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Gems from the archive of the New York Times

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2007

Now that the NY Times has discontinued their Times Select subscription program and made much more of their 150+ years of content available for anyone to read and link to, let’s take a look at some of the more notable items that the non-subscriber has been missing.

- Access to the last two years-worth of columns from the NY Times’ noted Op-Ed columnists, including Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, and Paul Krugman.

- The first mention of the World Wide Web in the Times in February 1993. According to the article, the purpose of the web is “[to make] available physicists’ research from many locations”. Also notable are this John Markoff article on the internet being overwhelmed by heavy traffic and growth…in 1993, and a piece, also by Markoff, on the Mosaic web browser.

- Early report of Lincoln’s assassination…”The President Still Alive at Last Accounts”.

- A report on Custer’s Last Stand a couple of weeks after the occurance (I couldn’t find anything sooner). The coverage of Native Americans is notable for the racism, both thinly veiled and overt, displayed in the writing, e.g. a story from September 1872 titled The Hostile Savages.

- From the first year of publication, a listing of the principle events of 1851.

- An article about the confirmation of Einstein’s theory of gravity by a 1919 expedition led by Arthur Eddington to measure the bending of starlight by the sun during an eclipse.

- A front page report on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, including a seismograph of the quake which the Times labeled “EARTHQUAKE’S AUTOGRAPH AS IT WROTE IT 3,000 MILES AWAY”.

- The first mention of television (as a concept) in the Times, from February 1907. “The new ‘telephotograph’ invention of Dr. Arthur Korn, Professor of Physics in Munich University, is a distinct step nearer the realization of all this, and he assures us that ‘television,’ or seeing by telegraph, is merely a question of a year or two with certain improvements in apparatus.”

- First mention of Harry Potter. Before it became a phenomenon, it was just another children’s book on the fiction best-seller list.

- Some of the output by prolific Times reporter R.W. Apple is available (after 1981, pre-1981).

- A report during the First World War of the Germans using mustard gas. Lots more reporting about WWI is available in the Times archive.

- Not a lot is available from the WWII era, which is a shame. For instance, I wish this article about the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima was available in the Times archive. Nothing about the moon landing, Kennedy’s assassination, Watergate, etc. etc. either. :(

- On The Table, Michael Pollan’s blog from last summer about food soon after the publication of The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

- Urban Planet, a blog about cities from Steven Johnson, author of The Ghost Map.

- Oddly, The Principles of Uncertainty, an illustrated blog by Maira Kalman isn’t available anymore. Update: Kalman’s blog is probably unavailable because it’s due to be published in book form in October. (thx, rafia) Further update: Kalman’s blog is back online and wonderful. The culprit was a misconfiguration at the Times’ end. (thx, rich)

- Several other previously unavailable blogs are listed here and here.

- It looks like most of the links to old NY Times articles I (and countless other early bloggers) posted in the late 90s and early 00s now work. Tens of thousands of broken links fixed in one pass. Huzzah!

I’ll also note that this move by the Times puts them in a much better position to win the Long Bet between Dave Winer and the Times’ Martin Nisenholtz at the end of this year.

In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times’ Web site.

As of the end of 2005, the Times was not faring very well against blogs.

Update: One more: a report on the sinking of the Titanic. A small mention of the sinking was published in the paper the previous day.

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