WA Secretary of State Blogs

Special Edition! Washington Digital Newspapers website is ready for the oldest & newest news!

Monday, July 25th, 2016 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | Comments Off on Special Edition! Washington Digital Newspapers website is ready for the oldest & newest news!

From the desk of Shawn Schollmeyer

WDNWASportsThe latest “news” on the newspaper collections is the merging of two existing collections into a new one called “Washington Digital Newspapers,” (WDN) which will give the public easier, full-text search access to these historic newspapers (move over, Google!). You can now browse titles, view by calendar date or pick a location from a map to search the issues here. The collection currently includes more than 45 titles and over 306,000 newspaper pages. Now it’s also mobile friendly so you can research with your smart phone or tablet device!

The website will also feature some more recent issues of the Eatonville Dispatch (1916-2010), our current digitization project due to be included this fall. Most of the newspapers will be pre-1923, which are considered “public domain” available for students and teachers to download for school research projects without worrying about requesting copyright permissions for use. We’ll be rolling in our earliest pioneer & territorial titles from the Historic Online Newspapers collection, which is currently indexed by subject and proper names, so it too will be full-text searchable over the next couple years.

WDN_WACrimeA recent addition to the collection is the Tacoma Evening Telegraph (1886-1887). More additions by the end of this year include the Centralia Daily Hub (1914-1916), Spokane’s Danske Kronike (Danish/English, 1916-1917), and Dat Moi (Vietnamese/English, 1974-1987). Washington State Library staff will add at least 40,000 pages of new content by end of this year, content that hasn’t appeared in any of the library’s earlier digital collections or on Chronicling America. Just this month the Anacortes Museum signed on to help us digitize the Anacortes American in 2017!

The Washington State Library is a rich resource of information for students, genealogists, researchers and history enthusiasts as one of the best `go-to’ places to find Washington newspapers. We have the largest selection of Washington newspapers on microfilm and we’re excited to be a new associate member of the Washington Newspaper Publishers’ Association. This fall we will be meeting with newspaper publishers and editors to help ensure that our history and culture will be best preserved in  newspapers from print, microfilm and into the born-digital world of current news media!


Fashion Forward in Early Washington

Monday, December 28th, 2015 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | Comments Off on Fashion Forward in Early Washington

If you are like many of us here at the State Library, you are waiting in breathless anticipation for the debut of Season 6 of Downton Abbey.   While the wait is almost over (January 3rd) it got me thinking about why we love it so much.  I’m not sure about the rest of you but for me the costumes are a large part of the enjoyment.  As the show has taken place over several decades we’ve seen those fashions change from season to season.  Have you ever wondered about how closely Washington fashions paralleled those of England?  Well wonder no more.  We thought it would be fun to have a timeline of fashion featuring images from Washington newspapers hosted on the Chronicling America Website.

Chronicling America newspapers are a great way to learn about early America history from a primary source.  For example, fellow Downton Abbey fans are familiar with the character of Cora, the American heiress Lord Grantham married to bolster the family fortunes.  Did you know that this was such a “thing” that these privileged young brides were given a name, “Dollar Princesses?”  “These Gilded Age heiresses married more than a third of the titles represented in the House of Lords, and announcements of these transatlantic marriages were pervasive in the newspapers of the day

Meanwhile to help you countdown the final days leading up to Season 6 we hope you’ll have fun clicking your way through three decades of fashion in Washington.

Horrible Murder!! – The Case of the Aged Bride

Friday, July 24th, 2015 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | Comments Off on Horrible Murder!! – The Case of the Aged Bride

From the desk of Marlys Rudeen
I will admit to a weakness for a murder mystery – but one from the early 1920’s with shady characters, a missing trunk, divers in Lake Union, forgery, fraud and general unsavoriness?  Well, that’s irresistible.  And all done up in purple prose by the Seattle Star?  Even better!

Feel free to follow the story yourself by looking at the Seattle Star in Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87093407/issues/1921/).  I’ve listed the dates and pages below.


May 25, 1921, p. 1

Meet James and Kate Mahoney.  James is 37, an ex-convict, paroled from Walla Walla in December of the previous year after assault and robbery charges in Spokane, and a former train conductor before that.  He is being held on forgery charges at the time the story breaks.  He marries Kate Mooers on Feb. 19, 1921.  Kate is 72 and quite well off, owning several buildings in Seattle.   Kate Mooers is the former Kate Keeler “whose dance hall and allied activities at Butte in the late 80s were celebrated thruout the Northwest.”  (Hard to see what could go wrong.)

