The Methow Valley and Okanogan County were once home to more than a few newspapers over the decades. Now, the Shafer Museum in Winthrop has unearthed and will preserve copies of a short-lived paper published here in the early 20th century.
The Independent Democrat will soon be in the hands of archivists at the Washington State Library, who will electronically record the newspaper so that it is permanently preserved.
The Independent Democrat was published briefly in 1905-06 in Twisp by editor and attorney Jesse W. Faulkner, according to the museum. It appears to have started printing in August 1905 and was a four-page newspaper with national, state and local news distributed every Thursday.
Articles were mainly about Okanogan County and Methow Valley businesses and people. Weekly columns titles included Washington News, Local Brevities and Twisp School. A year’s subscription cost $1. A third of the content was advertising.
While archiving a large array of documents, newspapers and books dating from the 1880-1940s, the Shafer staff realized that one of its original newspaper collections, The Independent Democrat, was not preserved in any statewide library or museum. Although The Independent Democrat is fragile, most of it is still readable, the museum said.
“With help from the Washington State Library, it will be safely scanned for posterity,” said lead Shafer Museum archivist Sharon Sumpter. She volunteered as a docent at the Shafer before recently becoming a member of its board.
Sumpter said she took over document archiving duties from Karen West. Sumpter and Sheela McLean, who was interested in having some of the old papers in the museum’s collection scanned because they are so fragile, discovered that no one has copies of The Independent Democrat preserved in any official collection, Sumpter said.
McLean communicated with Sean Lanksbury, archivist in charge of Northwest collections at the state library, about preserving The Independent Democrat. The state library has specially adapted equipment that allows the page to be flattened out and scanned without further damage to the paper. Sumpter and McLean are taking The Independent Democrat to Olympia on Monday (March 19) to have it scanned. Both the museum and library will retain scanned images.
Each copy of The Independent Democrat is a single sheet of newsprint folded in half to make four pages. Newspaper becomes fragile over time, even in a good environment. The editions are fading and crumbling, with torn and mouse-eaten edges, and in danger of being lost to the natural aging and disintegration of this type of paper and ink, Sumpter said.
After it folded, The Independent Democrat’s presses were taken over by The Winthrop Eagle, which was published by another lawyer, George Good, Sumpter said. Copies of the Eagle are in better condition than The Independent Democrat, she said.