Blogs: Basic information tools

Have you been told to use primary sources in your research? Read on for some suggestions!

What are primary sources, anyway?Revolutionary war map

A primary source is one which was created during the time period being studied. Examples could include documents, speeches/interviews, images, articles (written during the time period), and even artifacts. So, if you are studying the Holocaust, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is considered a primary source. Someone researching the Civil War could use Matthew Brady’s battlefield photographs. And President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech is a great primary source for those studying the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Where can I find them?

A great place to begin your search is American Memory, a “digital record of American history and creativity.” It contains documents, audio recordings, images, videos and maps from the Library of Congress. Here you can listen to former slaves tell their stories, watch video clips from the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, or view maps from the American Revolution.

The National Archives also has a large collection of primary source materials for students and educators. They are arranged by time period and are keyword searchable. Would you like to see President Kennedy’s academic record at Harvard? Or view a handwritten copy of the Oregon Treaty that set the boundary between the U.S. and Canada?  You’ll find them here.

The Masterfile Premier database contains the text of thousands of primary source documents. To find them, once you are in the database, click on the Advanced Search link. Then enter your search terms in the box at the top, and make sure to choose Primary Source Document in the Publication Type box before you click on Search. You'll need your library card number and PIN to search Masterfile Premier.

For historic photos, a great place to look is the LIFE Magazine archive (no library card required), which spans the time period from the 1860s and 1970s.

Are you looking for primary sources specifically about Oregon history? The Oregon Digital Library searches the collections of libraries around the state to find both documents and images. The Oregon State Archives also has some web exhibits about Oregon history that incorporate primary resources; topics range from the creation of the Oregon constitution to Oregonians’ experiences in World War II.

Still have questions? Check out our blog post on Finding Primary Source Articles or contact a librarian for more help!

When people in Portland talk about a story that was “in the paper,” they often mean it was in the Oregonian. Until recently, the Oregonian was the city’s daily paper -- and it sort of still is: a daily edition is available online, at newsstands and at the library; while home subscribers get their papers only on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Front page of the July 24, 1904 Oregon Journal (image from Historic Oregon Newspapers, http://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn850).

Portland-area newspapers

The Oregonian has never been the Portland area’s only newspaper! Let's take a brief tour of some local newspapers past and present, and I'll show you a bit about how you can use them for your research.

Daily newspapers

For most of the 20th century, Portland residents had two or three local daily newspapers to choose from. The Oregon Journal was published daily from 1902 to 1982, and the Portland Telegram (also called the Evening Telegram and the News-Telegram) was published daily from 1877-1939. And, the daily Oregonian was available too, of course!

During this heyday of daily news, each paper had a different editorial policy and political niche. People generally say that the Journal supported the Democratic Party, the Oregonian supported the Republican Party, and the Telegram’s editorial stance was independent.

Weekly, semiweekly and neighborhood newspapers

There have always been many non-daily newspapers in the Portland area, too! These days, we have a long list of weeklies and semiweeklies, such as the Portland Observer, the Portland Tribune, the Willamette Week; and of course many neighborhood and suburban papers like the St. Johns Review and the Gresham Outlook.  Some of these still-running non-daily newspapers have been in print a long time, and can be useful for historical research as well as for current news.

Other Portland-area weekly or semiweekly newspapers have sadly left us, but are still available at the library! Here are a few gems that you will not see on today’s newsstands, but which are in the library’s collection:

 


Finding newspaper articles at the library

Sometimes, the best way to research is to browse. If you want to know what was in the news on a particular date, you can go right to the library’s archive of the newspaper you’re interested in and start reading through the issues one by one. Nothing could be simpler -- except that this method is sometimes a little slow!

What if your research requires you to find newspaper articles by topic? To do this, you’ll need two things:

  • an archive of the newspaper, so you can read it (this archive could include the print edition, a microfilm copy, and/or an online version)
  • an index or a way to search for articles by keywords or topics, so you can find what you need

Archives of old newspapers

The library maintains an extensive archive of Portland newspapers of all stripes and stretching back more than a hundred years. Most are kept at Central Library -- visit the Periodicals room on the second floor to take a look at this wide-ranging collection.

