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Editorial Notebook

April 21, 2007|By Will Englund

Who could resist a newspaper with a name like The Anti-Calamity Howler? It was published in Chanute, Kan., in the 1890s. Or its contemporary, The Artful Dodger, of Saco, Maine? Or the now-darkened Ohio Luminary?

The Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities have jointly sponsored a Web site, called Chronicling America, that among other things lists just about every newspaper published in this country since 1690. There were thousands upon thousands of them - 137,667 titles, to be precise, though there's a certain amount of duplication with newspapers that have changed their names through the years. Even a quick browse - and let's just start with the letter A, and follow some of the paths that flow from it - offers a rewarding glimpse of Americans and the names they love to dream up.

The Actual Settler, The Afton Climax, The Acton Rooster.

There were papers named after things you don't normally associate with the news: The Allentown Sunday Caldron, The Ackley Phonograph and The Alliance Boomerang.

And plants and animals: The Acorn and Germ and The Akron Buzzard & Buckeye Water Nymph.

Some papers took their names from the weather: The Arkansas Valley Sunshine, The Aberdeen Daily Sunny South, Cape Cod's Academy Breezes, The Alamogordo Cloudcrofter, The Autumn Gale. There was a Blizzard in Pennsylvania and an Avalanche in six states, including New Jersey.

Washington had The Aerial Reporter in the 1850s.

Some papers were fiercely partisan: The Abbeville Whig and Southern Nullifier, The Anti-Masonic Enquirer.

Baltimore had a matched set in the early 1800s: The Republican, or Anti-Democrat, on one side, and The Democratic Republican, or Anti-Aristocrat, on the other.

There was The Minerva, or Anti-Jacobin. The Patriot, or Scourge of Aristocracy. The Anti-monarchist and South-Carolina Advertiser (there's America in a nutshell).

The Anti-Office-Seeker, The Anti-Know Nothing and True American Citizen, The Anti-Polygamy Standard, The Castigator and New York Anti-Abolitionist, The Anti-Renter and The Anti Tin Horn.

Some papers strove for balance: The Balance Advertiser, The Independent Balance, The Western Balance, The California Public Balance, The Massasoit Balance and Waltham Advocate, and The Daily Balance Wheel of Paris, Texas.

There was The Abbeville Medium, The Argentine Siftings and, struggling mightily to commit no offense, The Area News, which lived a brief life in Putney, Vt.

Some papers were upbeat: The Adair County Optimist, The Alpena Frolic and The Advertiser and Budget of Fun (from Woodsville, N.H., in the 1880s). In 1912, The Allen Altruist was founded, but it must not have gone well because later that year it was recast as The Allen Altruist and the Allen Hustler.

In the 1830s, Norwich, Conn., boasted The Canal of Intelligence. Chillicothe, Ohio, was graced by The Ancient Metropolis.

Some papers had perplexing names: The Amateur, The Broad Axe, The Cresset, The Watertown Censor.

There was The American Crank, The American Justifier, American Spy, American Vim and The American-Rescue.

And that modern 24-hour news cycle? Back in 1873, in Newburgh, Ohio, you could have been reading All Around the Clock.

The Web site is just starting up. Right now you can track the libraries where each of these newspapers is kept, and another feature offers, online and searchable, the entire contents of a handful of papers from 1900 to 1910. Mark Sweeney of the Library of Congress says the plan is to expand that service by both geography and time, creating an unparalleled window into American history. It should take about 20 years - and when it's done, you might be able to sit at your computer and decide for yourself:

Did the Vim have vim? Was the Balance Wheel wobbly? Did they really frolic in Alpena?

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