Wednesday, January 20, 2010

American Library in Paris

The American Library in Paris is the largest English language lending library on the European continent. It is part of the legacy of the Library War Service of the American Library Association in World War I. It was founded in 1920 making this year its 90th anniversary. There is a good history of the library on its website. Part of that history is illustrated by the envelope/cover shown above. It was mailed on march 29, 1940 to Dorothy M. Reeder, director of the library 1936-1941. The envelope was mailed only a short time before the German occupation of France which began in May,1940. As recounted in the website history of the library, Reeder and her staff provided heroic service after the German occupation by operating an underground book lending service for Jewish members of the library who were barred from libraries by the Germans. One staff member of the library was actually shot by the Gestapo in a surprise inspection of the library. Mary Niles Maack has written an excellent article about the American Library in Paris during the period 1939-1945 which contains more information about Reeder's service at the library. The American Library Association Archives includes correspondence from ALA's Executive Secretary Carl Milam relating to the American Library in Paris including letters to Reeder. The envelope above was mailed by air mail via transatlantic clipper and was franked with two 30 cent airmail stamps which were needed for a double weight letter. It was mailed from the United States Chapters Center of the American Library in Paris in New York.

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