A few months after the wedding the “aged and wealthy bride” is missing.  Her husband insists she is traveling… in Cuba.  The Captain of Detectives is planning on dragging Lake Union for a mysterious trunk. And James Mahoney “the ex-convict bridegroom” is held in the city jail on charges of forging various documents that allow him access to his wife’s resources.

Mahoney insists that they went to St. Paul, MN for their honeymoon, where they quarreled (coincidentally after Mrs. Mahoney signed papers allowing her husband power-of-attorney and access to her safety deposit box.)  The bride then departed to travel to Havana via New York.  The forgery charge arose after he used the papers to gain access to the safety deposit box.

In the weeks and months to come there are rumors, mysterious witnesses, blind alleys of inquiry, charges and countercharges, dueling lawyers and a cast of peculiar characters.  I’ve tried to list some of the more significant points on the timeline below.

May 26, 1921, p.1

A trunk lid and hair found in Lake Union by a houseboat resident near the Lake Union auxiliary power plant!  (Not the right trunk.)

A floating body seen in the bay at Edmonds! (Later determined to be a logger – May 27, 1921)

Mahoney sends a telegram to his wife care of the  N.Y. hotel where they had reportedly arranged to meet after her travels!  (No one has seen her there.)

May 27, 1921, p. 1

The female friend of one of the witnesses against Mahoney goes missing.  Rumors spread that Mahoney’s first wife also disappeared on a trip east.  Officials continue to drag Lake Union. 

May 28, 1921 p. 1

When grappling hooks fail to produce a body, divers (looking like something out of Jules Verne) are brought in to search Lake Union.  They fail to find a body.  Due to testimony of witnesses seeing someone like Mahoney rowing about Lake Union in the dead of night in a small white boat with some sort of large object in the stern, Capt. Tennant of the police remains convinced the body will be found in the Lake.

Mrs. Mahoney’s niece insists a letter, purportedly from her aunt, is a forgery.

May 30, 1921, p. 1

Stories and counterstories continue.  Mahoney’s first wife is located alive! (Score for Mahoney.) But says she left him because he was smuggling opium and tried to kill her! (Score for the police.)

May 31, 1921, p. 1

Mystery witness claims to have heard Mahoney jest about his wife’s death.  Divers still searching.  Police assert the Mahoneys did not board the train for St. Paul as claimed.

June 2, 1921, p. 1

A submarine or U-boat sled is brought in to be used in search.  Forgery hearing set for June 14.

As the days and weeks go by, the story occupies less and less space in the paper.  The County Commissioners offer a reward for information about Mrs. Mahoney’s whereabouts (June 2).  The search for the trunk goes on, but one can imagine that Capt. Tennant of the police is beginning to get some odd looks around headquarters.

July 30, 1921

Headlines again when a trunk (empty) is found in Lake Union.

And finally – Aug. 9, 1921, p. 1

The trunk is found with a badly decomposed body! Mahoney is back in jail.  The body is identified as Kate Mahoney by the wedding ring and false teeth.

Aug. 10, 1921, p. 1

Mahoney announces he will make a fight of it at his trial, and five people attempt to claim the reward for finding the trunk. Police search for a hammer which they believe was the murder weapon, along with poison, and sightseers from all walks of life visit the morgue to observe the remains.

There are then several days of reporting on various facets of the case leading up to trial.

Aug. 13, 1921, p. 1

This piece concentrates on the expected testimony of the expressmen that conveyed the trunk from the Mahoney apartment to Lake Union at Mahoney’s request.

Aug. 16, 1921, p. 1

There are reports of Mahoney’s increasingly odd behavior in jail and how his possible insanity would affect the trial.

Aug. 17, 1921, p.1

Mahoney is brought before a board of physicians to evaluate his mental ability to understand trial procedures and the charges against him.

Aug. 18, 1921, p. 1

Mahoney is declared sane, and doctors remark that he overplayed his role.  His mother and sister in an effort to help ”admitted that insanity was rampant in their family tree.”

(Probably not as helpful as they might have wished.)

Various legal maneuvers take up several weeks and are boring enough not to make the front page.  Plus the escape and pursuit of a convict from McNeil Island provides enough thrill for the reporters.

Sept. 19, 1921, p. 1

The case is back on the front page just before trial, with fellow prisoners charging that Mahoney plans to shoot up the courtroom.  Sightings of Mrs. Mahoney – alive – are also reported.  (But never verified.)

