Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Looking for Local History: The Issaquah Press & Issaquah Independent



May is local history month! All month long, we'll be sharing bits and pieces of Issaquah's collection, as well as tutorials to help you find local history on your own. Enjoy!

One of the easiest (and most fun) ways to follow the history of Issaquah (or any other town, really) is to read it's newspaper. The Issaquah Press (originally the Independent) has been a weekly paper since 1900, and as a small local paper, it holds a vast amount of information about the day-to-day life of Issaquah citizens.

Disclaimer: Mind the Gap
There are two significant gaps in the Press archives. Issues between 1900 and 1907, and between 1911 and 1918, are missing, lost sometime before the Press was microfilmed in the early 1980s. When you're researching a particular topic, it can often feel like everything interesting that ever happened in Issaquah occurred during those gaps. I try to adopt a glass-half-full perspective, and focus on all the issues of the Press that do survive.

The Gap aside, you have several options when it comes to viewing archived issues of the Issaquah Press:

1.  An almost-complete set (complete, minus the previously-mentioned gap) is available on microfilm at the Issaquah Library or the University of Washington Library. The University of Washington's microfilm machines allow viewers to print pages OR to save digital copies of pages onto a thumb drive. You can also look through the Issaquah Press microfilm at our research center at the Gilman Town Hall (email us if you'd like to make an appointment).
Pros: Microfilm represents as complete a copy as possible of the Press
Cons: The only way to search through the microfilm is by date; the less specific your time frame, the more time it will take to find what you want. Viewing also requires some prior planning.

2. Selected issues of the Press are also digitally available – and searchable – through SmallTownPapers.com. SmallTownPapers (STP) is the entity that began digitizing the Press, and the Press is still part of their “collection.” You can view it here:
Pros: Searchable, and FREE!
Cons: The search function is only fair; just because you can't find something via search, that doesn't mean it's not in there somewhere.

3.  A limited number of Press issues can also be found at the Google archives.

Pros: FREE! And some years missing on STP can be found on Google.
Cons: Not searchable.

At some future time, the Issaquah Press collection might be hosted by a genealogy or archived news website. The STP collection was hosted for a time at WorldVitalRecords, and then at Footnote.com, and then at NewspaperArchives.com. All three of these sites require membership. The Issaquah History Museums paid for a membership to Footnote.com, and it was well worth the investment. There were actually more copies available through Footnote than there are today at STP.com. However, Footnote became Fold3 and stopped hosting SmallTownPapers.com. The Issaquah Press content was supposed to move to NewspaperArchives.com, but after waiting several months for issues prior to 1940 to be posted, the IHM dropped its membership. NewspaperArchives.com's customer service was fair-to-poor, and it was impossible to find out when, or if, additional copies of the Press would be hosted there. I have been trying to discern whether or not NewspaperArchives.com still hosts the Issaquah Press. They either do not host them, or you need to join to see whether or not they host them, which doesn't sound like a very good gamble to me.

Someday, I hope that the Press can be completely digitized and completely searchable. A history geek can dream, right?

Have you run into any pre-2000 digital issues of the Press online? Let us know!


Page one of the January 4, 1934 Issaquah Press, which reported on the recall of Mayor Stella Alexander. Click the image to read the text. You can also read through the whole issue here.

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