Rag Linen

Historical newspapers have value; site needs more support for learning

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Subjects & Skills

Critical Thinking, Social Studies

Price: Free
Platforms: Web

Pros: Collection of historic newspapers can be used to support primary-document analysis in the classroom.

Cons: The online collection is limited, content is written at a high level, and there's no curriculum or support for educational use.

Bottom Line: A good resource for learning about historical newspapers; some more scaffolding for classroom learning would be a nice addition.

Rag Linen is a good reference site for teachers to increase their own content knowledge about the role of newspapers in early American history. In addition, teachers can create lessons that utilize the newspapers for a primary-document analysis, pull excerpts about early American history, or show a relevant video clip or image during a teacher-directed lesson.

For direct student use, Rag Linen could serve as a resource for a research paper on historical newspapers or topics related to early American history. For example, a student writing a paper on the Boston Massacre could read about what was happening during the time period and watch a short video.

Rag Linen is an online museum of historic newspapers. The site is named for the heavy-duty paper on which pre-19th century news was printed. An Education page provides links to a number of useful outside resources, but there's little else here specific to learning.

The History of Printed News page offers information and images related to the beginnings of newspapers. The Multimedia page is full of links to videos and blogs that cover related content. The site also includes lists of early American newspapers, historical circulations, and newspapers printed during the Revolutionary War era. The Reporting the Revolution page previews the site’s companion book with excerpts of the Revolutionary newspaper coverage and historical context. There's also a link to the companion book’s site, Reporting the Revolutionary War. This site has its own Education page that includes sample lesson plans, a more updated mini-archive of the newspapers, and related videos and articles. 

Rag Linen’s value as a learning tool lies in its offering of primary source material -- beyond this, there isn't much in the way of learning content. That said, the images of newspapers, short video clips, and other content can provide students with valuable historical context about the Revolutionary War. 

Students who already have a high interest in the subject will enjoy the opportunity to get a glimpse into these early drafts of history. The challenge is to make the content accessible to all types of learners. What's here is more suited toward advanced learners and historians than to a general secondary-school population. Instructional activities with guided questions or teacher-led discussions about a particular event or newspaper would better support students' understanding of the site.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

History enthusiasts -- both teachers and students -- will enjoy exploring the site and viewing the newspapers. The addition of instructional activities could help make the site's resources more accessible for learning.


Viewing these primary-source documents can be a valuable exercise, but the site doesn't offer suggestions for curriculum or classroom use. The site's Education page has links to some classroom-friendly resources hosted elsewhere.


The site's About section introduces its purpose. Elsewhere on the site, there are a few links to blogs and outside resources. Users can leave comments throughout the site. More guidance throughout the site could boost usability.

Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating

Treasure trove of Revolutionary War primary source documents

History fans will enjoy the rich collection found in the mini-archive, but student will often prefer the easier to understand lecture or textbook. However, this websites offers students a chance to BE historians by doing what historians actually do: delve into sources to draw conclusions. For many US History standardized tests - including AP - ability to read and infer based off primary sources is vital for success.

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