Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year in the Life of The Library History Buff

Since my retirement from full time library work in 2003 I have devoted more and more time to my role as a "library history buff".  So much so that it is almost like a regular job, only more fun. I describe myself as a library history buff in order to distinguish myself from library history scholars who approach library history in a much more serious and sophisticated manner.  I have a great deal of respect for these scholars and much of what I do depends on their excellent research and scholarship. My personal mission, however, is to promote library history to a wider audience inside and outside the library community. Many of my efforts have fallen flat, but like Don Quixote I keep on tilting at windmills. I have created a page on the Library History Buff website that provides an overview of the activities of a library history buff in 2010. Please note that although it may appear otherwise I also have a life outside of my activities as a library history buff.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Henry Bartlett Van Hoesen, Brown University Librarian

It must be tough to have Christmas Day as one's birthday. Henry Bartlett Van Hoesen (1885-1965) was one individual who suffered this fate. This Christmas will be the 125th anniversary of Van Hoesen's birth. He served as Librarian of Brown University from 1930 to 1950. In somewhat of a left handed compliment, Brown University President Henry M. Wriston said this about Van Hoesen: "With no qualities of showmanship at all, and without any appearance of the go-getter, Dr. Henry Van Hoesen has been one of the most progressive library administrators in the United States." The Special Collections Deparment of Brown University Library maintains an excellent History and Guide to the collections of Brown University. The section on the 1930s and World War II deals with the development of those collections under Van Hoesen. As a philatelist, I was impressed that Brown has a substantial philatelic collection that originated with a donation from Colonel Webster Knight during this period. The large drawer in the table in the image above was said to have housed the entire Brown University Library at one point. The collection shown behind the table is a collection of early books in the library reassembled by Van Hoesen in 1938.  Both the table and the collection are displayed in the reading room of the John Hay Library. It is not often that a library is able to preserve such an important artifact in its history. I wrote a post earlier in the year about Reuben A. Guild (1822-1899) who served as Librarian of Brown from 1848 to 1893.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pasadena Public Library 1890

Pasadena, California is being mentioned quite often here in Wisconsin because the University of Wisconsin football team will be playing in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. The photograph above which is part of my collection shows the Pasadena Public Library building that opened on September 9, 1890.  This was the same year that the first Tournament of the Rose took place in Pasadena. This building was replaced in 1927 by a new building that was part of a civic center and which continues as the Central Library of the Pasadena Public Library. The 1890 building was declared unsafe in 1933 and was razed (except for the entrance arch) in 1954.  In 1955 the entrance arch was restored but it was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The photograph above was part of a collection of photographs of Pasadena and surrounding areas taken by the Jarvis Gallery. A brief history of the Pasadena Public Library can be found HERE

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Origin of Vertical Files

Research by the Early Office Museum makes a strong case that the first vertical file cabinets were produced by Library Bureau, the library and office supply company founded by Melvil Dewey.  The earliest advertisement for a vertical file cabinet was found by the Museum in a 1900 Library Bureau catalog. Information in this catalog indicates that vertical files utilized the same technology pioneered in library card catalog cabinets which were also produced by Library Bureau. I'm very impressed with the web site for the Early Office Museum which does not have an actual physical location. The site and all the information on it is compiled and maintained by three volunteers. It is a potential model for a library history museum or a component of a library history museum.  The Library History Buff web site and the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center web site are other models.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Retrieval Systems

When the magnificent new central library building (now known as the McKim Building) of the Boston Public Library opened at its Copley Square location in 1895 it contained beautiful art work and some unusual technological innovations.  One of its unique features was a book railway system which allowed books to be transported mechanically from library stack areas to the library's Book Delivery Room where they could be picked up by those requesting them. An illustration of the railway book cart taken from an 1895 Boston Public Library handbook is shown above.  Almost all large libraries of this period had closed stacks and getting a requested book to a library user in a relatively short period was important. In 1895 the Boston Public Library was one of the largest libraries in the country and its multi-tiered stack arrangement presented challenges in this regard. The book railway solution that the library came up with was adapted from a system used by retail department stores to transport cash from multiple sales points to a centralized cash receipt office.  The Lamson Consolidated Store Service Company in Boston was the developer of Boston's book railway system which involved railway tracks around each stack level connected to a small elevator that went to the Book Delivery Room.  In 1927 the new central library of the Free Library of Philadelphia also utilized an innovative book retrieval system. A number of large libraries used pneumatic tube systems to transmit book requests to stack areas where library employees were stationed to retrieve books. The New York Public Library still uses pneumatic tubes for this purpose.  Modern day libraries face the same challenges as early libraries when it comes to book retrieval. The University of Chicago Library is constructing a massive automated retrieval system for its new book storage facility. A number of libraries are making use of RFID technology to implement the automated sorting of returned books.  I have a previous post about an early concept for a book retrieval system.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Great European Libraries at The Morgan

