History in the basement

I rarely turn down an invitation to go down to the newspaper’s basement.

Usually the reason for heading downstairs is to either retrieve or replace old bound volumes of the newspaper. The old papers are a great research tool, of course, but there’s other great stuff down there.

There are old newspaper vending boxes, giant metal signs advertising the launch of a Sunday edition, boxes of magazines we no longer publish. There are even uniforms that used to be worn in the high school all-star basketball game.

It’s like a time warp down there, both cool and weird. But it’s also a reminder of the newspaper’s deep roots in the community. A reminder that countless journalists have been telling this community’s stories for hundreds of years.*

That’s pretty awesome.

The latest trip was to return newspapers that a reporter had referenced for a story on a killing that had gone unsolved for 40 years — longer than most of our reporting staff has been alive!

My favorite gem uncovered during this most recent trip is this:

It’s a front page from an edition of the Maryland Gazette from 1936. It was the oldest bound newspaper volume I could find at first glance.

Among the numerous headlines on the front page:

  • “Governor selects committee to get furniture for mansion.” (It was renovated in 1935 and 1936.)
  • “Ferry saves four adrift on Chesapeake.”
  • “Co. commissioners hold short meeting.” (That doesn’t sound too interesting.)
  • “State-wide Democratic meeting to be held here on January 8.”
  • “Joseph H. Jewell dies suddenly at home of mother.” (Whoever he is.)

It makes me wonder: What will people think when they read my stories 75 years from now?

* Saying journalists at my company have been telling stories for hundreds of years is no exaggeration. The Maryland Gazette has been publishing since 1727 and The Capital has been around since 1884. Here’s a brief history.

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