Society Saturday: The Value of Newspaper Articles

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Howe Letters

Last Saturday's project

Two Fridays past (so not yesterday, but Friday last week) I went in to talk to the two ladies in charge of the museum run by the local historical society I’d joined to tell them I wanted to get my hands dirty. The Howe letters are wonderful, and I am absolutely thrilled to be offered the chance to work with them and write an article from them. But I wanted to do more, to work, to really get in there and do whatever’s needed, whether it’s dusting or scraping gum off of something…you get the idea.

In the end they took me downstairs, showed me around the archives and the various storage rooms and set me to the task I’d end up doing when I returned the next Saturday morning: deframing photos. There’s a large collection of railroad artifacts and photos/posters/prints in home-made frames, the latter of which needed to be removed so they could be scanned and preservation work could be performed. Armed with a hammer, I spent two hours in the basement on Saturday morning deframing those photos and wrapping them in acid-free archival quality tissue paper for later review.

A newspaper article about a dog collar sent to J. Howard Howe

Though they would’ve let me look at it regardless, I felt I’d earned the request I made in return for those two hours of work – a chance to look at the scrapbook kept of every newspaper clipping involving J. Howard Howe, the grandson of Phineas Howe. I’m assuming it was kept by his wife, Kormah Lynne (Mayo) Howe, since it included things from her family and their wedding, as well. I was allowed to photograph interesting articles for later perusal and further research, and I took quite a few that I’m still sorting through. I thought, instead of giving you excerpts from a letter today, I’d go with one of these articles instead and analyze it a bit as an example of how to approach newspaper articles, since I’m working with them so much lately.

Looking at these old newspaper clippings, it’s really easy to see how rich newspaper research is, if you dig into it. Articles can range from the serious¬†to the odd and humorous, but even in those, you can find nuggets that speak volumes about things that might help in your research. See if you can pick them out in the following article from J Howard Howe’s scrapbook – what items jump out at you as something that a genealogist can build on?

There’s a number of useful items, really. One, the color and details aren’t something you’ll ever get from a census. Though we might roll our eyes at what was considered ‘news’ at times, we should thank our lucky stars for details that will never make it on a vital record. But beyond that, if I were trying to get back another generation on this family, this would be an amazing find. It not only tells me where the man originated from, but approximately when he left. I also have another name to research that might be a neighbor or a friend, and the information that there was excavation being done on a homestead indicates land records to look into. Amazing what you can get in one little gem.

Transcription: During his boyhood days at Saccarappa, Maine, J. Howard Howe owned a terrier named Ponte, but the dog was left behind when Mr. Howe pulled stakes in the Pine Tree state 50 years ago and came to Lewiston to make his home. Ponte was a forgotten companion until yesterday when Mr. Howe’s memories of his pet were revived by a parcel post package. It contained Ponte’s silvered buckle collar, and on the name plate was engraved: “J. H. Howe, Saccarappa, Maine, ‘Ponte’.” The collar was unearthed during excavation for foundation near the old Howe homesite. The collar was sent Mr. howe by G.H. Knowlton, Westbrook, Maine. “I suppose it is a dog collar,” wrote Mr. Knowlton, “but it might have been a leg bracelet for some of your old girls.” 2/20/35

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