From December 10, 2010 through January 9, 2011 one of America's great libraries, the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City, will host an exhibit of photographs of Europe's great libraries. The Morgan commissioned Massimo Listri, a photographer from Florence, Italy, to take the photographs. The large format photographs which are almost five feet in width and four feet in height include among others: the magnificent Long Room of Trinity College Library at the University of Dublin (shown above with permission from The Morgan); the Malatestiana Library in Cesena, Italy; the St. Gall Monastery Library in Switzerland; the Laurentian Library in Florence, which was designed by Michelangelo; and the Vatican Library. A visit to The Morgan is a wonderful experience in itself, this exhibit makes it even more so.

When I learn of a special event such as the one above I check my collection to see if I have any related items. I have several items that I picked up at a visit to The Morgan a couple of years ago, but the most interesting item I have is a brochure for the traveling exhibit of treasures from the library that took place on its 50th anniversary in 1957. This exhibit included 108 items which were selected to show the range and quality of the library's collection. Three of the items were of special note. They included the Gutenberg Bible on vellum, the 1459 Psalter on vellum, and the Constance Missal (only one of three known copies). The exhibit traveled to seven of the nation's most prominent museums. A web page with links to information about the history of The Morgan can be found HERE.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Introducing the Chicago Public Library

The recent winter weather in the Midwest including Chicago brought to mind a small booklet that I have about the collections, services, and programs of the Chicago Public Library that was published in 1947 or 1948. It features a pen and ink drawing of a wintry scene in front of the old Central Library by William Mark Young.  When I first got the booklet I puzzled at the selection of such a daunting scene for the cover.  I'm still puzzled.  To see more Chicago Public  Library artifacts from my collection click HERE

Friday, December 10, 2010

Melvil Dewey's Library Postal Card

Since today (Dec. 10) is the birthday (159th) of Melvil Dewey, I thought it would be an appropriate occasion for a post about the  postal card which the United Stated Post Office Department (USPOD) issued in 1898 as a result of lobbying by Dewey. The pre-stamped postal card which Dewey lobbied for is the same size as a library catalog card and is commonly referred to in philatelic circles as a "library card". Dewey was largely responsible for standardizing the size of the catalog card at 12.5 cm x 7.5 cm and he felt that postal cards should also be standardized at a similar size. Interestingly, it was the early government issued postal cards (the first one was issued in 1873) that influenced the size of the catalog card, specifically its height. The "p" in "p-slip" stands for postal. Dewey took credit for getting the USPOD to issue a library sized postal card in an 1898 Library Journal article. Dewey himself made heavy use of the new library size postal cards.  The unused postal card above documents Dewey's move from Albany to Lake Placid after his resignation as New York State Librarian in 1905.  Postal cards could be purchased in a single sheet of fifty to facilitate pre-printed addresses and/or messages. The New York Library Club utilized library size postal cards to send out announcements of its meetings. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

License Plate Librariana

Thanks to the generosity of library consultants Bill Wilson and Ethel Himmel I have added a license plate to my collection of librariana. It is a Wisconsin vanity or personalized plate that reads "LIBRARY".  Bill and Ethel beat everyone to the "LIBRARY" plate when Wisconsin went to seven letters and numbers several years ago. They already had a "LIBARY" plate. I've seen a variety of library and book related messages on personalized plates but you can't beat just plain "LIBRARY". There have also been a number of states that have specialty license plates which benefit or promote libraries. Several are depicted above. If you have an image of a library related license plate, I would like to get a copy. Contact me at

Monday, December 6, 2010

ALA's First San Francisco Conference 1891

In 1891 the American Library Association held its first conference on the West coast in San Francisco. It was the thirteenth conference of ALA, and Library Journal called it the least effective of any of the annual meetings of ALA. ALA President Samuel S. Green, who had stepped in to replace an ailing Melvil Dewey, said that there was so much entertainment the members were not fit to do any work. He suggested that future conferences be held at quiet, "less seductive places". [Source: Dennis Thomison's A History of the American Library Association 1876-1972 (ALA, 1978)]. Taking Green's advice, ALA did not meet again in San Francisco until 1939, 48 years later. In later years, San Francisco was, not surprisingly, one of the most popular conference sites for ALA. I've had the pleasure of attending six conferences in this wonderful city. Probably due to costs, ALA has not met in San Francisco since 2001. However, ALA will return to San Francisco in 2015. The book shaped publication shown here is the ALA Handbook of the San Francisco Meeting 1891.  It measures approximately 3 1/2 inches by 5 inches and is less than 25 pages in length, a far cry from today's enormous conference programs. This particular copy was discarded from the Library of the American Library Association and came to me via the Library History Round Table auction at Library History Seminar XII.  It was donated to the auction by Norman D. Stevens. I have a previous blog post about the 1891 conference. I also have an online exhibit of ALA's history which includes artifacts from other ALA conferences.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Otis Hall Robinson (1835-1912), Rochester University Librarian

