How To Access the Historical Dallas Morning News Archive

by Paula Bosse

lintel-pediment_dmn-bldg_belo_smu_1930sThe old Dallas Morning News building (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Yesterday I wrote about how I tracked down the location of a photograph with very little information to go on. I hesitated to include the step-by-step process I used to discover the location, because I was afraid that it would be a little too tediously arcane for most people. But, apparently I was wrong. I’ve been surprised by how popular the post has become. It’s gotten many more hits than most Flashback Dallas posts usually do. I’ve seen it shared all over Facebook, and it’s generated more comments and emails than I expected. It’s gratifying that people seem to be interested in the actual process of historical research. Even though I don’t necessarily consider myself a historian (I studied Art History in college, and my background is in bookselling), I’m happy to be able to share historical events and forgotten local tidbits with an audience that finds them as interesting as I do. I consider myself a writer and researcher, and sometimes all the fun is in the researching.

Since I began this blog in February of 2014, I’ve been asked several times how I access the Dallas Morning News archive. Without question, the DMN is the single most valuable resource in the study of Dallas history. Years ago, one would have had to trudge to a library and crank up a microfilm or microfiche reader. Luckily, we are in the digital age, and every edition of the DMN from 1885 to the end of 1984 has been scanned and digitized and can be viewed from the comfort of one’s own home. (Also available in this database are various Fort Worth newspapers — from The Fort Worth Register to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram — from at least 1897 to 1991, which is, of course, very handy!) You can view the paper page by page, article by article, photo by photo, comic strip by comic strip, ad by ad. It’s incredible. You’ll get lost in it for hours. Want to know what was going on 100 years ago today? Easy! Here’s the front page of the DMN from July 30, 1915:

front-page_dmn_073015DMN, July 30, 1915

So how do you do it? First off, you have to live in the city of Dallas — bad news for those of you living outside the city limits, I’m afraid. (UPDATE: THERE IS A WAY FOR NON-RESIDENTS TO ACCESS THE ARCHIVE — FOR A MONTHLY FEE. SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF POST.) For those of us who do live inside the city limits, not only can we access the database whenever we want, but it’s also FREE. All you need is a Dallas Public Library card (information on how to get a free card is here; the DPL’s FAQ is here).

So your first step is to get a library card. Once you have a card, go to the Dallas Public Library site’s “My Account” page, here, to sign up for the free account. You’re now ready to plunge in.

Once you’re logged in, here’s how to get to the “Historical Dallas Morning News Archive”:

  • Click on the “Database” tab at the top of the page (it will get you here).
  • Scroll down, click on “Magazines, Newspapers & Journals.”
  • Scroll down, click on “Dallas Morning News Archive.”
  • Scroll down and click on “America’s Historical Newspapers” — this will give you access to DMN (and Fort Worth Star-Telegram) articles printed between 1885 and the end of 1984, with fully scanned pages. (The link at the top, “America’s News — Historical and Current,” gets you to all DMN articles, including those published after 1984 — these post-1984 articles do not have photos, illustrations, ads, or classifieds — the information is still useful, but it’s not as interesting and, maddeningly, not as comprehensive. I find it’s easier using this database only if I’m searching on something fairly current.)
  • I find it easiest to set the “Sort” option to “Chronological Order” (so that the results are shown from oldest to most recent)– the default is “Best Matches First” which drives me crazy because the first match is rarely the best, and everything is out of order.

2/26/16 — UPDATE: This site is constantly being tinkered with by programmers, so some of these steps or links may have changed. I’ll try to update this page when I see that something has changed. Currently (early 2016), the main annoying issue is that when you click on the “America’s Historical Newspapers” link you might get a “Login” page — you will not be able to continue to the archives unless you login or create an account. YOU DO  NOT NEED AN ACCOUNT OR A LOGIN TO ACCESS THE ARCHIVES. Simply close the window, and attempt to re-enter the site. I have had it take a couple of tries sometimes, but I always get in after one or two attempts. Personally, I’ve never had an account and don’t really know what its advantages might be (for all I  know, it might be incredibly useful) — but you don’t need to have one if you don’t want one. Let’s hope this glitch is fixed soon.

