Cleveland Publications Now Online at Library of Congress

Historic Ohio Newspapers to Chronicle State's Civil War History on Website

(COLUMBUS, OHIO)— Civil War re-enactors, researchers and enthusiasts have cause to celebrate: the hours spent poring over pages of Ohio’s historical newspapers in search of news from the warfront and soldiers’ letters back home is now reduced to minutes thanks to the Ohio Historical Society. Four Cleveland newspapers, the Cleveland Morning Leader, the Cleveland Leader, the Cleveland Daily Leader and the Cleveland Tri-Weekly Leader, are among the Civil War-era Ohio newspapers that are being digitized and uploaded to the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America website at www.chroniclingamerica.org. At this site, a researcher can use a term such as someone’s name, hometown or military regiment in the “search” function to instantly find occurrences of that word in the newspapers.

The National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio, a part of the National Digital Newspaper Program developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, will enable the Ohio Historical Society to digitize 100,000 additional Ohio newspaper pages published from 1845 to 1894. These pages will join the 14 papers—over 100,000 Ohio newspaper pages published between 1880 and 1922—that are already available on Chronicling America through the project’s first phase. This is welcome news to blurry-eyed researchers and genealogists who scour old microfilm in search of clues to history’s mysteries and family histories.

“As the voice of radical Republicanism in northern Ohio, if not the entire state, the Cleveland Leader is an indispensable primary source for public opinion during the Civil War era,” said John Vacha of the Western Reserve Historical Society. “Its digitization is a valuable addition to the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America website, under which a large sampling of the nation’s newspaper morgues can be resurrected on computer screens at the command of scholars and history buffs alike.”

“It’s been said that newspapers are the ‘rough draft of history,’” he said. “Certainly they can bring a sense of immediacy to the past that no other source can match.  With its National Digital Newspaper Program, the Library of Congress is bringing a wide spectrum of the nation’s newspaper archives within the click of a mouse to students and history buffs of all ages.”

About the Cleveland Morning Leader, Cleveland Leader, Cleveland Daily Leader, and Cleveland Tri-Weekly Leader
From its first issue on March 16, 1854, the Cleveland Morning Leader threw its support behind the recently formed Republican Party, providing an opposition voice to Cleveland’s other major daily, the Democratic Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer. The Morning Leader grew from the 1853 merger between Cleveland’s Morning Daily True Democrat and Daily Forest City that had formed the Daily Forest City Democrat. Edwin W. Cowles, the Morning Leader’s most famous and longstanding editor, managed the Democrat alongside Joseph Medill, and it was upon Cowles’s insistence that the name changed to the Leader in 1854. By 1856, Cowles became the sole proprietor of the paper under the name E. Cowles & Company.

In addition to being published every morning except Sunday, the paper was issued as the Cleveland Tri-Weekly Leader on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and as the Cleveland Weekly Leader on Saturdays. There was also an evening edition, known as the Cleveland Evening Leader or the Evening News. With numbers just under 20,000 for all four editions during the early 1870s, the Leader boasted the largest circulation of any paper in Ohio except for those in Cincinnati. The Tri-Weekly was especially popular in the areas surrounding Cleveland.

In 1854, the Leader, along with the Cleveland Herald and Cleveland Daily Plain Dealer, contracted with the New York Associated Press to receive news from New York, allowing the paper to report on items of national, in addition to state and regional, significance. Before and during the Civil War, the paper was anti-slavery, with strong editorials pushing for the abolition of slavery and the repeal of the Fugitive Slave Act. As a Republican paper, it stood for the protection of “Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Press, Free Territories and Free states” and for the preservation of the Union. Cowles’s editorial leadership was at times polarizing as he passionately pushed his own agenda on issues of local importance, such the construction of an expensive cross-city viaduct in 1870, and on larger political and social issues, reflected by his strong loyalty to the Republican Party and his war against Catholicism. 

