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Best of Times, Worst of Times

By now you’ve probably heard that the New York Times is discontinuing its Times Select subscription service and opening up their digital archives. The coolest part is the free online access to all of the copyright-free articles the paper published between 1851 and 1922. Although Jason Kottke recently posted links to some of the Times’ more notable past articles, the archive’s real fun lies in digging around and finding stories that represented the everyday news as it was 100 or so years ago. Once you get past the arcane writing styles and dense columns of type, it’s interesting to find out that, say, famed actress Maude Adams invented a new method of stage lighting. Fancy that — the Times devoted a whole half a page and thousands of words to that bit of news in 1908.

In my limited browsing I’ve noticed that some stories have a tone of quaint bemusement, others play like an Onion parody of turn-of-the-century reportage. Supposed Corpse Much Alive, printed in the May 12, 1899 edition, sports a little of both:

Supposed Corpse Much Alive

“Mackie celebrated some event in Irish history with too much ardor and appetite …” Something tells me that this unknown reporter, were he young and alive in 2007, would have a kickass weblog.

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