Newspapers are the first draft of history, and reading the actual 19th century coverage of historic events will provide fascinating details.
The sunken treasure of vintage newspapers remained far from public view for many decades. But thanks to recently digitized archives, we can now see exactly what rolled off the printing presses in the 19th century.
The blog items in this collection feature links to actual newspaper headlines and articles about significant events, as seen when the ink was still fresh on the page.
The greatest technology show ever opened on May 1, 1851 at the Crystal Palace, a colossal glass and cast iron structure built for the occasion in a London park. Legendary American newspaper editor Horace Greeley sailed to England to cover the event. His dispatches took weeks to cross the Atlantic by steamship, but when published they vividly described his observations of the emerging modern world.
Reports of the shooting of President Abraham Lincoln moved quickly across the telegraph wires and Americans woke to see shocking headlines on the morning of April 15, 1865. Some of the initial dispatches were confused, as might be expected. Yet it's remarkable to see how much accurate information appeared in print very quickly.
When the great American showman Phineas T. Barnum died in 1891 the sad event was front-page news. Barnum had entertained millions for most of the 19th century, and newspapers naturally took a look back at the career of the beloved "Prince of Humbug."
The first great American writer was Washington Irving, whose satire A History of New York charmed the reading public 200 years ago. Irving would create timeless characters such as Ichabod Crane and Rip Van Winkle, and when he died in 1859 newspapers fondly looked back at his career.
Related: Biography of Washington Irving
When widespread unemployment struck America following the Panic of 1893, an Ohio businessman, Jacob Coxey, took action. He organized an "army" of the unemployed, and essentially invented the concept of the long-distance protest march.
Known as Coxey's Army, hundreds of men left Ohio on Easter Sunday 1894, intending to walk all the way to the U.S. Capitol where they would demand Congress take action to stimulate the economy. Newspapermen accompanied the march, and the protest became a national sensation.
The story of the Irish in America can be told by looking at newspaper coverage of St. Patrick's Day observances throughout the 19th century. In the early decades of the 1800s, there were reports of unruly immigrants rioting. But in the 1890s elegant dinners attended by the powerful attested to the political clout of the Irish.
Arlington National Cemetery began as a burial ground for soldiers during the Civil War. And it was the majestic funeral for General Philip Sheridan in 1888 which elevated the cemetery in the mind of the American public. Readers across the country were captivated by vivid descriptions of the enormous procession and the the elaborate military rituals conducted at a burial site on a hilltop overlooking the city.
New England's Daniel Webster was acknowledged to be one of the great orators in America, and crowds packed the Capitol in March 1850 when the powerful senator spoke on the great issue of the day, whether slavery could expand into the West. His speech created enormous controversy, and newspaper articles reflected the sense of betrayal among those who had admired him.
In late February 1860 a visitor from the West arrived in New York City. And by the time Abraham Lincoln left town, a few days later, he was a star on his way to the White House. One speech, and some important newspaper coverage, changed everything.