Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Using Alaska newspapers for research

A few months ago, Alaska's National Digital Newspaper Project Coordinator Leah Geibel wrote us a guest post about the first batch going online. Now that we've had a chance to explore the site a little more, we're very excited to put it to use.

The Alaska State Library has one of the most complete collections of Alaska newspapers on microfilm, and they are a fantastic primary resource that document the lives of 19th, 20th, and 21st century Alaskans. However, anyone who's tried it will tell you that searching through microfilm is a long and tedious process. Librarians and historians in the past have done great work creating indexes to make the newspaper collection accessible, and we continue to use those resources nearly every day. Betty Miller's incredible five-volume masterpiece, Vital Records from Alaska Daily Empire 1916-1936, is a lifesaver for researchers. But what if you're less interested in the birth, death, and marriage information and want more day-to-day articles?

Mickey and Issie Goldstein eating lunch on ice at Auk [sic] Lake 1916. Alaska State Library Historical Collections, PCA 329-30.
That's where the digitized newspapers on Chronicling America can help. We recently looked into the life of former Juneau mayor Isadore Goldstein. There was a brief entry in Biographies of Alaska-Yukon Pioneers and our Historical Collections had a slim biography file on him. There were also a few pictures of him on the Alaska Digital Archives, which is certainly more than you'd find in your average genealogy search. But searching the Alaska newspapers on Chronicling America provides 100 results that shed more light on Mr. Goldstein's life as a young man and on Juneau's history.

Isa Goldstein returned with the launch Grace E. last night from a hunting expedition. He was hunting furs and was very successful, too. somebody killed two big grizzly bear, because Isa brought the skins home. Two of these skins are enormous in size, one is at least 11 feet long. They are both beautiful specimens.
This short article about Goldstein's grizzly bear hunt is from the Alaska Daily Empire from June 17, 1913.
Friends of Isadore Goldstein have nicknamed him "Willie Burns." Isa had an experience this morning of which he is saying but little. Doc Hamberg, who aided and abetted Mr. Goldstein, also has but little to say about it. Both of the sleuths feel that enough has been said already. At any rate, it happened thus: At 3 o'clock this morning Mr. Goldstein heard someone try to enter the Fairbanks restaurant, located opposite his apartments, over the Goldstein store, in Front Street. Isa seized his trusty gatling gun and warped across the street. He saw a man tinkering with the cash register in the restaurant, and after examining the gun to see if it were properly loaded, waited for his quarry. Finally the burglar came out. "Stick up your dukes," Goldstein commanded, and up went the bad man's mitts. "Say you big tramp, I'm one of the proprietors of this restaurant," the man explained, hands aloft. "I forgot the cash in the register when we closed up last night, and it worried me, so I came down to get it." Down went the gun, and down came the hands. Mr. Goldstein meanwhile instructed Hamberg, his room-mate, to phone the police. The bluecoats were not needed, however. The most unkind incident in connection with the capture, according to Mr. Goldstein, was the accusation, by the restaurant man, that Mr. Goldstein "must have been intoxicated."
On August 13, 1915, the Alaska Daily Empire described Goldstein's late-night attempt to prevent a "robbery."

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that sometimes Mr. Goldstein's first name is abbreviated to Isa. To capture both variants, you can use Chronicling America's Advanced Search features. You can also search phrases or for terms within 5-100 words from each other.
Select Alaska and enter search terms.
Entering "Isa Isadore" in the first box and "Goldstein" in the second box brings up results with (Isa OR Isadore) AND Goldstein.

Chronicling America features a selection of Alaska newspapers published before 1923, an interesting time in Alaska's history. It includes the gold rush, the Alaska Organic Acts, World War I, and the sinking of the Princess Sophia. We look forward to more pages and more titles being added as the project continues.

For more information about Alaska's National Digital Newspaper Program, visit http://library.alaska.gov/hist/newspaper/digital_home.html, or follow the project's blog at akdnp.wordpress.com or Instagram at @alaskahistoricalnewspapers.