WAILUKU - While today marks the 112th anniversary of The Maui News, a National Digital Newspaper Program website, Chronicling America, is providing free public access to a number of digitized American newspapers published between 1836 and 1922.
Those newspapers include The Maui News, with issues available from its first issue published Feb. 17, 1900, to Dec. 29, 1922. To view the digitized issues, go online to chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014689.
The first issue of The Maui News appears torn, taped, brittle and sometimes hard to read in its digitized incarnation. But it provides a snapshot of what was news and how it was reported on the Valley Isle at the turn of the 20th century.
The first two columns of the first Maui News' front page contain business cards and advertisements.
The lead news item under the heading of "Foreign News" reports a British military victory over the "rebellious Tagas" in British North Borneo, saying it was "entirely successful," with two days of fighting against 1,000 rebels bringing the capture of two forts and two villages, along with a blown-up rebel magazine and the killing or wounding of 60 Tagas. The British had four men wounded.
Also reported on the front page was the assassination of Kentucky Gov. William Goebel, who was mortally wounded by gunfire Jan. 30, 1900. The report said that "as the shot was heard Goebel gave a quick, involuntary exclamation of pain and made an effort to draw his revolver."
"Several more shots were fired, the bullets all striking the brick sidewalk close to where Goebel lay. None of them touched him however."
In the next paragraph, headlined "Later," there was an update on Goebel's condition Feb. 1, 1900, saying the governor "passed a comfortable night but was worse this morning. There is no doubt, in the opinion of the physician, that death will ensue sooner or later," the report said.
Goebel did die two days later, becoming the only U.S. governor to be assassinated in office.
Readers of the first issue of The Maui News needed to wait until Page 3 to read a story headlined "Bubonic plague on Maui: Kahului the Plague Spot. The people of Maui Aroused to Action. Six Deaths."
The story's lead says: "The plague has reached Maui. Six deaths have occurred and the whole of Chinatown is a heap of ashes. The people of Maui are aroused to action and feel confident of being able to control and stamp out the pest in a short time."
A story published next to the one on bubonic plague reports: "For several years past Wailuku and Kahului have been hoping for a system of water supply from Iao Valley. The Legislature voted the necessary appropriation and several beginnings were made, but heretofore nothing has been accomplished. At one time the pipe was sent here, but for some unexplained reason it was reshipped to Honolulu."
A short story on Page 1 carried the headline "Fat and Lean," apparently reflecting an interest in dieting in 1900, but not from the modern perspective of lean being healthy and attractive.
It says: "Scientists with the government in Washington assert that American men are bulging in the middle because they eat wheat and oats in one form or another. Men with large stomachs are frequently proud of the distinction. Often they stand with their hands on their hips and coat tails pushed back. The side elevation may be startling to the beholder or may be entertaining or may engender covetousness. It depends on the point of view. But stomachs are largely a matter of food and drink."
An editorial on Page 2 noted that The Maui News was "modestly" taking its place "among the sisterhood of Hawaiian newspapers."
"No effort will be spared to make it bright, newsy and interesting; it will not indulge in yellow journalism - any further than can be avoided," the editorial says.
Other newspapers in Hawaii and elsewhere in the United States can be found by going online to www.chroniclingamerica.com. The project to digitize American newspapers is by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Chronicling America also features historical essays about the digitized newspapers, topic guides (those relating to Hawaii include statehood and Hansen's disease) and a directory of most of the newspapers ever published in the United States.
"As a 'rough draft' of history, newspapers in Hawaii documented and shaped historical moments, including the leprosy epidemic in Hawaii, the labor strikes in the plantations and the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy," says an announcement of the availability of the material.
The announcement notes that the digitized material is valuable to students and scholars doing historic research on everyday life in different times or to people doing genealogical research.
For more online, go to:
* Chronicling America, chroniclingamerica.com.
* University of Hawaii Library, guides.library.manoa.hawaii.edu/chroniclingamerica.
* National Digital Newspaper Program, www.loc.gov/ndnp or neh.gov/projects/ndnp.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.