At the urgings of Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford all of the functions of copyright for the United States were centralized in the Library of Congress in 1870. This more or less guaranteed that the Library of Congress would become the largest library in the world. With this responsibility came an unbelievable amount of mail for the Library. Millions and millions of pieces of mail. Perhaps no postal item received by the Library was quite as spectacular as the envelope shown above which was designed and mailed by Hal Forrest (1895-1959), creator of the Tailspin Tommy comic strip. The comic strip was started in 1928 and ended in 1942. The letter was mailed as best as I can tell in 1932 and Forrest was almost certainly seeking copyright (or at least information about copyright) for some of his material. The most interesting discussion of Hal Forrest and Tailspin Tommy on the web is on the Collect Air website. A gallery of some his work is located HERE. I am busily working on an exhibit of postal librariana related to the Library of Congress for the American Philatelic Society's stamp show in Richmond, VA in August and you can be sure this envelope will be in the exhibit.
Paul Nelson passed along the good news that the South Carolina State Legislature overrode a veto by Governor Sanford of almost $5 million in state aid for public libraries by a vote of 110 to 5. Paul, an outstanding library legislative advocate, points out that this is an example of what Patricia Cavill refers to as "building a common agenda". One of my most treasured mementos is a needlepoint created by Catherine Lewis, a fellow South Carolina public library director, acknowledging my role in two other examples of "building a common agenda" in South Carolina in the late 1970s. Catherine gave it to me when I left South Carolina for Wisconsin in 1980. "Dollars & Sense" was the title of the state aid campaign which I participated in during the earlier period. Act 564 was an act mandating public library funding by counties. APLA is the Association of Public Library Administrators. Fond memories.
Seattle was one of the fortunate communites that received grants from Andrew Carnegie for its main public library building and multiple branches. Carnegie provided grants totaling $430,000 for seven buildings in the City of Seattle. An additional Carnegie funded library building became a branch of the Seattle Public Library when the adjacent community of Ballard, Washington was annexed by Seattle. A history of the library on the Seattle Public Library website tells an interesting story of the Seattle-Carnegie relationship. After the mansion housing the library burned on January 2, 1901, Carnegie agreed almost immediately to donate $200,000 to build a new fireproof building. Carnegie required communities receiving grants to provide ongoing support for the library equal to ten percent of the grant. Seattle went well beyond the requirement and pledged $50,000 annually. In response to this Carnegie wrote "I like your pluck". Perhaps that is why another Carnegie grant of $105,000 was made in in 2010 Carnegie to fund three branch libraries. Additional branches were funded by Carnegie in 1914, 1915, and 1921. The 1921 branch library was the last one that was built in Seattle for more than three decades. In July of this year the Seattle Public Library will celebrate the centennial of the three branch libraries completed in 1910 (thanks to Paul Nelson for this information). The main library funded by Carnegie which is shown on the postcard above was razed to make way for a new building that opened in 1960. That library has also been replaced with a magnificent new facility which opened in 2004. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped fund that building. The Ballard Branch has now been repurposed as a restaurant called Carnegie's. A pictorial history of the Seattle Public Library can be found HERE.
In August 1918 Cleveland Public Library Librarian William Brett was killed by a drunken driver while trying to board a street car in front of the library. Vice-librarian Linda Eastman who was with Brett barely avoided being hit by the drunk driver. As biographer C. H. Cramer (Dictionary of American Library Biography, Libraries Unlimited, 1978) put it: "This irresponsible tippler almost succeeded in wiping out the two greatest librarians in the history of the Cleveland Public Library." I was motivated to find out more about Brett after acquiring a fragile letter written by him in May 1918 on the letterhead of the American Library Association Library War Service. It is an example of a seemingly un-impressive paper artifact leading to some interesting stories about a great library leader. Just three months before his death at age 72 Brett was taking a leave from the Cleveland Public Library to serve as the Dispatch Agent at the Newport News, VA Dispatch Office of the ALA Library War Service. It evidently had been Brett's desire to serve overseas with the Library War Service, but he had settled for the position in Newport News. This was not Brett's first involvement with the military. According to Cramer, in 1865 during the last year of the Civil War he had enlisted in the Army at age 18 only to be captured by Morgan's Raiders and taken as a prisoner to Kentucky. These interesting aspects of Brett's life serve only as a backdrop to his stellar career at the Cleveland Public Library. Part of that career is recorded on a webpage devoted to Brett Hall in the Cleveland Public Library. The image of the bust of Brett is from the Cleveland Public Library Image Collection. Other images of Brett during this period can be found HERE. It is not often that a librarian is memorialized by both a bust and a hall.