Happy birthday to the man who put the hole in library catalog cards. Today marks the 175th anniversary of the birth of Otis Hall Robinson who served as Librarian of the University of Rochester Library from 1868 to 1889. Robinson is noted more for his advocacy for library instruction than for his idea for dealing with the annoying tendency of library users to remove catalog cards and put them back in the wrong order (or to keep them for later reference). But lets not underestimate the importance of that idea. How often has a single idea or practice been adopted by every library in America. Robinson's plan called for punching a hole in the lower left corner of each catalog card and running a rod through all the holes to prevent the removal of the cards. Later with the development of standard catalog cabinet drawers the hole was moved to the center of the catalog card. Although French librarian M. Pincon had similar thoughts, Robinson's holes (which were larger than the rod) were more effective. The catalog card above (a Harvard sized catalog card) started out with the hole to the left but was moved to the center later.

Robinson is listed in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) where there is an excellent article about him by Edward G. Holley. There is also actually some information on the University of Rochester Library website about Robinson (although it is easier to find through Google than their website). Both sources provide a good picture of the challenges and limitations of academic librarianship in the 19th century. Robinson was exceptional in his views on serving the library and information needs of students. Even so, the library was only open a few hours each day.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New York Society Library Charging Ledger 1789-1792

Earlier in the year there was a great deal of publicity about a couple of overdue books at the New York Society Library (NYSL) which had been borrowed by George Washington. I even did a blog post about it here. The NYSL has recently launched a new component on its website which makes available a digitized copy of its first charging ledger which covers the period 1789-1792. In addition to the digital images of the pages of the charging ledger, there is a link to each individual user in the ledger which takes you to more information about the individual including a listing of the books checked out by the individual. Users of the NYSL who are listed in the ledger include George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr. There is also a link to each book checked out by the user with information about the book and who else checked out the book. All in all, it is an extremely well done project. In September of this year, I attended Library History Seminar XII, a national meeting of library historians, and a thread which ran throughout the conference was the historical importance of preserving library circulation records. Noted library historian Wayne Wiegand promotes an approach to library history which emphasizes the library in the life of the user in contrast to the user in the life of the library. Historians are able to utilize charging ledgers such as the one at the NYSL to approach library history in this manner.  The online charging ledger of the NYSL can be utilized as a research tool and also as learning tool for library school students and those interested in library history. As is noted on their website, there are additional charging ledgers for later years that have also been preserved at the NYSL. When you visit the NYSL website take time to look around, it is an excellent website. Permission to use the image of the first page of the charging ledger shown above was granted by the NYSL.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

MA State Library Recalls Law Books 1855

The State Library of Massachusetts was established in 1826. By the 1840s the space in the Massachusetts State House for the library was greatly overcrowded. One solution was to "farm out" duplicate materials to other libraries on the condition that the material could be recalled at a later date. Between 1853 and 1856 an addition to the State House was constructed which provided additional space for the State Library.  The pending availability of this additional space prompted the State Library Board of Trustees to recall its loaned material in 1855. The envelope and enclosed letter featured here were sent to the Law Library of Harvard University requesting the return of materials loaned to that library. An additional reason for the return of the books was the preparation of a new catalog for the State Library. The envelope above is a pre-stamped envelope.  These envelopes became available from the United States Post Office Department starting in 1853. They were heavily used by libraries. This postal item is the "Library Cover Story" for December on the Library History Buff website.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

American Library in Paris Celebrates 90th Anniversary

The American Library in Paris is celebrating its 90th anniversary with a special display featuring images, books, and archives from its 90 year history.  The display will run from today (Nov. 30) through January 30, 2011. The envelope above is one of two that I have that were mailed by the American Library in Paris. I did a previous post on the other envelope on January 20 of this year. The American Library in Paris is one of the legacies of the American Library Association's Library War Service during World War I. A history of the library is located on its website. The envelope above was mailed on November 20, 1934 to the Card Division of the Library of Congress.  There is a Library of Congress date received stamp showing that it was received on November 30, 1934.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankful to Carnegie on Thanksgiving

Andrew Carnegie's 175th birthday will fall on Thanksgiving Day. This is an appropriate day for those 1412 communities in the United States that received funding from Carnegie to build 1679 public library buildings to be thankful to Carnegie for the generosity which impacted their communities in such a positive way. Although many of the buildings no longer exist and others have been repurposed, all of the buildings, for a significant period, were a place where lives were changed for the better. Many of the Carnegie library buildings, some after over a hundred years, still function as public libraries. My first library job was in a Carnegie building that served as the central library for Nashville, TN. I also spent many enjoyable and profitable hours in the Carnegie building that housed the George Peabody College Library in Nashville, TN. To help celebrate Carnegie's 175th birthday, I put together a tribute on the Library History Buff website, and also prepared an exhibit on Andrew Carnegie's Wisconsin Library Legacy which is on display this month at the Meade Public Library in Sheboygan, WI.  It was previously on display in September in Middleton, WI. There are also a number of other posts on this blog about Carnegie libraries. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Globe Wernicke Bookcases and Bookplates

