Donath restoring newly found 19th century Lincoln newspaper collection

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[September 25, 2019] 

The Logan County Genealogical and Historical Society (LCGHS) invited Bill Donath to be their speaker for the September meeting on Monday. His topic was the continuing restoration and cataloging of the Shew Collection of the 19th century Lincoln Herald newspapers.

When MKS Jewelers closed, a large stash of The Lincoln Heralds were found in a closed room on the second floor. Donath was notified and he gratefully accepted the donation of almost seven-hundred Herald editions, a weekly newspaper in Lincoln in the 19th century.

 The original condition of the Shew Collection of The Lincoln Herald when it first came to LCGHS. Bill Donath is transforming this jumble into a well cataloged and usable research tool.

The papers were in poor condition, some in flat condition, some rolled up in “logs” that would have to be unrolled and returned to a flat condition.

Bill Donath’s presentation on Monday evening was to bring the LCGHS membership up to date on where he was in the restoration process. The flat papers and posters had to be cleaned, sanitized, and preserved before being digitized. “We have to digitize these papers to make them easier to use in research projects. There is so much history here,” said Donath.

The rolls of newspaper and posters have to be unrolled, humidified to make them capable of being flattened out, and then preserved. This is a time consuming process. Bill has cleaned 200 pages so far out of the thousands that are included in the 700 papers. The everyday news of Lincoln and Logan County is included in every edition, a treasure trove of history. Something as mundane as a wedding announcement can relate the complete family of the wedding couple, which can provide a rich source for genealogy research.

The collection also includes political and advertising posters, the printing of which was a source of income for the owner of the Herald, again a wonderful window into 19th century Lincoln.

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Donath is working hard on the long term project of preserving, cataloging, and digitizing this amazing resource. “I have had some help with this project, both members lending me a hand in the preserving process and financial contributions to help defray the cost of the project,” he said.

Some of the tools of the trade for the preservationist include protective gloves, simple pink erasures, breathing protection, and a gentle vacuum.


Before cleaning on the left and after a partial cleaning on the right, the paper went from not being legible to easy to read. This is the February 12, 1880 edition of The Lincoln Herald. “Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln,” said Bill Donath.


Donath welcomes anyone willing to help to stop by the LCGHS to speak to him. “A high quality digital camera would be very helpful,” he remarked.

Donath has been a member of LCGHS for 15 years. In that time he has been able to indulge his fascination with history in many ways. He has served as an officer and board member of LCGHS. He has written several books about how Logan County was affected by some of the most momentous events in American history such as the Civil War, World War I, and the Spanish flu epidemic. He has added preserving and cataloging the Shew Collection of The Lincoln Herald to this eclectic mix of projects.

Donath has also preserved his own family’s history for a photo wall in his home. “This is just what I love to do,” he said.

The Logan County Genealogical and Historical Society has its monthly meeting on the third Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. They always have an interesting speaker and the public is invited to attend. The October speaker will discuss the Lincoln Chautauqua.

[Curtis Fox]

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