In two old downtown warehouses sits a historian’s treasure trove newspapers upon newspapers.
From Boston. New York. Cincinnati. St. Paul and Chicago. More than 5,000 bound volumes.
Stretching from the 1760s to 1994, the newspaper issues represent local, national and world history from 22 different states. They cover all the nation’s wars - the Revolutionary War, 1812, Civil War, Spanish American, World War I, World War II, Korean, Vietnam and even the Gulf War.
Some issues cover the fall of the Alamo, the annexation of Texas, Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, presidential assassinations, shipwrecks, stock market crashes and some of the best and worst moments in sports.
And some of the first issues of the New York Times, which opened in 1853, are included.
All of these newspapers are about to be sold in what may be one of the largest historical newspaper auctions ever. The Kansas State Historical Society - the caretaker of the bound papers - no longer has a need for them.
The society has placed on microfilm all Kansas newspapers, said Pat Michaelis, director of the historical society’s Library and Archives Division. The out-of-state newspapers weren’t placed on microfilm because most of their own state historical societies have already done that. And those that haven’t were notified by the Kansas society to see if they’d like their own copies of the papers.
Michaelis said 12 states responded, claiming 368 volumes.
Many of the out-of-state papers were donated to the society back in the 19th century, when the society’s mission was different. Kansas newspaper editors started the collection in 1875, when the society was founded.
The out-of-state collection was stopped in the 1920s because other states were keeping historical records.
But the old newspapers were saved, stored in the basement of the Memorial Building in downtown Topeka, where the society’s archives were kept until last year when the society moved to its new headquarters on West Sixth Street.
Since announcement of the sale a few months ago, the state historical society has been besieged with phone calls and more than 7,000 inquires.
“Some of the calls have been from Kansans concerned we are getting rid of Kansas’ heritage,” Michaelis said. “We assure them we are not. Other calls have come from other state historical societies wanting to know what the interest has been. They have things that no longer fit their collection and are concerned about how you dispose of those items.”
Collectors, Michaelis said, have been wanting anything from historic events papers to those that might lend themselves to a decorator’s touch.
Money generated from the auction - expected to be between $50,000 and $100,000 - will be used to support the society’s microfilm program. The New York Times lot alone is expected to bring as much as $10,000. xxxx IF YOU’RE INTERESTED For more information on the papers, contact Evelyn Musick at the Kansas State Historical Society at (913) 272-8681, ext. 276. The Internet address site is http://www.serve.com/ephemera/ auction/bids.html Bids will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. today.