Navigating the Newspaper History of Windsor-Essex

Image of a yellowed newspaper page from early 20th century, underneath a copy of a 1987 book index to historical newspapers.
By Brooke Mayer
Posted July 19, 2023

The Windsor-Essex region has a rich history, which is mirrored in the number and variety of newspapers that were published here. The Town of Sandwich was officially established in 1797, and by the 1830s newspaper publication began in the town, for distribution across the region. In the middle of the 1800s, two abolitionist newspapers – the Voice of the Fugitive and the Provincial Freeman – began in the region, as did the publication of newspapers in Amherstburg. By the later years of the nineteenth century, English-language newspapers were being published in towns across the area (including Comber, Essex Centre, Kingsville, Leamington, and Walkerville) as were a smaller number of French-language newspapers.

Through dedicated care and preservation at institutions across Ontario, many issues of these newspapers have survived. Over time, issues were reproduced in microform so other libraries and institutions could provide access to the information contained within them without damaging the originals. Most recently, many of these newspapers were digitized, so the information could be accessed from anywhere in the world. However, the biggest problem with trying to access historical newspapers is that they are scattered across institutions. To find a specific newspaper, one might need to search multiple libraries, archives, museums, or collections. In 1987, J. Brian Gilchrist published the Inventory of Ontario Newspapers, which served as a reference for those trying to locate historical newspapers published in different regions of Ontario. However, much has changed in the world since 1987; digital archives have been established, some institutions have changed their names, and institutions may have lost some of – or added to – their holdings of historical newspapers.

What use is information if people don’t know it exists, where it exists, or how to access it?

While libraries, archives, and museums are excellent storage facilities for both physical and digital information, the value of that information is limited if it isn’t used. Finding aids created by library staff can help ensure their collections are used, helping people navigate what is available in the collection.

During my field placement at the Leddy Library Archives and Special Collections, one of my tasks was to create a local historical newspaper finding aid. I began with translating the information contained in Gilchrist's Inventory of Ontario Newspapers into a more user-friendly format, then worked to update and expand on the information given in the Inventory. I confirmed basic publication information, as well as which date ranges of newspapers were located where, and in which format. I also added links to digital archives and, to complete the update and expansion, added local holdings – including newer holdings at the Leddy Library – that were not listed in the original Inventory.

The most important aspect of library work is to aid people in accessing information, and this was something I focused on as I worked on creating a finding aid for local historical newspapers. The history of the Windsor-Essex region is fascinating and rich, but the publishing history of local newspapers can be complex and daunting to navigate. Whatever your research purpose, I hope my completed Windsor-Essex Local Historical Newspaper Finding Aid helps you navigate the world of local historical newspapers.

[Archivist's Note: The Windsor-Essex Local Historical Newspaper Finding Aid can also be accessed via a link in the "historic newspapers at Leddy Library" section of the Leddy Library's guide to newspaper research.]

Brooke Mayer completed a field placement at the Leddy Library Archives & Special Collections in Spring 2023. She earned an Honours Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Toronto in 2005, a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Windsor in 2007, and is currently working towards her Library and Information Technician diploma at Mohawk College.

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Archives & Special Collections
local history
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