I came across this promotional item for the Globe-Wernicke Co. at the CHICAGOPEX stamp show this weekend.  It is not a perfect fit for my postal librariana collection but it was too neat an item to pass up. The top part of the item is a detachable postcard which can be mailed to the Globe-Wernicke Co. in Cincinnati to receive free bookplates and and a booklet "The World's Best Books". The objective of this advertising ephemera is probably to get your name and address so one of their "Bookcase Agents" can try to sell you one or more bookcases. The bookcases are advertised on the bottom of one side of the card which includes the statement, "An Individual Globe-Wenicke Bookcase Encourages Self Culture". has a lengthy article about the Globe-Wernicke Company and its stackable bookcases. These bookcases originated in the 1890s and were extremely popular for the early half of the 20th century. They continue to be highly desirable to antique collectors.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

British Museum Library Reading Room Ticket

The piece of library ephemera shown above has no overt identification text or markings. In fact, it was miss identified as being from an American library when I purchased it.  The text at the top of the item reads "Permission to use the Reading Room will be withdrawn from any person who shall write or make marks on any part of a printed book, manuscript, or map belonging to the Museum."  The word "Museum" was the clue which pointed to it not being what it was purported to be. A notation at the bottom of the item indicated that 100,000 were printed in 1884 which meant that it had to be a pretty active library/museum. I wondered if it could perhaps be from the British Museum Library, and further investigation proved this to be the case. I have a copy of Gertrude Burford Rawlings' The British Museum Library (H.W. Wilson Co., 1916) which describes the process for obtaining books in the British Museum Library. It reads: "To obtain a book from the general library the reader must transcribe from the catalogue, on one of the tickets provided, the name of the book and its author, its date and its pressmark. to this ticket he adds his signature, the date, the letter of his table, and the number of his desk, and then places it in a box at the centre counter.  He may have to wait for his book from twenty minutes to half-an-hour, or even more ... ."  This description matches up perfectly with the information on the item which is a "ticket" for requesting books. On this ticket, the press mark (location) is 2500-a, the reader is F. H. Stoddard, and the Reader's Seat is C. 1. F. H. Stoddard turns out to be a Professor of English at New York University who was evidently doing research at the British Museum Library. Information on the back of the "ticket" indicates that after the ticket is submitted it is retained by staff until the book is returned at which time the ticket is given back to the reader who in this instance obviously retained the ticket as a record of his research. A more substantial verification of the origin of the ticket can be found in this publication which was found on Google by Ben Abrahamse. The Library of the British Museum was spun off as the British Library in 1973. A brief history of the Museum and its Library can be found HERE. I've had the pleasure of visiting both the old Reading Room of the British Museum and the new building of the British Library. I have a web page on my Library History Buff website which includes library related postal items from the British Isles. Stamps related to both the British Museum and the British Library are included.

Friday, November 19, 2010

William S. Dix, Princeton Librarian

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of William Shepherd Dix (1910-1978), Princeton University Librarian (1953-1975).  Dix was serving as President of the American Library Association when I attended my first ALA Conference in Atlantic City, NJ in 1969.  It was a volatile and exciting time in ALA with lots of calls for change. Dix was credited with calming the troubled waters within ALA during this period. Unlike some of the previous library notables highlighted in this blog, there is a considerable amount of information about Dix on the Internet. His papers are located at the Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton and they have a nice biographical sketch along with a photograph of Dix which is shown here. Dix is included in the Supplement to the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1990). There is also a nice entry in the World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services (ALA Editions, 1993). All of the information about Dix leads to the conclusion that he was one of the most highly regarded librarians of his generation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Celebrating Two Years of Blogging

Today marks the end of two years of blogging by me on The Library History Buff Blog. Time flies ... . This is blog post number 260. Highlights of this past year were the selection of LHBB as one of "10 Library Blogs to Read in 2010" by LISNEWS, its selection as second in the Quirky Library Blogs category of Salem Press' best library blogs competition, and its inclusion by George Eberhart on The Librarian's Book of Lists' "Top 10 Library Blogs" list. It's nice to get recognition for the blog, but I'm most grateful for the approximately 1,700 unique visitors who visit the site each month.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Frederick Leypoldt, Founder of Publishers' Weekly and Library Journal

