Chasing Down The Facts

Apr 4, 2012 | 0 comments

Cartooning by Correspondence

     Yesterday Nyel and I made a quick trip to Tacoma and back to visit the Washington State Historical Society Research Center.  It is the repository for the Espy Family Archives and I was on an information quest.  My mission had to do with the book I’m writing about my uncle Willard Espy.
     In the summer of 2008, I was hired to process Willard’s “papers” which were housed in several dozen boxes at the Research Center along with 100+ boxes of other Espy documents. It is a huge archive, originally transported to Tacoma from Oysterville beginning in 1999 by Nyel and me.   Most of the archive still awaits funding so that it can be processed – only the Medora Espy portion had been processed and cataloged.  And, then, in 2008 the Historical Society got a grant to process Willard’s Papers.  I applied for and got the job!
     I spent a year working on the Willard Archive.  My job began with a jumble of “stuff” that Willard had saved during his long lifetime – drafts of manuscripts, published and unpublished; personal and business correspondence; fan mail; published interviews from his clipping service, and on and on.  When I completed my job, all the material was neatly filed in archival inserts and folders, arranged in archival boxes and catalogued in a Finding Aid which is now available online.
     It was during the year that I worked with the material that I finally decided that “someday” I would write about Willard.  To that end, I made notes and kept copies of pertinent information, hoping that when the time came, I’d have what I needed.  And, as it has turned out, I find that I did a pretty good job anticipating what would be useful.
     However, now that I am closing in on the completion of ‘Draft Number One,’ there are a few little missing details – silly things, really, but they nagged at me.  Like, what was the name of the company from whom eleven-year-old Willard took a correspondence cartooning course?  And how much did it cost?  And what magazine did his “Family Man” series run in?
     I had a dozen or so similar questions and the maddening part was that I knew exactly where the answers were – right down to the box and file number.  After all, I was the one who had organized the material and, wonder of wonders, I could remember seeing exactly what I needed!  But four years ago, of course, I didn’t realize it.
     So, it was off to Tacoma with my list of questions, my notebook, and my handy-dandy digital camera.  Seeing the boxes of files again was like taking up with old friends after a long absence.  And I not only found what I was looking for, but was reminded of a few other details that will be helpful.  All-in-all, a productive day!

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