Newspapers from 1917 donated to museum

Cory Hurley
Published on August 9, 2014

Like her dad before her, and presumably whomever was responsible for its creation, Connie Lamswood knew it was special.

It’s old and torn in places. The cover comes completely off when it is turned. The pages are worn and faded, some so delicate lifting them requires the gentlest of touch. Yet, the level of self-preservation is quite remarkable despite its storied past — even if its first 60 years are unknown.

What makes it so special is the history and culture contained in it. A newspaper’s account of a time of war. The desperation, uncertainty, fragility of a small British dominion is told through journalists’ eyes and people’s voices. The seemingly unimportant, but so significant, life outside of war is shared on the pages surrounding the stories of war that accounted for the majority of coverage. The best attempts at business as usual were being made through advertisements — men’s boots for $2 is a telling tale in its own right.

It is a bounded compilation of the “St. John’s Daily Star” from July to December of 1917. Maybe somebody had a vested interest in the war, possibly a family member who was serving.

It could have been a wounded soldier who kept up the fight back home through this chronicle. Perhaps it was an editor or a journalist of the long-forgotten newspaper, archiving work. The theories are endless, the truth a mystery.

The known past of the bounding begins in Corner Brook in the 1970s, when Bill Boyd happened upon it in one of the houses he was renovating for sale by Bowaters on Marcelle Avenue or Cobb Lane. When the company houses were prepped for sale, Boyd and his crew of contractors would upgrade the electrical, plumbing and other aspects to code. Any personal items left behind were typically tossed aside in a dumpster.

Boyd saw some significance in the bounded book of newspapers he found in an attic, so he took it home. When Boyd died in 2000, his daughter Connie found the book in his shed. She too understood its historic importance. She kept it safe for some time, before recently handing it over to the Corner Brook Museum and Archives.

Now it rests at the museum, where its preservation becomes one of the most important elements of its existence.

That is important to Lamswood.

“I just felt it needed to be preserved, so I thought it belonged in the museum,” she said. “... It is something that should be shared with other people so they can see it.”

She is particularly taken by the coverage of the war, especially how the progress to victory was celebrated.

George French, archivist and manager of the museum, said the collection is a great addition. He hopes to eventually digitize it, either through copying or photography.

There will also be some preservation work done on the collection itself to help stabilize the book and safeguard the pages.

As well as an intriguing exhibit, it would also be a valuable research tool for anybody looking into that era. He said a newspaper offers an interesting perspective, with the editions featuring local perspectives on unfortunate or celebrated events.

The reports are current, and focus on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, said French. It is remarkable to have accounts of soldiers who died or went missing, according to the archivists, and articles on people presumed dead who returned home.

“Newspapers are particularly important because, especially on a local level, they might be the only thing documenting history or big events of that level,” he said.




St. John’s Daily Star

• Place of publication: St. John’s

• Dates of publication: Apr. 17, 1915-July 23, 1921

• Frequency: Daily (except Sunday)

• Publisher: St. John's Daily Star Publishing Co. Ltd.

• Editor: H. M. Mosdell

• Description: The Daily Star contained domestic and foreign news, sports, poetry, fiction, advertisements and other typical features. It was started by H. M. Mosdell and R. Dowden, both of whom were formerly connected with the Fishermen’s Advocate. The Advocate claimed it was funded by a few Water Street merchants “in the hope of using it as an anti-Confederate paper in the event of the matter becoming a live issue.” The sole purpose of the Daily Star for the first few years appeared to be to assail W.F. Coaker and the Fishermen’s Advocate. The Advocate retaliated by publishing a column called “Mosdell’s Boomerangs” which quoted Mosdell’s earlier statements of praise for the man and his cause. The Star supported the Squires government and stopped attacking Coaker in about 1919, lashing out instead at A.B. Morine and C.J. Fox.

Source: Memorial University’s QEII library