Pencil Shavings PictureHave you ever subscribed to a new mailing list and wanted to read all the old posts in your email reader?  Here’s how to do it.  We will use the Fedora Development list mail archive for January 2010 as an example.

1) Navigate to the mail archives by clicking on devel Archives.

2) Download the gzip’d file for January 2010 from the archives page: We’ll start with one month.  You can do multiple months if you like.

3) Click on the link [ Gzip’d Text 773 KB ] and save the file to a place you can remember.

4) Unzip the file.

$ gunzip 2010-January.txt.gz

It becomes:


5) Copy the file to Thunderbird’s local storage directory.

$ cp 2010-January.txt ~/.thunderbird/*.default/Mail/Local\ Folders

The Mac OS X location is:

~/Library/Thunderbird/your.profile/Mail/Local\ Folders/

6) Close Thunderbird and restart it.

7) Scroll the folder list all the way to the bottom until you come to the “Local Folders.”

8) Open “Local Folders” and look for a folder called “January-2010.txt”

9) Now you can read all the messages there or copy them to another location–maybe a folder on your IMAP server.

To import multiple monthly mail archives into one folder unpack each gzip file individually and then cat them all to a single file.  Copy the concatenated file to the same local Thunderbird directory.  Restart Thunderbird and you are in business.  I like to do something like this:

$ gunzip *.gz
$ for i in $(ls *.txt); do cat $i >> full-mail-archive; done
$ cp full-mail-archive ~/.thunderbird/*.default/Mail/Local\ Folders

A list of all Fedora’s mailing lists is at  A similar listing of all of Red Hat’s public lists is at

Automating the process

Matt Hicks wrote a script to automate this process. Check out mailman-download on github.