Sept. 20, 1921, p. 1

At the beginning of the trial process, one reporter interviews Mahoney and remarks, “Jim Mahoney ‘went insane’ in his cell again at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon…”  A history of the case is printed to assist folks in following the trial, and a lengthy jury selection begins.

Sept. 22, 1921 and following

Actual arguments and testimony begin and continue over several days with both prosecutor and defense attorney scoring points, shaking witnesses, and building their cases.  Mahoney gives an interview every few days.

Oct. 3, 1921, p. 1

Verdict of guilty is returned on Oct. 3.  Mahoney’s lawyer announces plans to appeal. 

Dec. 1, 1922, p. 1

More than a year later, James Mahoney is executed on Dec. 1, 1922, at the State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.  His demeanor is described (stoic), as is his smile (sour).  One side article describes the reaction of his mother to the notification of his death.  Another describes how his 13-year-old niece, Margaret, led him “back to the faith in which he had been raised.”

The Seattle Star was digitized through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities under the National Digital Newspaper Program.  The Star and many other American newspapers can be found online at Chronicling America (chroniclingamerica.loc.gov) at the Library of Congress.

Additional newspapers for Washington can be found at Historic Newspapers (www.sos.wa.gov/legacy/newspapers.aspx) at the Washington State Library’s web site.  The State Library is a Division of the Office of the Secretary of State.

Newspaper Discussion: Preservation and Access Issues

Monday, April 22nd, 2013 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections, Technology and Resources | Comments Off on Newspaper Discussion: Preservation and Access Issues

From the desk of NDNP Coordinator, Shawn Schollmeyer:  In our NDNP Office located in the basement of Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington we share this insight into the world of newspaper digitization and preservation by guest writer Casey Lansinger. Casey participated as an intern in our program and will be graduating with an MLIS in June 2013.


In July of 2012, I left my sunny and dry hometown of Denver, CO for wet and green Seattle. I  suddenly found myself in a world where drivers are uncomfortably polite, the coffee is understandably strong and where this Colorado girl had to buy her first raincoat and pair of galoshes (yet still manages to get dripping wet with or without them). In Seattle, I would finish up my third and final year at University of Washington’s iSchool, where I am pursuing a Masters in Library and Information Science. My life in Denver, however, was all about journalism and writing. Prior to the big move I had spent the last five years at The Denver Post as an editorial assistant and occasional freelance writer. The connection here is a life-long infatuation with the written word. I’ll admit I did what we were all advised not to do on a Library School application: I explained that part of my wanting to become a librarian is because I am in love with books. They accepted me anyway.

From an early age, I’ve digested everything I could get my hands on; books have introduced me to characters that felt like friends; countless hours have been spent with my nose stuck in anything from embarrassingly trashy tabloid magazines to fascinating social justice articles from Mother Jones; and, of course, newspapers have opened my mind to what really matters to me. I like to highlight favorite passages in books and later transfer those passages to a journal. Or, in an act that tells me I’m turning more and more into my mother, I rip out articles from magazines or newspapers and stow them away for future reference. A big part of the connection for me is the tactile experience of handling the medium in which the written word is upon. I love taking an old book off of a shelf and smelling its musty pages; and, although I hated when it got on my clothing, I secretly loved the charcoal stain newsprint left on my hands while working at the Post. All of these experiences led to my involvement with the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) through the Washington State Library.

When I first heard about NDNP, I envisioned an experience in which I could marry my two career interests: journalism SeattleStar_CSarticleand library science. The obvious draw was the word ‘Newspaper’; the word I was hesitant about, however, was ‘Digital’. Don’t get me wrong, the practicality of digitizing content has not been lost on me, nor has the reasoning behind some news sources going completely digital for that matter; but this doesn’t mean I haven’t been without concern for my beloved “old-fashioned” mediums. However, as a budding librarian in an environment that is experiencing sweeping change, I knew that being a part of NDNP would be an invaluable learning experience for me. I knew there was an entire conversation about digitization that I was missing out on; and here was my chance to be a part of that conversation.

