The Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey was published in 1942 by the Chicago Public Library Omnibus Project of the Works Progress Administration of Illinois. The purpose of the project was to translate and classify selected news articles that appeared in the foreign language press from 1855 to 1938. The project consists of 120,000 typewritten pages translated from newspapers of 22 different foreign language communities of Chicago.

Read more about this historic project.

About the WPA Project

The Foreign Language Press Survey began in the autumn of 1936 with funding under the Federal Works Progress Administration, a New Deal program that countered unemployment during the Great Depression by sponsoring a broad array of cultural programs. The Press Survey project hired translators who were assigned newspapers to review, looking for articles that would suit the project and match one or more subject codes. Editors would review the selections and translations, and could reject articles, request clarification, or make changes. Typists and proofreaders then took the article through several more cycles of revision to create a polished typescript.

The WPA project editors thought carefully about how they wanted to organize the material, though their decisions are not what present-day readers might expect. Each article belongs to one of twenty-two ethnic or linguistic groups. Each was assigned a primary subject code, and sometimes additional secondary subject codes, using a hierarchical subject scheme. The articles were translated, edited, and typed on horizontal sheets of paper five by eight inches in size. Source, title, and date identify each article at the top of the sheet, along with the group and Roman numeral codes for subject classifications.

Where are the Newspapers?

The 1930s project did not organize a collection of original-language newspapers. Translators conducted their research throughout the city in library collections, ethnic institutions, and the offices of then-existing ethnic newspapers. The Press Survey itself consists only of English-language typescript. In some cases original newspapers can be found in various libraries today, though in other cases the original paper may no longer be available. This project has not sought to identify where original papers might yet exist. Researchers interested in doing so may want to begin with Chronicling America or WorldCat.