An ongoing project here at TSLAC is the treatment of our large collection of Confederate muster rolls. These documents provide a fascinating snapshot of men enlisting in the Confederate army, often stating their age, hometown, and personal supplies brought into service. The muster rolls come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, with myriad paper, media, and condition issues. Specifically, I’ve noticed one unusual type of paper that composes perhaps 10% of the collection. An example of this dark brown paper is below:
In my mind, I’ve come to refer to this as “barn floor paper,” because it would appear to be made from sweepings off the barn floor. Given the stresses and disruptions in manufacturing in the Confederacy, this isn’t so difficult to imagine. A close-up may reveal more detail:
The paper is very coarse, with a variety of fibers visible throughout. It is poorly sized, if at all, which creates challenges in removing existing mends without disturbing the fibers. After treatment, wash water is a deep, molasses color, though the color of the paper itself remains quite dark.
Do any readers have knowledge of or experience with this paper? Do you know what it was made with, or have your observed it in other collections? I’m curious to know whether its homely composition reflects difficulties in economics and supply chains in the Confederacy, as I imagine. Or, perhaps this paper was made this way quite intentionally, for a particular purpose. As with so many record-keeping supplies, I’d argue that purpose definitely wasn’t preservation.