Jewish Holiday Notices in Newspapers – Part II

(I am actively looking for employment opportunities. If you know of one that might be a good fit, please let me know.)

Introduction: Map of Jewish Holiday Notices in Newspapers

In my last post, I summarized why Jewish holidays would ever be announced in a newspaper in the United States, pre-1865, in a place like Wheeling, West Virginia or Olympia, Washington. Newspapers reported news and news came from the “outside.” This “outside” reached these seemingly far-flung places because these towns had a post road, or a railroad depot, or a canal that passed through. News would carry, allowing for new article topics, such as an upcoming Jewish holiday.  Newspapers from other cities would also be delivered and articles would be copied and reprinted (see Viral Texts for more on this if you are interested). Many of the articles, in fact, are reprints of one another.

Here is a cartodb map with a post road layer (you can remove if you so choose) with a heatmap layer demonstrating the density of the announcements over time:

Jewish Notices and Newspapers Methodology

This projects specifically looks at Jewish holiday notices for three different (and arguably the most important) Jewish Holidays. These are the days that Jews, even the most non-observant, tend to celebrate because they are that important.

  • Passover or Pesach – Usually in March or April. Celebrating and recounting the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.
  • The Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashana – Usually in September or October.
  • The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur – Comes 10 days after the Jewish New Year. The most important day of the year in Jewish calendars.

Using Chronicling America, I did an advanced search and compiled the articles that were relevant to each holiday:

  • Passover or Pesach – I used the box “…with any of the words:” for my search terms (see below), and searched between the years 1836 (the earliest) and 1865 (the end of the Civil War).
    • Passover, Pesach, Matzah, Matzoh, Matza, Matzo
  • The Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashana -I used the box “… with the phrase:” for my search terms (see below), and searched between the years 1836 (the earliest) and 1865 (the end of the Civil War).
    • Rosh Hashana, Rosh Ha Shana, Rosh HaShauna, Rosh Ha Shauna, Jewish New Year, Hebrew New Year, (I also found results when I filed through the Yom Kippur results because many of the articles would mention both holidays)
  • The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur – I used the box “… with the phrase:” for my search terms (see below), and searched between the years 1836 (the earliest) and 1865 (the end of the Civil War).
    • Yom Kipur, Yom Kippur, Yom Kipour, Yom Kippour, Yom Kipor, Yom Kippor, Yom Kipoor, Yom Kippoor, Day of Atonement

I then went through each result and added them, if they were relevant, using the Zotero extension for Chrome to my Zotero repository. Their relevance was based on whether they fell during the time of year the holiday occurred and whether their content was a notice or description of the holiday. The only bug with this process was the fact that I had to enter the titles of the articles, the publication’s name, and the place of publication manually because Zotero doesn’t read the metadata correctly for Chronicling America. Please note, the article titles that are in brackets [ ] mean that there was no title for the article. I created the title in brackets. I then exported each Zotero collection to csv (download them through my Github repository, link below).

I then added coordinates to the data based off of the place column using a basic geocoder. I also created a csv with all of the data combined. This csv had an additional column which identified the holiday that each article centered around.

I then uploaded each of the csv’s to Cartodb. I used their SQL API along with a leaflet library and called the table I had created from the “Combined Jewish Notices” csv. I used the call to create this comprehensive map where you can filter by the holiday which the article announced. Each point offers a link to the newspaper page where the announcement is located and (most of the time, depending on Chronicling America’s OCR) highlighted.

The Map!

Click here to see the map in a larger version!

A Favorite Article

The first article that I thought was particularly fascinating was from Passover of 1865. I didn’t realize that President Lincoln was assassinated during the holiday. The New York Herald published an article entitled “How the News was Received in the Jewish Synagogues.” The article describes the mourning rituals of three congregations in New York City. It is interesting to read the different descriptions, and also to think about what the author (who may not have been Jewish) noticed and detailed regarding the different synagogues.

Post Roads 1839


Before I begin: PLEASE NOTE: I am also looking for paid summer internships that have  a map making component. I can send my resume and anything else if you are interested. Tweet, email, you know the drill…

Hi Everyone,

It has been a while. Not only did I complete my first semester of junior year, but I have been mastering the art of making interactive maps, basic javascript, html, d3, and leaflet. Plus life… but I was determined to finish these post roads for Elijah Meeks and Jason Heppler.

A little more info. These are based off the map from 1839 by David H. Burr from
The American atlas, exhibiting the post offices, post roads, rail roads, canals, and the physical & political divisions of the United States of North America” found on the Library of Congress’ website.  As I may have already discussed in a previous post, David H. Burr was the official topographer for the U.S. House of Representatives. Because of this, I presume that the atlas was probably the standard and the authority for the transportation networks of the United States at that time. Unlike my previous post road map, where I easily georectified one map on top of the map of the modern U.S.,this was much more complicated. Being an atlas, this map was in multiple pages. I was forced to first crop each page on photoshop so there would be no extraneous parts. Then, starting with New England, I not only georectified the 1839 map to the modern United States, but also to its neighboring 1839 state maps. Because many of the post roads were connected between states, I needed to ensure that they matched up to one another, not just the modern day map.

This  is the top of West Virginia connecting to Ohio and Pennsylvania. All three states were on different pages of the atlas, yet they all had roads that connected to one another.

Though this shapefile  isn’t as accurate as with the other post road map, it is interesting to compare the map from 1851 to 1839 and see the development of the transportation networks in the United States. Again, on this map, you see the spider web-like patterns, where a large city is the center of the web, with many different roads expelling from it.

See how above, the red-blue dot in the center has with roads expelling from it, similar to the shape of as spider web? Here, the dot represents Nashville, Tennessee.
See how above, the red-blue dot in the center has with roads expelling from it, similar to the shape of as spider web? Here, the dot represents Nashville, Tennessee.

In order to upload this files to ArcGIS online and to fully see the shapefile, I had to dissolve the lines into one large polyline. You have the option to either download the dissolved or undissolved shapefile and also to view the dissolved or undissolved feature layer.

Dissolved Shapefile –

Undissolved Shapefile –

Creative Commons License
1839 David H. Burr Post Roads by Laura Newman Eckstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at

Government Dealings

Things have been pretty interesting around here. Last week I tried calling the Postal Service Historian. Turns out, there’s no number for that person, so I called the general USPS number. Needless to say, the many people I talked to on the phone told me that even if I went up through the totem poll, I’d never get to the historian. Also, they didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a Postal Service Historian. I also tried the call the National Archives with no luck, though they did tweet back at my complaint and told me to email or write them. I am still waiting for a response to my email. Today however, I called the Library of Congress’ maps division with a question regarding a postal map from 1850 I’m working with. The legend is one of the clearest I have seen. It clearly distinguishes the postal roads from the rail roads, canals, and telegraphs. However, when all three are present on the map at the same time I cannot tell when one stops or when only two are present. The other confusing thing is that the topographer outlined, as he did with the canals, some sections of railroad combined with another tr4ansportation route in brown. I can’t figure out why this is or the purpose. Neither could the woman I spoke to at the Library of Congress, but at least I was able to talk to a human. She also said she would talk to some other people and get back to me. Here’s to hoping.


Update: The Library of Congress did call me back. The reason some lines are brown is simplistic, the topographer didn’t finish coloring the map.

Disturnell’s new map of the United States and Canada by Henry A. Burr, Topographer to the Postal Service 1850, (Source: Library of Congress)