Copyright 2003 By Bob Hibbs
Saturday April 10, 2004 

Saturday Postcard 239: Digital Restoration of an Artifact

school receipt


A $4.15 receipt issued in 1871 on a green cardstock form survives today in the Hibbs collection of local historic ephemera. 
It’s globally dirty with a nasty stain down one edge as shows at left above. 
The digitally restored version at right was created by the author on a home computer.


By Bob Hibbs

On April first 133 years ago Julia Greulich received a “Matriculation Ticket” evidencing payment of $4.15 to St. Joseph’s School which existed along Iowa Avenue downtown from 1865 through 1872.

The receipt permitted her to continue at the parochial institution of higher learning, or for graduation. It’s a green card about the size of a modern credit card, acquired at a local shop some time ago for two bucks.

It’s in nasty condition; printed askew, worn by grimy hands, its ink faded, dirty and bearing what appears to be blackened syrup. The penmanship evidences haste, perhaps as others waited in line to pay fees, yet exhibits the crisp strokes of a quill dipped in ink.

After scanning into a home computer, the image was straightened; then the wear, greasy spots and dirt were painstakingly obliterated using an inexpensive program called Adobe Photoshop, a remarkable tool originally developed to create movie special effects.

The stain is too deep to be removed, so the obscured material had to be reestablished. First the Greulich name was confirmed as it easily could be misread; then, school data was researched.

St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church opened St. Joseph’s School in 1865, operating it in an existing building along Iowa Avenue into 1872. Then, renamed St. Joseph’s Institute, it was moved into an existing structure along the north face of Jefferson Street a quarter-block east of Clinton.

Although enrollment peaked at nearly 300 students, it ultimately could not compete with the local state-funded university as had been its intended purpose.

It was closed in 1892 and St. Mary’s elementary was opened the next year in a new building on the site.

An “ink” notation in the lower left corner of the card remains a mystery; perhaps a needed item; or, it might refer to a type of diploma the student preferred, being ink on a form, rather than the added cost of printing the student’s name.

Likewise, the meaning of “catch” at the top center is unknown.

After restoration, a new computer-generated card looks like it was carefully preserved for all 133 years.

It’s done entirely in cyber space; that is, by massaging electronic zeros and ones (or digits, actually switches either on or off) existing within the electromagnetic world of a computer hard drive. If that makes no sense, just ask a youngster. They’re being raised to comprehend a world that didn’t exist a few decades ago.

A modern home computer has thousands of times more computing capability than was available to astronauts traveling to the moon in 1969. And, today’s computer is hooked by wires and satellites to myriad computers located on every continent via linkage called “the internet,” which was developed initially for use by the American military.

After buying equipment for as little as $700 and renting server access for $10 to $45 monthly depending on speed and time purchased, then sending and receiving material anywhere in the world costs only one’s time.

A note to a grandson in England carries no additional cost and is available to his machine within seconds after sent from the comfort of an Iowa City home.

Anti-virus software coupled with fire-walls keep out intruders, although sometimes it doesn’t work. A mail merge worm in the author’s programming recently was discovered by a son who resides in Iowa City. He earned an information management systems degree from Iowa State University in Ames.

That’s another thing that didn’t exist just a few years ago; the degree in computer wizardry, that is. Iowa State dates to the State Agricultural College and Model Farm established in 1858, facts just retrieved from the ISU website on the internet. Oh, my!

Next Saturday: Pushball at Iowa City Park.

Bob Hibbs collects local postcards and other historic ephemera and researches history related to them. 

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