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ENGL 357: City as Text: Philadelphia

Discourse Analysis Assignment: Historical Publications

This assignment asks you to apply concepts and questions of discourse analysis to historical newspapers and periodical literature of 19th century Philadelphia. Discourse analysis is an approach that looks "beyond the sentence" to consider the motivation(s) of a text and the context in which it was produced.

Selecting your primary source material is the most important decision you will make as you undertake this project. Try to give yourself sufficient time to explore multiple options. You will want to choose materials that invite numerous questions related to the themes discussed in class and are rich and complex enough to allow for extended analysis and interpretation.

The resources on this page will help you identify historical newspaper and periodical literature from 19th century Philadelphia. 

Practice: Reading Historical Newspapers

Select one newspaper or periodical issue below to examine with your group. Scan through the headlines and skim/read a few articles. What is interesting in this publication? Why? What image of the city or its inhabitants does this text produce for its readers? 

(Pro tip: Read aloud - you'll notice things differently by reading this way)

Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers

To narrow your results, search by place of publication:

Place of Publication Search


The following links will take you to specific Philadelphia newspapers:

American Antiquarian Society Historical Periodicals Collection

With digital, full-color reproductions of over 7,500 titles, the AAS Historical Periodicals Collection greatly expands and enhances access to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century U.S. magazines and journals for the University of Puget Sound campus.

For more details about working with the AASH Periodicals, visit our collection guide:


Advanced Search Strategies

Title Lists by Subject

Each periodical title in the AAS Historical Periodicals collection is assigned to at least one broad subject category. This can be useful if you know, broadly speaking, the kind of periodical you want to explore, but don't know specific titles. 

EBSCO provides titles lists with subject categories for each of the five series in both HTML and Excel formats. Downloading the list in Excel format will allow you to sort by category or place of publication.

Series 1 Titles (1684-1820)

Coverage List:  

Series 2 Titles (1821-1837)

Coverage List:  


Series 3 Titles (1838-1852)

Coverage List:  
Search by Publication Title
Once you have specific titles, you can follow Option A or Option B below.
Option A: When you know the specific title you want to explore, use the "Publications" search function to access all of the available issues. Using the advanced search interface, click on "Publications" in the upper left and then search for title of the publication you wish to explore.
Option B: When you want to search for a specific word or author in one or more specific publications, you can use the field limiter function in the advanced search interface. The search results will provide links to instances where your search term appears in the publication. 

Chronicling America

Search digitized newspapers by state or use the U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present (top right) to identify specific publications. Not all newspapers in Chronicling America are available digitally. The directory of newspapers published in the United States since 1690 can help identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.

More Historical Newspapers Online