04/21/07 518 W - + 13 - 15 Nine Months and 46 Years Later


Thus ends the Great Reading. This month Mike finished a research project of reading (or skimming) each day's newspaper between January 1, 1867 and December 31, 1912. Merely 16,801 days worth of newspapers including the Daily News, Daily Sentinel, Daily Standard, Daily Telegram, News & Observer, Observer, Raleigh News, Raleigh Times, and Weekly Standard. The papers were read on microfilm at Olivia Raney Local History Library (ORL) and usually on Monday and Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings. It was more skimming than reading, really, with only the local news sections studied carefully. And even then it was watching for the larger headlines and more obvious news items. The keywords, of course, were "fire" and "fire department" and "firemen." And with so much railroad activity at the time, there were plenty of false positives on the last one. Each year took between two and four hours to browse. (Though only two or sometimes three hours of browsing was possible at a single sitting. Eye strain.) The fewer articles to copy, the faster the browsing. Some 1,850 articles were scanned and subsequently printed at Kinkos.

(The process of scanning and printing actually involved scanning the article as a JPEG image, saving the JPEG file to a flash drive, taking the flash drive home, copying the JPEG files to a computer, generating a Word document with the JPEG images displayed one per page, generating a PDF version of the Word document to submit to Kinkos, submitting the PDF document on the Kinkos site, picking up the printed pages at Kinkos, writing the date and newspaper name on each page, incorporating any notable facts from each page into the RFD history web pages, and merging each page with whatever article pages Mike already had.)

The project was started after consuming a collection of newly donated research materials at ORL. These were the notes and papers of the great Wake County historian Elizabeth Reid Murray. They included boxes, plural, of Raleigh Fire Department information. Mike had volumes of information himself, but Ms. Murray's files had dozens and dozens of new dates and facts and references. And particularly about the hand- and horse-drawn era. See, for a couple years, Mike had been working on a "mini book" about the volunteer era of the Raleigh Fire Department. It covered 1880 to 1912, a span chosen at it matched Mike's research materials. He even released the first two chapters. Part 1 was posted to the blog in February 2006 and the Part 2 was posted to the blog in July 2006. Well, the discovery of the Murray Collection put a halt to that project. There was now additional source material to review and compile and incorporate. The new material included a number of newspaper dates, which sent Mike back to the microfilm machines.

So, he started skimming articles in the 1880s and 1870s and late 1860s. And he soon found himself browsing entire years. Well, one thing led to another, and he just decided to keep reading. So eight months and 46 years later, he's learned more than he ever expected to learn about the volunteer era of the Raleigh Fire Department. To be continued.





  
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