NDNP is a country-wide initiative to digitize historic newspapers between the years 1836 and 1922. The Library of Congress (LOC) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) partnered together to make this project possible. Each state chooses one institution to apply for a grant to be a part of the program; after a grant is awarded, this institution can partner up with other institutions in the state to complete the digitization process. Each state is also responsible for selecting its own newspaper titles. In Washington’s case, Washington State Library and University of Washington have taken the reins. Additionally, such agencies as The Association for African American History and Preservation Research, Seattle Public Library, Washington State University History Department, Everett Public Library and Central Washington University have had representatives on the advisory committee for Washington State. Washington became involved with NDNP in 2008 and, as March, 2013, has contributed over 200,000 pages of historic newspapers to the Library of Congress digital repository that houses the newspaper pages: Chronicling America (chroniclingamerica.loc.gov). Currently, 22 states have contributed newspaper pages to the repository.  At the fingertips of the public (Chronicling America is an open-access repository – meaning free) is news, as it was unfolding, on the sinking of the Titanic, the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 or – a personal favorite – the first Carnegie Library. Or you can read about historic individuals such as Chief Seattle, Buffalo Bill or the Flapper girls. Stories come alive and context is created from these vessels of information.

And so, every Thursday and Friday morning you can find me in the basement of Suzzallo Library (on UW’s Seattle campus) where I perform a small, albeit important, part of the work-flow process in which newspaper pages are taken from microfilm all the way to what the end user sees on the Chronicling America website. I perform processing tasks on the newspaper pages, such as verifying page numbers (VPN) and optical character recognition (OCR) results. OCR consists of scanning the original newspaper page and converting the text to machine-encoded text, so that original pages can be archived as accurately as possible. The processing tasks must adhere to LOC standards and each state must follow very specific technical guidelines for processing pages. Not all of my work has been technical, however; a large part of my involvement with NDNP has been as an active participant in the access vs. preservation debate, a hot topic in the library field right now.

Do we preserve historic newspaper pages or do we digitize them? Who gets to decide what gets saved in its original form and what is discarded? Are people actually accessing original historic newspapers? These are just some of the questions I asked myself as I entered the preservation vs. access debate.  As I first approached the conversation, what I saw was a very black and white issue. I read essays from those that were strictly in favor of preservation, arguing that we have already lost so many valuable historic newspapers therefore making it our duty to preserve those that remain. But then, there is the argument that newspapers take up space and are becoming increasingly inconvenient and expensive to house, making access the most practical solution. One of the reasons this debate is so tricky is that at the heart of the matter is a medium that was never intended for preservation, or access for that matter, in the first place. Publishers in the late 19thand early 20th century certainly didn’t think that librarians in 2013 would be taking efforts to preserve their newspapers; this is evident right down to the medium itself: it tears easily, yellows over time and generally makes for difficulty in preservation.


One of the first questions it is important to pose when discussing this debate is why, with technology available to digitize historical documents, would we want to preserve historic newspapers in the first place? As expressed by my experiences with books, magazines and newspapers, I think there is a certain intrinsic value that can only come from interacting with an original document. An article I read on the subject described it like this: the extrinsic value of a historic document, such as the Declaration of Independence, exists in the information recorded on it; the intrinsic value, however, is the original format independent of the information recorded on it.  Imagine if the Declaration of Independence were somehow damaged or destroyed. The impact would be profound and Americans might feel some sort of personal loss with such destruction. Sure, what is recorded on the Declaration of Independence would never be lost –as it can be found in any history book or through a quick Google search – but the value of the original would be gone forever. I believe the same case can be made for historic newspapers; imagine holding the original paper that contained headlines about the sinking of the Titanic. You could run your fingers over the headline and turn the pages in the very spot where someone in 1912 turned the pages. You can see the pictures and details on the page and could be transported to that day in April of 1912. Does a computer screen provide that?

Having worked in print journalism, I witnessed many news sources switching to an online only format; the reality being that it is possible (though it pains me to say) that future generations will grow up in a world where they’ll have no exposure to printed newspapers. These generations need to know about the advent of the printed newspaper and how this medium swept the nation and created context for the way news is reported today. Shouldn’t we preserve historic newspapers for those generations?

Conversely, while those who are pro-access certainly see the value in historic newspapers, they also see the logistical challenges that preserving newspapers creates: whose responsibility is it to decide what gets saved in original form and who pays the rising costs of doing so? Furthermore, as mentioned above, newspapers pose storage challenges for libraries that, more often than not, have budget and space issues to consider.


