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Upper St. Clair archivist lends documents of Founding Fathers to library

Wednesday, August 01, 2001

By Mary Carney

When one thinks of historic documents, the National Archives or museums come to mind. Upper St. Clair, however, can claim its own archivist.

Stan Klos, a man with a passion for gleaning historic artifacts, has lent the township library a collection of historical documents for display this summer.

Residents and history buffs can view the actual writings of the Founding Fathers and the steps taken to form the foundation of our government.

Included are letters signed by the township's namesake, Gen. Arthur St. Clair; his original battlefield orders; and the act of Congress ordering him to be paid as governor of the Northwest Territory.

There's also a printing of the Northwest Territory Ordinance making the area free of slavery, providing land grants to colleges and universities and creating states out of territories.

Klos views the act of Congress and the Northwest Territory Ordinance as important because "they tell us how our nation expanded."

But the document closest to this savvy collector's heart is the wet ink transfer of the original Declaration of Independence. "This is one of 31 wet ink transfers still in existence. It is a signed copy of the original document."

He said the process used to duplicate the original made it unreadable but valuable. The chemical used caused the ink to fade. Congress asked a printer to duplicate the declaration so copies could be distributed to each governor, but these were not signed.

Klos was interested in offering this display to give residents and students a more rounded understanding of St. Clair as a patriot and founding father.

Although aware of the mixed emotions about this revolutionary hero, Klos would like to see St. Clair's name considered for renaming Boyce Mayview Park, despite his military defeats for which he later was exonerated.

St. Clair was an important figure in the early history of the United States. He was one of eight men in post-Revolutionary America who were elected "President of the United States in Congress Assembled" for one-year terms under the Articles of Confederation. He was elected president of the Continental Congress on Feb. 2, 1787, and was president while members debated the Constitution.

"These letters and documents are great teaching tools for students and scholars," said Klos, an adjunct professor at Wheeling Jesuit College. Because they are originals, they are "excellent primary sources instead of books." Many interesting facts are overlooked when students simply look at an overview of history and fail to see the inner workings of events, he said.

Klos became interested in historic documents and letters after finding various papers and letters in the homes he restored during the late '70s and early '80s. He has restored 27 homes, among which are a Revolutionary tavern in New Jersey; two shore hotels; the Victoria Theatre in Wheeling, W.Va.; and the Steinmetz Bakery in Carnegie.

Although he admits his interest in renovations is fading, he is restoring his 28th structure, the Masonic Building, circa 1908, on East Main Plaza, Carnegie. The four-story building offers him the opportunity to house his collection of 2,000 rare documents in one place and operate a historical document gallery on the fourth floor.

These rare documents and others related to the past and present are much a part of Klos' life. He enjoys searching for such treasures and explaining their merit to anyone who will listen.

During his searches, he also has found letters and documents on women's history, black history and the Civil War. "Most are acquired at auctions, in rare books and people bringing them to me," he said, noting that he never buys anything without sending the seller to other experts for their opinions.

Recently, a woman brought a deed for the original land for Donaldson's Crossroads signed by Benjamin Franklin, president of the Supreme Council of Pennsylvania. She also had an 1849 stone copy of the Declaration of Independence, which she kept after learning its value. "Our company framed it for her, and it hangs in her living room," Klos said. He bought the deed.

A father of eight children, ages 5 to 16, he seeks to use his acquisition and restoration activities to inspire his children in the study of history. He also uses his documents and letters as a teaching tool on the Internet.

Klos envisions the Internet as an adjunct to learning and hopes to work with teachers and students in surfing the Web in search of classroom assignments. He has a Web site called Virtualology.com and has created sites for famous world leaders.

His goal is to create an environment in which students will compete to have their names and work published on sites that refer to all well-known figures of the past. He foresees student submissions from all over the world.

He said 7,000-plus education sites, five verbal museums and one library get 300,000 hits a day, and is optimistic for the future.

A few years ago, Klos and his wife, Maria, produced "Rebels with a Vision," an exhibit of 76 historical letters, documents and manuscripts and books on the founding of the United States. Included is a signed copy of the Declaration of Independence and a letter signed by Thomas Jefferson, who was secretary of state at that time, to the governor of New York, outlining three acts of Congress.

This exhibit has been touring cities throughout the country. In 1999, it was shown at the Carnegie Institute and Library in Pittsburgh, sponsored by ReMax International.

Klos exhibits at the MGM Grand Conference at Las Vegas, sponsored by ReMax International and the American Philatelic Museum, National School Board Convention, NASA Classroom of the Future, the ReMax Collection and several colleges and universities.


Mary Carney is a free-lance writer.



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