Hands down, the most creative and innovative segment of the library profession is public library children's librarians. In my career I have had the good fortune to know and work with some outstanding children's librarians. As a former library administrator, I like to think that I have been a consistent advocate for children's services in public libraries. However, there is no doubt that strong, dedicated, creative children's librarians have been a major force behind that advocacy. At the top of the list of those children's librarians was Mary P. Aiken, former Coordinator of Children's Services for the Greenville (SC) County Library. I came to know and admire Mary when I became Director of the Greenville County Library in 1974. One of my early indications of Mary's zeal in the promotion of children's services was when she had arranged, without my knowledge, to close off the street in front of the library for a parade to kick off the summer library program. She was one of the earliest champions of public library service to children from zero to three years of age, and was the driving force behind Project Little Kids at the Greenville County Library, a nationally recognized program for this age group. When I wrote about Project Little Kids for LISNews in February of this year, I was unaware that Mary had died earlier that month. As I indicated in my essay for LISNews, one of my primary contributions to the project was the acronym which stood for Learning by Infants and Toddlers Through Library Experiences, Kits, Information, Demonstrations, and Services. The photograph above shows Mary (on the far right) and Early Childhood Development Specialist Linda VonCannon receiving a special award on behalf of the library from Sara Craig of the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in 1979 in recognition of Project Little Kids as an "exemplary project" showing "innovation and creativity".
The government issued postal card featured in this post has multiple points of interest for a collector of postal librariana and library history buff. Postal cards in contrast to picture postcards are more closely connected to the actual work of libraries. They were instantly adopted as important tools in the conduct of library business when they came into existence in the United States in 1873. A previous post discussed one of the earlier uses of the postal card as an overdue notice. The writer and sender of this postal card was William F. Poole who at the time was the Librarian of the Chicago Public Library. Poole who sent the card on June 24, 1876 to H. A. Clark in Cambridge, MA was writing to Clark in regard to the publication The Harvard Book of which Clark was a co-author. Poole writes: "I have received several circulars calling my attention to the 'Harvard Book'. I beg to state that we have a copy of this very eloquent and entertaining book, which we bought of a party here in Chicago." Is the point of the message to praise the book or hint that Clark can stop sending any more circulars? Poole was a formidable figure during this period of library history, and was active at this very point in helping to plan the conference which took place in October 1876 where the American Library Association was formed. Library historian Edward G. Holley wrote about the correspondence which took place between library leaders including Poole and Melvil Dewey who were planning the conference in the book Raking The Historic Coals: The A.L.A. Scrapbook of 1876 (Beta Phi Mu, 1967). The scrapbook which contained both letters and postal cards covered the period May 1876 through October 1876. Unfortunately, this important artifact in American Library Association history appears to be missing, perhaps even inavertedly discarded at some point after Holley wrote his book. Fortunately the scrapbook was microfilmed and is available at the ALA Archives. I have a special interest in the scrapbook because it probably contained the first collection of postal librariana. William F. Poole was the creator of the publication Poole's Index to Periodical Literature and served as President of the American Library Association 1885-1886. As to The Harvard Book, images from this "eloquent and entertaining book" can be found HERE. The images include photographs of Gore Hall, the home of the Harvard Library which opened in 1841 and early librarian John Langdon Sibley.
B. F. (Benjamin Franklin) Stevens (1833-1902) and his older brother Henry Stevens (1819-1886) of Barnet, Vermont both left the United States and created careers as book dealers in England where they were of great service to to both American and English libraries. I have written previously about Henry on this blog, and I have created a web page on my Library History Buff website that includes ephemera related to B.F. Stevens and his company B. F. Stevens & Brown. Noted librarian and bibliophile Lawrence Clark Powell has written an interesting small book about the B. F. Stevens & Brown firm called simply ...AND BROWN (Privately Printed, London, 1959). The book is "A Chronicle of B. F. Stevens & Brown, Ltd., Library and Fine Arts Agents of London, with emphasis on the years since 1902". The envelope and contents featured in this blog were mailed to the Librarian of the Franklin Topographical Society in Boston in 1903. Powell's book about the Stevens & Brown firm is a reminder of the very important role played by library agents and vendors in the development of libraries throughout much of their history. A quote in ...AND BROWN illustrates the the dedication of B. F. Stevens to the task of aiding libraries. As reported by Powell, Stevens wrote the following in a letter to his father concerning a trip back to the United States to find books for the British Museum: "I can probably find the books in Philadelphia and New York, but I may have to go to Harrisburg again. Hunting up these books is like a jackass following a peck of oats." The book Memoir of Benjamin Franklin Stevens by G. Manville Fenn (Printed at the Chiswick Press for Private Distribution, 1903) contains an excellent account of the life of B. F. Stevens. My copy of the book contains the insert "With the compliments of Henry J. Brown". This was the original Brown of B. F. Stevens & Brown.
