at St. Catharines, Ontario, John Kerr passed away en route from London, Ontario to Lansing on July 28, 1868.

Aside from the owners of the State Republican, two of the editors who served during the Civil War period also need to be mentioned: George I. Parsons who served as editor 1862-1863 and Theodore Foster who was the editor of the State Republican 1863-1865.
Reason why you believe this paper should be made available online
Why is the State Republican important? The early editors and owners of the State Republican were supporters of the Abolitionist movement in the Republican Party and their editorials helped to form the direction of the party and established support for the Union in the Civil War. By making the Lansing State Republican available in a digital format, researchers, students, genealogists, and many others will have access to this key newspaper during this crucial time in our nation's history.

The Mining Journal, published in Marquette (November 1868 to approximately 1888), nominated by the Peter White Public Library in Marquette

Special features or unique aspects of this paper
When Michigan achieved statehood in 1837, the Upper Peninsula was forced upon it conditionally in exchange for a much smaller piece of land along the Ohio border, known as the Toledo Strip. Originally regarded as a frozen wasteland, the Upper Peninsula was indeed frontier land with poor access, but great natural resources. By the time of the US Civil War, the problem of transporting goods had eased somewhat and the Upper Peninsula was providing much larger quantities of metallic ores and timber to the industries of the day. The mining of the local iron and copper ranges in particular became a key ingredient of the industrial age, which saw the United States rise on the world stage. The "mining" in The Mining Journal's title captures the spirit of the times, with the iron and copper booms that began in the region during the mid-19th century. The lumber industry also had great impact. It should be noted that the newspaper is not solely about industry but also the people living here in those times.

The Mining Journal is one of the early newspapers from the frontier days of northern Michigan. The earliest issues were produced in Copper Harbor, and then Sault Ste. Marie. The paper had several different names as it was being moved around and arrived in Marquette in 1855. In 1868, the town experienced a massive fire, and the newspaper was one of many casualties. The fire had at least one positive result; it drew in seasoned newspaperman, Alfred P. Swineford, who revived the publication in 1869. He once worked on the Chicago Times, and several papers in Wisconsin. He had recently moved north to nearby Negaunee, Michigan. The press was moved to publish the Marquette paper, and Swineford gave it the name it carries to this day. When The Mining Journal became a daily in 1884, it was the first newspaper north of the Straits of Mackinac to do so. It had become a respected source of information in the region.

In 1885, Swineford was appointed Govemor of the District of Alaska, and The Mining Journal was passed to James Russell. Three talented generations of that family would see the organization through as a dominate force in the regional media scene. The Mining Journal continued a reputation of being well written and was an innovator of local journalism. Eventually, the newspaper would start the first radio station in the county, WDMJ (for Daily Mining Journal) in 1931, and in 1956 the first TV station in the Upper Peninsula WDMJ-TV, later renamed WLUC-TV. Both are still on the air, though the newspaper long ago divested their interests. Also during the 20th century, The Mining Journal newspaper itself outlived or absorbed local competition, purchased other newspapers to create a regional news organization, and transitioned to corporate ownership. The group of newspapers still serves the Upper Peninsula, and The Mining Journal focuses on the north-central region, located in the largest city in the Upper Peninsula, Marquette.
Reasons why you believe this paper should be made available online
In recent decades, it only takes a month to fill a roll of microfilm with The Mining Journal. The microfilm is heavily used, and the library finds itself regularly replacing older worn-out rolls. It is an important resource for researchers. Marquette remains geographically distant from large population centers. The library always strives to assist remote users by phone, email, and postal mail. Online access of a digitized copy would be preferable and would likely encourage more people to use The Mining Journal for research on the region, industry, history, genealogy, etc.

Another problem for researchers is if the exact date of a historical event is unknown. With the lack of an index, the ability to search online would be a huge advantage to researchers. For many decades, the library has attempted to provide a semblance of search capability by clipping articles and filing them by subject in vertical files. Despite many of these clippings being affixed to paperboard, they have been handled repeatedly. Being newsprint, they were never meant to last very long and are in a state of deterioration. Efforts to provide access to historic editions of The Mining Journal are best directed towards digitization.

Digitization of The Mining Journal is something we at the Peter White Public Library have explored in recent years. We have carefully considered the options. The Clarke Historical Library, with its affiliation to digital preservation on a national level, seems like a great organization to help jumpstart this digitization project. It is our hope that this will be a proof of concept that will excite researchers, and become a catalyst to expand the initial scope of digitization.

Generally speaking, we believe that people have an interest in the industrial age of our country. Iron mining, copper mining, and timber harvesting are a part of this history. There is a resurgence of mining in the north-central Upper Peninsula. As a country, we seem to be keenly interested in regaining some of our lost industrial might. In addition to the human side, and the local history aspect, the stories found in historic Mining Journal issues are an excellent resource to tie the past into our present and future ambitions.

News and Reporter (1870-99) and the Muskegon Record and Muskegon Daily Record (1901-04), nominated by the Hackley Public Library in Muskegon

Special features or unique aspects of these papers
The Hackley Public Library wants to digitize The News & Reporter (1870-1899) and The Muskegon (Daily) Record (1901-1904). Together these two papers provide almost complete coverage of the rise-and-fall of lumbering in Muskegon and on the Lake Michigan coast, as well as documenting the beginning of the city's transition into the Industrial Era. These two papers provide different coverage and contrasting views to The Muskegon Chronicle, before it became the dominant newspaper or the Muskegon area. Through years of research, it has become obvious to library staff that the editors of The Muskegon Chronicle (1864 - the present) often had certain political or business affiliations. The use of other newspapers, whose editors had different affiliations, provides additional or different information and deepens our historical understanding. Used with The Muskegon Chronicle, comprehensive regional and local information in an historical context can be obtained. The Muskegon Chronicle 1880-1922 is already available online from at There were sixteen alternate newspapers published in Muskegon between 1859 and 1923. Although some of these alternate newspapers covered unique, unduplicated time periods, several featured very little local news. Instead, the articles seem to be syndicated, general national news mixed with the all-too-common "Local Man Cured by Dr. McGillicudy's Miraculous Pile Salve!" articles, which aren't really "news" articles at all.

The News & Reporter and The Muskegon (Daily) Record are good sources of local and regional history, as well as family history, in spite of their somewhat spotty publication. For example, these papers contain lengthy obituaries for people who, we assume, were not on the best of terms with either the editors of the Chronicle or their business and political partners, or who perhaps were affiliated with other newspapers. These detailed obituaries are particularly important when compared to the short death notices (if anything is noted at all) found in The Muskegon Chronicle.
Reason why you believe this paper should be made available online
Muskegon County has a unique and rich history in its demographics, labor migration, industrialization, logging, nautical activity and transportation. As the only Michigan deep water port on Lake Michigan and as the largest coastal city, Muskegon was very important in the development of the west side of the state from the 1850s until after World War II. There are no entries at all for Muskegon County newspapers in the Clarke Historical Library databases, nor are there entries for neighboring Newaygo or Oceana counties. Neighboring Ottawa and Mason county newspapers that are listed cover earlier or later time periods, but do not span the lumbering era nor early industrialization.

Digitization would provide an accessible preserved record of regional and local achievements and downfalls, notoriety and family history. If these newspapers were digitized, they would be searchable, time and space-saving, preserved, and a unique, unduplicated resource to this community and the surrounding area.
Funding for this program is made possible through the Robert and Susan Clarke Endowment, found in Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library. To see our newspapers online, visit