New Stuff

Amateur newspaper exhibit launched!

Folks, the library is pleased to unveil a new online exhibit featuring amateur newspapers from around the United States. “What, pray tell, is an amateur newspaper?” you say. Well Dennis R. Laurie, Reference Specialist of Newspapers and Periodicals at the American Antiquarian Society, defines them as such:

An amateur journal is a periodical created to afford pleasure to its readers as well as to its editor and its publisher. The rage to publish, rather than profit, is the motive that most often induces people to become amateur journalists; and, throughout the history of the genre, most but not all amateur journalists have been juveniles.

Our collection is small but respectable, showcasing the publishing aspirations of young amateurs from all corners of the U.S. as well as Prince Edward Island, Canada. The collection was amassed by a Biddeford boy named Walter Perkins, who at age 14 was so inspired by South Boston’s “Dew Drop” he decided to create his own newspaper, “The Snow-Flake”. Perkins, who went on to become a successful comedic actor on the vaudeville circuit, created a paper full of wit and jokes. Other papers are humorous as well, while others take a more serious tone and more closely try to mimic a traditional paper.

Woodcuts created for the Corn City's Compliments Christmas supplement, Toledo, Ohio, 1873.
Woodcuts created for the Corn City’s Compliments Christmas supplement, Toledo, Ohio, 1873.

Most of the papers are from 1873, but there are a few from later years, as well as a modern local “pocket” journal that was donated by creator who had heard of the Perkins collection. Another interesting note is the scarcity of illustrated papers. It must have been more difficult to produce an illustrated paper, though not impossible: the Corn City’s Compliments (Toledo, Ohio) produced an 1873 Christmas Supplement full of caricatures of other amateur paper editors (see illustration).



The exhibit, which will be up indefinitely, consists of a selection of papers from every coast of the United States and from across the vast interior as well. While there are contributions positively identified as written by girls, most if not all of the papers appear to be edited/produced by boys.

What I find personally fascinating about this collection is how it correlates to the the Zine movement of D.I.Y. self-publishing *as well as* the current explosion of self-publishing made possible via electronic media of all shapes and sizes. From the 1870’s to the 1970’s and today, young people have utilized the means available to communicate their thoughts and ideas to one another and the greater public.  I love the idea of these idealistic and creative young adults through the ages making their voices heard via newsprint, xerox, blogging software…the interconnectedness of this urge to communicate en masse, by generation upon generation. The idea of it fascinates me, and I hope it gets you thinking as well.

***For those interested in the technical specs, the library used Omeka’s totally fabulous platform to produce the exhibit.***