TSLAC recently received a donation of an original letter Gov. Sam Houston sent in 1860 to state senator and Texas Ranger Henry Clay Davis. The letter was laminated and hinged to a scrapbook album page. Lamination poses a number of challenges: it can cause splitting and tearing; it can increase acidity in paper; and, in this case, it blocked access to original materials. Our goal was to remove the lamination so we could stabilize the paper and ink.
First, the laminated packet was removed from the album page and examined. The waxy feel of the lamination indicated polyethylene plastic. Though lamination typically presses paper flat, this paper was rippled, and adhered to the plastic only in spots. Accordingly, small amounts of ethyl acetate were used to release the lamination from the front of the letter. It then became clear that multiple leaves had been adhered together inside the laminated packet. The adhesive was water-soluble, so the leaves were released in a water bath. Three leaves with matching folds (one manuscript leaf and two blanks) were retained as original material.
After washing, the letter was treated with calcium phytate to stabilize deteriorating iron gall ink. All three original leaves were then deacidified and re-sized with gelatin. The letter was mended with heat-set tissue to minimize the ink’s exposure to water after treatment.
This letter is now de-laminated and stabilized much closer to its original form. TSLAC is pleased to add this document to our collections and to prolong its lifetime for public access. Additional background on this letter and on Henry Clay Davis can be found in the Handbook of Texas online.