Top 5 things to search for in the Seattle Times Historical Archives

We are very excited to announce our newest database, the Seattle Times Historical Archives. Thanks to a generous gift from the Seattle Public Library Foundation, library cardholders can now search the entire Seattle Times, from 1900 to 1984, from home. (You can also search more recent issues via a separate database.) As Jennifer mentioned yesterday, we have always had many ways for you to access the Times, but this new database gives us access like never before. Here are some of our favorite things to use it for:

5. Research an event or personality from Seattle’s history
One of the best ways to learn details about events and people from Seattle’s history is to find out what was mentioned about them in the newspaper. Start by typing a name or key words into the “Search” field. From the drop-down menu select “Best Matches First.” Hit the “Search” button.

I tried a search for Quincy Jones, which returned over a thousand results, mostly from after he had left Seattle. To find out if he was ever mentioned in the Seattle Times while he lived here, I clicked the “Dates and Eras” tab, entered the years he was in Seattle (1943–1950), and tried a new search. This brought up some interesting results, including an ad for a concert in Juanita in July 1950.

4. Browse a day in history
With this database, you can browse an entire day’s newspaper with a few mouse clicks. From the “Seattle Daily Times” tab, click a year, then a month and day. Use the navigation links on the left side of the screen to jump from page to page. Take a look at the front-page headlines from January 1, 1916, or November 7, 1940. What was happening in Seattle on your birthday?

3. Find your address
Want to know who lived in your house before you did? Or if anything else newsworthy has happened there? I searched for my address and found three different birth announcements of babies born when their parents lived in my house. And in 1931 the rent was $20.50 per month. Put your address in quotation marks for maximum precision, and try writing it in different ways. Leave off words like street and avenue. Keep in mind that Seattle’s street directional designations changed in 1961, so what is now Southwest Alaska St. was formerly West Alaska St.

2. Look at old ads
I’m fascinated by the advertisements in old newspapers. The illustrations, the way that products are described, even the prices, truly make me feel like I’m stepping back in time. You can find ads by searching for the name of a product or company (try Sunny Jim Peanut Butter or Frederick & Nelson) or by browsing a day’s paper.

1. Search for your name
Everyone does vanity searches on Google, right? Well, now you can Google history. You might find human interest stories, crimes, public events, or obituaries. I found a photo and quote from my mom when she was in high school, and a notice about a family friend accused of being a “Member of the Communist Party waterfront section in the latter 1940’s.”

These five suggestions are only the beginning. What are your favorite things to look for in historic newspapers? What are your top finds from this new database?

~ Bo K., Central Library

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