Vintage Catskill Mountain News issues online; kick-off program is Thursday at Fairview

The earliest issues of the Catskill Mountain News, which for more than a century has been chronicling the life and times of the greater Margaretville area, may now be viewed on-line and on a dedicated computer at Fairview Public Library.
A tutorial on the use of the new library computer is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. at Fairview, 43 Walnut St., Margaretville. The public is most welcome to see and learn to access this expansive new resource for genealogy and local history research.
News Publisher Richard Sanford, who contributed to the preservation project spearheaded by the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown (HSM), will be present for the official “unveiling” of the digitized News. Sanford is the third generation of his family to oversee the CMN, following his grandfather, Clarke Sanford, and his father, Roswell, as publisher.
Those with home computers can find the News, 1902-1937, at http://history.catskill.net. The entire collection (7,742 pages) may be searched for specific names, places or titles. Viewers may also read individual issues, which are listed chronologically. Hosted by the Historic Newspaper Project of the Northern New York Library Network, the web-based collection is provided in single-page PDFs to make opening and downloading quicker for those with dial-up Internet access.
On the library computer, entire issues of the paper can be opened for easy scrolling through several pages. Users must call the library (586-3791) in advance to reserve time on the computer. Articles may be printed for a small fee per page.
The project to microfilm and digitize the bound volumes of the earliest existing newspapers was begun in 2006, when the O’Connor Foundation of Hobart granted $5,000 to HSM. The award was matched by generous contributions from Publisher Sanford, Herman Gottfried, and the late Ed Scheider. Hudson Microimaging of Port Ewen was engaged to do the meticulous work of filming the brittle, deteriorating pages, and then scanning the microfilm and running it through optical recognition software to make it searchable.
Because of the condition of the originals, many pages were torn, patched, faded or had ads or articles cut out, the search function is not 100 percent accurate, and legibility is poor in some cases. But for the most part, the newly digitized collection opens a bright, accessible window on the past, according to Diane Galusha, HSM President.
“We are so pleased that this one-of-a-kind historical resource has been preserved,” she said. “We have already heard from people across the country who are making wonderful discoveries about family history or are finding fascinating tidbits of local lore. They can search, enlarge, copy and paste, print and e-mail single articles or entire issues to friends or relatives.”
It’s easy to get lost in the News for hours, Galusha continued. “Just scrolling through 1913, for instance, I read about a smallpox scare in Arena, the death of railroad and steamboat tycoon Samuel Coykendall, the ‘final exodus’ from the Ashokan Reservoir basin, exploits of the Margaretville baseball team ‘The Regulars,’ a visit by Henry Ford and Thomas Edison to John Burroughs’ Roxbury summer home, and a vaudeville performance at the Margaretville Opera House of ‘Down in Dixie!, ‘a beautiful Southern romance.’
“Storms that year blew down the U&D Railroad roundhouse in Arkville and carried away the Margaretville Fairground Bridge. And 350 white dresses went on sale at Nathan Melnick’s store for $3.49 each,” Galusha continued.
“That’s just one year of this remarkable treasure trove. We invite everyone to explore it for themselves.”
The master microfilm reels and CDs have been placed in archival storage. Eight of the 22 bound volumes, which had to be disbound for proper filming, were rebound by Ridley’s Book Bindery in Ithaca.
The entire collection of bound volumes is on long-term loan from the publisher to Fairview Library. The years 1938 through the present are available on request for patrons to peruse carefully on site. It is hoped that they will eventually be filmed and digitized as well.