SKOWHEGAN — Bundles of old newspapers, some from the 1800s, have been returned to Skowhegan, where they were published, after untold decades in the attic of a western Maine newspaper.
Copies of the Skowhegan Somerset Reporter, the Independent-Reporter, the Madison Bulletin, the Waterville Morning Sentinel and others now sit in a garage on Elm Street, next to the Skowhegan History House and Museum.
The only catch now is finding somebody to help carry them up flights of stairs for permanent storage and curating at the Bloomfield Academy building on Main Street, across from the Abner Coburn mansion.
“We had nobody to help lug them from a car to the second floor of the Bloomfield Academy building,” said Patricia Horine, of Bloomfield Academy Trustees. She lives next door to the History House in the 1790 Daniel Parkman house, where the paper bundles are being stored. “We just needed some strong people — a couple of strong people to help move them.”
Kim Wilson, curator at History House, said a reporter from the Advertiser Democrat in Norway, sent her an email telling her about the old newspapers they had found.
“She said that they have been bought by another company, they were moving from their premises and had a chance while they were packing to go through a lot of things that were up in an attic,” Wilson said. “They found all these old newspapers, some going back to the 1800s.
“They needed them gone and thought that we might appreciate them. There’s so much here. This will keep people busy for years to come cataloging and looking to see what is here. It’s like Christmas.”
The newspapers — some tied in butcher’s twine, some bound library-style — are filled with articles of national and local interest, from a story about the “new” bridge uniting Benton and Fairfield in January 1917 to Lt. Edward Gordon taking over as commander of Maine State Police Troop C in Skowhegan.
These were the days of heavy milk production, textile mills and poultry lectures, with spot news for every tiny corner of the Skowhegan area. Advertising also filled the papers, with one large ad seeming to yell “Boy Wanted at Once! To learn the printing trade. Apply at this office.”
The Independent-Reporter sold for $1.50 a year.
One edition contained an announcement by Clyde H. Smith for his candidacy for state representative in the Republican Party primary election in April 1918. Smith, who served in the Maine House of Representatives from 1899 to 1903 and again from 1919 to 1923, would go on to be elected as a Republican to the 75th and 76th U.S. Congresses. He served from Jan. 3, 1937, until his death on April 8, 1940, in Washington, D.C.
He was succeeded in Congress by his wife, future U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, of Skowhegan, whose first job as a young woman was working at the local newspapers.
But in his 1918 election announcement, Smith wrote of a woman’s right to vote: “Woman’s part in our world-wide struggle for perpetual liberty emphasizes her right to vote. Her sacrifices in the home, at the Red Cross rooms, and even on the battlefield, proclaim her share in victory, her equality in peace. No human being has the right to dominate the soul of another. Ballots for both will make our nation united and secure.”
Passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote.
Wilson said the western Maine reporter, Leslie Dixon at the Advertiser-Democrat, stressed that the papers should be taken back to Skowhegan as soon as possible, as the staff was vacating its current offices.
Contacted by email this week, Dixon said she and her editor, Anne Sheehan, were not certain how all the newspapers ended up in their attic in Norway, but that it was possible that the tomes were printed there.
“I’m told that over the years, the Advertiser had many more archives stored in an adjacent building, now known as the ‘Gingerbread House,’” Dixon wrote. “That house was emptied years ago and moved down the street where it is under renovation.
“With more time, I am sure we will be able to discover what the connection was, but for now, we are just pleased that we were able to make this last-minute ‘save’ of some Maine history and get it to the appropriate depositories. Kim and the volunteers who drove to Norway to get the papers were key to this happening.”
Wilson said a History House volunteer, Mike Kay, and his wife, Gail, agreed to travel to Norway to pick up the stacks of old newspapers and take them back to Skowhegan.
“He’s in his 60s and went up (to) the third floor attic and brought almost all of these down into his car. He saw his Subaru almost dragging on the ground,” she said.
Now help is needed to move them again.
Anyone interested in helping with the move is asked to call the History House at 207-474-6632 or by sending an email to [email protected].
One edition contained an announcement by Clyde H. Smith for his candidacy for state representative in the Republican Party primary election in April 1918, who was elected to the 75th and 76th U.S. Congresses. He was succeeded in Congress by his wife, future U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, of Skowhegan, whose first job as a young woman was working at the local newspapers.
Kim Wilson holds metal plates used in printing newspapers that are part of hundreds of editions from Somerset County dating back to the mid-1800s. On the block at left is written backward “Skowhegan, Me.” (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)
Patricia Horine, left, and Kim Wilson stand next to some of the hundreds of editions of Somerset County newspapers dating back to the mid-1800s that will become part of an extensive collection in Skowhegan. (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)
An edition of the Independent Reporter from the early 1960s shows a photograph of U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, upper left photo. The newspaper is part of hundreds of editions of Somerset County newspapers dating back to the mid- 1800s that will become part of an extensive collection in Skowhegan. (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)