(Warning: the below article contains excerpts from historical material that are explicitly racist and offensive to today’s readers. The author does not share the views of the material presented.)
Sometimes a random search can take you to unexpected places. For me it began a few months ago when I was asked to conduct a post-sale training session with a group of students at a university in Japan. I was told beforehand that the students were studying American History, including African Americans and other minorities, and I was asked to prepare an example that would match their interests.
This is the true story of a compositor working at The Times in 1882 who deliberately and maliciously inserted a ribald comment when setting the type for the newspaper. Who would have thought such a scandal could happen at such a newspaper? The Times of London, which began in 1785 and the archive of which was the first digitised primary source collection produced by Gale, has always been an establishment newspaper and is still known today as Britain’s ‘newspaper of record’. Scholars and researchers use the digital archive for purposes of studying contemporaneous reports of historical events, being reports that are written from the newspaper’s traditionally conservative perspective ─ which is something that would only add to the shock when these scholars stumble across this incident from 1882.