For many years the Gerstenslager Company in Wooster, Ohio was synonymous with bookmobiles for public library extension librarians. Although the roots of the company date back to 1860 it was not until after World War II that the company began designing and building custom bodies for specialty vehicles including bookmobiles. One of my postcard collecting interests is bookmobiles and among my collection is a group of cards which include advertising on the back for the Gerstenslager Co. and its bookmobile business. Each of the postcards, of course, has a bright shinny new bookmobile of the front. The advertising on the back is varied, and sometimes surprising. A 1954 card boasts that in 1954 Gerstenslager built 96 percent of bookmobiles built specifically for that purpose and that 1955 looks like it would break that record. A 1956 card takes advantage of the recent passage of the "Federal Aid Program", the Library Services Act, and indicates that if your qualify for that program, Gerstenslager is ready to assist you in your planning. Another ad features the horse drawn Washington County Free Library (Hagerstown, MD) bookmobile, the first bookmobile in the United States, with the information that it has just delivered Washington County's 12th bookmobile (pictured on the front of the card). One ad is somewhat religious in nature and touts the Golden Rule. At some point, Gerstenslager evidently ceased making bookmobile bodies, although it continues to assist in the manufacture of vehicles.
Life Imitating Archives
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