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Kimberly Powell

History of a Year - Chronological Reviews Found in Newspapers

By December 31, 2013

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Springfield Daily Republic, Illinois, 2 January 1888, page 1, col. 5. Image: Chronicling AmericaThe dawn of a new year is generally a time for reflection--something which held true for our ancestors as well. And, like now, the popular press loved to jump on that bandwagon, which leaves us with some wonderful "year in review" treasures to be found in historical newspapers.

It began with a wonderful find in a local Pittsburgh paper -- The Pittsburg Dispatch -- from New Year's Day 1889, a multi-page "comprehensive chronological review of the events of 1888," published in celebration of the centennial of Allegheny County. The first 1.5 pages chronicled major world events of 1888 day-by-day, followed by another section of political review, principally following the course of the 1888 presidential race between Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland. Another review focused on a global recording of "accidents and crimes which darkened the history of 1888." The paper then turned local with a day-by-day "condensed record of the leading events in Allegheny County" during the centennial year. It was a fun look back at an interesting year!

"A Year in Review: Some of the More Important Events in Local History," published in the Saturday Morning Citizen of Beverly, Massachusetts, on 2 January 1892, is filled mostly with the deaths and meetings of local citizens, plus mentions of a few major weather events, such as a "great rain storm" on January 17th and a "heavy snow storm" of "five or six feet" on March 4. In Kansas City on 31 December 1886, the Kansas Star (online at GenealogyBank) published "The Year Review: A Gratifying Exhibit of the Progress of Kansas City during the Past Year," which is packed with statistics ranging from birth and death rates to city improvements/construction, business growth, and the year's weather. Hundreds of other examples can be easily searched and explored online through a variety of online historical newspaper databases.

While many of these "year in reviews" are published in January and reflect events of the prior year, there are exceptions. The Omaha Bee, for example, published in June 1911 a retrospective on major world events of 1871, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the "birth of The Bee." The U.S. Senate, by the way, voted to repeal the income tax that year (1871). It was also the year of the Great Chicago Fire.

Searching online historic newspaper collections with various combinations of keywords is one way to locate such reviews. Include search terms such as year, review, events and history. Adding several month names to your keywords can be helpful as well, as they don't often show up on the same page together unless there is some type of chronological listing (although there are exceptions, such as obituaries). So, for example, you could try a search like: year review events january february march april history

Obviously, if you're only interested only in a particular location, you may need less search terms as you will be able to limit your search by the town name, or newspaper title. Alternatively, try browsing papers of interest for the last two weeks of December and first few weeks of January. Happy searching!

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