Monday, March 3, 2014

The Oscars, 12 Years a Slave, and one weird trick to help you search like Nick Kirstof

Since the movie "Twelve Years a Slave" did a boffo business (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress) at the Oscars last night, more than one person has forwarded me the Facebook post by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.  

That post links to a story in the Times from Jan 20, 1853 about Solomon Northrup.  In his short post, Kristof neglects to mention how he found that original article.  

That, I think, is why people forwarded it to me.  They enjoyed the article and wondered how they could do the same. 

Here's how I did it.  

1.  I went to the NYTimes news archive.  Search:  [ New York Times archive ]  Why not Google's Newspaper Archive?  I happen to know they don't have the NYTimes in the archive. (If you didn't know, you'd do a quick step to find this out, then come to step 1 here.)  

2.  Look down the page for the link:  Search the Article Archive: 1851-1980 »

3.  Click on that link and search for [ "Solomon Northrup" ] 

4.  Then, click on the "Sort by" link.  You want by "Oldest"  

There you go.  It's REALLY useful to know that many newspapers have their own archives that sometimes offer very nice search capabilities.  

If you're having trouble finding an archive for the newspaper you want, remember that Wikipedia has an extensive list of newspaper archives.  

And remember, sometimes you'll need to look for a name that's old-fashioned, or no longer in use, or is a county-wide name, rather than a city name. 

Search on!  


  1. … the Oscars were on last night? guess I was wandering & out of touch with the flicker machine zeitgeist…
    was the Northup, Wilson book (NYCPL) better than the movie or visa versa?
    Worth reading the editor's preface.
    btw, Bob Hope was very funny…
    list - longer than expected…was 30 a relative? the Hollywood Russells?

    good to know search tip… an alternate path: got to this transcription using [NYT solomon northrup]…
    seemed to be a spelling discrepancy - "Note: Throughout this article, the author misspells Solomon Northup's last name as "Northrop." The text is presented exactly as printed originally"
    UNC @ Chapel Hill
    and this:
    from the dramatic business standpoint there might be some interest in this:

    Wiki led to "Documenting the South UNC/NYT article
    and the NYT archive, ⌘-F [New York Times] ,in the footnotes:
    NYT,Jan. 20,1853

    SERPing on!

  2. Thanks Dr. Russell, for sharing with us. Both the article and how you find it are very interesting. I haven't seen the movie nor read the book. I read the article and then searched and found excellent articles.

    The New York Times' 1853 Coverage of Solomon Northup, the Hero of "12 Years A Slave"
    What Really Became of Solomon Northup After His ’12 Years a Slave’?

  3. Just found your blog. Enjoying going through it. Might even try a few of the challenges!