Gresham Library has an archive of the semiweekly Gresham Outlook, and the librarians at Gresham are experts at finding old articles! Consult them any time you'd like help getting started with your Gresham newspaper research.

If your research requires reading newspapers from other parts of our state, be sure to consult Historic Oregon Newspapers -- an ever-growing archive of early Oregon newspapers that you can search and read online. Most of the papers included in Historic Oregon Newspapers were published 1922 or earlier.

photograph of the Local Newspapers Index at Central Library

Indexes

That takes care of your first tool, an archive of the newspaper -- what about the second tool, an index or way to search?

While you’re in the Periodicals room at Central Library, take a look at the library’s local newspaper index. This card file index is like a big giant catalog of news topics -- you can look for any subject, from A to Z, and the newspaper index will point you to Portland-area newspaper articles on that subject.

photograph of an example card in Central Library's Local Newspapers IndexWhen you find your subject in the newspaper index, you'll see one or more cards, like the one in the photograph on the right.

This particular card gives us information about a couple of articles reporting on Portland freeways. This card is in the “F” section of the index, under Freeways. Portland. The article cited at the top is from the Oregonian (noted as “Oreg”), and was published November 28th, 1974, on page A56, column 1. The headline is “Let people speak on freeway issue.” The little red note on the left, “ed.,” tells us it was an editorial. The red note below tells us that there’s another reference to this article in the “M” part of the index, under the heading Mt Hood Freeway.

The second article cited on this newspaper index card has the headline “McCall asks end of Mt. Hood freeway,” and it was published in the Oregon Journal (noted as “Jour”) on November 28th, 1974, on page A11, column 3. This one also has a note in red underneath it -- but this time it’s just an explanation about the contents of the article.

[An aside: the Mt. Hood Freeway was never built; if you want to learn more, try reading the great article about it in the online Oregon Encyclopedia.]

The newspaper index card file mostly focuses on helping you find articles published 1930 to 1987, and like I said above, it only includes information about local newspaper articles. If you are looking for a news story from before 1930, consult the card file newspaper index first just in case (it does include cards for a few pre-1930 articles!).

photograph of bound newspaper index volumes, at Central LibraryIf the newspaper index doesn’t help you find that pre-1930 story, try one of the bound index volumes that are on top of the card file case. Each of these bound newspaper index books works differently, and they cover different newspapers and different dates as you can see.

Talk to the librarian on duty in the Periodicals Room to get started with the bound newspaper indexes -- or if you have any questions about finding the articles or newspapers you need.

And, back to the Oregonian

Maybe you’ve consulted the card file local newspaper index, and the article you want was in the Oregonian. Or maybe you’ve tried using the newspaper index and it didn’t have everything you need.

The library has two great resources for finding Oregonian articles, and both allow you to search and read online:

Recent and historical issues of the Oregonian are also available to read in the Periodicals Room at Central Library, in old-fashioned paper and microfilm formats.

Have fun with your newspaper research!


Do you have more questions about searching for historical newspaper articles? Are you working on a local history project? If you'd like specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!


 

Image of Anka with caption reading "Perhaps his collar is too tight."The library provides access to lots of magazines and journals (over 25,000 of them!) both in print and online. We can help you search for articles in these magazines, whether you’re writing a research paper or just wanting to read more about your favorite pop star. If you already know the name of a specific article or magazine that you want to find, take a look at "How to find magazines and magazine articles (I want my Bieber!)"

As an example, let’s try looking for articles about that perennial papa of pop, Paul Anka.

The best place to start when searching for magazine articles is an index. An article index can be a book or an online resource, and it is used to look up a subject (Paul Anka, perhaps?) and find a list of articles that were written about that subject. To learn more about this former teen idol, we will use three important databases to search for articles. Each of these databases is an index, and they also often contain the full text of many articles.


Readers’ Guide RetrospectiveScreenshot.

What did magazines say about Paul back in the early 1960s when he was just starting out? Readers’ Guide Retrospective indexes magazines from a very wide range of years, all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century. Since this database includes so many articles from so many years, it is a good idea to limit the date for your search. Many of the results in Readers’ Guide Retrospective are citations: they don’t include the full text of the article, but they do tell you which magazine it was in. Once you have the information about which magazine and date the article was in (the citation), you can check to see if the library has the magazine you need - to learn how to do that, look at “How to find magazines and magazine articles (I want my Bieber!)” According to a November 3, 1961, article from Time that is available full-text in this database, Paul always goes on stage with the goal “to comfort the people.” Oh, Paul...

