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Collection World War History: Newspaper Clippings, 1914 to 1926

About this Collection

This vast online collection of World War I era newspaper clippings is from a single unique source: the 400-volume, 80,000-page set, World War History: Daily Records and Comments as Appeared in American and Foreign Newspapers, 1914-1926. Beginning with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 and extending to the November 11, 1918 armistice and years after, the clippings yield significant information about the political, social, cultural, and economic impact of the war as it is taking place and its aftermath. The clippings cover far beyond the valuable contemporary news reports and contain war-related editorials, features, cartoons, photos, maps, and more. Front pages and full-page features of New York City newspapers are frequently presented, while many newspapers from around the country and some foreign ones are represented through clipped individual articles and cartoons.

The 400 volumes of World War History were created after the war through the dedicated direction of Otto Spengler, owner of the Argus Press Clipping Bureau. Spengler was particularly qualified to embark on this task, having spent his entire career working in news clipping services. As a teen, he worked at the Argus and Information Bureau of Berlin and, following his immigration to America in 1892, at a clippings bureau in New York for more than 10 years.1 By the early 20th century, he had established his own company and understood the importance of his clipping service and how to market it. Ads in 1907 for the company in the magazine, Advocate of Peace, touted press clippings as "an important factor in peace negotiations" ending the Russo-Japanese War. The ads stated that both Russian and Japanese negotiators "were kept posted through newspaper clippings furnished by Argus." The ads then asked "What Interests You" with a cost of $5.00 per hundred clippings and $35.00 per 1,000.2

The outbreak of the World War in 1914 presented Spengler with the massive task of documenting the conflict as fully as possible. Throughout the war years and for several years after, Spengler's Argus Bureau acquired and clipped newspapers from around the country, including several foreign language U.S. newspapers, and some from other nations. At a time when German language American newspapers faced newsstand boycotts, declining advertising and subscriptions, and even government raids, inclusion of these newspapers provides a particularly important perspective.3

After World War I, Spengler and his staff began organizing the hundreds of thousands of clippings, mounting them chronologically in hardcover volumes of 200 pages each. The pages were oversized so that a full newspaper page or several smaller articles could be accommodated. For this undertaking, the New-York Historical Society secured funding from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. This donation provided for the blank volumes of high quality paper and the cost of preserving and mounting the clippings, utilizing glue that has not deteriorated the clippings to this day. The clippings were donated by Spengler and several other collectors who gave them after they learned about the project. The clippings were so voluminous that for August 1914 to December 1918, a single volume generally covers just three days. Only one copy of the collection was created, and it was the largest known to exist at that time.4

The volumes were kept at the New-York Historical Society until the late 1980s when staff decided there was no longer room for them. The collection was then offered to the U.S. Army Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where it was kept until 2003. At that time, two librarians from the Library of Congress Humanities and Social Sciences Division visited the Army Institute and compiled a list of materials for possible acquisition out of those being weeded from the Institute's library. Near the end of their visit, the Institute's representative led the two librarians to a room where hundreds of oversized volumes were shelved and stacked. It was explained that unless an institution could be found to take the volumes, they might be destroyed. As the librarians discovered the depth and scope of the information the volumes contained, they realized the importance of saving them. After a period of negotiation and a flurry of paperwork, the 400 volumes were trucked to Washington, D.C. and became part of the Library of Congress collections.

Once at the Library, conservators performed considerable work to preserve the volumes. Some original containers carried mold so all containers were removed and treatment for mold removal was completed before every volume was individually boxed in an archival acid-free container and stored offsite in a controlled environment. More recently, prior to digitization, each page was examined and received additional conservation as needed, particularly when articles came loose after more frequent opening of the volumes.

The preface to World War History encourages "the student and scholar" to utilize this resource "in studying the history of the great war as reflected in the minds of the people and expressed day by day in the press."5 Now that these pages are available online and searchable that study is finally widely feasible.

  1. Carl Wilhelm Schlegel. Schlegel's German-American Families in the United States; Genealogical and Biographical, Illustrated. New York edition; Edition de Luxe. NY: American Historical Society, 1918, vol. 3, p. 154-155. Available digitally at: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433081835989?urlappend=%3Bseq=226 External [Return to text]
  2. Advocate of Peace, vol. 69, no. 1 (Jan. 1907), p. 21; vol. 69, no. 9 (Oct. 1907), p. 225, and other pages containing Argus Press Clipping Bureau advertisements. Available digitally at: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt/search?q1=argus+press&id=hvd.ah3nn6&view=1up&seq=5 External [Return to text]
  3. Leah Weinryb Grohsgal, "Chronicling America's Historic German Newspapers and the Growth of the American Ethnic Press," National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access site, July 2, 2014. Available digitally at: https://www.neh.gov/divisions/preservation/featured-project/chronicling-americas-historic-german-newspapers-and-the-grow [Return to text]
  4. "Clippings on War Fill 400 Volumes," The New York Times, March 22, 1926, p. 18; "Clippings on War to Fill 400 Volumes," The American Monthly, vol. 18, no. 2 (April 1926), p.  38; "World War History in Press Clippings," The New York Times, November 11, 1928, sec. 2, p. 1. [Return to text]
  5. Alexander J. Wall, "Preface," World War History: Daily Records and Comments as Appeared in American and Foreign Newspapers, 1914-1926. Compiled by Otto Spengler. NY: New-York Historical Society, 1928. [Return to text]
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