During stack reorganization this past summer, staff at the Princeton University Library discovered the only surviving copy of a 1930s Princeton newspaper. When The Local Express began publication on Thursday, October 24, 1935, it described itself as “a newspaper devoted to the interests of the people of Princeton and vicinity.” As part of the local celebration of “Princeton in the 1930s,” all four volumes have been scanned and made publicly available on the Library’s “Digital Collections” website.
“The Local Express is a valuable addition to the body of information available about Princeton in the late 1930s, and its digitization should make it available to a broad audience,” said Howard Green, co-curator of the exhibition “Princeton in the 1930s” currently at the Historical Society of Princeton. “In particular, the paper seems more sympathetic to Roosevelt and the New Deal than the other Princeton weeklies, the Herald, and the Packet.”
The first several Local Express issues were distributed as complimentary copies. William L. Stout and Lloyd Dilks published the newspaper and gave Dilk’s home, 87 Jefferson Road, as its office address. Stout and Dilks were young men, as indicated by listings for their families in Polk’s Princeton Directory for the late 1930s. In an era when jobs were scarce, it made sense to try to capitalize on one’s local knowledge and youthful energy. An early partner, Joseph R. Bourne, dropped out after the first issue and was replaced quickly by Henry A. Rosso. Stout and Dilks quit the paper just six months later, leaving Rosso on his own in late March 1936. Rosso dubbed the Express “Princeton’s Progressive Newspaper,” clearly trying to distinguish it from the two well-established local newspapers, The Princeton Herald and The Princeton Packet.
With the issue of May 12, 1938 (vol. 3, no. 30), The Local Express became The Princeton News. Rosso was sole editor, with Edward E. Felker serving as business manager. Clearly costs were affecting production: the new title was smaller in trim size and printed on cheaper paper stock. The final issue appeared March 9, 1939.
Content of the day was much like today’s local news: politics, schools, business, social, entertainment, and sports. A novelty is the one-time appearance of a color-printed comics section on September 24, 1936 (vol. 1, no. 49), including the following strips: “Happy,” “Peggy Wow,” “Silly Willie,” “The Jamms,” “Pop’s Night Out,” and “Adventures of the Red Mask.”
The University Library received issues of the newspaper as they were published, then bound them for addition to the Library’s PB (Princeton Borough and Township History) collection. An important source for local history, the PB collection was formed by the Library sometime between 1900 and 1920, and new materials were added regularly for several decades thereafter. The PB collection is now in the care of the Rare Book Division at Firestone Library.
Scanning of The Local Express was done by Roel Muñoz and the Library Digital Projects staff during this fall. Cataloguing and interpretative notes were prepared by Joyce Bell and Steve Ferguson. Final arrangements for Web display were done by Jon Stroop and his colleagues in the Digital Library Group.
“The timing of the newspaper’s re-discovery and digitization couldn’t be better, as Princeton in the 1930s continues to be on view through July 13, 2008,” said Eileen K. Morales, Curator, Historical Society of Princeton. “Once the exhibition is closed, the digitized version of The Local Express and the original photographs and manuscripts at the Historical Society of Princeton will continue to enable members of the public to learn about this important decade in Princeton’s history.”
Other local Princeton history materials are available on the Library’s Digital Collections website, such as the Historic Postcard Collection. See: http://diglib.princeton.edu