The Story of Kansas

State's historical newspapers available on the Web

This is the last in a series of vignettes celebrating Kansas history. The series' name comes from the state motto, Ad astra per aspera: "To the stars through difficulties."

Some of Kansas' oldest newspapers are now online through the Library of Congress, allowing anyone with Internet access to view how 19th-century Kansas was built day by day.

In some ways it revolutionizes how people can research Kansas history, but it is only one step in recording that history.

Only 20 newspapers from six different regions of the state have been put on the website so far.

"For Kansas, for this time period from 1860 to 1922, we have approximately 5,600 newspaper titles in our archives," said Margaret Knecht, one of the Kansas Historical Society committee members who helped get the 100,000 digitized pages from Kansas papers online.

"The historical society has millions of pages of newspapers," said Dave Webb, historian and assistant director at the Kansas Heritage Center in Dodge City, who served on the advisory committee. "If you just stop to think about The Wichita Eagle from the 1880s when it became a daily, think about the number of pages of the newspaper times 365 for one year."

The nearly $210,000 it cost to place the newspaper pages online came from a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

The Library of Congress is working to digitize copies of 19th-century newspapers from 22 states and the District of Columbia. Kansas was chosen because of its connections to the Civil War and because 2011 is the 150th anniversary of its entry into the Union.

The Kansas Historical Society already has placed nearly all Kansas newspapers on microfilm.

Kansas newspaper editors — including The Eagle's founder, Marshall Murdock — started the collection and founded the society in 1875.

"Kansas then had only been a state for 14 years, but the editors then realized some of the history was getting away from them," Knecht said. "They made an effort to collect the newspapers."

The initial 20 newspapers for the Library of Congress collection were chosen by geographic region.

Kansas historian and Wichita State University professor Craig Miner, who served on the committee until his death in September, advocated strongly for The Wichita Eagle's inclusion.

Other papers include the Abilene Reflector, Dodge City Globe, Iola Register, White Cloud Kansas Chief and Saline County Journal.

"There were some we couldn't do because of the quality of image," Knecht said. "During that time period, the newspapers were printed on rag paper but the ink was acidic and bled through," making them impossible to photograph.

The newspapers can be found at