Today is the 175th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Leypoldt (1835-1884). On May 17, 1876, Frederick Leypoldt, Melvil Dewey, and Richard Rodgers Bowker met in the offices of Publishers" Weekly and mutually agreed to pursue a conference of American librarians and a library journal. Both of these objectives were accomplished in that same year. The first issue of Library Journal (under the initial title of American Library Journal) was dated September 30, 1876 and the conference of librarians which resulted in the founding of the American Library Association took place in Philadelphia in October, 1876. Dewey is often given credit for these accomplishments, but both Leypoldt and Bowker also deserve much credit. Leypoldt had successfully established Publishers' Weekly as a major source of information about books and their publishing in America, and although Dewey was the first Managing Editor of Library Journal, Leypoldt was its publisher and source of financial support. Leypoldt also published the American Catalogue and Index Medicus. Leypoldt was a poor businessman and his publishing endeavors, including Library Journal, often resulted in financial loses. His close associate R. R. Bowker was more financially astute and later purchased Publishers' Weekly. The R. R. Bowker Company developed into a major American publishing house with emphasis on the book and library trades. The envelope above was mailed in 1889, five years after Leypoldt's death. The relationships between Leypoldt, Dewey, and Bowker are fascinating. They are dealt with in several publications. These include E. McClung Fleming's R. R. Bowker: Miltant Liberal (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1952), Edward G. Holley's Raking the Historic Coals: The A.L.A. Scrapbook of 1876 (BETA PHI MU, 1967), and Wayne A. Wiegand's Irrepressible Reformer, A Biography of Melvil Dewey (ALA, 1996).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Membership Law Libraries Revisited

I was recently contacted by Mikhail Koulikov, Reference/Research Librarian at the New York Law Institute, in regard to a post I made last year about membership law libraries. Because of the acquisition of a couple of artifacts related to these kinds of libraries, I had already been planning another post about them. Mikhail informed me that there is still a viable role for legal libraries that are  supported largely by membership fees. He has made a case for their continuing role in an article entitled "The membership library answer to new law firm realities" in the Spring 2010 issue of PLL Perspectives, the newsletter of the American Association of Law Libraries' Private Law Libraries section. In addition to to the New York Law Institute Library, Mikhail notes two other examples of legal membership libraries, the Baltimore Bar Library and San Francisco's Mills Law Library. Previously noted were Boston's Social Law Library and Philadelphia's Jenkins Law Library which receive additional funding from the state. The two artifacts shown above are a 1884 envelope mailed by the New York Law Institute Library and an 1865 certificate for one share in the Social Law Library.  There were many of these libraries in the 19th century that haven't managed to survive. Laureen Adams and Regina Smith have written about the transition from membership law libraries to public law libraries in "The Evolution of Public Law Libraries".  Congratulations to those membership law libraries have found a way to remain relevant in the 21st century. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Addison Van Name, Yale Librarian

Addison Van Name (1835-1922) was born 175 years ago today. Happy birthday Addison. Van Name served as Librarian of Yale University from 1865 to 1905, a forty year period. He built up the library's collection from 44,500 volumes to almost a half a million items.  He played a major role in the construction of two library buildings at Yale. Van Name also attended the meeting of librarians in Philadelphia in 1876 at which the American Library Association was founded. He played an active role in ALA and served on its Council for several years. Van Name is listed in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978). Yale University Library has little about its previous librarians or its heritage on its website which is regretful. There is a mention of the Chittenden Library (now Chittenden Hall) which Van Name helped design on the University's website but there is no indication of Van Name's role in building what was an extraordinary library at the time. An article appeared in Library Journal from the Yale Alumni Weekly about his death in 1922 which recounts his contribution to Yale University and its library. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Texas State Library & Archives - the Good & the Bad

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is celebrating the completion of a $20 million renovation of the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building today. Author and historian H. W. Brands will speak at the ceremony, which will take place on the front steps of the de Zavala building, at 1201 Brazos St., across from the east side of the State Capitol. The de Zavala building was dedicated as a national Literary Landmark last year. The State Library & Archives also celebrated its centennial in 2009. A short history of the State Library & Archives is located on its website. The Texas State Library and Archives, A History 1835-1962 by David B. Gracy II was published in June of this year by the University of Texas Press.

