History Goes Online

WHEELING – The Intelligencer has been identified as West Virginia’s “most significant” newspaper during the 1800s by the West Virginia and Regional History Center.

Readers now can browse every edition of The Intelligencer from Aug. 24, 1852 to Dec. 31, 1898 online as part of the West Virginia University Libraries’ contribution to the National Digital Newspaper Program at the Chronicling America website.

In fall 2011, the West Virginia and Regional History Center received a $266,000 grant from National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize newspapers published in West Virginia from 1836 to 1922 as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program.

So far, nearly 12,000 issues of Wheeling newspapers are available: Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Aug. 24, 1852 to Nov. 11, 1859; Daily Intelligencer, Nov. 12, 1859 to June 24, 1865; and The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, June 26, 1865 to Dec. 31, 1898.

The Intelligencer is the oldest newspaper in West Virginia.

“The Intelligencer is the perfect newspaper for this project because, along with being the only daily newspaper … published in western Virginia at the beginning of the Civil War, it held anti-slavery and pro-Union stances, and it was the strongest supporter of the statehood movement,” said the history center’s associate curator, Harold M. Forbes.

As the Civil War began and Wheeling became the seat of the Restored Government of Virginia, Editor Archibald Campbell stood against Virginia’s secession from the Union and supported the subsequent division of the state to form West Virginia. Campbell’s opinion on Virginia’s secession was quite clear, as each day, at the top of the editorial column, there appeared a patriotic poem of the verses of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The history center has plans to digitize all existing issues of The Intelligencer, currently preserved on microfilm, through 1903. Six other papers also will be digitized:

– Cooper’s Clarksburg Register, Clarksburg (1851-61);

– Spirit of Jefferson, Charles Town (1844-99);

– Star of the Kanawha Valley, Buffalo (1855-56), and Kanawha Valley Star, Charleston (1856-61);

– Monongalia Mirror (1849-55) and American Union (1855-59), both Morgantown;

– The Weekly Register, Point Pleasant (1862-1909);

– The Democrat (1868-74) and The Weston Democrat (1875-1902), both Weston.

WVU’s addition to the project will present both sides of the Civil War conflict. Although most of western Virginia remained loyal to the Union, Cooper’s Clarksburg Register and the Kanawha Valley Star opposed abolitionism and the separation of the western counties to form a new state.

The papers will also give researchers access to reporting on the growing antebellum conflict between eastern and western Virginia, John Brown’s Raid, West Virginia’s statehood movement and establishment, West Virginia’s constitution of 1872, Reconstruction, and the United States’ Centennial.

“This changes everything,” said John Cuthbert, director of the West Virginia and Regional History Center. “Researchers will no longer have to pore over countless pages looking for needles in a haystack. The ability to do online full-text searches is going to revolutionize newspaper research.”

To browse digitized editions of The Intelligencer, visit chroniclingamerica .loc.gov/newspapers.