Hawaii’s 19th-century Facebook Hawaiian History Online IN Newspapers From the 1800s

Ever dusted off a really old newspaper or magazine, and found yourself reading it, drawn in by what people were saying and doing back then?

Ever thought, “Now this is the kind of history I like!  No boring timelines or profiles of historical figures.  Feels more like I’m listening to everyday conversations.”

Now there are lots of old – as in more than a century old – Hawaiian newspapers archived online for free.  Some of them read like Facebook!

The UH Library has just announced the online archiving of Pacific Commercial Advertiser, a paper first published in 1856 with Hawaiian-language section Ka Hoku Loa O Hawai’i (The Morning Star of Hawaii) for its first five years.  The PCA went daily in 1892, and merged with the Honolulu Advertiser in 1921.

This is part of the already 200,000 pages of 21 old local papers archived and searchable for free at the Hawaii Digital Newspaper Project (http://hdnp.hawaii.edu).

Martha Chantiny, Co-Principal Investigator of the HNDP, says, “We’re very pleased to be a participant in the NDNP creating a permanent archive at the Library of Congress.  Newspaper is heavy, takes up enormous shelf space in libraries, and biodegrades.  Microfilmed newspapers get scratched and lost.  Storing and keeping track of master copies is complex and costly.

“The LOC has created a centralized online repository which will eventually cover all fifty states – and will keep these newspapers accessible to anyone anywhere anytime.”

UH students might find particularly interesting the PCA’s “Local Brevities” column, which from 1884 offered information on births, deaths, daily tidings, musings, and events for many locals.  It was essentially Hawaii’s first Facebook.

Entries are often weird, amusing, and gossipy.  For example:

“Semola as a breakfast dish gives absolute satisfaction.”

“E.H. Edwards, the vanilla planter of Napoopoo, is laying out land between his vanilla estate and that of Mr. Woods for the benefit of small farmers who want to engage in vanilla growing.”

“Alex K. Aona consents that the divorce case brought against him by Ellen K. Aona may be heard at any time without further notice to him.”

“A Japanese athlete named Matsubara is likely to be pitted against Seal, the German strong man, for a lifting match.”

The archives may also be useful for researching term papers on historical arguments.  Many of the newspapers are politically colonialist in attitude — pro-Annexation long before the Bayonet Constitution.

Graphic designers can also find lots of retro clip art with no copyright issues!

Charise Michelsen, a graduate student in the Library and Information Science Program, offered a positive review.

“The database allows to search words and terms located in newspaper text.  For instance, I searched female occupations, and found among many hits a fascinating article about the development of new occupations for women during the late 1800s.  It was in The Hawaiian Gazette. September 16, 1885.

“It is a great service to UH students as well as the general public,” she said.

‘Anela Matsuura, a senior majoring in ‘ike Hawai’i, agreed.

“Chronicling America is a great online resource for college students or anyone seeking information of old Hawai’i.  It’s also a great resource for finding family members.

“Last semester I took a Hawaiian Genealogies course and had to research my own genealogy.  This website would have helped me a great deal.  The best thing is that it is free!  Now people and events of old Hawai’i are easily searchable.”

Users can browse other digitized American newspapers at (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov), with essays written by archivists putting their editorial bents in historical context.

Over a twenty-year period, the National Digital Newspaper Program will continue digitizing historically-significant newspapers published in all U.S. states and territories published between 1836 and 1922, as a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

The UH Manoa Library Guide to Chronicling America may also be found at http://guides.library.manoa.hawaii.edu/chroniclingamerica.

For more information, contact Project Manager Jennifer Beamer at jbeamer@hawaii.edu.

Guest Blogger  – Gelignite Joe


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