How NOT to Treat Historical Materials, or, The Librarian’s Despair

1849-1850 Farm Account for Rancho Chico courtesy Special Collections Meriam Library CSUChico

1849-1850 Farm Account for Rancho Chico courtesy Special Collections Meriam Library CSUChico

DSCN4544 DSCN4545 DSCN4546Here are four pages labeled Farm Account from Rancho Chico for 1849 and 1850. The paper is very brittle and fragile, and I am grateful to George Thompson for allowing me to handle the originals.

The second image here is the reverse side of the first page. Since the pages had been folded in thirds, they were cracking along the fold lines, so someone mended them with Scotch tape. They were probably mended with the tape before they ever came to Special Collections at Meriam Library.

This is so sad! Look how the tape has discolored the page. It probably can’t be taken off now.

The account book starts with Nov. 16, 1849. Paid to Mr. Grry [Grey] $1.53. I am not sure whether that is one dollar and fifty-three cents, or one hundred and fifty-three dollars. Whoever was writing this always seems to put in a dot if the amount is three digits.


Paid to Mr. Potter for Beef 7. Paid for geting wood 2.

Further down the page:

one mule 40.   two horses sold $3.85. Bilding of shed 1.25.

This handwriting is a bit tricky to read. The other side is easier. I don’t think either one is John Bidwell’s hand. He had other men working for him and helping keep the books.

The third page lists Number of Cattle and Horses Sold by R. Newell for the Ranch, and is dated Feb. 12th, 1850. A lot of Bidwell’s business at this time was the buying and selling of cows, oxen, horses, and mules. With a total of $2350 on the sales, it was evidently a good business.

If you ever have any old papers — letters, books, or other documents — and they are cracked and splitting, please please please do not mend them with ordinary scotch tape. Take them to the library and ask about the best way to conserve them. Or just put the pieces in a folder and store them in a safe place. Doing nothing to old papers is better than trying to mend them with the wrong materials.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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