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Farrar Collection of Historical Newspapers

"There is a natural history of the newspaper; the development of the American journalistic tradition over 275 years is related to the political, social, and economic progress of our people.... Not all are large and famous, but all have a story to tell of a moment in the life of the United States."

- Edwin Emery, Story of America as Reported by Its Newspapers From 1690 to 1965


Color Drawing of President McKinley in the Boston Globe, 1901The Farrar Collection of Historical Newspapers is a rich archive of some 1,500 original historical newspapers. These newspapers, recently donated to Washington and Lee University by an alumnus who spent decades acquiring them, come primarily from colonial, Early Republic and Victorian-era America, but also from England and France. The American Revolution and Civil War are especially well represented, from both sides of these conflicts.

Frederic B. Farrar, a W&L graduate of 1941, also plans to donate a portfolio of newspapers giving election-day results from every presidential race in U.S. history - from Washington's first election to George W. Bush's re-election. Additional donations, including 18th century English periodicals, will continue to be made by Farrar.

The collection is housed in W&L's Special Collections, located on the Lower Level 1 of James G. Leyburn Library in Lexington, Va. The collection is available for students and other researchers Monday-Friday 8:30 - 4:30 p.m. during the academic year and 1 - 4:30 p.m. during the summer. The phone number is (540) 458-8663.

This website is dedicated to offering background on the collection, the collector, and an online catalogue of the collection. Only those materials that are already at the University are in the online catalogue, which will be updated each time a donation is made. Support from the Clark R. Mollenhoff Award and Leyburn Library has made this project possible.

  • Biographies
    Biographical information on collector and W&L alum, Frederic B. Farrar, as well as an introduction to Steph Wiechmann and Dr. Doug Cumming, who catalog, preserve and oversee the collection.
  • The Collection
    This is the online index for the Farrar Collection. Each page in the table of contents represents a different portfolio, bound volume, binder, or drawer of material, as it is organized in Special Collections at Washington and Lee University. The numbers in front of the content are the call numbers -- useful to know if you come to Lexington to use the material.
  • JOUR-296A Course
    Topics in News Media History: Discovering America's Early Newspapers
    This course is designed to expand your historical-research skills and practice (it's not just for journalism majors) and to provide an introduction to journalism history.