I had the opportunity to talk to Kate Leonard, Conservation Supervisor in the Special Collections department at UW Libraries, about this conversation and she brought up a few points that allowed me to look at the debate from a different angle. Kate and I agree on the tactile experience and how it is such a profound part of interacting with a medium, however, she also pointed out this notion of finding historic documents through access that one would otherwise never find. Because some historic newspapers are rare and housed in research libraries across the country, I might not feasibly access an old copy of The Seattle Times in print were it not for digitization. By providing access, we expose individuals to information they may otherwise not have found or may have never even known was out there in the first place.  This aspect of the debate has personally affected me; as I perform my work with NDNP, making OCR corrections here and there on old issues of the 1908 edition of The Seattle Times, I’ve happened across articles about my new surroundings that have provided me with a rich layout of Washington State’s colorful history. I now know about Washington’s road to Statehood in 1889 or the Walla Walla Massacre of 1847 that later led to the Cayuse War between the Cayuse people and local Euro-American settlers. In fact, just the other day my colleague and I were saying that some articles we happen across make us feel like we aren’t so different than the men and women of the early 1900’s. There was an article about Seattle’s terrible traffic, written in The Seattle Time’s 1908 paper, and the last time I checked the traffic in Seattle was still terrible and a topic of constant conversation among residents. Or there are the same sensationalist stories that the media decides is newsworthy enough to devote their attention to over other – often similar – stories; such as the Davis barroom murder trial of 1907, covered extensively in the Wenatchee Daily World.

ReformersDawn_Nov1893Kate also brought to my attention an issue that came up recently in which The Reformer Dawn – the earliest known publication of what eventually became the Ellensburg Dawn, running from November 1893 to January 1894 – posed serious digitization issues. The paper is the size of a pamphlet and has been bound and stitched at the binding to prevent further damage to its already fragile pages and spine. The desire to digitize this paper proved to be dicey, as it would have required unstitching the binding to scan the pages. Thankfully those measures were not taken and Kate and her Special Collections team were able to take digital photos of the paper, which were later uploaded as TIFF files and added to the Chronicling America repository. The Reformer Dawn will also remain as a part of WSL’s permanent digital collection. Because The Reformer Dawn is in danger of being housed in “dark archives” (a dungeon-like place where historic documents go to spend the end of their lives) this is yet another example of access providing individuals a chance to interact with documents they may otherwise never have had the opportunity to do so with.

Given the evidence of both preservation and access providing rich educational experiences for all users, I began to wonder why some present the debate as so black and white. The way I see it, there is so much gray area; a gray area in which we can provide both preservation and access. Some librarians and archivists suggest a model in which responsibility for both original and surrogate documents is distributed among institutions. And isn’t this the very purpose of a library in the first place: to preserve documents that provide the public with lasting value so that future generations can access them, be it in its original or surrogate form?

All of this leads to an increasingly important question: if we know now how much we drastically want to save historic newspapers of the past, what steps are we taking to preserve digital information of the present? After all, building and maintaining a digital repository is a completely different ballgame than preserving old newspaper pages. Each medium has its own benefits and downfalls as it pertains to preservation techniques but, as opposed to newspaper print, building a digital repository is an area of preservation that archivists are still exploring and fine-tuning best practices. Similarly, a digital repository is much different to maintain because digital objects will always need a software environment to render it; newspapers, however, provide unmediated access to content. Important to consider is the way computer systems age much faster than data media; something new is always in the works and we are constantly upgrading.

Today, archivists are implementing a slew of preservation techniques for digital content. In the case of Washington’s involvement with NDNP, we are involved in a work-flow process that takes microfilm to transferable TIFF files and on through a series of processing tasks and quality control checks before we finally send the files, along with the microfilm, to Library of Congress. LOC then uploads these files and now users can access the newspaper pages on Chronicling America. During the processing and quality control checks, we are performing tasks such as text correction, cropping and de-skewing pages and other various measures that will enable the end user to more accurately access pages and read articles. Furthermore, Washington State Library will maintain all of the files we create in their digital collection; making Washington State residents aware of this expanding digital collection is yet another step the library is taking towards providing access.

While I’d certainly never call myself a Luddite, it was a rather big leap to immerse myself in the digitization world. When I approached the project, I wondered if digitizing documents would make originals, at least over time, obsolete; as it turns out, librarians don’t want that at all. They simply want to make access just as important as preservation; they want to provide entry to the all-important grey area: an area where users find both preservation and access. And though I’ll take sipping coffee and dropping muffin crumbs over a daily print newspaper, the efforts LOC and NEH are taking to make historic newspapers available is nothing short of amazing. It is our duty as information professionals to provide access to documents that are rich in value and history, such as newspapers. Just as we take effort today to save papers from the past, so too are we taking efforts to preserve the news we see today on our computer screen, for tomorrow.

