Sunday, January 23, 2022

Edna Isabel Allyn and the Hawaii State Library

 The significance of the nondescript postal card below rests with its connection to one of the most important people in the history of the Hawaii State Library – Edna Isabel Allyn (1861-1927).  When this card was sent to Allyn by her former staff at the Brooklyn Sub Branch of the Cleveland Public Library, she had just become librarian of the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association.  Allyn would transition this library into a free public library and then the Hawaii State Library. She would become Hawaii’s first State Librarian.  The card is a pre-printed overdue book notice that has been adapted in a humorous way – “Please return yourself at once and avoid accruing our displeasure.”  The postal card is dated June 14, 1907 and addressed to “The Truant”. It has no postage or postmark and was probably enclosed in another envelope for delivery to Honolulu.

The Honolulu Library & Reading Room Association was established in 1879 when Hawaii was still a country with a king and its own postal system. H. A. Parmelee was one of the founders of the library. This postal card was mailed locally in Honolulu on Oct. 31, 1892. 

Postcard shows the library in Honolulu directed by Edna Allyn.  Message on the back reads in part: “The building on the left is the library.  We hope for a better one some day.” Mailed from Honolulu, Hawaii to the Public Library in Newark, NJ, March 16, 1908. 

In 1909 the Hawaii Library and Reading Room Association transfered its assets to the newly formed Library of Hawaii which received a $100,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie for a building. That building opened (shown below) to the public on February 1, 1913. Edna Allyn was appointed the first librarian, a post she held until her death in 1927. The children's section of the library is named in her honor.  Postcard mailed on March 5, 1931. 

After statehood in 1959 the Library of Hawaii became the Hawaii State Library.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Postcard


The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library , Washington, DC's central public library, is one of the most significant and appropriate memorials to Martin Luther King, Jr. The Board of Library Trustees named the library in memory of King in 1971 before the new building opened on August 21, 1972. The building was designed by world-famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The postcard above which shows the library was mailed in 1978. Based on the message on the back of the postcard it was probably sent by a library school student at the nearby Catholic University of America. The postcard was sent to a librarian in Geneva, Il. The message reads: "Here's a library postcard to add to your collection - or is it a friends? Anyway was down here today trying to find Maurice Tauber's Technical Services in Libraries. Do you believe it was out. BORING! which sums up most of my 15 credits - a letter will follow!" Two personal connections to me - library postcard collector and former library school student.

In 2020 the Library completed a massive $211 million rehabilitation. It still serves as an appropriate memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Librarians on a Postcard and Philippine Libraries

Librarians are rarely depicted on postcards so it was amazing to find one that depicted 24 librarians. It was even more amazing to discover the postcard's connection to two important librarians in Philippine library history. The librarians depicted on the postcard were the entire 1922 class of the N. Y. State Library School. That's the library school founded by Melvil Dewey at Columbia University and then moved to the New York State Library in Albany, NY. The library school subsequently moved back to Columbia University. The postcard is a Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) and the photographer was Gustave Lorey who operated a prominent photography studio in Albany. The address side on the postcard is where the two Phillipine librarians come into the story. The postcard is addressed to Miss Mary Polk, Bureau of Science Library, Manila, PI. It is signed "Sincerely yours, Isidoro Saniel". It is dated Mar. 26, 1921 but is not stamped or postmarked. This means it was probably mailed inside an envelope to Manila. I was able to locate a great article on the internet about Mary Polk and her contribution to Philippine librarianship. It was written by Bradley Brazzeal and is titiled "Science Librarianship in Colonial Philippines: Mary Polk and the Philippin Bureau of Science Library, 1903-1924". Brazzeal includes a quote in his article that Polk could "righly be called the mother of Philippine Library Science". He indicates also that the Philippine Association of Academic Research Librarians continues to provide a scholarship in the name of Polk that "honors the life and accomplishments of Mary Polk, the first librarian of the University of the Philippines, who started the first formal library science training program in the same university". Brazzeal's article also explains the connection between Mary Polk and Isidoro Saniel. Saniel was one of several individuals in the Philippines who were sent to library schools in the United States for formal library training. Saniel was sent to the N. Y. State Library School. She returned to play a prominent role in Philippine librarianship, and has written a history of the Philippine Library Association which she helped found. [Saniel, Isidoro. “Forty-Nine Years of the Philippine Library Association.” The Journal of Library History (1966-1972), vol. 7, no. 4, University of Texas Press, 1972, pp. 301–12,] It is likely that Saniel is one of the class of 1922 depicted on the postcard. The records of the New York State Library School are now located in the Archival Collections of Columbia University Libraries. An enterprising researcher might be able to identify the other members of the class of 1922.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Libraries and Trolleys on Postcards

