Old newspapers offer the chance to get a glimpse of life as it was in days gone by. Recently, looking at old newspapers involved a trip to the library to physically page through the papers themselves. Now, the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center, or RELIC, at the Bull Run Regional Library has online editions of newspapers that served Prince William County dating back to 1796.
Researchers, historians, teachers, students, or anyone who is simply interested, can read through the newspapers and learn all types of interesting information from different points in time. For example, in 1951, the Manassas Airport was seeing an increase in air traffic. It was also the year that cantaloupes were 29 cents each and a six-ounce can of frozen orange juice was 18 cents. An advertisement for an antacid asked, "Is you stomach like a gas factory?" and offered a sure cure.
An article written in 1890 in the Manassas Gazette described the Australian boomerang and its uses. In 1910, an article in the Manassas Democrat told the story of two men who broke out of a jail using a stove poker. The sheriff and his men searched for the escaped prisoners with bloodhounds and lost the trail in the Bull Run Mountains. The father of one of the escapees eventually turned them in. In 1913, the Manassas Journal reported about law enforcement's concerns over counterfeited $5 bills, and a grassroots campaign for good roads in the county was underway.
Donald L. Wilson, a librarian with RELIC, had a hand in the digitizing process and said that he was struck by the extent of the coverage in some of the old newspapers. Wilson said that every small community in the county had its own beat reporter, and they would include all sorts of stories, like who was visiting from out of town, who was traveling and where they were going, and letters from people outside of the area. "These reporters would send in anything they could think of that was going on in their community. I think one of the most amazing things is the amount of detail that you can find in the paper about what was going on in the local communities."
The digitized newspapers run through 1951 with a few special editions of papers dating to 1992. Later editions of local newspapers can be found on microfilm at the library, Wilson said.
For more information about RELIC and library programs, visit www.pwcgov.org/library.