New Thoughts on Old News

Coverage of the 1844 Anti-Catholic Riots in Philadelphia.

Coverage of the 1844 Anti-Catholic Riots in Philadelphia (reproduced from Early American Newspapers).

The wide-scale digization of nineteenth-century newspapers by cultural institutions and corporations over the past two decades has made accessible one of the most important sources of information about public opinion. Keyword searching has transformed how scholars approach these sources and opened up their ability to ask questions of this valuable, if voluminous, data.

This week the Scholars mined the contents of Early American Newspapers (through the Loyola University Libraries’ subscription) to uncover what Americans were saying about Catholics before the outbreak of the Civil War. No two blog posts are alike, revealing the richness of the material to be found in these sources and the types of research questions that they inspire.

  • Shannon reflects on the challenges of scarcity and abundance facing the scholar in search of primary sources;
  • Andrew is interested in the ways that newspapers shape the mentalities of their readers;
  • Susie thinks about the effect of newspaper coverage Catholics in colonial North America before there were many Catholics living there;
  • Taking a broad chronological approach, Bianca seeks to chart changing attitudes towards Catholics in newspapers between 1790 and 1858;
  • Olivia looks more intensively at how terms like “Catholic Church,” “Romanist,” and “Papist” were deployed during the era of manifest destiny;
  • Acknowledging the extent of anti-Catholicism in newspapers but hoping to complicate our understanding of it, Dan investigates how newspapers eulogized Charles and John Carroll, two leading American Catholics.

What will you find when you start searching in these sources?


The source for our assignment.


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