The card index is nicknamed after Lowell native George Dana Zimmer, who was first appointed as an assistant in the library’s newspaper department by State Librarian Edward H. Redstone in 1924, and later became a senior library assistant. Its history, however, can be traced back to the year 1891—over 30 years prior to Mr. Zimmer’s appointment. State Librarian John W. Dickinson, in the library’s 1891 annual report, expressed a dire need for a newspaper index:
The modern newspaper covers so wide a field, in addition to the news of the world embodying carefully prepared special articles upon almost every subject of modern thought or material activity; it has become such an encyclopaedic treasure-house of information upon all subjects which are of interest to the historian or genealogist, the publicist or the student of political, economic or social questions, the merchant or the mechanic, the scientist or the man of letters, that the advisability of the employment of some competent person to make a comprehensive card index to some leading current newspaper, which shall also embody special features and the most important articles in other papers so far as may be practicable, is hereby commended to the careful consideration of the Legislature. Such an index would save the patrons of the library a vast amount of time which is now spent in research, -- often to no purpose, -- and it would render accessible to public use a vast store-house of valuable material which is now practically unavailable after the day of its publication.
The next year, in 1892, the legislature, via Chapter 140 of the Acts, authorized the library trustees and the librarian “to cause to be prepared, at their discretion, an index to current events, and such other matters as they may deem important, contained in the newspapers of the day.” James F. Munroe, who was in charge of the newspaper department at the time, created and maintained the “Current Events Index” (as it was previously known) until Zimmer succeeded Munroe in 1924. Munroe’s “patient care and good judgment” to the project is noted in the library’s 1911 annual report.
The State Library has scanned the main part of the index (1878-1937) and hopes to make the collection available online in the future. If you have any questions or would like for us to look up a person or event in the index for you, please send us an email (email@example.com) or call our reference desk at 617-727-2590.