Nesbitt Memorial Library

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Archives Acquires Unique Items

April 25, 2002

On April 25, 2002, the library received the only-known extant copy of any issue of the Columbus Plaindealer, a newspaper published in Columbus in 1879 and 1880. The newspaper was purchased for the library by the Nesbitt Memorial Library Foundation, Inc. It was acquired through the agency of City Manager David Stall, who learned that it existed and that it would soon be auctioned.  Backed by the foundation, on April 10, Stall entered the winning bid of $103.50. The price was unusually high because the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University had also been determined to acquire the newspaper. The newspaper was published on January 6, 1880.
    A day earlier, Ernie and Willie Mae Smahlik and family donated a copy of the 1914 Columbus telephone directory to the archives. It is the oldest local telephone book known to exist, and like the copy of the Plaindealer, is almost certainly the only copy left in the world. Willie Mae Smahlik found the telephone book among her father’s papers in Atascosa County. It was first owned by George Becker, her grandfather, who lived at Mentz and moved to Atascosa County in 1915.