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Sooth Your Inner Perfectionist: Fixing Searchable Text in Hoosier State Chronicles

One of the most important features of Hoosier State Chronicles is the use of Optimal Character Recognition, or OCR. It is created by automated computer software that “finds” characters (letters, numbers, etc.) in digitized images and then transcribes them into searchable text. OCR allows users to search within the text of digitized newspapers for names, dates, or any other term that is relevant to their research. While OCR adds tremendous value to digitized materials, it doesn’t always correctly transcribe words or characters. You will frequently come across OCR that looks like the image below. (Click on images to enlarge them in separate tab.)

This is where our users come in. When you create a free account on Hoosier State Chronicles, you can actually edit the OCR text of a given page, which improves the functionality of our digitized newspapers. To date, our users have corrected over 315,000 lines of text; one user alone has corrected over 40,000 lines of text—more than anyone else! This blog post will show you how to create an account on Hoosier State Chronicles and how to correct OCR text in our digitized newspapers. With the tools provided here, we hope you will correct as many lines as possible. Who knows, you may even top the current record holder. Regardless of how many lines you correct, each one will make Hoosier State Chronicles a better platform for researchers delving into Indiana’s past through newspapers.

Creating a Free Account on Hoosier State Chronicles

Before you can edit OCR-generated text in Hoosier State Chronicles, you need to create a free account. To do this, click the “Register” link in the upper right-hand corner of the Hoosier State Chronicles homepage.

Fill in the required fields (email, display name, password) and click “go.” You’ll then receive an email to confirm your new account. Click the link in the email to confirm your account. You can now login via the account confirmation page and you’re ready to go!

OCR Text Correction

To correct OCR text, you can choose any issue or page you’d like. In this blog, we’ll work on the issue shown earlier, the February 1, 1916 edition of the South Bend News-Times. Choose a page of the issue either by clicking on the image itself or the page link on the left hand side. Once you’ve done that, you’ll see a “Correct this text” link; the text correction feature is accessed by clicking that link when viewing section text. This feature is split into two parts: the right side shows the page images that make up the document, and the left side is used for editing the lines of text.

When you move over the page images on the right, sections of the page will be highlighted. You can change this view by dragging with the mouse, or zoom in/out using the buttons above the images on the right-hand side. Clicking a highlighted section will select it and generate a form for editing that specific section on the left-hand side of the page.

You can now correct the text line by line. A red box is displayed on the right-hand side to help you determine what text should be included in the line on the left-hand side. Once you have finished correcting the text, click “Save.” The changes you make will take effect immediately. Alternatively, clicking the “Cancel” button will discard any unsaved changes you have made.

You can then make further corrections to the same block, move onto the next block by clicking the “Next” button, select another block in the right-hand side, or exit the text correction view by clicking the “Return to viewing mode” link. Clicking “Save & exit” instead of “Save” will save the changes and automatically return you to the normal viewing mode.

While our text correction feature is pretty robust, it has one limitation that we hope to change in the future. Currently, you can only edit existing fields generated by OCR; it doesn’t allow for the creation of new text fields. Even though this is a limitation, the OCR fields on our newspapers are fairly exhaustive and still give us substantial editing abilities.

Here’s another useful tip: many web browsers include spell-checking functionality and this can assist with your text correction by identifying misspelled words. If your web browser does not have this functionality, it’s likely there is a spell-checking add-on available (see your web browser’s help for information on how to install add-ons).

Now armed with the knowledge of text editing on Hoosier State Chronicles, you can improve the quality of our digital newspaper collection. Happy editing! If you have any other follow-up questions or concerns, please contact Justin Clark, Indiana State Library’s Digital Initiatives Director, via email at jusclark@library.in.gov.

Thanks to ISL’s Brittany Kropf for the blog’s title.

Killing the serpent speedily: Governor Morton, General Hascall, and the suppression of the democratic press in Indiana, 1863

By Stephen E. Towne

Discussions of the phenomenon of federal government suppression of the press during the Civil War constitute a substantial body of literature. Historians have recognized that he unique stresses and strains on civil government induced by war resulted in extraordinary measures taken by government leaders to limit the speech of individuals and groups that openly criticized the ways in which the war was being waged. Some of these measures stretched legal and constitutional boundaries; others broke them outright.

Frequently overshadowed in these discussions of the suppression of the press is the attempt by Brig. Gen. Milo S. Hascall to muzzle the Democratic newspapers of Indiana in the spring of 1863. Hascall’s efforts are not unknown to historians; many have alluded to the case. Nonetheless, these accounts, usually based on the small handful of documents published in the official War Department War of the Rebellion series relating to the episode, paint cursory, incomplete pictures of the Indiana events, omit important details, obscure important facts, and overlook the scale of the Union general’s assault on the Democratic press.

General Orders number 38 (issued April 13, 1863, by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside) announced strict military punishment for any persons who voiced opposition to the government in Washington and the sympathy for the rebels in the South.

The Plymouth Weekly Democrat in Marshall County Indiana published anti-war sentiments in their April 30, 1863 issue. Consequently, Brig. Gen. Milo S. Hascall sent 12 soldiers to shut down the publication and arrest all owners. On April 14, 1863 the Plymouth Weekly Democrat became the first of what would be a total of 11 publications shut down by Milo that summer. The April 14, 1863 issue of the Plymouth Weekly Democrat displays an article talking about the publication’s recent shut-down and the arrest of its owners.

Brigadier General Milo S. Hascall. Courtesy of Haskell Family History.
Brigadier General Milo S. Hascall. Courtesy of Haskell Family History.

Milo S. Hascall was born in LeRoy in Genesee County, New York. In 1846 he moved to Goshen, Indiana, where he clerked in a store and taught school. Two years later, he was appointed as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, graduating in 1852. He was assigned as a second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Artillery and was stationed in New England doing garrison duty in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island. After two years’ service in the Regular Army, he resigned his commission.

Hascall went back to Goshen, where he became a lawyer and filled various political offices. He also was a railroad contractor, district attorney, and the clerk of the county courts. He practiced law in Goshen, Indiana, from 1855 till 1861, serving as prosecuting attorney of Elkhart and Lagrange counties from 1856 till 1858, and school examiner and clerk of courts from 1859 till 1861.

Read the full article here “Killing the Serpent Speedily.”


Stephen E. Towne is an archivist and historian.  His bio can be found here. He is an Advisory Committee member on the Indiana State Library’s NDNP program.