Breaking News! New titles for Washington NDNP!

Thursday, March 21st, 2013 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections | Comments Off on Breaking News! New titles for Washington NDNP!

From the desk of Shawn Schollmeyer, NDNP Washington Coordinator

This week the Library of Congress uploaded the next set of our long awaited newspaper titles for the National Digital Newspaper Program. Historic Washington state newspapers can now be searched and viewed on the Chronicling America website.  The added benefit, besides being able to search early newspapers from Washington Territory and early statehood, is each title also includes publication information and a short essay about the paper’s history. Take a scroll through this example from the Aberdeen Herald

aberbeen masthead

Among the titles added this month:

Aberdeen Herald, W.T., 1890-1917                        Adams County News, Ritzville, 1898-1906,

Columbia Courier, Kennewick, 1902-1905                   Kennewick Courier, 1905-1914

Evening Statesman, Walla Walla, 1903-1910               Lynden Tribune, 1908-1922

Newport Miner, 1899-1922                                                Vancouver Independent, 1875-1910

Washington State Journal, Ritzville, 1906-1907        Wenatchee Daily World, 1905-1922

Seattle Star, 1899-02-27 1922-12-30

We are on the third and last grant cycle of this project, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress.  Approximately two thirds of the states across the country are now participating, contributing over

newspaper trio6 million pages of newspaper content to date. In the west Oregon and California are current participants and over the next few years we should be seeing the contributions of our neighbors, Alaska & Idaho.

Over the next two years we’ll be adding:

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1876-1900     

Seattle Star, 1918-1922

Morning Olympian, 1876-1922

These newspapers, all in the public domain (pre-1922), are free for public use. Educators, historians, genealogists, students and other members of the public are welcome to use these images for their primary research, history presentations, and educational tools. We encourage you to share the great history of Washington and learn about the development of civics and industry across the great Pacific Northwest.

To learn more about the NDNP program, popular topics, valuable teaching resources (check out NEH’s EDSITEment! page), podcasts and videos, start with a look at the http://www.loc.gov/ndnp website and click on “NDNP Extras.”

The Mystery of Buckskin Joe

Monday, December 10th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For the Public, Random News from the Newspapers on Microfilm Collection, State Library Collections | 2 Comments »

From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

The irony of hermits is that the more they desire to be alone, the more attention they garner. The hermit becomes an object of curiosity. For example, a character by the name of “Buckskin Joe” certainly got my interest when I randomly found the following short article on the front page of The Concrete Herald, Feb. 21, 1914:


“Quincy A. Eaton, a recluse who has lived alone in a small cabin on Bacon creek, above Marblemount, for the past fifteen years, was found dead in his cabin by a neighbor last week. Indications were that he had been dead for several days before he was discovered. Burial was made near the cabin he had occupied for so many years.”

“Nothing definite is known of Eaton prior to his coming to Skagit valley. He was apparently well educated and was said to have relatives prominent in public life. He lived a primitive life in his little cabin and refused to have any intercourse with travelers or neighbors, never speaking when it was possible to avoid it. He was generally known as ‘Buckskin Joe’ because of the garb he adopted after his arrival.”

Thanks to the Chronicling America project, I was able to locate one article about Buckskin Joe during his lifetime. It came from the June 30, 1897 issue of the San Francisco Call. It was headlined: WILD MAN OF SKAGIT COUNTY.

Identified simply as Buckskin Joe, farmers and miners in the area testified in the article that this wild hermit had set up a couple primitive structures on Bacon Creek. One of them was a strange convoluted tree house, from which Joe watched any visitor. “He absolutely refuses to associate with any one and always carries a rifle, a revolver, and a big knife. His cartridge belt holds an immense amount of ammunition and is always around his neck. He is nearly asleep until some one comes within hearing distance, when his frightful-looking head appears and the visitor looks into the barrel of his rifle.”

The nearest big city newspaper to cover Joe’s demise was the Bellingham Herald. The headline read HERMIT LEAVES NO TRACE OF IDENTITY IN DEATH in the Feb. 18, 1914 issue.

This article included: “For nine years the government has permitted him to live within the forest under sufferance. He had been dead in his bed for probably two weeks when his cabin was entered last week. A traveler’s dog howling at the door of the cabin attracted attention to the place and a resident investigated when he received no response to his calls for the hermit. The body was interred in the rear yard of the cabin, under the potato patch which the hermit cared for studiously during past years.”

