Frankfort man finds old paper while refinishing old dresser

PHILIP CASE State Journal Columnist Published:

While refinishing a piece of old furniture recently, Glenn Valley had the rare opportunity to step back in time as a window on the world of Frankfort on Oct. 12, 1880, opened.

"I was taking a piece of cardboard off the back of the mirror to have it re-silvered," said Valley, "and under the cardboard I found this newspaper."

Valley, who refinishes furniture mainly as a hobby, figured on or near that day in the fall of 1880, someone was replacing the mirror on the dresser he'd purchased in pieces at Joe Penn's Peaks Mill Auction a few weeks back.

"It was clear the mirror wasn't original because a piece of that age would have probably had a mirror with beveled edges. I guess whoever was putting in the new mirror needed something to go between the cardboard and the glass and they picked up the nearest thing."

The "nearest thing" the unknown and now long-dead carpenter found was a copy of The Capital Gazette, one of several newspapers that had a short life span here during the late 19th century. Its dimensions slightly smaller than today's State Journal, the newspaper features four pages, including numerous advertisements.

"The paper's in fairly good shape," said Valley, 54, who retired last year as an accounting director for the Kentucky Retirement Systems after 30 years and lives off Cardwell Lane on Edgewood Drive. "There's one dark place across the middle where the board was cracked and I guess some light got though."

In a day when modern newspapers turn yellow when left in the sunlight for a few days, this one's testimony to higher-quality paper - and no doubt the fact that it was protected from "the elements" for almost 124 years. It's in fragile condition, but readable.

"I read every word in it," said Valley. "I tried to find ads for businesses which are still here, but I couldn't."

Valley has been refinishing furniture for 40 years, having started in shop class in Shelburn, Ind. He also canes chairs, an art he learned from his grandmother.

For more on this story, see the latest State Journal.

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