MasterFILE PremierScreenshot.

So that was the 1960s, but what are magazines writing about Paul now? MasterFILE Premier is a good all-purpose database which indexes articles from lots of current magazines, and it also has most of them in full-text. Jubilation! You can read book reviews about Paul’s recent autobiography, My Way, and find articles like a May 2013 profile in Vanity Fair by his longtime acquaintance Jerry Weintraub. What does Weintraub value most in Paul? “It’s his friendship.” You don’t have to be a lonely boy when you get to know Paul.

JSTORScreenshot.

If you want to find articles from outside of the mainstream magazines, JSTOR is a great database. It includes citations and full-text articles from many different specialty magazines and academic journals. Since it includes so many articles, it can help to do an Advanced Search in this database and then narrow your search by choosing discipline areas (for example, you could do an advanced search for Paul Anka and limit the search to magazines related to the subject “Music”). You can find some interesting stuff in JSTOR, like a poem from the Summer 1986 Sewanee Review which includes the line: “Paul Anka / Of Sri Lanka”.


There you have it: the times of Paul’s life (or at least some of them). These three databases are just the beginning: you can find more ways to search for articles on the Research Tools page (use the "Type" menu to choose databases which have articles). If you would like some help picking out additional databases and indexes to try, then let us get to know you. Just contact a librarian and tell us more about what you are searching for. We can work with you to find the articles you need for your project or your personal interest. Any time and ogni volta, we’re here to help!

Cover of March 13, 2014, Rolling Stone magazine showing Justin BieberDo you want to find a particular magazine article? Do you want to know if the library has your favorite magazine? We can help you find magazines and magazine articles available through the library, both in print and online. If, however, you don’t care which magazine the articles come from and just want to search for all the articles about a subject, take a look at “Searching for articles on a subject (Paul Anka, please!)

Let’s pretend you are a total Bieber believer, and at your dentist’s office you saw an article about Justin Bieber in a March issue of Rolling Stone. Unfortunately, you were called in for your root canal (heartbreaker!) before you could have a chance to read the whole article. Now it’s a few months later and you want to see if you can get it from the library. Here’s how to do it.


1. Check to see if the library has the magazineScreenshot.

To check whether the library even has this magazine, go to the Classic Catalog and choose a “Magazines/Newspapers” search, then search for the magazine title Rolling Stone. Success! You get two results: one that has an icon on the right that says “Periodical,” and another with an icon that says “E-Journal” (electronic journal).

2. Choose the electronic journal option

Screenshot.If you want to find an online copy of the article, you can choose the electronic journal option. The catalog entry for the e- journal Rolling Stone has a link which says “Click here for full text” - this link takes you to a page showing which library databases include full-text articles from the magazine.  You have several options of databases which have Rolling Stone for the date you need; for this example, let’s pick MasterFILE Premier. Click on the link for it to go to the database.

3. Search in the database for the article

Screenshot.To search for the article you saw at the dentist's office, you can type “Justin Bieber” into the keyword box and “Rolling Stone” into the Publication box (MasterFILE Premier contains lots of magazines, so this will limit your search to only be articles from Rolling Stone). Hit the Search button and, baby, oh, you’ve found it! “Bad Boy” from the March 13, 2014, Rolling Stone. This database has the article in full-text.

Unfortunately, the database does not include photos from this magazine article. :`-( Sometimes databases will include PDF scans of the articles with images, but often the article will just be text. Hmm... maybe the local library down the street from your house will have the actual magazine, and you can look at all the photos there.

4. Find out which libraries have print copies of the magazine

Screenshot.To see which libraries have print copies of the magazine, go back to the Classic Catalog and do the “Magazines/Newspapers” search again for Rolling Stone, but this time choose the result with the icon that says “Periodical.” This will take you to an entry in the library catalog showing which libraries have print copies of the magazine, and which dates they have. It looks like all of the Multnomah County Library branches have the 6 most recent issues of Rolling Stone, and Central Library has them (in print and on microfilm) back to 1967!


