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Papers from the Past

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Ken Mears has been a collector of old papers for many years. He does not collect copies of important documents such as the official papers or history making items that might appear in text books or museums. He collects rather mundane old documents such as original bills of sale, order lists, receipts and other items found in the everyday commerce of the times. But in each of them is a story and when combined into a larger collection, they tell a tale of how the people of that time lived and carried out their business of living and dying. In this portion of our display, he has graciously allowed some of them to be shown here. You will find receipts such diverse items as a cow, a horse, many pounds of chewing tobacco, barrels of flour, half of a boat, dynamite by the pound, house wiring, furniture and other items. You will find where a lawyer charged $10.00 for handling a case, a customer ordered a pair of suspenders for 75 cents, another customer ordered a bunch of seeds for planting, where a tailor submitted his bill for the material and sewing of a suit of clothes and many other items. Many of these are recorded on scraps of paper with a quill pen. You will also find a table of daily wages, where a doctor replenished his medicine supply and how much it cost to ship potatoes or chickens to the commission merchants in the big city. Almost all the papers are well over 100 years old. They were found in attics, storehouses, stuck between the pages of old books, in jars, in flea markets and auctions and in nooks and crannies everywhere. Some were even found in a long forgotten lard tin. Together they form a picture of how things were many years ago. Some insight is offered as to how our ancestors lived. Each item tells its own tale. Enjoy!

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