Stacks of bound volumes in The American's private collection. A portion of the newspaper's archives will be digitized over the next two years.

American archives to be digitized

ELLSWORTH — Around 20,000 early pages of The Ellsworth American will be scanned and available online in the coming years as part of a two-year project led by the Maine State Library in Augusta.

The work will be funded by a $402,000 grant the library received from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), which seeks to digitize newspapers across the country.

“It’s very exciting news,” said American General Manager Terry Carlisle.

“Digitizing your entire edition is extraordinarily expensive and something we’ve wanted to do for a long time but couldn’t afford it.”

The public will have access to the content, which will cover a period between 1855 and 1923, through the Library of Congress and the Maine State Library. The American owns bound copies of papers as well as microfilm, which will be used to capture high-resolution images that will be reviewed and indexed by Maine State Library staff. Specialized software will make the entire text of the digitized papers searchable.

The American was chosen for digitization by a panel of Maine historians, librarians and journalists, who noted the paper’s longstanding focus on local news, even during a period when many weekly papers were in the business of reprinting out-of-town news that was covered by other newspapers.

“What makes The Ellsworth American unique is that they have always seen themselves as a local paper that was responsible for reporting the news of the entire county,” said Earle Shettleworth, Maine state historian and member of the Maine NDNP Advisory Panel. “The paper was especially important in documenting the early development of the summer colony on Mount Desert Island prior to the island having its own local newspaper.”

“Digitization is particularly important from the standpoint of access,” said Maine State Librarian James Ritter. “Not only will the public have access to this important historical collection online, they will also be able to quickly find references to people, places or events referenced in those papers through a quick keyword search.”

Copies of the digitized newspapers will be available through the Library of Congress Chronicling America website at and the Digital Maine Repository at

“The fact that we’ll have those early years digitized and searchable is very exciting,” Carlisle said.

The project will take approximately two years to complete, but the papers could be available online sooner if the library is able to find volunteers who are able to help with reviewing and indexing the microfilm.

Most of the remaining grant funds will be dedicated to digitizing approximately 75 reels of microfilm from the Kennebec Journal newspaper in Augusta representing a period from 1870 to 1902. The project also will include smaller batches of historical papers from other regions of the state including, the Somerset News and Independent Reporter of Skowhegan; the Daily Northern Tribune, Eastern Times and Lincoln Telegraph of Bath; and the Jenks’ Portland Gazette of Portland.

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