“Despite several attempts to make him sociable, the hermit remained ‘the silent man of the mountain.’ He would pass wayfarers with his head down, refusing to acknowledge salutation or greeting. Where he came from or what his connections were is not known further than at one time he tersely informed residents that his brother was a United States senator.”

Except for a brief mention in JoAnn Roe’s 1997 book North Cascades Highway : Washington’s Popular and Scenic Pass, a superficial survey of Skagit County historical material didn’t turn up any information on Buckskin Joe.

However, there is one document that serves as a stepping stone in uncovering Buckskin Joe’s past: The U.S. Census. He is in there for 1910. It is so strange a hermit like Buckskin Joe would be so cooperative in providing information, but perhaps the Feds told him that if he wanted them to continue turning a blind eye to his presence on public property, he better play along.

With the help of our online genealogical resources at WSL I was able to locate more documents and eventually came into contact with Cheryl Eaton, one of the historians for that family. She was able to fill in several gaps.

Quincy Adams Eaton was born Oct. 5, 1849 in Lanawee County, Mich. He was the 7th of the 11 children of Christopher Columbus Eaton (1810-1877) and Eleanor (Lamberson) Eaton (1817-1893). Quincy was apparently known as “Tuney.”

According to Cheryl, Christopher Columbus Eaton “was a forward thinking man and most of his children graduated from the State Normal School in Ypsilanti, MI or the Michigan Agricultural College.” By the early 1870s, many members of the Eaton family had migrated to Colorado Territory to join the Union Colony at Greeley.

For some reason Quincy’s application for a deed at Union Colony was refused, Mar. 21, 1871. He migrated to the area of present-day Merino, Colo., where he taught school, ran a stagecoach line and mail route (soon made obsolete when the railroad arrived), and possibly raised cattle. He apparently never married. After 1882 he vanishes from the record until he shows up as “Buckskin Joe” in Skagit County, Wash. over a dozen years later.

By the time he was discovered up here, most of his family had passed on. One brother had been killed in the Civil War, and another, George Washington Eaton, was killed by Ute Indians in the Meeker Massacre, Sept. 1879. Although Quincy was not related to any U.S. Senators, his brother Oscar Eaton (1847-1895) was a banker and prominent Ohio Republican, having attended the 1892 National Convention as a delegate.

So where was Buckskin Joe 1882-1896? What drove him into the woods to lead a life of militant solitude? If you have any additional information on this intriguing character in Washington State history, we would love to hear from you.

Over 5.2 million pages strong… and counting

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, News, State Library Collections, Technology and Resources | Comments Off on Over 5.2 million pages strong… and counting

The Torch Bearer at the Library of Congress
Interior of the Library of Congress

From the futuristic desk of Shawn Schollmeyer.

With 100,000 pages contributed each two year grant cycle from over 30 states and reaching for participation by all 50 states, the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) is the biggest digital newspaper project in U.S. history and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC). Each of those 5.2 million pages need related lines of code and metadata along with the page images.  Title, city, date, as well as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) files that turn an image into machine-readable text, allow users to search newspaper content on the Chronicling America website.

That’s a lot of files! Who manages all these files? Less than a dozen people at Library of Congress support the websites & wikis, upload files, and help project managers learn the NDNP digitization process. Here in Washington State, we rely on this handful of people to guide us on best practices for digitization and image standards for our participation in the program.  In September, all the participating states gathered to meet our sponsors, advisors, and fellow awardees to discuss the great ways people are using the content from this project.  At the end of the three day conference, our heads are filled with practical knowledge of processes, resources, and exciting new ideas. While I was there I had the rare opportunity to meet the magicians behind the curtain…

Our main contact for the National Digital Newspaper Program in Washington, DC is Chris Ehrman. Nearly a librarian by birth (his parents are both librarians), Chris began his newspaper experience in the University of Utah Ski Archives , uploading photos and video of America’ favorite winter sport before moving on to the NDNP program in Montana. There he honed his technical expertise learning the selection and upload process for Montana’s newspaper collection, becoming a great candidate for the Library of Congress’ Digital Conversion Specialist position. Chris is our “go-to” man when we have questions about how to resolve the challenges of working with so many files and metadata. If the data checks out OK, Chris prepares the scripts to load files for the automatic ingestion process so the newspaper images will appear in the Chronicling America database. He also supports the LC’s NDNP website.