What if you follow the steps here and still can’t find the magazine article you want?

Never say never! - the library will do everything we can to get you the article you need. You can always contact a librarian for help or use our interlibrary loan service to request that we get the article from another library. We just want to see U smile!


NOTE: This post was updated Sunday, October 12, 2014 with details about the redesigned Historical Oregonian (1861-1987).


Front page of the Oregonian, June 10, 1973There is lots of information about history in books, but sometimes the best way to find out about the past is to look at materials which were created at the time you are studying.  Newspapers can be a great tool for this kind of primary source research.

People investigating local history here in Multnomah County are lucky -- there have been many, many newspapers published in Portland, Gresham, and other local cities over the last 150 years.  The longest-lived Portland newspaper, the Oregonian, is also considered by many to be the “paper of record” for the state, and Multnomah County Library cardholders can read, search and browse every page of nearly every issue of the Oregonian published 1861-1987, using the library’s Historical Oregonian (1861-1987).

Let’s try a search! Start by going to the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) page on the library's website, click on the blue Begin using this resource button, and then type in your library card number and PIN.

 

Say you want to see articles about the Rose Festival parades from past years.  Type the keywords “rose parade” into the search box at the upper left corner of the page (remember to use those quotation marks -- they limit your search to the phrase “rose parade” with the words right next to each other and in order).  Now click on Search.

This gives you 1,781 results!  Quite a lot.  The reason it's so many is that your search returns every occurrence of the phrase "rose parade" in every article, headline, or advertisement in every day's paper from 1851 to 1987.  Whew! 

As you can see, the articles in your list of results aren't arranged by publication date; they're ranked with the most "relevant" article at the top.  If you want change the ranking to see your list of articles in chronological order, click on one of the options listed next to Sort by at the top right of the results list.   You can also change the ranking before you even do your search, by choosing the sort order you want in the Sort by dropdown menu up in the search area.

But however you sort the articles, you probably don’t have time to read 1,781 of them in one sitting.  So let’s find some ways to get a shorter, more precise list.

 

One great way to narrow your search is by limiting to articles from a specific date range.  To see articles about the 1952 parade, type the year 1952 into the second search box at the top of the screen (the one labelled "Date").  Click on the yellow Search button again to see articles published in 1952 that contain the phrase "rose parade."

This gives you a much more manageable list of 69 articles.   If you find one you like, click on the snippet that shows the headline (or on the View article link), and you'll get a new page which shows the article.

 

Let's try a different way to narrow your search -- by adding a second topic.  If you are a long-time lover of the Grand Floral Parade, you've probably been to at least a few parades held under cloudy or rainy skies.  Portland in June, right?  Let's look for articles about rainy parades.

You can start a new search by typing your new search terms into the search area at the top of the screen.  This time, you want the phrase"rose parade" (with the quotes, just like before!), and the word rain in the first box.  The Date box should be blank, but this time, change the Sort by box to say Oldest matches firstI.  Now click on the yellow Search button again to see your results.

This gets you a nice list of 55 articles, arranged in reverse chronological order. 

 

Let's take a look at one of the articles.  Scroll down the page a bit and you'll see an article from the front page of the June 13, 1941 paper.  Click on the snippet of the headline (it's zoomed in kind of far, so only the words "For Rose Parade" are showing).  This gets you the full page so you can read the article.

It turns out, the article does include the word "rain," but only because the weather was forecast to be dry!  The author says "the weatherman found no threat of rain to mar Friday's Rose Festival floral parade although some cloudiness is expected to continue."  1941, I guess, was a good year for parade-goers.

