Ethnic American Newspapers from the Balch Collection, 1799-1971 is part of the Readex American Ethnic Newspapers series. The source is the former Balch Institute of Ethnic Studies, now merged witht he Historical Society of Pennsylvania. This particular historical news database, according to the publisher, will feature more than 130 fully searchable newspapers in 10 languages from 25 states. It provides newspapers about and by Americans of Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovak and Welsh descent.
At the time of review, the product was incomplete, with approximately 40% of the titles loaded into production. Assessment of content is therefore drawn partially from the product list of forthcoming titles.
The Balch Collection contains numerous important ethnic American titles such as the Courrier des Etats-Unis (New York, 1849-1891), the most significant French-language newspaper in the U.S.; and New Yorker Volkszeitung (1894-1932), a German-language labor daily established by the Socialist Labor Party of America. These, along with other anchors such as Progresso Italo-Americano, Irish American Weekly, and the Polish-American Czas (all published in New York), as well as Amerikansky Russky Viestnik (Pennsylvania), help constitute an important aggregation of immigrant and ethnic newspapers. The collection also provides access to several Jewish American titles, including the weekly Jewish Messenger (New York), Jewish Chronicle (Newark), and Jewish Journal (New Brunswick).
Beyond the well-known titles, the Balch Collection also contains numerous publications that present opportunities for research into regional ethnic communities. These include titles such as the Alabama Staats-Zeitung; Pokrok and Dennice Novoveku, a Czech weekly published in Chicago and Cleveland; Corriere del Popolo, an Italian-language newspaper from San Francisco, CA; and Druid, an English-language Welsh title published in Pittsburgh and Scranton, PA.
Added to the mix of titles are several political and labor publications, which might otherwise be overlooked in a collection labeled "Ethnic American." These include the National Labor Tribune (dedicated to labor issues in the iron and steel industry), the Socialist Call (publication of the Socialist Party of America), and The People (official organ of the Socialist Labor Party).
Finally, the module intends to include a small but intriguing collection of Japanese-American titles published through the War Relocation Authority in various internment camps during the period 1942-1945.
The Balch Collection is focused predominantly on ethnicities of European origin. It is weighted heavily toward German-language publications (approximately 50 titles), with Jewish, Italian, French, and Irish publications each running a distant second. East European communities (Czech, Polish, Slovak, and others) are not covered as extensively, while other prominent immigrant communities in the United States (in particular Scandinavian, Hispanic, and Asian) are absent from the collection.
Though the product claims widespread coverage of ethnic group newspapers in the United States, its strength lies in the communities of the East Coast, particularly New York and Pennsylvania. Moderate coverage of New Jersey, Ohio, and (to a lesser extent) Illinois reinforce the regional emphasis. The remainder of states covered contain only representative titles, often in short or scattered runs. A handful of titles in the collection appear to be general regional papers, containing no distinctive "ethnic" characteristics discernible to the reviewer.