There are four Digital Conversion Specialists who evaluate and help load our submitted batches of files to the website. Missing pages, cataloging conflicts, or date misprints are among the situations that may flag a batch for further review.  These four take turns validating batches from all awardees for final approval in addition to their specialized tasks, which include validation tool support and digitizing from LC’s own historic newspaper collection.  Chris estimates that they see 150,000-180,000 pages per month, translating to about six terabytes. One of their biggest challenges is to keep the workflow moving and avoid bottlenecks in the system.

Robin Butterhof is another LC specialist. Friendly & energetic, Robin supports the NDNP wiki page that contains the technical specifications, trainings, tools, deliverables, and state by state project information. She is a woman of many talents, having held several different library jobs, including book publishing, reference librarian, non-profit work and consulting, all while attending classes as a library student. Excellent training for the many tasks she juggles daily at LC.

Chris, Shawn & Robin with “batch_wa_lacamas”
Pulling all the teams, awardees, conversion specialists, NEH contacts, and LC resources together is the NDNP Coordinator, Deborah Thomas. Deb has a long history of working with digital collections in our national library, most notably, the American Memory project, a multimedia collection of American history and culture with over nine million items. In my short interview with the team, she really helped put the national project into context for me. One of the most significant challenges is managing “a sustainable collection of significant scale produced by many organizations” which includes careful planning for maintaining access and managing the data and processes long term. She reminds us that “Digital objects are not just pictures. For newspapers, they are pictures of pages and machine-readable text from those pages and metadata that describes the pages and the relationships between pages.” In order to help people find what they’re looking for we need to figure out “how to make the cream rise to the top.” These millions of pages of newspapers would be pretty overwhelming to wade through without text search capabilities at the page level. Creating standards for metadata and text recognition software (OCR) is only a piece of making these pages accessible. Each state has their own workflow; software vendors; page or article level OCR; file storage systems; and even multiple languages that need to be filtered and standardized.

When I asked the team about what they enjoy most about their work Robin admitted she loves how “something wacky pops up every day” referring to the many series of cartoons, entertaining articles and sometimes sensational headlines. Chris agreed and mentioned his favorites are the illustrations of the future, which led to discussion of Deb’s favorite article from the December 20, 1908, New-York Tribune, “Public Library of the Future.”

Unlike the library vision in the article, we may not be sending facsimiles of our newspapers and important manuscripts through pneumatic tubes to our Congressional Library, but we will be sending a dozen or so hard drives with thousands of files of newspaper pages to real people, the people I met in the James Madison Building. These are the people who will be helping us create the new digital libraries of a very real future where we can still have “a library in every hotel, train, trolley car and steamship!”


Tax the Unmarried, Pay for Social Security

Monday, January 31st, 2011 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections | Comments Off on Tax the Unmarried, Pay for Social Security

Suggest Tax for All the Unmarried. Tacoma Times, September 30, 1910, Second Section, Page 9

Suggest Tax for All the Unmarried. Tacoma Times, September 30, 1910, Second Section, Page 9

From the pages of the Tacoma Times, Sept. 30, 1910.

In September of 1910, officials from the Finance Ministry in Paris were scrambling to come up with ways to pay for the French Old Age Pensions bill, a compulsary insurance plan similar to social security.  The Minister of Finance, M. Cochery, asked clerks to come up with ideas and was bombarded with suggestions, some ideas were “decidedly original” and some that were “highly impracticle.”

Among the proposed subjects of taxation: “Bachelors and old maids; all unmarried people over 30, unless they can prove that they have twice proposed marriage and been refused, to pay annual tax until they marry; pianos; first class railway tickets; bath rooms in private houses; original paintings; toys; plays which have had more than 50 performances, and books after their first editions.”

Search the Tacoma Times and other historic newspapers issues from around the US for free at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. Washington newspapers provided by the Washington State Library, funded by the National Endowment for Humanaties and supported by the Library of Congress.

ps – Wonder which tax suggestions were actually put forward to pay for France’s Old Age Pensions bill? Read this article in the New York Times archives, Oct. 2, 1910

WSL Updates for September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 Posted in Digital Collections, For Libraries, Grants and Funding, News, Training and Continuing Education, Updates | Comments Off on WSL Updates for September 30, 2010

Volume 6, September 30, 2010 for the WSL Updates mailing list

Topics include:









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