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Penn Libraries News

Digitization of Historic German-American Newspapers Collection is Now Complete

1914 Philadelphian German newspaper.

German-American Newspapers from the pre-World War I era provide rare insight into the everyday life as well as the social and political aspirations of one of the leading ethnic minorities in the U.S. at the time. Now, scholars will be able to peruse digitized copies of a historic collection of nine German-language newspapers published in Philadelphia at the turn of the twentieth century thanks to the industrious team at Penn Libraries’ Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image.

A generous gift from the German Society of Pennsylvania, this collection covers the period from the 1870s through World War I and features some of the most notable German-language newspapers in the country.

These include Philadelphia Demokrat, Neue Welt, Philadelphia Tageblatt, Philadelphia freie Presse, Philadelphia Morgen-Gazette,Philadelphia Schwäbischer Merkur,Schwäbischer Merkur, Philadelphia Sonntags Journal, and Volks-Stimme: das Socialistische Wochenblatt für die Ost-Staaten.

According to Associate University Librarian for Collections Brigitte Burris, “The papers are an essential source of information about the community’s social, cultural, political, economic, and labor relations, as well as about changes to its ethnic identity over time and through crisis.” Additionally, the collection is rare due to the aging newspapers’ fragility. “Much of this collection represents the last known surviving copies of these newspapers in the world,” said Burris.

Dr. Frank Trommler, Penn emeritus professor and former chair of the Germanic Languages and Literatures Department, is delighted by the prospect of easier access to these resources.

“The use of newspapers presented one of the persistent challenges in my research. I often found myself asking whether I would be the last reader before the paper would fully disintegrate,” said Trommler. “Thanks to the digitization of these papers, unique documents of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania history have been saved and made accessible to scholars.”

Interested scholars will be able browse through the volumes of the German Society of Pennsylvania Historical Newspapers Collection on the HathiTrust website.