HERMISTON - Tuesday, patrons of Hermiston's post office will have get a glimpse of the July 3, 1776, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette, a newspaper once owned by Benjamin Franklin.
Tom Lain, of Hermiston, bought the historic newspaper in a San Francisco antique store almost 20 years ago. As Lain browsed around the store, an elderly woman walked in to the shop with a stack of old newspapers. Thinking Lain was the store owner, she offered to sell the papers to him.
He quickly set her straight, fetching the owner who bought the papers. Lain talked him into giving him first pick and started looking through the stack of Gazettes. He paused when he saw July 3, 1776, on the dateline.
"That was the first date I recognized that was close to anything important," Lain said.
The edition came out a day after the Continental Congress declared independence from England - just as the British fleet and army reached New York. Two days later, members of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence.
"Yesterday, the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies free and independent states," a reporter wrote in the July 3 edition.
The article implored the colonists to be ready at a moment's notice and urged men and boys between the ages of 14 and 70 to enlist.
Another story talked of an embargo of rye, wheat, corn, port, live calves, peas and flour and said British sailing vessels would no longer be allowed to enter or leave the Boston Harbor. Yet another article described the colonial army as "more than half sick with the small pox."
The newspaper, which ceased publication in 1800, was a mirror of changing times. In the same edition where Congress announced its intent to break away from England, readers found advertisements offering rewards for the return of slaves and indentured servants.
The Gazette's pages and type are smaller than those of today's newspapers. Lain used a magnifying glass to transcribe a portion of the paper. He used 15 sheets of notebook paper to handwrite the words found on part of page one.
"Each paragraph took about a sheet of paper," Lain said. "You can see why Benjamin Franklin invented eye glasses."
The newspaper has been displayed a couple of other times, Lain said, though he doesn't like to expose it to fluorescent lights for too long.
Before the mid-1800s, most newspapers were printed on paper made from cotton rags, instead of wood pulp. These newspapers survived longer than the newsprint of today and weren't subject to as much discoloration or brittleness.
They don't last forever, however, and Lain took steps to preserve his prize, taking it to a business that specializes in preserving books, newspapers and other documents.
"I had it stabilized," he said. "She smoothed out the wrinkles, took the glue off and treated it with chemicals."
The chemical stabilization neutralizes the paper's acidity and leaves an alkaline salt behind to absorb future acid. Stabilization slows the rate of deterioration and extends the newspaper's life, Lain said. The woman who stabilized Lain's Gazette was optimistic about the preservation efforts.
"She said I could get a couple more hundred years out of it," Lain said.
Hermiston Postmaster Kim Gillet said the framed newspaper and Lain's pages of transcription will be displayed in a glass case in the main service area where people standing in line can take a look. Generally, the case is only used to display stamp prints and other post office merchandise, Gillet said, but she was impressed when Lain approached her.
"He came in and showed it to me," she said.
The Gazette chronicles an extremely significant time in history, she said.