Uncle John website

I’ve started building a massive research database about John McLaren for my book – including typing up verbatim a bunch of newspaper articles from the 1890s and early 1900s that can only be found on microfilm.

In fact, I used a microfilm system at San Francisco Main Library last week for the first time since… thinking… since I went to the UK newspaper archive in Colindale in north London a long, long time ago. 20 years? I actually discovered the oversized printouts from that research when tidying up my office the other day. And now I see that the Colindale branch was actually shut down in 2013.

Anyway, despite the greatly expanded use of online newspaper archives – Newspapers.com, Newsbank and ProQuest to name three – some newspapers slip through the gaps, like the San Francisco Call (1863-1913), Call and Post (1913-1929) and Call-Bulletin (1929-1959), which don’t have an online index and require you to go old school with a microfilm.

That is particularly problematic for me because the Call-Bulletin ran an extraordinary 13-part series on John McLaren just after his death in 1943 which includes tons of interesting details and extensive quotes from McLaren himself – which is hugely useful as McLaren wasn’t a big fan of interviews and particularly ones that reflects on his achievements.

The first part of the epic 13-part series on John McLaren in the SF Call-Bulletin in 1943 after his death. It’s only accessible on microfim

The good news is that the physical readers and software, while not exactly brand new, are decent enough and let you email PDFs of selected parts of the papers. So I have managed to get PDF copies of that massive McLaren series. But, of course, PDFs of newspapers articles more than 100 years old are not ideal. So I started typing them up.

Which leads me to the point of this post: I’ve had the domain “unclejohn.info” for a long time and decided while doing all this research it might be a good idea to build a site for John McLaren at the same time to serve as a resource both for myself and the wider world. I did the same with my Sex.com book and project.

And so I’ve knocked up a quick WordPress site which is now live but currently has nothing on it. I will think about how it should be structured and then punch in information as I work through the book. Hopefully it will become a habit and the info will be captured as I progress. We shall see.

Right… on with writing…

One of the microfilm readers at San Francisco’s Main Library