Writing for The New York Times in celebration of its 150th anniversary in 2001, the novelist and nonfiction writer Nicholson Baker noted, "Old newspapers can pull you in deep very quickly." Baker should know. In 1999, he purchased some 5,000 volumes of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American newspapers that the British Library had put up for auction and founded the American Newspaper Repository (ANR).
Baker made this bold move, in his words, to save "a unique collection of original newspapers that would otherwise have been destroyed or dispersed." Many of the newspapers existed nowhere else in their original format. Seeking a more permanent home for the collection, Baker transferred the newspapers to the Duke library in February.
Baker describes the newspapers in the ANR as "magnificent landmarks of American publishing." Among the more noteworthy runs in the collection are the Chicago Tribune, the New York Tribune and Herald Tribune, and the New York World. The World, published by Joseph Pulitzer, had the largest circulation of any American newspaper in the 1890s. A venue for O. Henry's short stories, as well as Al Frueh's caricatures, the World was resplendent with colorful illustrations and cartoons. It was also the first newspaper to include crossword puzzles and children's activities within its pages.
In addition to these prominent newspapers, the ANR preserves many foreign-language and immigrant papers, including the Yiddish Forward, the Irish World, and the Greek Atlantis. A searchable inventory of the collection will be available through the Duke libraries' website by the end of the year.
Save the Paper
Selections from the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library
August 1, 2004