Experts Weigh in on Amateur Newspapers from the American Antiquarian Society

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The forthcoming digital archive, Amateur Newspapers from the American Antiquarian Society, features publications written, edited, and published by young people aged 12-20 in the second half of the 19th-century. This extensive collection offers an abundance of resources, featuring tens of thousands of issues, and includes editorials, original short fiction, essays, poetry, and more that provide compelling insights into the ways teens and young adults viewed their hometowns, their country, and the world around them in the 19th century. With this one-of-a-kind archive, researchers will gain a unique perspective, allowing them to compare the political and social issues facing young adults of the time with those confronting society today.

Hear what experts are saying about this unique collection:

Amateur newspapers constitute one of the earliest youth subcultures, at a time when the concepts of both “youth” and “subculture” were still very much under construction. They offer fascinating insights into the development of adolescence as a category, particularly its inextricability from ideas of race, gender, and class. Their appeal is admittedly idiosyncratic: like many subcultural “scenes,” the amateur press tends to be solipsistic, consumed by inside jokes and controversies, and often formulaic, despite their professions of wildness. Often amateur journalists seem determined to shut out a wider world and build a separate one of their own, even as the tensions of their times inevitably crept in (and even their desire for a world of their own is itself shaped under those pressures). But their self regard is part of their interest, I think. They are trying to make adolescence–the primary criterion for amateurdom–meaningful in a period of dramatic social change.”

—Lara Langer Cohen, Associate Professor of English Literature Swarthmore

“The majority of the amateur newspapers were written, edited, and published by teenagers aged 12-20 using desktop publishing machines, on borrowed printing presses, or even by hand.  Thousands of these newspapers were printed all across North America, from urban to rural settings, allowing ordinary citizens to express themselves and their views through publishing.  The newspapers are important to cultural and intellectual historians in that they allow us to understand how the younger generation viewed the world in the 19th century.”

—Jonathan Daniel Wells, Professor of History University of Michigan

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