Continuing my thoughts on carbon copies brings me to the first reason I listed in my last post about why carbon copies present problems when they sit in a folder for years and decades:
The paper used for the copy was a cheaper quality than the letterhead used for the original letter or report. There is generally no letterhead, meaning there is less information on the letter, and it is has less value as an artifact, or as a visual object. Often we mine the letterhead for data such as current name of organization, address or list of officers; because there is almost always a date on a carbon copy of correspondence, it’s a good way of determining who was who at a given moment. But the biggest problem is the shorter lifespan of the carbon copy’s paper itself – the paper is almost always either a more fragile onionskin, or a highly acidic quality of paper like newsprint.
This newsprint-like paper not only turns brown and dry and eventually cracks into illegible bits of typewritten words,
but it turns everything that it touches in the folder brown as well.
For example, this type of paper turns up also in notes written on sheets smaller than 8 1/2″ x 11″, and attached to documents within a folder. Not a carbon copy, the same acidic paper can do damage no matter where it is found:
These notes leave their size and shape on the papers in direct contact with them, as a permanent stain. Below, the culprit:
In the same box there were several copies of a memo on colorful letterhead, listing new staff appointments, which may be helpful for identifying files. In front of the top copy was a folded-up newsclipping, which discolored the first few copies.
Fortunately, the last copy was almost unaffected.