 In the golden age of picture postcards both libraries and trolleys (streetcars) were common subjects of the cards. Postcards which feature both libraries and trolleys, however, are uncommon. I find those postcards especially interesting and appealing. Public libraries in large cities are more likely to be featured on postcards which also include one or more trolleys.  The Boston Public Library is featured on more postcards that include a trolley by far than any other library. Not far behind is the New York Public Library. Below are some of the postcards in this category from my personal collection of library postcards.

The first card features the Boston Public Library. It is interesting because of the message on the address side of the card. It reads "Public Library. Note small street car. I have seen the cars of New York, Boston, Phila., Chicago, Norfolk, Jamestown, Mil. but none half as good and big as Mpls. [Minneapolis]." The postcard was posted on Nov. 8, 1909 on the U.S.S Missouri. 

Unposted card features the Carnegie Library in Stillwater, MN and a trolley from the Twin City Lines.

Multiple trolleys are featured on this postcard for Ashville, NC which was posted on Oct. 31, 1907. The library is the castle like building on the right.
Unposted Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) featuring the Milwaukee Public Library and Museum. Trolley is in front of library on lower right.

Four trolleys appear on this Chicago Public Library postcard which was posted Sept. 29, 1910. Message on back reads "This picture does not do justice to the building. It is some place."

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Two Additional Library People on Postage Stamps

I’ve been collecting libraries and library people on postage stamps for more than 25 years.  I haven’t been as aggressive in my pursuit of these stamps in recent years so I was slow to realize the connection to libraries of two of the stamps in the United State Postal Service “Voices of the Harlem Renaissance” issue of 2020.  Both individuals on the stamps had strong connections to the New York Public Library (NYPL). The first person was Nella Larsen (1891-1964) who was honored as a novelist, but also was a librarian at the NYPL. She worked at three different branch libraries – the 135th Street Branch, the Seward Park Branch, and the Countee Cullen Branch.  She was the first black woman to graduate from the NYPL Library School.  Although not honored as a librarian, Larsen was the first (and only) person with professional librarian credentials to appear on a United States postage stamp.  Wikipedia has a comprehensive entry for Nella Larsen.  The “Little Known Black Librarian Facts” blog has an entry for Larsen with an excellent list of sources.  Bob Sink’s “NYPL Librarians” blog has an interesting post about Ernestine Rose’s role in the integration of branch library staffs including her connection to Larsen. 

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (1874-1938) was the second person on a stamp with a library connection.  The USPS description of his contributions: “By tirelessly collecting books, documents, artwork, and other materials, Schomburg rescued black history from obscurity and preserved priceless cultural knowledge for future generations.”  His collection was acquired by the New York Public Library and was the foundation for what became the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Wikipedia has a nice entry for Schomburg. It is noteworthy that the previously mentioned Ernestine Rose also played a significant role in acquiring and building the Schomburg collection at NYPL. 

Library people especially librarians are rarely recognized on postage stamps for their contributions as library people. Those who are on postage stamps are usually recognized for some other contribution.  On my Library History Buff website which I no longer update because of obsolete software I have several sections devoted to the topic of library people on postage stamps.  They include “Library People on Postage Stamps – An Introduction”, “A Postage Stamp to Honor America’s Librarians”, “U.S. Library People on Postage Stamps”, and “World Library People on Postage Stamps”.

As a collector of libraries and library people on postage stamps I have benefited in my search for these stamps by my membership in the American Topical Association and the Graphics Philately Association.  The Graphics Philately Association publishes a comprehensive list of these and other graphics related postage stamps titled Winnegrad’s Printing on Stamps compiled by Bruce L. Johnson. The Graphics Philately Association also publishes a quarterly publication titled Philateli-Graphics which includes listing of new stamp issues of graphic interest which includes libraries.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Community Advertising Covers (Envelopes)


Sparta, WI

I’ve been a collector of envelopes (called covers by philatelists) related to libraries for more than 25 years. In my efforts to collect these I discovered a category of covers called “community advertising covers”.  These covers usually include multiple photographs or illustrations depicting prominent buildings and geographic features of a community (usually on the front of the cover) and written commentary extolling the virtues of living or doing business in the community (usually on the back of the cover). My personal collection of these covers numbers over 70 including examples from 18 states. I’m interested in these covers because an image of a library building is often featured on the cover, and the community's library is often touted as one of the advantages of living or doing business in the community in the commentary. These covers are also nice items to include in my philatelic exhibits about libraries. 

