Newspapers tell the story of history day by day. While they offer
only the most immediate picture of the events shaping daily life
and times, that perspective can be their greatest advantage for
historians. Newspapers offer a wealth of information in addition
to the record of events. Newspaper advertisements show prices for
both goods and services; public notices are published. Each edition
is a snapshot of a community.
Obituaries, or death notices, are published daily in the newspaper
and are essential reading for any historian. These notices and articles
sometimes simply serve to verify a death date and place, but they
often do more. Obituaries situate the individual within their family
and community. They mention surviving relatives and important friends
and colleagues. Often an obituary is published for a former member
of a community who has moved away, and these can be useful in helping
scholars to locate death certificates, creating a trail of documents
one piece at a time.
Newspaper companies maintain "morgues" of their past issues. While
these archives are primarily for the editors own reference, they
are generally available to researchers as well. It is very helpful
to researchers when back-issues of newspapers are indexed. Often
public libraries have back issues of the local newspaper on microfilm.
With the advent of the Internet, some newspapers are offering on-line
searches of past issues. The Providence Journal, for example,
offers searches of articles since 1983.
Providence newspapers from the Tirocchi period have helped us
to understand things about the sisters, their business, and their
clients. How much competition did retail stores give small shops
like A&L Tirocchi? What were the advertised prices of ready-to-wear
garments? Were other dressmakers advertising? What was happening
in the Italian-American neighborhoods? Were there articles or wedding
write-ups about the Tirocchis clients or their husbands?
Some of the most valuable newspaper research for the Tirocchi
project didn't even require a trip to the library. Throughout the
course of their business's history, the Tirocchi sisters clipped
newspaper articles about their clients and saved them. The ones
that remain are mostly accounts of weddings and events from the
society pages. The wedding party photographs most certainly show
Tirocchi-made gowns and the society shots may show clients wearing
In the course of our research, we learned of a local priest who
had been clipping newspaper articles about the Rhode Island Italian
community for years. We visited him and learned, by looking through
his collection, much that helped to situate the Tirocchi family
and their workers in the proper context. These special collections
enhanced the general research and allowed us to complete a comprehensive
study of the family, shop, clients, and workers.
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