An old newspaper learns new tricks

04/15/2011 6:21 AM |

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library director Lisa Jacobs checks out a 1948 issue of the County Review, the predecessor to the Riverhead News-Review, which is now on-line.

Like many local newspapers, the Riverhead News-Review has a website, which first went online in 1998.

But how many papers can claim roots dating back to 1903 that also can be accessed online?

Riverhead Free Library, in conjunction with the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, now has digital versions online of the County Review, a direct ancestor of the News-Review.

The County Review was published from 1903 to 1950 and at one time had the highest circulation of any paper on the East End. The County Review and the Riverhead News merged in 1950 to become the Riverhead News-Review.

Riverhead Free Library has the only microfilm of the County Review, covering the entire run of the paper other than the first few months, according to library director Lisa Jacobs. The Suffolk County Historical Society has print versions of the paper, but they were deemed too fragile to convert to digital versions, so the library’s microfilm was used, she said.

The Suffolk Cooperative Library System has been trying to digitize some of the more important historic newspapers in the county and chose the County Review and the Islip Bulletin to work on this year, Ms. Jacobs said. The conversion process uses “optical character recognition” or OCR. It scans images of words and translates them into digital text, so that people can search by word for stories in the old papers, Ms. Jacobs said.

The digital papers can be viewed by page, or by any individual story.

The site can be accessed by going to www.live-brary.com, and then clicking on “historical newspapers.”

Live-brary.com can also be accessed through the Riverhead Free Library’s own web site.

Other historical papers that have been digitized include The Sag Harbor Corrector, the Long Islander, the Mid-Island Mail, the Patchogue Advance, the Port Jefferson Echo, the Sag Harbor Express, the South Side Signal, the Suffolk County News, and another North Fork paper, the Long Island Traveler, which remained in business until a few years ago as the Long Island Traveler-Watchman.

“It’s a great resource,” Ms. Jacobs said. “Especially for anybody doing any kind of historical or genealogical research.”

The Riverhead Free Library also has some microfilm of the Riverhead News, Ms. Jacobs said, but not as much of it as of the County Review and it hasn’t yet been digitized.

“The County Review was the bigger paper from what I understand,” she said. “It covered everything in the eastern half of the county.”

The old papers provide some interesting contrasts to the present.

For example, over the weekend, the News-Review took first place for headline writing in a New York Press Association competition. But in 1946, the County Review had this zinger for a headline: “Town Board Holds Meeting.”

How’s this for a 1948 headline? “Local Banks Show Total Assets of over $50 million.” That report referred to the assets of four banks in Riverhead village: Riverhead Savings Bank, Long State Bank, Suffolk County National Bank and Suffolk County Trust. Today, one of the banks in downtown Riverhead, Chase, is an international chain and has assets of more than $2 trillion. And Suffolk County National Bank still has an office downtown, along with about 30 other locations, and it reported assets of more than $1.6 billion last year.

In 1948, the Riverhead Town Police Chief, John Doscinski, had an annual salary of $3,100, while highway department employees were paid between 70 cents and $1.15 per hour for a 40 hour work week. That translates to between $28 and $46 per week, or between $1,456 and $2,392 per year.

Nowadays the police chief makes $167,023 per year, while highway department employees make up to $69,504.

The town, in 1945, had a bus line along Route 25 that was bid out to private companies and ran from Peconic Avenue to the Brookhaven Town line. Nowadays, the town is critical of the minimal bus service provided on the East End by Suffolk County.
In 1948, the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution urging the Long Island Rail Road to improve its service, according to a County Review article.

Today, officials still complain about the LIRR.

tgannon@timesreview.com