 

Here are some more tips and things to remember about using the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987):

  • When you search this resource, you are searching the words and phrases that appeared in the newspaper.  If you're looking for a topic that can be expressed in different ways, you might need to try different terms.  For example: sometimes, journalists used the phrase "rose parade" to describe the big daytime parade that's always on a Saturday in June.  But they might also have used the phrase "rose festival parade," or they might have said something like "the parade at this year's Rose Festival."  Nowadays we have several parades every year, so it might also be good to search specifically for the "grand floral parade" or the "starlight parade."  If you don't see the results you expect, try a different phrase or term.   If your search finds only a few articles, read them and see if they offer any clues as to new search terms you can use that might get better results.
  • These old newspapers are historical artifacts, and they reflect the culture, attitudes, and language of their times.  Articles and advertisements from the past may stereotype individuals and groups, or use terms that are now considered derogatory and offensive.  Historical newspapers may also use other out-of-date or unfamiliar terms, for example: filling station instead of the modern gas station, or automobile instead of car.
  • Librarians are here to help!  Ask whenever you have questions, or any time you'd like more searching tips.  You can contact a librarian by email, chat, text or telephone, or of course ask the librarian on duty any time you're at the library in person.

Now that you have a little grounding in how the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987) works, take it out for a spin!  And share your discoveries in the comments, if you like.

 


Do you have more questions about searching for historical newspaper articles?  Are you working on a local history project?  If you'd like specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!


 

Bowtie Venn Diagram by H. Caldwell Tanner

 

If you’ve ever had to do a report you know that there are many ways to present what you want people to know. You can give a speech, write a 5 page paper, create a graph, make a movie or sing a song. A classic way is to make a poster.

 

A new spin on the poster approach are infographics. Basically, they put information in an organized and visual way that can make it easier to pull everything together and get the big picture. They can be complex like this chapter by chapter guide to The Great Gatsby or simple like the bowtie Venn diagram. They can be interactive like this wind map of the Earth or answer questions you may have never thought to ask like, 'how many teaspoons are in a cup?' (48, yeah I didn't know either.)

 

Here at the library we have made a set infographics about how to find good information online. Like this one:

 

How to Evaluate Websites

Why did we make infographics? So that you can look at research in a whole different way.

Want more information about research and infographics? Ask a librarian!

Whenever I have to write something, whether it’s a research paper or an article, the first thing I do is keep track of my sources. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a really good fact, but not being able to remember where you found it!

There’s two good online resources, called citation makers, that I use to help me. The great thing is, you can use them to keep track of your resources while you do your research, but they also help you format the citations, and generate your list of sources, or bibliography.

Many students in Oregon use the OSLIS citation maker to generate citations. It allows you to chose between MLA and APA style guides. Be sure to read through all the instructions before you get started. You can’t save a list of citations here, so you’ll have to create your list all in one shot. 

Easybib is a free service that offers you a lot more, and is good for high school and college students. You can save multiple bibliographies here, use their note taking system, generate a bibliography in Word, and generate citations for up to 59 formats of material, in MLA, APA or Chicago/Terabian style manuals. Watch the training video to learn more, and please contact a librarian if you need more help.

What is my car worth now if I want to sell it?

I want to buy a used pickup truck. How can I find out what a fair price is?

What is the safest car for my teen to drive?

 

All of these questions and more can be answered with these online resources:

  • The Kelley Blue Book Online gives you timely and accurate prices on new and used cOld Red Truckars based on geography and condition. For most vehicles you can get a good idea of prices for buying a new or used car from a dealer or private seller and also what you can expect to sell one for to a dealer or private buyer.
  • The Car and Driver buyers' guide covers automobiles manufactured in the last two years and can be searched by manufacturer, vehicle type, price range and more.
  • Click and Clack, the comedic brothers from Car Talk, use down-to-earth humor to give you actual car information on buying, selling, and owning a car.
  • CarInfo features car information provided by consumer advocate & auto expert Mark Eskeldson. It includes car buying and leasing secrets, as well as information on used cars, car loans, and insurance.
  • Edmunds Automobile Buyer's Guide has used car prices back to 2000, safety information, and updates on new vehicles.
  • The US EPA Fuel Economy website allows you to compare gas mileage (MPG), greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution ratings, and safety information for new and used cars and trucks. There are also gas mileage tips, a page to search for the cheapest gas in your area, and a page of links to other sites about automobiles, safety, and the environment.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute provides accident facts, results of crash tests, child safety and teen driving brochures, and news releases about safety for cars, drivers, and pedestrians.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a website dedicated to safety. This resource has  information about recalls, crash tests, car seats, drunk driving, and pedestrian safety.
 

