Paper Preservation

by Tarzan Deel, Jr.
Issue No. 236 - December 1992

Our newest project begins a serious effort to preserve the paper items of the Cambridge Glass Company. This effort caused us to think of non-glass items in a different way and expedited the construction of a separate room in the non-glass building. Three bids were obtained and the contract was awarded by the board to Chuck Dorland and Scott Miller of Cambridge.

The Cambridge Cordials Study Group helped clear space in the building for construction to begin. Without their efforts, construction would not have begun on time. Willard Kolb and Doyle Hanes fixed the forklift and cleared away the skids and racks that were too heavy to be moved by hand. On October 10, Doyle Hanes, J.D. Hanes, Cindy Arent, Mike Arent and I assembled in the non-glass building to finish moving items out of the way and to inventory the paper in the building. Mike and Doyle took care of the hard work while Cindy, J.D. and I started the inventory process.

What we found in the inventory process was interesting and disturbing. Going through the old records is certainly an enlightening experience. Examining the turn count cards from 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1956 really showed some of the reasons for the success and failure of the company. Cindy found family friends and other well known Cambridge residents listed in the turn count cards. Unfortunately, for some of these records it is too late. Mold and mildew as well as moisture have erased all information from some cards. We found the same problem in some of the other documents. However, the total loss at this time is minimal. To preserve this information, we will have to microfiche or microfilm the documents soon.

Some of the records to be preserved are the Purchase Journals, Accounts Payable, General Ledger Invoices and Coal Journals. Some of these show information that gives insight into how the company prospered and failed. The Coal Journals show us the factory had an appetite for energy. The Nearcut mine in April 1936 shipped 2,217 tons of coal to the factory; by November 1936 shipments increased to 3,371 tons. We also find that the factory used coal from the Gander Coal Co.'s Red Bird Mine. Early observations indicate that coal was rarely received from both coal mines during the same month. This causes us to ask what relationship did the Gander Coal Co. have with the factory.

This is but a fraction of the information that is contained in the stacks of paper we are trying to preserve. The first step is to stabilize the environment. Heat and humidity are the worst enemies of paper that has an acid base. Acid based paper became popular after 1860 as it was easier and cheaper to produce. If you see paper turning brown, it is the acid in the paper "burning" the document. If you are interested in finding out more about preserving paper, write to the National Archives or the Library of Congress for free information.

Construction was completed in late October and we are now accepting bids to seal the concrete floor and to provide the cooling system. Once the floor is sealed, we will move in the file cabinets and create the shelves to house the large oversized documents (payroll ledgers and other journals). Thanks to those I have mentioned above. The construction could not have taken place without your help.

The papers that were saved from various locations now have to be cleaned and the information preserved. As interesting papers are uncovered, I will see if they can be printed in the Crystal Ball. Eventually, the worst documents will be lost, but the information will survive on other information media. This will all take time, but we have to start somewhere.