MNHS site has historic Sleepy Eye newspapers

Courtesy of the Schroepfer-Bertrand Research Fund
Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch

The Schroepfer-Bertrand Research Fund, in conjunction with the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), is pleased to announce the completion of phase one of the Sleepy Eye newspapers digitization project and the successful launch of phase two.

Phase one included all available issues of the Farmer’s Criterion (a November 1875 issue), the Sleepy Eye Wide-Awake (a July 1879 issue), the Brown County Pioneer (three issues from 1881), the Brown County Republican (83 issues from 1881-83), the Sleepy Eye Dispatch (945 issues from 1890 to 1908), the Sleepy-Eye Herald (1,359 issues from 1882-1908), the Sleepy-Eye Herald-Dispatch (730 issues from 1908-25), and the Sleepy Eye Progressive (471 issues from 1916-25). As of the end of August, some 31,000 Sleepy Eye newspaper pages were available for free Internet access, searching and printing via the MNHS’s Digital Newspaper Hub (the Hub). Despite COVID-19 related delays, the MNHS completed phase one a month ahead of schedule.

The Sleepy Eye Digital Newspaper team at the Minnesota History Center, from left: Michael Peterson, Andrew Romitti, Tyler Kinsella, Jillian Odland, Anne Levin, Scott Rosales and project donor Mark Schroepfer.

Phase two covers Sleepy Eye newspapers published from 1926 through 1963, specifically the Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch (1936-63) and the Sleepy Eye Progressive (1926-42). Unlike phase one, phase two involves years in which newspapers may, or may not, be still protected by copyright. Thus, phase two required an additional due diligence research step.

This step, endorsed in 2016 for the National Digital Newspaper Program by the National Endowment for the Humanities, was subsequently adopted and formalized by the MNHS. It consists of researching subject newspapers and copyright renewal records to assure the newspapers themselves are in the public domain and, if they included third-party content, that content is either in the public domain, or constitutes a minimal portion of the newspaper. The MNHS completed this research earlier this year and cleared the phase two Sleepy Eye newspapers for digitization and uploading to the Hub.

Phase two is well underway. The MNHS uploaded Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch newspapers from 1926 through 1939 to the Hub in mid-September. Additional upload batches are scheduled across the next several months until phase two is completed during the first months of 2022, when some 67,000 pages of Sleepy Eye newspapers will be available at no cost via the Hub.

Sleepy Eye newspapers have been well received on the Hub. Despite being an incomplete work-in-progress, Sleepy Eye newspapers have received some 5,500 page views during their first 10 months on the Hub, ranking in the top 10% of the more than 300 towns represented. The finished project will include eighty-two complete years of Sleepy Eye newspaper publications – the most of any town on the Hub.

Anne Levin, Digital Newspaper Manager for the MNHS, has assembled a talented team of professionals for the Sleepy Eye project including: Jillian Odland - project lead, Scott Rosales – microfilm scanning and quality assurance, Michael Peterson – digital processing and quality assurance, Andrew Romitti and Tyler Kinsella – digital processing and print newspaper imaging. This team is doing a terrific job converting uneven-quality microfilm images to the high-quality, searchable digital images of Sleepy Eye newspaper archives now on the Hub. Their skills and talent illustrate why the MNHS is among the nation’s top historical digital newsprint producers.

Pictured in the lower level work area of the Minnesota Historical Society History Center in St. Paul, Andrew Romitti is using docWorks software to apply optical character recognition to newspaper pages.
Sleepy Eye newspaper team member Tyler Kinsella is shown using a WideTek 36DS two-sided, 36-inch wide paper scanner.
Scott Rosalespoints out how he is using a Mekel Mach 12 high-volume, microfilm scanner to prepare digital images of Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch newspaper pages.

Free public Internet access to historic newspapers provides a major assist to researchers of all backgrounds and locations. If you are interested in learning more about the MNHS’s Digital Newspaper Hub initiative, or how to provide general or specific project support, or obtain additional contact information, please view the Newspaper Hub’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page at

This project was made possible through funding provided by the Schroepfer-Bertrand Research Fund from Mark and Jean Schroepfer. Mark is a retired business executive residing in Western Wisconsin. He attended St Mary’s School from eighth grade until his graduation in 1965.