The current issue of Libraries & The Cultural Record includes an article by Pamela R. Bleisch entitiled "Spoilsmen and Daughters of the Republic: Political Interference in the Texas State Library during the Tenure of Elizabeth Howard West, 1911-1925". This is a compelling article which paints a picture of an extremely dedicated librarian who is dealt a terrible hand of cards. Paid almost nothing, West promoted county library service, library service to the blind, and accommodated use of the state library by African Americans. Almost destitute after paying for extensive travel with her own funds, West resigned when the Texas State Legislature funded a sinecure on the State Library staff for a daughter of Sam Houston. With little public complaint, West accepted a position as Librarian of Texas Tech University. For her article, Bleisch was awarded the Justin Winsor Prize for the best essay in library history in 2009-10 by the Library History Round Table of the American Library Association.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Soldiers' Free Library

A library story for Veterans Day. The Soldiers Free Library was founded on October 15, 1862 in Washington, D.C. by Elida Rumsey (1841-1919) and her future husband John Allen Fowle. The library opened with 1,500 books and 800 magazines. Both Rumsey and Fowle were actively involved in relief work for Union soldiers in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to their relief work they were accomplished singers and regularly entertained the troops. Because of their popularity with the troops, they were allowed to be married in the Capitol in the Hall of the House of Representatives. The wedding took place on March 1, 1863 in front of an audience of 4,000. A new building for the Soldiers' Free Library was dedicated on the same day they were married. They spent their honeymoon raising money for the library. The library was continued to the end of the war after which the books were turned over to the Y.M.C.A. The envelope shown here has an embossed seal on the flap which says "Soldiers' Free Library - 1862 - Washington, D.C.". The U.S. Sanitary Commission shown in the return address location was a major relief organization that served Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Sources: "Elida Barkley Rumsey Fowle", Notable American Women, 1607-1950 (Harvard University Press, 1971), and The Washington Post, March 2, 1913.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

WI Inducts 5 into Library Hall of Fame

I was pleased to be present when five individuals were inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame during the Awards and Honors Banquet of the Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) on Thursday evening, November 4, 2010 at the Association’s annual conference in Wisconsin Dells. Former State Senator and Assistant State Superintendent of Public Instruction Calvin (Cal) Potter of Sheboygan Falls was the only living person inducted into the Hall of Fame. Potter was selected for his consistent and effective legislative support for Wisconsin libraries of all types during his 23 year career as a member of the State legislature and for his leadership during his almost five years of service as Assistant State Superintendent, Division for Libraries, Technology, and Community Learning, Department of Public Instruction (Wisconsin's state library agency).

Among the posthumous inductees was Julia Wright Merrill (1881-1961) (See photo). Merrill was a national leader in the extension of public library service. Early in her career she worked for the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Her national prominence was derived from her work at the American Library Association from 1925 to 1946. At ALA she served in a variety of capacities, and was the first Executive Secretary of the Public Library Association of ALA. Merrill, a native of Ohio, was previously inducted into the Ohio Library Hall of Fame. Other posthumous inductees were Wayne Bassett (1915-1988), H. Vail Deale (1915-2004), and Leah Gruber (1906-1996).

The Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame is a project of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center which is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Library History Buff's Top 10 Library History Websites

There are a number of top 10 library related lists around. George Eberhart even has a book about them - The Librarian's Book of Lists. I was pleased to be selected as one of the 10 Librarian Blogs to Read in 2010 by LISNEWS. So I thought I would do my bit to promote more good library history websites by identifying what I consider to be the top 10 library history websites. I would be happy to get your nominations for additional sites - just use the "comments" feature below.

The Library History Buff website
What can I say. I have to toot my own horn. A comprehensive library history website with special emphasis on United States library history and library memorabilia (librariana). If you Google "library history", it comes up second out of over 600,000 hits.

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center
A virtual library heritage center, the only one (virtual or otherwise) in the nation. It also includes the only active library hall of fame in the nation. A model for other states. Did I mention that I was the Chair of the Steering Committee for the Center?

Libraries Today - Canadian Library History
This comprehensive Canadian library history website was created in 1996 and is maintained by Lorne Bruce. It greatly influenced the development of my own library history websites.

South Carolina Library History Project
A great site by the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science to showcase the library history of a state.

The Legacy of Public Libraries in North Carolina
A digital project of the North Carolina State Library focusing on public libraries. A model for other states.

The Library Postcard site of Judy Aulik
Started by Judy Aulik in 2003 (about the same time as my first website), this constantly expanding site is a great effort by an individual to introduce the world to library postcards.

Archives of the American Library Association
A good start with the potential to do great things. More digitization of those wonderful archives please.

Libraries & the Cultural Record (Journal)
The "Archive" tab leads you to lots of interesting stuff about library history.

Glenn A. Walsh’s Carnegie Library History Site
Links to everything you ever wanted to know about Carnegie libraries.

Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project (CLIP)
An excellent project of the University of Iowa's School of Library and Information Science. Another great model.