In addition to these online resources, the library also has the most current NADA Guides and Kelley Blue Book Guides in print at the information desk in each library location.  The Science and Business Desk at the Central Library even has the Kelley Blue Book guides going back to 1999 so you can see what your vehicle was worth in years past.

For a round up of car repair resources available at your library, see the blog post: Get Your Motor Running: This car isn’t going to fix itself.

Buying or selling an automobile can be a complicated process!  If you do not see the resource you need here to answer your questions, please Ask a Librarian.  We will help you connect to the information you seek!  

 

 

Old maps are more than just geographical information presented in an appealing visual format – antique maps tell us about changes in the landscape, for sure, but they also inform us about the human past.  After all, maps are made by people, produced within specific cultural frameworks.

A new study of a 9,000-year old mural in the Turkish archaeological site Çatalhöyük argues that it is, in fact, the world's oldest map, and that it shows an eruption of the nearby volcano Hasan Dağı in progress. (The study offers evidence that Hasan Dağı did actually erupt around the time that the mural was created.) If news of this development has you thinking about old and antique maps, you're in luck! Multnomah County Library has a wide array of books about the history of maps, many with beautiful and thought-provoking reproductions and illustrations.  Take a look at the reading list below for a few of my personal favorites.

Detail of the map of the moon, from the Hand Atlas.Remember, also, that Multnomah County Library actually owns a lot of maps!  Most of the library's oldest maps are kept at Central Library, either in the map collection in the Literature & History room (on the third floor), or in the John Wilson Special Collections.  Most older maps, are of course, reference items that cannot be checked out of the library – but there's plenty of room to enjoy them at Central Library!  Here are a few gems:

One of my favorite old maps in the library's collection is the 1896 Hand Atlas über alle Theile der Erde und über das Weltgebäude.  That's a big, long German title, and indeed, the entire atlas is in German!  But maps are visual things, and even if the place names are in an unfamiliar language, this world atlas is both useful and beautiful – particularly if you're interested in seeing a snapshot of national borders in the 1890s.  The image here is from the very beginning of the atlas, in the section of maps of heavenly bodies.  This one, I'm sure you can see, is of the moon.

Detail of sheet 27, which includes the city of Seaside, Metkser's Atlas of Clatsop County, 1930.Moving forward a bit in time, here's a snippet of one of the property ownership maps in the Metsker Atlas of Clatsop County – it's sheet 27 of the 1930 atlas, showing the town of Seaside.  The library has a large collection of atlases published by the Metsker Co., covering all of Oregon's 36 counties (plus a few Metsker atlases of Washington counties that are near the Portland area). Most of the Metsker atlases were published from the 1920s to the 1970s. They contain lovely, detailed maps showing street names and subdivision names -- often this is interesting, particularly when you look at an older map and can see big changes like the neighborhoods that were present before a freeway was built, or farm and forest land where there is now an urban area.  Larger parcels of land are marked with the owner's name too, which can be most illuminating.

"Car Lines in the Business District, Showing Downtown Loops," from Byington's New Nonpareil Guide to Portland, 1944.One great place to look for charming little maps is in the pages of now-out-of-date travel guidebooks, and the library has plenty of examples!  The cutie to the left shows the streetcar lines, trolley car lines ("trolley car" is an old term for an electric bus), and motor coaches (early 20th century-speak for a gasoline- or diesel-powered bus) in downtown Portland, circa 1944.  The map is from Byington's New Nonpareil Guide to Portland.

Detail of "London: from 1800 to 1900," from the Mapbook of English Literature.But the library's collection is not limited to maps showing landforms, details for tourists, and property information.  For a different sort of map entirely, take a peek at the lovely Mapbook of English Literature, an elegantly-drawn collection of maps illustrating important literary-geographical connections.  The section of the London map at right, which features literary facts from 1800-1900, shows details from the world of fiction: "The Quips (Dickens's Old Curiosity Shop, 1840-41) lived here;" and biographical bits and pieces about English authors: "Keats was a student here (1815-16) Guy's Hospital."

Do you have a favorite map, or a favorite book about maps?  Share them!