The libraries that Andrew Carnegie helped fund are more visible on the web these days. For the most part that's a good thing. I'm certainly pleased that there seems to be more interest in preserving these historic structures. Library historian Charley Seavey (aka Desert Sailor) after reading one of my recent posts on a Carnegie library wrote to tell me about a Carnegie in his hometown of Rockport, Massachusetts that had been turned into a private residence. This led me to an excellent website created by Corinne H. Smith on New England Carnegie Libraries. Corinne's webpage on the Rockport Carnegie contained the information that this Carnegie building converted to a residence was for sale by Weichert Realtors and that the listing is located HERE. When Corinne published her webpage the asking price was $2,950,000. Now it is available for the bargain basement price of $2,495,000. So if you ever wanted to live in a Carnegie library, now is your chance. I am aware that at least two other Carnegies are private residences. The Sterling, Colorado Carnegie (formerly a bed and breakfast) that I wrote about in this post is now a private residence, and the former East End Branch of the Superior Public Library is a private residence. Paul Nelson, a fellow Wisconsin retired librarian and avid blogger, has been keeping me up-to-date on some other recent Carnegie library news including the news that the Kingston, New York Carnegie library building is on the brink of being repurposed and restored. I maintain a selective list of Carnegie Library links on the Library History Buff website. Search "Carnegie libraries" on this blog to see other Carnegie library stories.
The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County as reported in the news is facing hard times as are many of our nation's libraries. A review of the history of the public library in Charlotte indicates that the library has faced and overcome hard times in the past. In 1930 during the great depression, the library's budget was cut from $66,000 to $20,000 and 17 library employees were laid off. The Carnegie library building (shown in the first postcard above) through lack of maintenance had deteriorated to the point that it "was in the worst condition of any building in the City". But that wasn't the worst of the hard times, because of a legal technicality the library was forced to go to a referendum for its operating budget in 1939 and the referendum failed. As a result, "On the evening of June 30, 1939, the doors of the Charlotte Public Library were locked. The staff went home, and for the first time in almost fifty years the city was without a library." On May 25, 1940 after almost a year without public library service, a second referendum was held. This time the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of adequate funding for the library. From that low point the library developed into one of the outstanding public libraries in the nation. Unfortunately, it is a hard and bitter pill to take that even the best public library service is not immune from the often unfair budget decisions made in a tough economy. I had the good fortune to work at the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County on two occasions during my library career, and I wish them the best of luck in overcoming this round of adversity. The second postcard shows the building that replaced the Carnegie on the same site. That building was where I worked most of the time when I was in Charlotte. It has also been replaced by an even more elaborate facility.
On May 7, 1915 the British steamship Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off the coast of Ireland on its return trip from the United States. The ship sank in minutes and 1,201 passengers and crew lost their lives. The sinking of the unarmed ship helped turn world opinion against Germany in the early stages of World War I, and was a factor in eventually bringing the United States into the conflict. On June 13, 1914, less than a year before its sinking, the Lusitania carried a shipment of new and secondhand books from the London book dealer Edward G. Allen & Sons destined for the Library of Congress. This consular certificate and invoice provide a record of that shipment. The Library of Congress had a long history of acquiring publications through London book dealers, and it is very likely that the Lusitania which made regular round trips to the U.S. had carried previous shipments of books for the Library of Congress. The total bill for this shipment was 45 pounds, 7 shillings, and 5 pence. Some of the titles included were: Handbook of Jamaica 1914, Statesman's Year Book (11 copies), Bibliography of Irish Philology, Franco-German War Indemnity, and Short History of Feudalism in Scotland. The $2.50 American Consular Fee Stamp on the document should be of interest to revenue stamp collectors.
I've just finished reading a nifty new book which I highly recommend. It is The Librarian's Book of Lists by George M. Eberhart, editor of the American Libraries Direct e-newsletter for the American Library Association. For the library history buff it includes "Key Dates In American Library History". For the librariana collector it includes George's "15 Favorite Library Postcards". For the bibliophilatelist it includes "Larry Nix's Top 10 Libraries on Postage Stamps". For the library administrator, it includes "Top 10 Ways to Make Sure Potential Applicants for Your Library Job are Turned Off by Your Ad". And many more fun and interesting lists (click on the book title to see them all). A great gift for library friends and workers.
Salem Press has announced its Library Blog Awards, and I'm pleased to report that the Library History Buff Blog received the second place award in the Quirky Library Blogs category. Hey, "quirky" works for me.
I reported earlier on a historic Carnegie library building for sale in Duluth, Minnesota. Now there may be an even better opportunity to be closely involved with a Carnegie library building. The Jeffersonville Carnegie Library Foundation in Jeffersonville, Indiana is offering its fully restored Carnegie library up for rent at a minimal rental cost. The Foundation has spent more than $4 million dollars in restoring the building. Jeffersonville is just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. The details are reported on courier-journal.com. A press release with more information is located HERE. For more about the rental, call the Foundation's representative Robyn Sekula at (812) 981-8223 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org . There were 155 communities in Indiana that received Carnegie library building grants, more than any other state. Judy Aulik has a nice selection of Indiana Carnegie library postcards, including the Jeffersonville library, on her website. Thanks to Paul Nelson for the heads up on this story.