Collection Title: Chester County News Clipping File
Dates of Collection: circa 1804 – present
Extent: 356.8 linear feet
Repository: Chester County History Center, West Chester, PA
Project Archivist: Carol Grigson and Jonathan Hoppe
The Chester County History Center (previously known as the Chester County Historical Society) was founded in 1893 by ten prominent members of the Chester County community. This group of local historians, educators, naturalists, doctors, and business owners included Gilbert Cope, a genealogist and co-author of History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (1881), and Dr. Joseph T. Rothrock, the first president of the Society and Pennsylvania’s ‘Father of Forestry.’
As a membership organization, the Society was open to men and women who were interested in learning, sharing, and preserving the history of Chester County’s boroughs, townships, and residents. From its inception, the Society began to receive gifts in the form of books, printed materials, manuscripts, photographs, and objects, which were then stored in various West Chester locations, including the West Chester Public Library.
In 1902, CCHC partnered with West Chester University (then known as the West Chester Normal School) to acquire a permanent space to hold meetings and display the Society’s collection. In 1937, CCHC moved its growing collection of objects and archival materials into West Chester’s historic Horticultural Hall, the last commission of architect Thomas U. Walter before he became the 4th Architect of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Horticultural Hall was modernized in 1979 to improve collections management and increase exhibition space. In the early 1980s, CCHC initiated a joint project with Chester County government to administer the Chester County Archives, adding 300 years of public records to its care.
In 1992, the adjacent YMCA building was renovated to add 56,000 square-foot, ensuring that the History Center became a vital complex for exhibition, collection storage, and research. With an expanded library and research area, a 250-seat auditorium, and seven exhibition galleries, the new facility also allowed for an increased emphasis on educational programming. Becoming Chester County, a multi-media interactive exhibit highlighting migration, social reform, and innovation over the past 300 years in Chester County, debuted in 2020 with visible storage areas introduced in 2021.
Over the course of its history, CCHC has continued to expand its mission to preserve Chester County’s history. Museum exhibits and educational programming serve the community by connecting its diverse residents with a collection of approximately 950,000 objects, books, manuscripts, and photographs that document how the region was shaped and influenced by local and national events.
Today, CCHC is a nonprofit historical institution that works to promote the county’s rich history through community engagement, educational programming, and stewardship of materials in its Museum, Library, and Photo Archives collection.
The Chester County News Clipping File measures 334.8 linear feet and dates from circa 1804 to the present. Found within the collection are articles on the county’s residents and 78 townships, boroughs, and municipalities. Articles are arranged alphabetically by family name and by township/county topics. Township articles are sorted into 17 topics, and County articles are sorted into over 30 topics.
The Chester County News Clipping File measures 334.8 linear feet and dates from circa 1804 to the present. Found within the collection are articles on Chester Countians and 78 townships, boroughs, and municipalities. The collection is arranged into three sections: Family Name, Township, and County. Articles for families, businesses, organizations, and topics have been pasted onto sheets of 11 x 17-inch card stock, whereby each sheet contains articles for a single name, organization, or topic.
Series 2: Township is an alphabetical arrangement of the townships, boroughs, and municipalities of Chester County. Within each of the 78 geographical areas, articles have been further categorized into 17 topics. The most commonly used topics are: Business Houses, Cemeteries, Churches, History, Institutions, and Organizations. Additional topics include: Lands, Maps, Military, Natural History, Organizations, Politics, Post Offices, Public Schools, Public Works, Streets, Transportation, and Views.
Series 3: County consists of articles on the county-wide level which have been alphabetically filed into over 30 general subjects. While some of the topics are similar to those found in Township (i.e. Business Houses, Churches, Organizations, Politics, Transportation), the majority of subject headings are unique to the series.
The Chester County News Clipping File was first organized in 1929 by Ethel M. Sauer, a curator for the Chester County Historical Society (now Chester County History Center). In the beginning, articles were clipped from local newspapers, pasted to letter size typing paper, and filed chronologically among the manuscript collections.
In 1937, CCHS curatorial staff, headed by Bart Anderson and Dorothy Lapp, reorganized the filing system to create topical access to the articles. During this period, articles were remounted and pasted onto legal size sheets of paper using an archival paste formula from the Library of Congress. Volunteers and staff members, including Emily Campbell and Marwood Darlington, adhered to an organized workflow for sorting and pasting the articles, which filled two four-drawer filing cabinets.
By 1940, articles from 11 local papers and duplicate copies of older papers were regularly sorted and added to the Clippings File. During this decade, Lapp’s assistant, Sara Baldwin, clipped, dated, and reviewed articles, and by 1950, approximately 10,000 additional sheets were added to the collection.
In 1958, due to the effort involved with clipping 3 daily and 9 weekly papers, staff focused on preserving copies of older papers for the File. The Daily Local News continued to be clipped, but duplicates from the American Republican, Village Record, and Chester Valley Union became the primary focus of staff and volunteer efforts.
At this time, source material for clippings included duplicate copies of the Morning Republican (1893–1899), Oxford Press (1880–1900, 1925–1935), Daily Local News (1900–1930), Honeybrook Herald (1920–1935) and other assorted clippings from 1960–1975.
By 1976, work on the File had slowed, though volunteer Betty Tomlinson was still regularly clipping the Daily Local News and Bart Anderson continued to fill in gaps from older publications. During the 1977–1979 renovation of CCHS’s Memorial Hall, the project was intermittently placed on hold, but was renewed with the addition of staff and volunteers in the 1980s.
At this time, the Clippings File moved to the Library’s Reading Room where, for the first time, researchers were able to browse the files themselves. During the 1980s, Annabelle Light and Louise McLimans became lead volunteers on the project, and continued to repair, clip, sort, and paste articles under the supervision of CCHS Library staff. A group of dedicated volunteers continued to assist in pasting, labeling, and dating articles, adding an estimated 7,000 articles during this period.
In 1995, Carol Grigson was asked to the lead the volunteer efforts, and a new group of regulars was recruited. By 2012, the project had moved to a system of pre-sorting articles that volunteers would then paste once a month as a group.
The collection is arranged as 3 series:
The Chester County History Center also holds the following materials related to the Chester County News Clipping File (see Appendix for full listing):
For a PDF of the complete container list, please see the Chester County News Clipping File.