J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

“Scorched by Fire and Stained by Water”

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (which just made a big change to its website design) passed on a link to this story in the Albany Times-Union about efforts to preserve some of New York’s colonial documents—the ones that weren’t burned in a notorious fire in 1911.

Reporter Brian Nearing writes of one document:

On brittle paper now well beyond its second century, scorched by fire and stained by water, a New Yorker beseeches his state government for help. While he was off fighting the Revolutionary War, his wife had converted to Shakerism.

Her new religion, in addition to requiring her celibacy, also left her no interest in being a wife. Since no court in the state had authority to issue a divorce, the desperate veteran asked for such power to be granted for his case.
Nearing also describes ways that previous attempts at preserving documents have had to be undone because those methods turned out to have flaws. Preservationist Michael Grant (shown above in the thumbnail photo by Skip Dickstein) says, “We are using techniques that won’t cause any further damage to the paper...” I suspect that’s what past preservationists thought as well. Fingers crossed that this time they work!


boemboem said...

The Albany Capitol fire took place on March 29, 1911, not 1910.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks! I corrected that typo.