Long before the advent of modern communications and transportation systems, merchants in 19th-century Singapore relied on the humble newspaper to track shipping arrivals and departures. As the movement of cargo, people and mail was key to the island’s rise as a maritime port, the Singapore Chronicle‘s chief task was to disseminate commercial information and news.

Fundraising activities can tell us a lot about the people in need and those who raise the funds for them. A rare publication titled Singapore Tong Seok Dramatic Association Charity Performance for the Shantung Relief Fund (星洲通俗白话剧团演 剧筹赈山东惨灾会特刊), commemorating a fundraising performance that took place in early 20th-century Singapore, gives us a glimpse of exactly that: how a brutal military clash between Chinese and Japanese troops in faraway Jinan, China, created a wave of patriotism among the Chinese community in Singapore and propelled them to collect money in aid of their fellow countrymen.

Love it or hate it, most people find expatriates’ accounts of Singapore endlessly fascinating. One of the earliest newspaper columnists was Charles Burton Buckley, whose writings on Singapore were published as early as 1902 – the first of its kind at the time. This two-volume work spans 48 years of Singapore history from its founding in 1819 to the transfer from the British East India Company to the Colonial Office in 1867. There are a total of six complete sets in the National Library. One set is part of the Gibson-Hill Collection, two sets belong to the Ya Yin Kwan Collection and another set was donated by Yeh Sui-Yen. Organised in a chronological order, the publication is not so much a serious academic work but a collection of Buckley’s lighthearted columns aimed at entertaining the local reading public. The columns were written by Buckley for the Singapore Free Press, along with some new information. An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore is nevertheless an important publication as it offers a selected archive of historical documents that…