This website is an exploration of the question: What is worth reading? With a virtually unlimited supply of reading material, how should one focus one’s limited time and attention?
Newspapers are central to culture, in part because they are a writing forum. They require refining and honing of the writing craft, and by sheer volume and experience, it is almost inevitable that great writing will at least occasionally appear in newspaper pages.
Many remarkable wordsmith gems have appeared briefly, and then been lost in the ongoing churn of constant newspaper production. Some classic pieces have been continually shared and preserved, such as Casey at the Bat and the Federalist Papers, but many others have escaped wide notice.
Newspaper History is a formula, an algorithm, for unearthing these forgotten gems of the written word. Each day, a poem is shared that appeared in an American newspaper 108 years ago.
Poetry was chosen because it tends to be timeless, relatable across time and circumstance. It reflects moods, humor, and concerns of its time in a pithy way, compressing into a small space as much meaning as possible. Good poetry is both efficient and illuminating, and in some ways presents the highest potential of great writing.
Why 108 years?
Material was originally curated from 100 years ago. But this seemed like a very arbitrary timespan. Looking for different, and possibly more fertile time cycles, periods related to weather, astronomical events, mathematics, business, and religion were explored. Multiples of the Metonic cycle (19 years) produced interesting results, as did planetary return spans. 108 years was tried because it is a significant number in some religious traditions, and has interesting factors: 2233.
Comparing the results of various timespans, 108 years seemed a kind of sweet spot, with consistently rich results. Newspaper material from 108 years ago is safely in the public domain, and so after some practical research, it became the timespan used for Newspaper History.
This has been a deeply rewarding project, and I hope that you find great pleasure and insight from these curations of America’s newspaper past!