Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | May 23, 2018

Ledger donates items for museum display

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | May 02, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Gene Luedtke holds a bound volume of issues of The Fairfield Ledger from 1978, part of a temporary display in the museum dedicated to photographs and records recently donated by The Ledger.

The Carnegie Historical Museum has a temporary display dedicated to old photos and newspapers donated by The Fairfield Ledger.

When The Ledger moved into its new office space in December, it had no room to store many of its old files. Rather than try to move them, The Ledger donated them to the museum.

The items include all The Ledger’s bound volumes from 1960-2015. The bound volumes include every issue of the daily paper and its special sections. Each volume covers a three-month period, so the museum has enough tomes to fill a room.

Gene Luedtke, a former employee of The Ledger, put the temporary display together for the museum. He put out one of the bound volumes Thursday during the museum’s Business After Hours event. He chose one from 1978, a year many visitors would remember and yet old enough to show how much the town has changed. The rest of the volumes are being stored in a climate-controlled environment.

“They needed to be preserved, and we’ll preserve them in that room until we can put them on display,” Luedtke said.

The Ledger also donated all of its Fairfield High School yearbooks going back to the early 1900s, and Parsons College yearbooks from the 1920s until the college closed in 1973. Luedtke put out a selection of yearbooks from different decades.

Donated items include troves of records about important events in the town’s history such as the 100th anniversary of the state fair in 1954. The first state fair in 1854 was held in Fairfield. To celebrate the centennial, a team of horse-drawn wagons was assembled in Fairfield and rode all the way to Des Moines. Participants even dressed in clothing from the era.

Photos, newspaper clippings, a roster of participants and many more records from the centennial are now in the museum’s hands.

Other files include information about the 1939 state corn husking contest held in Fairfield, the 1939 centennial celebrating the founding of Fairfield in 1839, a photo of post office employees from 1914, and photos of the fire at The Ledger in 1954. Luedtke said the collection includes many artifacts from The Ledger itself such as its final lead casting in 1972.

The temporary display is on the ground floor of the museum. Visiting hours are from 1-4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

 

Future display

Dean Gabbert worked at The Ledger in various capacities for 53 years. He was publisher and editor when he retired in 1985. Upon his death in 2015, his family donated money to the museum to create a display dedicated to journalism in Jefferson County. Luedtke said the artifacts recently donated by The Ledger will be incorporated into the display, which will be a permanent exhibit.

In the meantime, museum volunteers will be hard at work scanning the photos and clippings. That will allow the public to research old files electronically without physically handling them, which will be better for their preservation and prevent theft.

 

Gene Luedtke

Luedtke has taken a special interest in displaying artifacts from The Ledger because of his long tenure as an employee. He began at The Ledger in 1969 and spent almost 43 years there. He started in the advertising department, and within five months, one co-worker retired and another left to work at what was then a competing publication, The Town Crier. That catapulted Luedtke into the top advertising position right behind the advertising director.

Luedtke’s mother was always interested in genealogy and history, and she passed that love down to her son. Naturally, that led Luedtke to become involved in the museum, where he became its board president. In his capacity as a volunteer at the museum, Luedtke is doing his best to record the area’s history.

“I hope the print media never goes away, because the hard copy of a newspaper is forever,” he said. “Without the newspaper, a lot of things would not be recorded.”

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