The state of North Carolina has launched a new digital archive collection of NC newspapers called, strangely enough, the North Carolina Newspaper Digitization Project. It’s available at http://www.archives.ncdcr.gov/newspaper/index.html and contains almost 24,000 records of newspapers that date from 1751.
You can browse the collection, but since that consists of over 4000 indexed items I don’t recommend it. Instead do a keyword search, but if you want to see what’s here start with the newspapers included list, which seems to focus more on newspapers in the coastal and eastern part of the state. (And there are some olllldddd newspapers in here.)
I did a basic keyword search for Mayberry. (You can also search by year or by a particular newspaper.) I got seven results showing in a list that also included a thumbnail of the newspaper as well as its title and the date of the particular result. Clicking on the thumbnail of the page gives you a viewer window to show you the whole page, with icons for moving around, zooming, turning the paper, etc.
One of the results I got was from a Wilmington newspaper of 1796. The newspaper (The Wilmington Chronicle) was printed in three columns and was amazingly easy to read even without considering it was over 200 years old. The only aspect that was a little difficult was the “esses that look like f’s” thing. (Other newspapers I looked at from that time period were incomplete — torn, etc. Your mileage may vary.)
The most recent result I had was for the Carolina Watchman, an issue from 1894. This issue was actually a little harder to read, with some sections faded and some blurry with too much ink. Keywords for which you’re searching are highlighted in red, but to maneuver around the screen you have to use that zoom tool and directional icons, which can be a bit frustrating.
As with other newspaper collections I’ve reviewed recently, the advertising is included with the paper and the text is indexed. I had some luck searching for bitters and patent medicine. Then I remembered I could get some good history of these newspapers and searched for declaration of independence, which found news and a couple of scorching essays.
While of course it would be even better to have newspapers from all of the state represented in this collection, you could spend a lot of time here just browsing, reviewing history from the perspective of a contemporary newspaper. Excellent reading.