See Singapore and world evolve through 175 years of ST front pages

The project allows readers to select a date and see what was page one news for that day.
The project allows readers to select a date and see what was page one news for that day.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

While Covid-19 might be dominating the headlines today, Singapore has survived previous outbreaks of deadly diseases, such as smallpox in the 1950s, as reported in the pages of this newspaper.

In 1959, The Straits Times reported that a 49-year-old was the first person to die of smallpox here.

Over the decades, ST has witnessed how Singapore fought the horror of epidemics, and celebrated its march towards independence, as well as how other countries weathered financial crises and civil unrest. Reports of these events have helped readers make sense of developments at home and around the world.

Now, in an interactive graphic, readers can see the headlines - more than 47,000 of them - that have made it to the front page since July 15, 1845.

The project, launched to mark ST's 175th anniversary this year, allows readers to select a date and see what was page one news for that day.

The ST digital graphics team also analysed all the front-page headlines and grouped them into five major topics: epidemics, foreign affairs, local towns, vices and crimes, and war and peace.

An algorithm that gives weight to how important subjects were in their respective years was used. The charts help visualise how heavily each topic was mentioned in the headlines.

For example, the keyword "London" peaked during 1940, when a bombing campaign by the Germans happened during World War II.

In a local example, the keyword "Tanjong Pagar" was notably mentioned around 1905 because of the Tanjong Pagar Docking company, earlier known for its facilities to repair vessels coming from the West.

Readers can also search for other keywords to see the corresponding results for the past 175 years.

Said Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez: "ST has been recording the significant moments in the life of this country, and our world, and serving our readers over many generations.

"This interactive project will allow younger, and future, generations to share some of those moments. ST very much hopes to keep tracking and telling these stories for many more years to come."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2020, with the headline 'See Singapore and world evolve through 175 years of ST front pages'. Subscribe