Idaho History

Rare original issue of first Statesman newspaper surfaces

More than 40 years ago, Eric Olson was throwing away a Coke cup when he discovered an Idaho treasure: an original first issue of the Idaho Statesman newspaper.

Olson, who lives in Eagle, was working a landscaping job near the Statesman’s Curtis Road headquarters at the time. The Statesman had just moved into the building, and a big dumpster was in place next to it.

After finishing his lunch, Olson went to toss his trash in the dumpster. A couple of frames caught his eye. He pulled them out and hung on to them. Like many people who happen onto great discoveries, he at first didn’t know the significance of what he’d found.

In fact, he was more interested in the frames than the old newspapers inside them, one of which read, “Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman. Vol.1, Boise City, I.T. Tuesday, July 26, 1864. No. 1.”

No one knows why someone, presumably an employee of the Idaho Statesman, would throw away such a prize.

The real deal

Three months ago, Olson ran into David Leroy, a former Idaho attorney general, lieutenant governor, congressman and Idaho history buff. It was Leroy who, in early 2014, tracked down and bought the only known issue of the April 25, 1865, Idaho Statesman edition reporting the death of Abraham Lincoln.

Olson said he told Leroy about the papers he’d found in the 1970s, and Leroy said he’d like to take a look at them.

Olson said he gave the 150-year-old newspaper issues to Leroy, who sent them off to have them analyzed.

The answer came back that one of the issues was, in fact, an original. Another was a copy.

Leroy could not be reached for comment.

Original first issues of the Statesman are rare. At least one other is known to exist — at the State Archives Office on Old Penitentiary Road.

Back home

Olson said Leroy asked what he wanted to do with the papers. By this time, Olson said, he didn’t have much interest in selling them. He knew Leroy’s reputation as a collector of old things.

“I guess I left it at, ‘Whatever you want to do, just do with them,’ ” Olson said.

Leroy asked Statesman publisher Mike Jung if he was interested in the paper. Jung said yes.

The Statesman hasn’t decided what to do with the paper yet. It might keep it on display at the paper’s headquarters or donate it to a group that will care for it.