Three cheers to Anne F, who let me know about the new Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey from the Newberry Library. It’s available at
The Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey was actually published over 70 years ago; the Newberry Library has brought it into the 21st century. Here’s how the site describes it: “The Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey was published in 1942 by the Chicago Public Library Omnibus Project of the Works Projects Administration of Illinois. The purpose of the project was to translate and classify selected news articles that appeared in the foreign language press from 1855 to 1938. The project consists of 120,000 typewritten pages translated from newspapers of 22 different foreign language communities of Chicago.”
There are over 48,000 articles in the collection. They can be searched by keyword, browsed by groups (groups include Albanian, Filipino, Lithuanian, Croatian, and Slovak), browsed by year (1855-1940), browsed by “Codes” (This is a tree of subject headings — a huge tree), or browsed by source (there are over 400, from the 1933 World’s Fair Weekly to Zwei Jahrhunderte Chicago.
The subject matter spans a great deal, but there’s a lot to be found on the topics of immigration laws, assimilation, education, economics, and social mores. I found many interesting articles just searching for the names of figures of the time. A Russian newspaper wrote a very kind eulogy to Will Rogers in 1935, while in a Lithuanian newspaper I found a reference to a letter from Upton Sinclair (though, sadly, not the letter itself.)
I did a search for computer and got 45 results, mostly because the search engine was matching on things like compute. Attempts to alleviate this by searching for “computer” and +computer didn’t work, in fact they made the results a lot worse. So be sure to use very precise, or, ideally, multiple keywords when you search this resource.
That aside, I love the elegance of the results page. A permanent link to the search results is available at the top of the page. After that there are summaries of matching articles along with information about the original language, source, and date. Click on a summary for the full article, and, beneath the full article, images of the cards from which the article came. Clicking on the headline of the article took me to a direct link to the article with a little additional information, including the article and its information in raw XML.
Though the articles were translations, I did not find them awkward or difficult to read. I did find myself at times interested in a particular source, but didn’t find any additional information at Newberry. Going to the LOC’s historical US Newspaper Directory got me more data about titles. One time it didn’t have the title I was looking for (Cesky Odd Fellow), but it did have a similar title (Cesky republikan) which was also in Chicago.
With the wide matching that the keyword search does, you might have to do some experimental searching before you get the best results, but even a casual browse here turned up fascinating historical material.