When I first began collecting these covers I came across an article from the Fall 1993 issue of The Heliograph, the journal of the Postal History Foundation in Tucson, AZ, which described a donation to the Foundation of community advertising covers.  The donation was from Charles Nettleship Jr. who had amassed a collection of 1204 community advertising covers (145 of these were photocopies).  According to the article all states except Hawaii were represented in the collection.  The largest percentage came from the Midwest (43%) followed by the East (30), then the West (20%) and finally the South (7%).  The article indicated that the largest number of covers were from the 1901 to 1910 period with the earliest from 1800 and the latest from 1975.

I have 18 Wisconsin community advertising covers and I thought an article about these covers might be a possibility for the Badger Postal History journal of the Wisconsin Postal History Society of which I am a member. While working on the article I contacted Valerie Kittel, Librarian of the Postal History Foundation to see if the Foundation still had the covers. She indicated that the collection had been sold.  The good news, however, was that along with the collection came an index card file in which Nettleship had meticulously described each cover.  This information had been transferred by the Postal History Foundation to a printed document which listed all the covers by state. Valerie graciously sent me the part of the document which included the entries for Wisconsin. With this information I was able to substantially improve my article “Wisconsin’s Community Advertising Covers” which was included in the November 2021 issue of Badger Postal History.  I have included selected examples of community advertising covers from my collection in this blog post.

Corsicana, TX 

Maquoket, IA

Thursday, December 30, 2021

St. Louis Mercantile Library 125

 The St. Louis Mercantile Library celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2021. According to its website: “Founded in 1846 and chartered by the State of Missouri in that year, the St. Louis Mercantile Library is the oldest general library in continuous existence West of the Mississippi River.”  The library is now located on the campus of the University of Missouri – St. Louis. Mercantile libraries are one of the major types of membership libraries. They were started by businessmen in behalf of young merchants’ clerks embarking on their careers. They began in Boston and New York in 1820 but were eventually established in most major cities in America including St. Louis. I have a philatelic exhibit featuring America’s membership libraries and mercantile libraries constitute a major component of the exhibit. I have a number of artifacts in the exhibit relating to the St. Louis Mercantile Library, some of which are shown below.  I have a previous blog post which discusses the bookplates of the Mercantile Library.  I also have a blog post about my visit to the library in 2015.

Life membership certificate for William E. Ware dated 1855. 

1895 postal card listing services and membership terms.

Stampless mourning cover sent to the St. Louis Mercantile Library on Sept. 7, 1850.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Smithsonian 175

It would be a shame to leave 2021 without acknowledging the 175th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution, one of America’s great cultural institutions.  On August 10, 1846, the U.S. Senate passed the act organizing the Smithsonian Institution, which was signed into law by President James K. Polk. I wrote a previous post about Charles Coffin Jewett who was the first librarian of the Smithsonian. Jewett thought the Smithsonian should be a national library, but the Smithsonian’s secretary disagreed.  This led to Jewett’s dismissal in 1855.  The iconic Smithsonian building known as the “Castle” was actually designed to include a library and reading room. In 1866 the Smithsonian’s library collection was moved to the Library of Congress and became known as the “Smithsonian Deposit”.  The Smithsonian eventually reestablished a library of its own which is now the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives. The Smithsonian presents multiple opportunities to the collector of postal artifacts. These include items related to the postal history of the Smithsonian, items related to the three postage stamps issued by the United States Postal System, and postcards.  I have examples of all of these in my personal collection. Some are shown below.  For postcard collectors, there is an exceptional section of the Smithsonian website titled “Greetings from the Smithsonian” which combines the history of the Smithsonian with the history of postcards. You will need to click on the Menu at the bottom of the introductory page to see the full expanse of the history.

Cover circa 1870s mailed by Smithsonian to Chicago

First Day Cover for 1996 stamp combined with 1946 stamp

First Day Cover for 1980 stamp

Monday, December 27, 2021

Library Philately 2021

The year 2021 was a good year if you were a collector or exhibitor of library philately which I am. The year 2020 was a bust for philatelic exhibiting but it provided an opportunity to revise and expand existing exhibits which I did.

