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Treatment of the Stillwater State Prison Log

September 7, 2006 marked the 130th anniversary of the Northfield First National Bank robbery attempt by the notorious James-Younger Gang. After two weeks on the run, the Younger brothers, Cole, Jim and Bob, were captured and sentenced to 25 years in the state prison at Stillwater in November 1876.

Cover of Stillwater State Prison LogThe Minnesota Historical Society acquired a Stillwater State Prison record book that includes information about all three brothers. The record book is entitled "Cell Room Daily Report", and dates from June 1, 1880 through September 28, 1882. The record book is the prison's daily record listing prisoners who were sick in their cell, isolated in the "dungeon", sent on work details, or staying in the prison for the day. The Younger brothers were often "sick in cell", especially Cole Younger. Why Cole was sick in his cell is not detailed. During the period the record book was compiled there were 210 to 280 inmates, males and females, in the state prison.

It is unclear if the record book is for the entire prison, or for just one cellblock, but the book gives some insights about the Younger brothers and their incarceration. The record book is particularly valuable, since there are few, if any, records documenting the Younger Brothers imprisonment in the state prison. The Younger brothers (Cole, cell no. 64; Bob, cell no. 65; Jim, cell no. 66) are frequently mentioned in the record book, and the State archives of the Minnesota Historical Society has only a few records documenting the brothers imprisonment in the Stillwater State Prison. Bob Younger died in prison in 1889; Jim was pardoned in 1901 and committed suicide in 1902; Cole, also pardoned in 1901, died in 1916.

Condition On Receipt

Cover of Stillwater State Prison LogWhen the log book arrived at the Society, it was in need of conservation treatment. The half-leather and marbled paper binding was in poor condition. The edges were worn and the marbled paper was scuffed overall, with large portions worn away completely. The leather at the corners was also worn away and scuffed. Most of the leather spine was missing, and the binding was detached from the text block.

Several strips of pressure-sensitive tape were adhered to the front and back boards along the spine. The tape was from a previous attempt to repair the binding. The sewing was broken in places, and several of the leaves were detached. The leaves were in relatively good condition even though they were discolored and torn at the edges. A few were stained. The leaves had pink and blue rulings and pagination in blue ink. The manuscript text was written in a variety of inks and pencil, which varied in intensity.


The book received extensive conservation treatment to slow its deterioration and to ensure that it would be stable enough to be made available to the public. The volume was documented photographically and collated. The spine was cleaned, and the volume was disbound. The leaves were cleaned with a vulcanized rubber eraser and vinyl cleaning granules. The pH of the paper was tested and measured 5.0, which is acidic. The leaves were deacidified non-aqueously with an alkaline buffer (magnesium oxide) that was sprayed onto the paper. The resulting pH was 7.0, which is neutral. Then the leaves were guarded and tears repaired with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. The leaves were re-sewn on three linen tapes using linen thread. The pressure-sensitive tape was removed from the covers using local application of heat to remove the carrier followed by an application of amyl acetate with swabs to remove the residual adhesive. Hand-made linen paper was color toned to simulate the original leather used on the spine.

The volume was rebound into the original binding using this new paper instead of new leather because the paper is more stable and easier to obtain. The spine was tooled similarly to the way it had been originally.

For storage, a drop-spine box was made to the dimensions of the book and covered in Japanese linen cloth. A label of hand-made paper was produced electronically and adhered to the box. The book can now be handled safely by researchers or placed on display for public viewing. Also, it is now preserved so that it will be available for future generations.

Testing the pH of the paper Deacidifying pages of the log
Resewing Removing Tape
Resewing Removing Tape
Removing Tape Removing Tape
Rebinding the Log Rebound book and storage of box after treatment