For other library history links go to:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

War Library Bulletin & Books By Mail

Another gift from a Library History Buff blog reader was two issues of the War Library Bulletin of the Library War Service of the American Library Association. Thanks Nancy. The issue featured in this post was Volume I, No. 9, for May, 1919.  The back cover of this issue reprints an advertisement for the Library War Service books-by-mail program that was contained in the Stars and Stripes magazine for May 2, 1919. A note at the bottom of the page indicates that the free mailing service that was in the advertisement was organized in October, 1918, and that one day's mail has brought as many as 2,000 requests for non-fiction to the Paris Headquarters of the Library War Service. General John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (A.E.F.) in Europe had approved the postage free mailing of books through the Army Postal System to make this service possible. The mailing of books by libraries to patrons in the United States had been feasible since 1914 when the Post Office Department first allowed books to be mailed at the parcel post rate. A number of state library agencies implemented such a service. Burton E. Stevenson, ALA's European Representative, was undoubtedly aware of this development in the U.S. when he proposed the service to Pershing.

The photograph on the cover of this issue of the War Library Bulletin shows soldiers using the Chaumont, France Library War Service Regional Library on a March evening. The caption below indicates that more than one hundred men are crowded into the library - "the average attendance between the hours of six and seven of any evening".

Friday, October 29, 2010

ALA WWI Bookmark

One of the benefits of maintaining a blog and a website which feature librariana is that people sometime contact you to find a home for some piece or pieces of librariana that they have collected or retained over the years. Such is the case with the American Library Association Library War Service bookmark featured in this post. Thank you Carol. I was doubly pleased to receive this bookmark since it pertains to both my interest in ALA's role in World War I and my collection of library bookmarks.  The ALA bookmark is basically a plea for books or money to assist ALA in its Library War Service along with a list on the back of the bookmark of all the activities being undertaken by the Library War Service. Two activities related to my postal interests are listed. As indicated on the bookmark, the Library War Service "Distributes the Magazines Given by the Public through the Post-Office Department. More than 5,000,000 copies of periodicals have been placed in the hands of our forces."  Postmaster General Burleson established a program that allowed the public to put a one cent stamp on a magazine and place it in a mailbox. The magazines were then delivered to one of the service organizations including ALA that served the troops. ALA camp libraries were sometimes overwhelmed with the number of magazines they received, and unfortunately many of the magazines were of little interest to the troops. Also on the bookmark is the following: "Has Sent More than a Million Books Overseas and Must Send Millions More. By General Pershing's order books are carried free of postage in the Army Post-Office System of the A.E.F." This last development allowed the Library War Service to implement a books-by-mail program in France and Germany (more on this in a future post).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tormentor of Massachusetts

George H. Moore (1823-1892), the first paid librarian of the New York Historical Society (1849-1876) and later librarian of the Lenox Library in New York City (1877-1892), was also a noted historian in a "new school" of historical study which sought to approach history in a much more non-partisan and objective fashion than had previously occurred. In particular, Moore, in his 1866 book Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts, challenged the prevailing view that Massachusetts had historically opposed slavery. Moore's efforts in revealing "Massachusetts' hypocrisy on the slavery question" resulted in his being referred to as the "tormentor of Massachusetts".  Moore's philosophy of historical analysis is dealt with extensively in the book Slavery, Race, and American History: Historical Conflict, Trends, and Method 1866-1953 (M.E. Sharpe ,1999 ) by John David Smith. As is often the case, I was exposed to this knowledge about an early librarian through my research related to a postal artifact. In this instance the postal artifact was another stampless, folded letter (shown above).  This one was sent to George H. Houghton by George H. Moore in August of 1842.  An unusual aspect of this letter is that it has the "free frank" of a member of Congress. Although the signature used for the free frank is difficult to discern, I'm pretty sure it is for John Randall Reding of New Hampshire who served in Congress from 1841 to 1845.  Moore's home state was New Hampshire.  As he writes this letter, Moore is in Washington, D.C. doing research at the Library of Congress. Houghton and Moore were friends and recent graduates of the University of the City of New York.  Both would be returning for graduate work in the fall. Moore makes reference in his letter to his work at the Library [at the New York Historical Society] where he worked while in school and he wonders if he will be able to "study law" and continue to work at the library at the same time.  George H. Houghton is an interesting figure in his own right and becomes a prominent minister in New York City at "The Little Church Around the Corner". Houghton's church received this designation when an Episcopal priest refused to conduct the funeral service for the comic actor George Holland and suggested they try "the little church around the corner" where Houghton was the minister.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

America's Philatelic Libraries

As I noted in a previous post, libraries devoted to philately, the collecting and study of postage stamps and postal history, constitute a very small group of libraries in the United States. This is also a very diverse group of libraries ranging from small volunteer run libraries to extensive libraries affiliated with larger organizations and institutions. I've been collecting postal items related to these libraries for many years and have a philatelic exhibit devoted to them. In August of 2009 I became a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) in Bellefonte, PA which has led to an even greater interest and involvement with America's philatelic libraries. I write a column for Philatelic Literature Review, the official journal of the APRL, on philatelic library news. The APRL has recently launched a blog which we are calling Philatelic Literature & Research. I'm one of the co-bloggers for the new blog, along with APRL Director of Information Services/Librarian Tara Murray and David Straight, Contributing Editor of Philatelic Literature Review. The blog will, among other things, provide a vehicle for highlighting the resources and activities of philatelic libraries not only in the United States but around the world.