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, the paper’s name changed twice: in May 1865 it became known as the Cleveland Leader, and after October 1865 the Cleveland Daily Leader. The paper was the first in Ohio to use the rotary lightning press and electrotype plates. After Cowles’s death in 1890, the Leader struggled to make more than a fair profit, and there were no surplus funds that could be put toward expansion. The paper changed names and hands several times until it was eventually purchased by the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1917.

Archived Newspapers Available at Ohio History Center
The Ohio Historical Society’s Archives/Library at the Ohio History Center in Columbus contains the largest collection of Ohio newspapers in existence. The newspaper holdings contain newspapers published from 1793 to present, 4,500 titles, 20,000 volumes, and over 50,000 rolls of microfilm of Ohio titles.

Much of the microfilm in the Society’s newspaper collection was created in 1971 as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities initiative called the United States Newspaper Program. Since then, the information published in the thousands of deteriorating wood-pulp newspaper volumes in the society’s collections has been transferred to more than 16,000 rolls of master negative microfilm. The National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio builds upon this earlier effort.

Looking to the Future
“Thanks to a $334,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities last year, the Ohio Historical Society has been able to continue its efforts to digitize a select number of historical Ohio newspapers,” said Angela O’Neal, director for Collections Services at the Ohio Historical Society. “We are helping to create a national, online, keyword-searchable resource.”

According to O’Neal, both phases of the project have been limited to a small number of papers selected from 10 regions across the state by an advisory group of 18 librarians, archivists, curators, historians, educators and journalists. “This phase will add 26 more papers to Chronicling America,” O’Neal said. “With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we’ve chosen publications from before, during and after the war to provide greater access to researchers on this important time period in Ohio’s history.”

In addition to issues of the Cleveland Morning Leader from 1858 to 1865, the Cleveland Leader from 1865, the Cleveland Daily Leader from 1865 to 1866 and the Cleveland Tri-Weekly Leader from 1861 to 1864, the selected publications include: Perrysburg Journal from Perrysburg, (1854-1880); Hancock Jeffersonian from Findlay (1857-1878); Fremont Journal from Fremont (1853-1875); Tiffin Tribune from Tiffin (1856-1879); Western Reserve Chronicle from Warren (1855-1873); Jeffersonian Democrat from Chardon (1859-1865); Ashtabula Telegraph from Ashtabula (1858-1880); Anti-Slavery Bugle from New-Lisbon & Salem (1845-1861); Holmes County Farmer from Millersburg (1860-1866); Holmes County Republican from Millersburg (1856-1862, 1870-1874); Stark County Democrat from Canton (1868-1890); Daily Ohio Statesman from Columbus (1861-1868); Dayton Daily Empire from Dayton (1859-1867); Urbana Union from Urbana (1862-1872); Xenia Sentinel from Xenia (1863-1865); Highland Weekly News from Hillsboro (1857-1886); Cincinnati Daily Press from Cincinnati (1859-1862); Gallipolis Journal from Gallipolis (1850-1880), McArthur Democrat (1855-1865), Vinton Record (1866-1874), Democratic Enquirer (1867-1873) and McArthur Enquirer (1873-1884) from McArthur; Conservative and South-eastern Independent from McConnelsville (1866-1871); and the Belmont Chronicle from St. Clairsville (1853-1894).

"We will continue to apply for NEH funds in upcoming grant cycles until we can complete the National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio," O'Neal said. "Eventually, using microfilm for researching newspapers will be a thing of the past."

In addition to the Library of Congress site, researchers also will be able to access the newspapers at www.ohiomemory.org. For more information about the National Digital Newspaper Program in Ohio, contact Jenni Salamon at 614.297.2579 or jsalamon@ohiohistory.org.
Established in 1885, the Ohio Historical Society is a nonprofit organization that serves as the state’s partner in preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history, archaeology, natural history and architecture.  For more information about programs and events, call 614.297.2300/800.686.6124 or go online at www.ohiohistory.org.
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NOTE: The Cleveland Morning Leader is available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83035143/issues/.
The Cleveland Leader is available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83035144/issues/.
The Cleveland Daily Leader is available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042437/issues/. The Cleveland Tri-Weekly is available at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83035163/issues/.