I have been collecting postal items related to libraries since 1995 and exhibiting those items since 2003. One of the first library postal artifacts that I began collecting was first day covers featuring the 1982 “America’s Libraries” stamp. The American Philatelic Society establishes the rules for philatelic exhibiting which allow several different types of exhibits. One of those types is for illustrated mail including first day coves. My first exhibit of first day covers and other artifacts related to the “America’s Libraries” stamp took place several years ago. Philatelic exhibits are housed in special exhibit frames that hold 16 letter size sheets, and my first exhibit was housed in 4 frames.  In 2021 I completely remounted the exhibit and expanded it to 6 frames. I was able to show the new exhibit at the Minnesota Stamp Expo in Minneapolis in July 2021, the Great American Stamp Show (GASS) in Chicago in August 2021, and the WISCOPEX stamp show in New Berlin, WI in October 2021. Exhibits at stamp shows are judged individually against prescribed criteria by a panel of judges certified by the American Philatelic Society. Exhibits receive an award level based on how well the exhibit does against those criteria. Award levels are: large gold, gold, large vermeil, vermeil, large silver, silver, silver bronze, bronze, and certificate.  At Minnesota, the exhibit received a gold award, at GASS a large vermeil award, and at WISCOPEX the Best of Show award.

Another type of philatelic exhibit is called “display”, and this type allows the inclusion of non-philatelic artifacts in the exhibit. Most of my exhibits fall into this type. In 2021 I exhibited a two frame exhibit titled “Melvil Dewey – American Library Pioneer and Social Reformer” for the first time.  I had initially developed the exhibit for the Rockford, Illinois stamp show which is limited to 2, 3, and 4 frame exhibits. That show was cancelled in 2020. This exhibit was shown at the Minnesota Stamp Expo and GASS. At Minnesota it received a large vermeil award and at GASS it received a vermeil award.

I have included postal artifacts related to membership libraries in the United States in many of my display type exhibits over the years. In 2015 I developed a 5 frame exhibit exclusively about the different types of membership libraries. I later expanded the exhibit to 6 frames.  In 2021 I completely revised the exhibit and expanded it to 8 frames under the title “America’s Membership Libraries 1731-1910”.  I showed the revised exhibit for the first time at the Omaha Stamp Show in September and again at the Chicagopex Stamp Show in November. At Omaha the exhibit received a large gold award and at Chicagopex a gold award.

The United States authorized the use of government issued postal cards in 1873. These were pre-stamped and cost only 1 cent. Libraries immediately began using these cards for a number of library activities such as overdue notices, reserve notices, and gift acknowledgements.  Melvil Dewey advocated for a postal card the same size as a library catalog card, and in 1898 the United States Post Office issued a “library size” postal card.  I have collected examples of the use of this card by libraries for many years, and I developed a one frame exhibit which I titled appropriately “Library Uses of Melvil Dewey’s Postal Card”. I have shown the exhibit at several shows in the past and at the invitation of the United Postal Stationery Society I showed it again in 2021 at the Philatelic Show in Boxborough, MA in September. The exhibit received a gold award.

A good year for library philately indeed!

The links below lead to other blog posts about by library philatelic exhibits.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Great Falls (MT) Public Library and Alma Smith Jacobs

Researching a recent acquisition to my postal librariana collection I discovered the story of African American librarian Alma Smith Jacobs (1916-1997) of Montana.  The postal artifact is an envelope (shown above) with an image of the interior of the Carnegie Library in Great Falls, MT covering the entire face of the envelope.  The back of the envelope which was mailed on December 2, 1917 has the address information.  The Great Falls Public Library has an excellent history of the library on its website. It was there that I learned that after serving as a catalog librarian for eight years Alma Jacobs became head librarian in 1954, a post she held until 1973. She left Great Falls to become the Montana State Librarian in Helena where she ended her library career in 1981.  She was the first African American to hold that post. While in Great Falls she led the effort which resulted in the replacement of the Carnegie Library with a new library building in 1967.  The Women’s History Matters website has an excellent overview of Jacobs’ contributions to library and community service in Montana.  In an unusual coincidence of timing I discovered that on April 28, 2017 the Great Falls Public Library dedicated a mural of Jacobs. The library had previously named the library plaza in her honor.  Alma Jacobs was the first African American elected as President of the Montana Library Association, the first elected as President of the Pacific Northwest Library Association, and the first to serve on the Executive Board of the American Library Association. Jacobs’ sister Lucille Smith Thompson was also a prominent African American librarian (Little Known Black Librarian Facts Blog).