Today I got an odd and urgent request. They wanted newspapers for the Cannonball Tavern at Fort Mifflin. Ordinarily, this is not a problem but the event is SATURDAY!
For events when I want to portray a I frequently like to have facsimile documents on hand. A book, pamphlet or such allows me to show that written correspondence is critical to “modern” life in the American Colonies but where do you get them?
Sure, you can scour eBay. Grab the few document, like those crinkly copies of the Declaration of Independence, at a local gift shop but what if you want a newspaper or a scientific journal? Don’t fret, they are available — with a little effort.
Project Guttenburg is a great repository of old document and the great thing about these is that many are OCR transcribes so drop these into your favorite word-processor, replace the fonts (I like 18th Century and Colonial Dame), and voila, you have a pamphlet or short printed document to run through your printer onto your favorite parchment. Another great source is, of course, the Library of Congress. They have a treasure trove of scanned documents (most of which can’t be OCR recognized so be creative). I particularly like the newspaper archives at the Library of Congress. When you bind your pamphlets, remember they are stitched with thread not stapled and newspapers were not standard sizes.
Of course, most document were handwritten. Practice your script and write slowly. In our modern world, we tend to scratch our our letters rapidly (when not typing) but in the 18th Century, elegant penmanship was considered a mark of high status. Letters, even military dispatches, were carefully and painstakingly written our longhand. I find, however, that a modern fountain pen makes better facsimiles than trying to cut my own quill — alas not everything is truly authentic is it…
With a little practice, you can prepare a few quick documents and play the part of a educated gentle person literate and well informed. There will be 5 reproduction newspapers at the Cannonball Tavern, come read one.