I met with Steve Brandt, president and publisher of The Greenville News. He wanted to see what I found in my attic and unravel the mystery a little bit more for me. I showed him what I discovered among the rafters and dusty insulation. He told me they are newspaper mat molds. Back in the early to mid 1900’s newspapers were printed using hot metal typesetting, also known as hot lead typesetting. Brass negative molds were laid out on a big tray to create the stories. A piece of moist cardboard-type material was laid on top of that to create a mold. Then hot melted lead was poured over this cardboard material to make the reverse image that was then rolled over the paper to print the news!
I showed him this mat mold that was exactly 70-years-old yesterday. The date reads November 11, 1939.
This 70-year-old article talks about how there is not enough parking in downtown Greenville! I guess it’s true what they say– there really are no new stories!
There is an article about a Greenville man going to the Golden Gate Expedition, a write-up of a lady that is traveling to Honolulu and a story of a Greenville woman going to Clemson to teach high school home economics. There are neat ads for cars and groceries and electric cooking. There are articles about problems in Germany and communism and a big headline that says “Allied Propaganda to Involve US in War By 1941, Experts Predict.” I find this glimpse into life 70 years ago fascinating.
As far as I can tell these mat molds are fairly rare because they were typically just thrown away after they were used or they were destroyed in the printing process. But somehow a bunch of them ended up in my attic because someone thought they might offer good insulation. I happened to talk to a 72-year-old Greenville native at my church about these and he said years ago he was working on another house not far from mine and the person had done the same thing– used these old mat molds for insulation!
We found lots of other treasures up there: old antique windows, an oil lamp shade, and a stack of envelopes postmarked from 1899 to 1939 sent to Greenville from places all over the world including Japan, Greece, and Peru. One of the letters is addressed to “Mr. L.A. Cothran, News Building, Greenville, SC” which makes me think may be the connection for the mat molds.
I did a little digging and found the obituary of one of the names the letter was addressed to– George Giles. He was an executive at Coca-Cola bottling, an avid golfer and a deacon at Second Presbyterian Church downtown. I called the church and they said they didn’t think any of George’s family was still around. But I showed the envelopes to another Greenville native and it just so happened that she went to school with a member of the Giles family. She told me that George’s grand-daughter is an anchor on Fox News and that he has relatives in the area. Since none of the envelopes have our address on them I’d like to find out how they got here. But the connections to publishing, writing and journalism are really astounding to me since I am a writer and my husband is a publisher. It’s like this house was made for people who tell stories and it has quite the story to tell as well.
If you have any information on 1930’s mat molds or any other interesting pieces of the story please share!!