History digitized at Waterloo library

Pictured is a computer screen at Morrison-Talbott Library in Waterloo showing the different options for searching the new digital newspaper archives. The archives currently hold all Waterloo-based newspapers from 1870-2010. Columbia-based newspapers will be added soon.

For patrons of Morrison-Talbott Library in Waterloo, most of the post-Civil War history of Monroe County is now just a click away. 

The library and Newspapers.com have completed a project to digitize the local papers of record beginning with those printed in 1870.

“Research that could take hours can now take place in a matter of minutes with the Morrison-Talbott Library Newspapers.com Portal, which is available on any library computer,” MTL Adult Services Coordinator Sherri Tjemmes said.

The service is free to use at the library, and the digital archives of every newspaper based in Waterloo from 1870 through 2010 are available with a subscription to Newspapers.com.

The current collection totals 93,626 pages of news, with more to come. Newspapers based in Columbia, including the Columbia Star, should also be available soon.

These digital archives may be searched by various methods, including by publication, year, keyword or by using a combination of identifying factors.

“Morrison-Talbott Library is committed to being an information resource for our community,” MTL Director Jamie Wratchford added. “This newspaper digitization project is another step forward in making a wide range of materials more accessible and more useful.”

Wratchford shared a recent example of the new archive platform’s functionality.

“Just last week, as soon as we got the link, Sherri (Tjemmes) searched for a name. A woman from another state was looking for a land transaction, a donation actually, that family lore said had occurred.  Her lengthy research had turned up no validation, no information really at all. When Sherri typed in that name, an article just popped right up,” Wratchford recalled. “It more than likely would never have been found, unless someone sat and looked through each frame of each roll of microfilm. Finding a needle in the haystack just became a lot easier!“

Tjemmes described the process, which has been in the works for several years, as “quite time consuming,” noting that it also took coordination between the library, the Republic-Times and Lee Enterprises for the Columbia newspapers to bring the project to fruition.

Tjemmes also said the library staff are also grateful for the assistance of Mary Ellen Huetsch.

“(Huetsch) attended a National Genealogical Society conference several years back and met a representative from Newspapers.com. That contact with Newspapers.com really helped the process to move forward,” Tjemmes said.

Huetsch, who has done extensive genealogical research about German emigration to Columbia, told the Republic-Times that the research “would have been a lot easier” had she had access to digital archive searching. 

Read more about Huetsch and her research by clicking here.

The newspaper archives begin with the 1870 issues of the Waterloo Advocate. While the Advocate began in 1858, the microfilm used to create the digital was not available for earlier years. The same is true for Waterloo newspapers that began even earlier, such as the Independent Democrat (1843), War Eagle (1845) and The Patriot (1852).

The inclusion of 20 years of the Advocate makes all but 12 of over 150 years of what has become the Republic-Times available for browsing. 

H.C. Voris, who worked as a shop foreman at the Advocate, bought the paper in 1890 and renamed it the Waterloo Republican.

Digital archives of every issue of the Waterloo Times, a contemporary of the Republican, are also available at the library.

The paper kept its name throughout the tenure of Voris’ son, Bryant Voris. The Republican was renamed when Bryant’s son, Robert Voris, purchased the Waterloo Times in 1979, thus creating the Republic-Times.

The Republic-Times has been the paper of record in Monroe County since then, although it was briefly known as the Waterloo Republic-Times from 1990-2002 when it was owned Metro Publishing and Offset Printing of St. Louis. After being reclaimed by a local ownership group, the name reverted back to the Republic-Times.

Regardless of name, the information is now readily available at Morrison-Talbott Library.

“Having these newspapers digitized is a huge advantage to anyone researching the history of the area, working on their genealogy, or looking for information about a particular person or event that took place as far back as the 1870s,” Tjemmes concluded.

Anyone who is interested in a quick tutorial for using the digital archives should contact Morrison-Talbott Library at 618-939-6232 to make an appointment.

The Republic-Times offers digital archived newspaper issues from 2010 to present to all those who purchase a digital subscription to the paper. To subscribe, click here

Pictured is the front page from an 1870 issue of the Waterloo Advocate now available digitally through Morrison-Talbott Library in Waterloo.
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