Today, the Postal History Foundation of Tucson, Arizona and its Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library will be celebrating their 50th anniversary. It is an example of the growing excellence of a philatelic library which started out as purely volunteer effort but now has a trained librarian. I maintain a web page with links to philatelic libraries.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Carnegie Library Birdhouse

As part of my librariana collection, I now have a birdhouse that is designed to look like the Carnegie Library building in Osage, Iowa. The idea for the birdhouse came from noted library historian Wayne Wiegand. As part of the deal with Home Bazaar, the marketer for the birdhouse, part of the proceeds will go to a couple of Wiegand's interests including the Cultural Communities Fund of the American Library Association's Public Programs Office. Wiegand has also negotiated a special price for ALA members of $99 compared to the normal price of $150 (use special code "PLB1" at checkout). The Osage Public Library is one of four Midwest libraries featured in Wiegand’s forthcoming work “Main Street Public Library: Community Places and Reading Spaces in the Rural Heartland, 1876-1956” (University of Iowa Press). The Carnegie building is now used as Osage's City Hall. To get your own Carnegie Library birdhouse go HERE.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Holman's Library Publications

I'm not a serious books arts person although I can see how an interest in this area would grow on you if you didn't exercise restraint. I have, however, been interested throughout my library career in producing good library publications that promote the programs and services of the library. I have previously written about William R. Holman and a book on Bookplates for Libraries that he published under his Roger Beacham imprint. I recently purchased a copy of another Holman book entitled Library Publications which was published in  a limited edition (300 copies) in 1965 when Holman was Director of the San Francisco Public Library. This very large book (15+" by 10+") was designed by Holman's wife Barbara, and has a forward by Lawrence Clark Powell. The book is a work of art in itself but it's primary goal is to provide guidance on how to produce attractive, quality library publications. Examples of good publications are tipped into the book and additional publications are located in a pocket in the back of the book. Powell writes this about the Holmans: "Cultural revolutionaries are mysterious persons. Who they are, from whence they come, and where they will appear, are all unpredictable.  Who would ever have foretold that a young couple out of Oklahoma and Texas would revolutionize the cultural role of the San Francisco Public Library? That is just what William and Barbara Holman have done to this laggard institution, he by his insistence that good books are basic in library service, she by her taste and skill as a designer and printer."  Library Publications is a book with its own collection of printed library ephemera and a nice addition to my librariana collection.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Antebellum Legal Publishing

I recently acquired a folded letter dated January 23, 1843 which was written by John S. Littell, publisher of the  Law Library in Philadelphia. Letters at this time were folded so they could be addressed without the use of an envelope which would require additional postage because of the added weight. In the letter, Littell is apologizing to John W. Andreus of Columbus, Ohio for previously accusing him of not being truthful when Andreus reported that he did not receive the January issue of Law Library. In doing background research on the letter via Google and the Internet, I uncovered several interesting threads to this "library cover story". From an 1834 advertisement for Legal Library, I learned that it was a monthly publication that consisted of reprints of "important British elementary treatises upon Law, in a form which will render them far less expensive than works of this description have hitherto been." Packaging reprinted British monographs as a serial publication allowed them to be sent through the mail (which books could not).  This form of subscription publishing and selling was an innovative practice on the part of Littell. Further digging in regard to Littell led me to a recently published book by Michael H. Hoeflich entitled Legal Publishing in Antebellum America (Cambridge University Press, 2010).  There is enough content from the book available through Google Books and the Cambridge University Press website to more than encourage one to buy or borrow the entire book.  A philatelist will be interested in Hoeflich's assessment of the importance of mail in the development and expansion of legal publishing. Hoeflich writes, "The second great period in the history of the American law book trade really begins in 1851, when postal regulations were changed to permit the secure use of the mails to ship books.  Before this time, books were not explicitly permitted; it was often left to the postmaster in any place whether to accept books or to ban them from the mail.  As a result, the postal service could not be relied upon."  The library historian, book historian, and the printed ephemera collector will be interested in Hoeflich's comments on the difficulty of researching legal publishing during the antebellum period.  He writes, "There are very few remaining business records of antebellum law book sellers and publishers.  These were lost long ago as have most mundane business records.  The printed remains of those businesses, their catalogues, can still be found; but they have, for the most part suffered the fate of most printed ephemera.  They have not been preserved by institutional libraries precisely because they are ephemera."  Hoeflich has established a website in connection to his book, and he has collected some interesting legal ephemera.I'm pleased to have acquired a bit of ephemera that has provided me with the incentive to learn more about antebellum legal publishing.