The Serial & Government Publications Division holds several newspaper collections designated as "Special," defined as such out of consideration for several factors including rarity, format, historical significance, physical condition, monetary value, and/or subject matter. Special collections consist of items that are grouped and cataloged together in order to facilitate access and research on particular topics, places, or time periods. Library materials in special collections are held in secure, closed stacks under carefully monitored environmental controls. Out of concern for long-term preservation, facsimile, microfilm, or digital formats will be served in place of original print when available. All researchers working with special collection materials are instructed on safe handling procedures. Scroll down on this page, or select a special collection from the topics below for more information and collection highlights:
The Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room (NCPRR) is the primary point of reference for and access to special collections of U.S. newspapers at the Library of Congress. Use our Ask a Librarian service for more information.
The Serial & Government Publications Division collects and preserves the largest and most comprehensive collections of U.S. newspapers in the world, including one of the largest collections held in original print format. The selection featured below are but a few of the Division's most treasured items.
The Historic Events Newspaper Collection (HENC) is comprised of individual, original newsprint issues and front pages dating 1801-present that document "headline" news coverage of significant events in U.S. and world history. Issues are acquired and preserved in their original print format for the purposes of their artifactual value. The Library has collected historic newspaper issues since the beginning of the twentieth century; there are currently over 1,500 issues and collection efforts are ongoing.
Notable celebrations, deaths, natural disasters, inventions and technological advances, military events, and more are represented in the collection. Several different newspapers from various geographical locations may be selected to represent a particular event. Special or extra edition issues (e.g. election result issues), limited circulation issues (e.g. journalist gaffes), and unique production issues (e.g. wallpaper issues) are also included in the collection.
HENC items are denoted in the Library of Congress Online Catalog by the call number "Newspaper HENC." The collection is stored in the division's secured vault under special environmental controls. HENC items are primarily used to support interpretive programs, such as displays and exhibits, at the Library of Congress. The collection also offers researchers in the NCPRR primary source material that may not be available in another form.
A few HENC items are featured below. Images are linked to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.
As invaluable primary sources that document the emergence of an American press and the development of the United States from a colony to a republic, the Serial & Government Publications Division collects 18th century newspapers comprehensively.
The Division holds over 4,335 bound volumes and nearly 19,000 rare individual issues of original print 18th century newspapers; the collection is second in size only to the American Antiquarian Society. A special collection of early American newspapers on microfilm is comprised of 650 titles and over one million issues spanning 1690-1820. The Division also purchases electronic databases containing 18th century newspapers that have been reformatted from original print and microfilm to digital, word-searchable issues.
Notable aspects of the collection include:
The Serial & Government Publications Division's collection of newspapers documenting the U.S. Civil War is unmatched. It is comprised of titles that represent Northern and Southern perspectives covering the 1861-1865 date range, and includes over 850 bound volumes of original print newspapers, over 540 illustrative newspaper issues from New York and Philadelphia in original print, portfolio issues in original print, newspapers on microfilm, and an array of digital, word-searchable newspaper databases.
The Civil War Newspaper Collection contains titles that best documented the military aspects of the war. Newspapers often received the list of killed in action and wounded well in advance of next of kin, and significantly, newspapers were among the most readily available and inexpensive sources of maps for the public. Maps had not been published with any regularity until the American Civil War, and hundreds of issues in the collection are illustrated with detailed maps showing the battlefields and military movements. For example, the April 30, 1862 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer(pictured at left) shows the route of Captain Farrugut's fleet on the Union mission to capture New Orleans and take control of the Mississippi River.
Portfolio collections are comprised of individual, original print format newspaper issues that focus on a specific audience, event, time, or place. Given the general nature of their content, newspapers are not typically subject-searchable in library catalogs in a comprehensive manner, however, issues in special portfolio collections have been cataloged together in order to make it easier to access many different newspapers from a more topical point of view. Additionally, the Division holds portfolio collections for most U.S. states.
Selected portfolio collections containing U.S. newspapers are listed below. These titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Please consult reference staff regarding access to special portfolio collections.
Similarly to portfolio collections, special microfilm collections consist of individual issues or short runs of newspaper titles that are grouped together according to a specific subject, place, time period, or a combination of characteristics. Collection titles linked below lead to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Special microform collections are held on-site and are available to request in the NCPRR.
There are ongoing efforts to digitize and provide free access to historic newspapers through the Library of Congress website. Digital special collections with U.S. newspapers include:
Frederick Douglass Newspapers, 1847-1874 contains issues of The North Star, Frederick Douglass' Paper, and the New National Era, all of which were edited by Frederick Douglass, famed orator, abolitionist and journalist.
Japanese-American Internment Camp Newspapers, 1942 to 1946 contains 29 newspaper titles from camps in seven states, published in English, Japanese, or both. The newspapers covered community news, events, and editorials, and provided logistical information about relocation and the camps, where nearly 120,000 American citizens and residents of Japanese descent were forcibly held.
New York Journal and Related Titles, 1896 to 1899 is comprised of issues of the Journal (January 1-July 18, 1896), the New York Journal (July 16, 1896-April 1, 1897) and the New York Journal and Advertiser (April 2, 1897-December 31, 1899). Owned by William Randolph Hearst, these newspapers, as well as Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, competed for readers with bold headlines, flashy illustrations, exaggerated stories, and activist journalism, giving rise to the term yellow journalism.
Newspaper Pictorials: World War I Rotogravures, 1914-1919 captures life during the war with vivid, high-quality images from The New York Times and the New York Tribune.
Stars and Stripes: The American Soldiers' Newspaper of World War I, 1918-1919 holds the complete collection of issues published in France by the U.S. government and distributed to half a million troops in the field and U.S. subscribers at home.
World War History: Newspaper Clippings, 1914-1926 is the digital version of 400 volumes holding hundreds of thousands of clippings from newspapers across the U.S. and around the world collected at the direction of Otto Spengler, owner of the Argus Press Clipping Bureau.