Monday, November 21, 2011

Collection Highlight : "Progress," Paw Paw High School Newspaper

Newspapers play an important role in our family history research, and many of us have spent time either in front of a microfilm reader or a computer searching for obituaries, marriage & birth announcements, or other tidbits pertaining to our families.  Perhaps you've enjoyed reading the "locals" columns in the old hometown newspaper.

In this quest to learn the most about our families, keep in mind that there are various categories of newspapers.  Among those are business & trade, ethnic, organizational, and one that has touch us all...schools.  The Local History Collection recently added to its manuscript collection a few issues of a four-page school newspaper entitled "Progress" from Paw Paw, Michigan, published in 1887. 


These small papers have the appearance of the typical small-town newspaper of the day, and were published by the Public Schools of Paw Paw, E. M. Russell, editor.  They include advertisements from local businesses, the January issue includes:
  • Criterion Spring Company
  • S. T. Bowen's Clothing Hall
  • Covert & Bartram Drugs and Groceries
  • L. W. Osborne Furniture Dealer
  • G. W. Koons Harness, Collars, Bridles Whips, etc.
  • The Double Store of Jay Comings
  • G. E. Chappell, School Books and Supplies
  • Henley, Artist Tailor
In each issue, published monthly, there is an honor roll of students divided into interesting categories such as Olympian, Excelsior, 6's and 7's, Wide Awakes, and Bee Hive.   In the February issue is a feature article about the Electric Society and its fifty members.  There were editorials, prose, educational sniplets, lists of visitors to the schools, and reports from all age groups like this one:

"By a Second Grade Busy Bee [by Eddie Snow] - Well, I must tell you what I did yesterday.  Harry took me home with Arthur Burk's horse.  I went over to a lady's house and had some popcorn and an apple.  I played with the little girl there, then I went home and had some supper.  I went into the sitting-room and took my slate and drew a picture of my sister.  Then I played with Harry.  Well, I will be a good boy in school."

It wouldn't be surprising if these Paw Paw school newspapers from 1887 were the only surviving issues.  What a piece of local history!  My school journalism class published a high school newspaper with the name of "Turkey Talk," among others, and typically there were only 50-100 of them circulated at the time.  Some of them went into the trash before the day was out, and how many of them do you suppose have survived these 30+ years?  Recently, when my brother moved to a new home, he did some major housekeeping and I heard from him, too late, that he threw out dozens of issues of his high school newspaper, not realizing that historians would salivate over them.

So, two things for you to remember.  First, seek out those unusual short-run newspapers & newsletters that may hold precious history for you.  Second, gather up those old school newsletters out of your trunk, read through them one last time, chuckle a little bit, then donate them to the appropriate local history collection.

For more information about "Progress" or newsletters from other schools in the Local History Collection, contact us.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unnamed conductor, Ganges
Photographer - Porter, Allegan
M1835

Can you identify the conductor in this photo?  Are you familiar with the photographer's name?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.