Idaho History

Sven Berg: Is the recently discovered Idaho Statesman first issue authentic?

Local historian Arthur Hart suspects the first-ever Idaho Statesman issue that Eric Olson discovered more than four decades ago might not, in fact, be an original.

Here's Hart’s concern: The paper material that makes up the issue Olson discovered is discolored. Back in 1864, he said, the Statesman was almost exclusively printed on a type of paper that stays snow-white, even 150 years after printing.

That sounded like a legitimate cause for doubt, so on Tuesday I called David Leroy, another history buff. I'd tried the day before to get a hold of Leroy, a former Idaho lieutenant governor and attorney general, because he was the one who authenticated the paper and sent it to specialists who removed it from a board it had been glued to.

But on Monday, Leroy was busy preparing for the Idaho Supreme Court case over Gov. Butch Otter's veto of a law banning betting machines. He gets a pass this time.

Tuesday, Leroy stood by his assessment that the Olson paper is an original. He said he compared it to the original issue on file at the Idaho State Archives. The consistency of the paper was the same, he said.

I asked him about Hart's suspicion regarding the color difference. Leroy thinks the chemicals in the board and glue seeped into the Olson paper over time, giving it a tan color.

If anyone out there is an expert and feels qualified to weigh in on this, please let me know.

Meanwhile, there's been some movement on where the Olson paper will end up.

After reading the story about its discovery, a representative of Boise State University offered to store it in the school's Special Collections and Archives. I passed that note along to the brass here at the Statesman, and last I heard, it looks like we're going to take them up on the offer.