Historic newspapers, including Tri-Cities, can be viewed, searched online

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldMarch 31, 2013 

On a spring day in 1905, the top story in Kennewick's first weekly newspaper was about the new marching band's uniforms, which promised to be the "nobbiest ever."

A lot has changed in newspapers since those days.

The front page of the Kennewick Courier is a wall of text -- no photos or graphics or even banner headlines -- and more than half the page is ads, including a big ad for lots in a new housing division being developed by Howard S. Amon, who also happened to donate those stylish new band uniforms.

For people nostalgic for newspapers of bygone eras, a number of Washington newspapers past have been digitized by the National Digital Newspaper Program and can be searched and viewed on the Library of Congress' Chronicling America website at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.

The latest batch of uploads includes the Kennewick Courier and its predecessor the Columbia Courier, which reported on life in the Mid-Columbia around the turn of the 20th century.

The 1905 Kennewick Courier page speaks of a simpler time when the town was small and the news was downright neighborly.

Front page stories that day included items about the "North Yakima Indians" leasing 1,500 acres to a beet sugar factory; the state population growing to 874,000; a new U.S. marshal being sworn in for Eastern Washington; and a notice that the Modern Foresters would meet every other Saturday in an office over a drug store until further notice.

The Columbia Courier was started March 27, 1902, by Elwyn P. "Pea" Greene, described as a "newspaperman from Milton, Ore.," who settled in Kennewick when the Northern Pacific Irrigation Co. started advertising farmable land the same year the paper was started, according to short essay on the paper's history provided by the Washington State Library,

The Columbia Courier essentially was a business newspaper, embracing news about commerce and shying away from the overt political affiliations that were common for newspapers to hold in those days.

The paper changed ownership a few times in its early years, and became the Kennewick Courier under the leadership of Lauren W. Soth, who died during a typhoid outbreak in 1910, according to the state library.

The first edition of the Kennewick Courier published on April 28, 1905. The paper later merged with a rival in 1914 to become the Kennewick Courier-Reporter.

The paper is one of several that existed in Benton County in the early decades of the 20th century that are available through the Chronicling America website.

The papers are made available for free as a tool for educators, historians, genealogists or anyone interested in community history.

The website includes options to view the front pages of every edition and look inside with a browse function, as well as a search button and a link showing libraries that hold copies of the newspaper.

The Kennewick Courier, for example, is available on microfilm at the Mid-Columbia Libraries Kennewick branch on Union Street and Washington State University in Pullman.

The Washington State Library is helping the project by digitizing another 100,000 pages for the last phase of the project, which is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress and includes newspapers published before 1922 that are in the public domain.

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @mduplertch

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