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A woman came into the offices last week looking for a copy of a December 2018 edition of the Star.

Also last week, Cynthia Sweeney, editor of The Weekly Calistogan, wanted to know when the first edition of the Calistogan was, and more importantly had the newspaper been in business for 140 or more years.

Although the Star has a few bound volumes in the office, there’s a much better way to search Napa County’s old newspapers.

To find old newspapers and to answer Sweeney’s question, the information is available for free online. It’s called the “Digital Reel” and it is available through both the St. Helena Public Library and the Napa County Library system. They can be accessed through your web browser.

With not much searching, I discovered the first edition of the Independent Calistogian was published Dec. 26, 1877. J.L. Multer was the editor. On Sept. 11, 1896, owner Charles A. Carroll changed the name to The Weekly Calistogian. Later the word Calistogian was changed to Calistogan.

Both the Napa County Library and the St. Helena Public Library have digital copies of the St. Helena Star, Napa Valley Register, The Weekly Calistogan and the American Canyon Eagle, created from microfilm through a Sunnyvale company, BMI Imaging Systems. The newspapers are on what’s called a “Digital Reel,” which displays the pages of the newspapers online. Those pages can be enlarged and read, downloaded or turned into PDFs and then printed (it works best printed on 11-by-17 paper.)

Interestingly enough, in 1874, a year’s subscription “payable in advance” was $3.50. Accounting for inflation, that $3.50 is worth $78.97 in today’s dollars. Today’s price for a year’s subscription? $52.

The archive of the St. Helena Star includes its first edition, Sept. 26, 1874 through Dec. 27, 2018.

To access the “Digital Reel,” follow these steps:

Go to the St. Helena Public Library website, shpl.org

  • Click on “Resources”
  • Choose “Newspapers and Magazines” and open it
  • Click on the highlighted words, “Napa County Newspaper Archive”
  • Select “St. Helena Star”
  • There’s a list of years from 1874 to 2018. Choose one
  • Inside each year, there are 12 months, January to December
  • Inside each month, there are weekly editions
  • For example, for April 13, 1890, the four-page edition is shown, plus a supplement.

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* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

You may reach David Stoneberg at 967-6800 or editor@sthelenastar.com

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st