1/27/17 — UPDATE: Perhaps it’s been this way for a while, but under the “America’s News — Historical and Current,” one is now able to access many U.S. newspapers —  not only the DFW ones. Most of these papers seem to return only recent content (the past 5-15 years or so) with text only — I haven’t used this option much, but it’s nice to have access to it. (To see full scans of older editions of newspapers — complete with photos, ads, etc. —  you’re probably going to have to pony up for a subscription to Newspapers.com.)

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And you’re in. It takes a good bit of time to figure out how to use the search engine quickly and effectively — it has a lot of weird little idiosyncrasies that can cause you to miss out on lots of things you’re searching for (apostrophes, initials, and numbers can be problematic, for instance) — but once you start to wander around, you’ll be amazed at what an incredible treasure trove is at your fingertips.

Thank you, Dallas Public Library and Dallas Morning News!

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Photo at top: “Lintel and pediment above doorway, Commerce St. entrance,” ca. 1930s, from the Belo Records collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, Southern Methodist University; photo and details are here.

The best newspaper database for those interested in Texas history is UNT’s Portal to Texas History Texas Digital Newspaper database, here. They have tons of scanned and digitized historical Texas newspapers (excluding The Dallas News), AND it’s free and available to everyone. Below are a few of their offerings of particular interest to Dallasites:

  • The Dallas Herald — absolutely ESSENTIAL for Dallas goings-on between 1855 and 1887, here
  • The Southern Mercury, the agriculturally-leaning paper published in Dallas, 1888-1907, here
  • The Dallas Express — a newspaper printed by and for the city’s African-American community — ALSO essential — sadly, only the years 1919-1924 have been scanned, here
  • The Jewish Monitor — published in Fort Worth, serving the DFW (and Texas) Jewish community, 1919-1921, here
  • The Texas Jewish Post, 1950-2011, here

Check out all the Texas newspapers UNT has scanned: go to the Advanced Search page and click on the drop-down menu on the “Collections” bar to see the full list.

**If you need some research done, I might be able to help. I have access to several resources and am pretty thorough. Let me know what you’re looking for and inquire on hourly rates by clicking the “Contact” tab at the top of the page.**

Enjoy!

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7/31/15 — UPDATE: GENEALOGYBANK.COM — HOW TO ACCESS THE HISTORICAL DALLAS MORNING NEWS ARCHIVE IF YOU ARE NOT A DALLAS RESIDENT: While looking for something completely unrelated, I came across a comment by someone who said he accessed the Dallas Morning News archives — historical and modern — through a site called GenealogyBank.com. It sounds like something similar to Ancestry.com where you are given access to several different types of resources used in genealogical research. You pay to subscribe to the site (one consumer site I checked had it at $69.95/yr — but I don’t know how long ago the article was written). There is a free 30-month trial (but if you don’t cancel it and explicitly tell them you are canceling, they will automatically charge you and you will NOT get your money back). This is the first I’ve ever heard of this site, so I have no idea whether it’s good or bad. I did ask on a Dallas history group tonight, and a trusted member said that he uses it all the time. He posted a few screenshots, and it’s very similar to the archive accessed through the library’s website. For those interested, you might want to try the free trial to see if it’s something you’d be interested in subscribing to. This is pretty cool, because it offers people who live outside the city limits the ability to access the DMN archives for a relatively small fee each month. I am not promoting or endorsing this site because I had never even heard of it until an hour or two ago. I’d love to hear feedback from people who try it out. The Genealogy Bank website is here. A review of the site from About.com is here. I encourage you to check other consumer sites for pros and cons. I hope this is helpful for those of you who, for some reason, choose to live away from Dallas!

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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