And of course, if you've got a question about maps, the library's collection about maps, or anything else, there's a friendly librarian who'd love to help you!  Just get in touch using Ask the Libarian, or ask at the information desk the next time you're at the library.

Two women at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel operating tickers and stock exchange boards, December 11, 1918.Tracking down a historic stock price can be really easy... except when it’s really hard. And it is a common question that we get during tax season.

Here is an example of an easy stock price search.

1. A stock price is needed for a company for a particular date. (Let’s say Nike on February 13, 2009.)
2. You go to a website with financial information (like Yahoo! Finance or Wall St. Journal’s MarketWatch), search for the company name or ticker symbol, and voila! You have the closing price for that day. (Keep in mind that the closing price may or may not already be adjusted.)

But this only works if the company is still in business and hasn’t changed names, hasn’t been involved in a merger or acquisition, and is still trading on the stock exchange under the same ticker symbol. If any of those situations have occurred, the historic price that you need might not be available online.

Take, for example, Macy’s, which went public in 1922 under the name R.H. Macy, and which for many years traded under the symbol MZ. You won’t easily find historic stock prices from before 1992 for this company on Yahoo! Finance or in other online databases because on that year Macy’s merged with Federated Department Stores. (Thanks to New York Public Library for this example!)

Steps for trickier stock price searches.

So how does someone get a historic stock price from before 1992 for Macy’s, or for any other company whose historic prices aren’t online? There are two steps: first, researching the company history to find out any information about different names, ticker symbols, and listings on stock exchanges; and second, looking in a newspaper or newspaper database for the date that you need. The library can help you with both of these steps.

Step 1: Research the company history.

This step can require a little detective work. It is where you figure out the name and ticker symbol of the company or security at the time of the historic price and the stock exchange which it was trading on. Here are several sources that the library offers for learning about a company’s history (you may need to look at more than one of them in order to get a full sense of a company’s history):

  • Capital Changes Reporter: Lists capital changes (such as mergers and splits) for companies, by date, and includes information about stock exchanges and ticker symbols that the company traded under. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library, or online through the CCH Intelliconnect database.
  • International Directory of Company Histories: Provides detailed corporate histories for many companies, both U.S. and international. There are currently 149 volumes. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library.
  • Mergent Intellect: Available through the library website. A database with lots of information about companies, including company histories.
  • Directory of Obsolete Securities: Lists and gives brief info for companies and banks whose original identities have been lost to events like changes in name, acquisitions, mergers, or bankruptcy. Available in print in the Science & Business room at Central Library.
  • EDGAR: This is not a library resource, but it is freely available online through the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and we can help you if you have trouble using it! It contains many documents that public companies are required to submit to the SEC, including company reports.

Step 2: Look up the historic price in a newspaper or other source from that historic date.

Once you have done some research about the company whose historic stock price you are looking for (and hopefully learned their name, ticker symbol, and the stock exchange they were traded on at the time of the historic price), you are ready to find the stock price in a newspaper or other source from that time. Note that you’ll want to look at a newspaper or publication for the day immediately after the date for which you need the historic price, since the price would not have been published until the next day’s paper. Here are two sources for this, both of which are available electronically through the library website:

  • New York Times Historical (1851-2009): Contains scans of articles from the New York Times, including stock prices. Choose “Advanced Search,” enter the date that you are looking for in the “Publication Date” section, and choose “Stock quote” from the “Document Type” menu. Leave the other search boxes blank, and do your search. You will retrieve a list of articles containing stock prices - to find the major stock exchanges, choose the articles with the most page numbers, then look in them for the company whose stock price you need.
  • The Historical Oregonian (1861-1987): This database will be most useful for stock prices of companies from the Pacific Northwest. Enter the date you are looking for in the “Custom Date Range” box, and then do a search for a word like NYSE or NASDAQ which would appear on the page with stock prices.

In addition to these electronic databases for the New York Times and the Oregonian, the library also has a number of useful resources available in print and on microfilm at Central Library:

So there you have the basic steps for finding historic stock prices. It can indeed be a little bit of a research project sometimes. But don’t despair! Librarians are happy to talk to you about your particular stock price need, and to help you find the information you are looking for. Just get in touch with us using one of the methods on our Contact a librarian webpage. Happy stock price searching!

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