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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Old newspaper collection tells long forgotten stories

Exhibit to open August 5

By Matt Shortall - staff writer

By: Matt Shortall | Democrat
A thriving newspaper industry existed in Sullivan County throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th. It was a time when nearly every village and hamlet had their own unique publication.
HURLEYVILLE — On the second floor of the Sullivan County Museum is the archive room. Metal shelves hold flat cardboard boxes containing thousands of newspapers separated by plastic sheets.
They tell long forgotten stories about familiar places. A photograph of the great flood in Callicoon from 1899 shows a barn floating down Main Street. A young man from Smallwood in 1949 accidentally shoots himself with his brother's German trophy gun from the war.
“These papers are the remnants of small town life and culture” said Exhibit Coordinator Myron Gittell.
“When towns like White Lake and Hurleyville had their own newspapers, that was so much a part of their identity.”
The Sullivan County Historical Society, in conjunction with the Sullivan County Museum, will host “Preserving the Past,” an exhibit on the newspapers of Sullivan County on August 5 and 6.
Hundreds of historic weekly newspapers will be on display out of a collection of thousands covering more than 150 years of Sullivan County history.
Gittell hopes for a “knowledgeable” turnout. “We'd really like anyone who worked for these newspapers, knew the ownership or has anecdotes or stories from when they were circulated,” said Gittell.
You wouldn't know it to look at the newsstands these days, but Sullivan County used to have a thriving newspaper business. Dozens of weekly newspapers and periodicals were spread across the towns and villages.
There was the Monticello Adviser, the Livingston Manor Times, the Fallsburgh News, the Bloomingburgh Journal and the Republican Watchman, just to name five.
There are newspapers dating back to the turn of the 20th century and even some stretching back since before the Civil War.
“So many of the ways of old are now gone,” remarked Gittell. “This is one more way that we can not only appreciate what was here before, but also help guide ourselves away from this concept of mass homogenized culture.”
The largest collection anywhere of Sullivan County's history resides in the aforementioned archive room, a gift from a generous donor. It was less than a year ago that Susan Shock, whose family ran the Republican Watchman for 70 years, decided to “clean house” and donate the treasure trove of newspapers copies in her attic in relatively good condition.
Have you got a story to share about this bygone era of Sullivan County? If you have knowledge, items or artifacts that may be of interest, mail exhibit coordinator Myron Gittell at or call him at 845-866-6349

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