Sunday, December 30, 2012

America's First Carnegie Libraries

In 1886 Allegheny, PA was the recipient of the first grant from Andrew Carnegie for a public library building in the United States. Carnegie's birthplace, Dunfermline, Scotland, was the recipient of his first grant for a public library in the world in 1881. Carnegie eventually gave grants for the erection of 1679 public library buildings in 1412 communities in the U.S.. Carnegie's grant to Allegheny totaled $481,012 and was for a cultural complex that included a public library and a music hall. The library opened in 1890 and was dedicated by President Benjamin Harris. The Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny later became a branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. In 2006, while still serving as a library, the building was struck by lightning. It never reopened as a library. It was replaced with a new building at another location in 2009. The Carnegie building is now home of the New Hazlett Theater. It should be noted that Braddock, PA can also lay claim to being the home of the first U.S. Carnegie library. It received its Carnegie grant after Allegheny but its building was dedicated in 1889, a year before the Allegheny building. The Braddock Carnegie Library is still operational. The postcard above showing the Allegheny Carnegie is from my collection and was mailed on October 26, 1906. The stereoview showing the Allegheny Carnegie below is also from my collection. See other stereoviews in my collection. The last postcard image shows the Carnegie Library in Braddock, PA.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Unusual Postcard of the Fairhope (AL) Public Library Circa 1909

The Fairhope Public Library in Fairhope, AL has an interesting history which I learned about after acquiring the unusual postcard shown above. Fairhope was created as a Single Tax Colony in 1894. When Marie Howland joined the Colony in 1899 she established a library in her home. That library was later moved to the building shown on the postcard above. The postcard is a Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) depicting the Fairhope Public Library circa 1909. The postcard was evidently enclosed in a Christmas card. The message on the back of the card reads in part: " I am sending this card to wish you all a Merry Christmas but I address it to Flora as I think she was 'once upon a time' collecting visions of libraries but I hardly think she has a vision of this one." As I have indicated previously on this blog I value postcards with messages and I am especially interested in messages that point to a fellow collector of postcards.  With the assistance of Norman D. Stevens I have created lists of past and current collectors of library postcards.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Collectors, Archives, and My Postal Librariana Collection

In a recent exchange of messages to ALA's Library History Round Table listserv about my blog post on Charlotte Templeton, the question was raised as to whether the letter written by Templeton should be in an archive. That question is an entry point into a much larger discussion relating to the collections of individuals and their eventual disposition. In his Foreword to A guide to Collecting Librariana by Norman D. Stevens (Scarecrow, 1986), Maynard Brichford, former University Archivist for the University of Illinois, discusses the pluses and minuses in the relationship between private collectors and archives. He concludes with this statement: "Few human activities are completely divorced from pride, covetousness, lust, and envy, but humans know that it is more blessed to give than to receive. The best way to make your collecting count is to provide for the eventual transfer of your well-organized and well-documented collection to a research institution."  It is my eventual intent to do just that with my collection of postal librariana. I have spent almost 18 years rescuing postal artifacts related to libraries from stamp dealers who have only an interest in the postal value of an artifact and little or no interest in in the library history significance of the artifact. At stamp shows I have gone through boxes containing hundreds of thousands of envelopes and postal cards in search of these items. In addition I search daily on eBay for examples of postal librariana. Finally, a select cadre of stamp dealers throughout the nation keep a lookout for these items on my behalf. (There are hundreds of other stamp dealers that look at me with a blank stare when I ask if they have any items related to libraries.) The result is that I undoubtedly have the largest collection of postal librariana (not including picture postcards) in the world. What began primarily as the collecting of postal items to help tell the historic story of libraries has also resulted in a research collection that tells the story of how libraries used the mail throughout their history especially in the United States.  Back to my intent to pass on my collection of postal librariana to a research institution at some point in the future. I'm not going to let the results of what will soon be two decades of difficult collecting be widely dispersed back into the philatelic community. In the meantime, I hope to do more writing about how libraries used the mail.  I will, of course, have to hope that at least one research institution will see the value in my postal librariana collection.  For more on postal librariana click HERE and HERE.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Library History Buff Holiday Letter 2012

Exhibit at the Minnesota Stamp Show
It's holiday letter writing time and I thought I would continue a tradition that I started last year and review some of the highlights of 2012 as it relates to my involvement in promoting and preserving library history.

The Library History Buff Blog is, of course ,a major part of my efforts to promote library history. I will have written about 100 blog posts by the end of the year. The blog celebrated its 4th anniversary this year. I also maintain the Library History Buff website which receives less of my attention these days.

My volunteer job as Chair of the Steering Committee of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center (WLHC) is a major activity for me. I'm webmaster for the WLHC website which transitioned to a new software platform this year. I coordinated the selection and induction of seven more individuals into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame which is a component of the WLHC. The WLHC is the official sponsor of exhibits of library memorabilia from my personal collection in libraries around the state. I was the curator for exhibits in nine Wisconsin public libraries this year. I also set up a booth display about the WLHC at the WLA Annual Conference in La Crosse. I'm helping to dispose of the Dan Lester Collection of Librariana which was donated to the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation, the home of the WLHC. That collection includes the world's largest collection of souvenir library spoons.

I displayed a philatelic 10 frame exhibit titled "America's Public Libraries and Their Forerunners 1731-1956" at four national level stamp shows (Denver, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, & Chicago) this year. The exhibit was a major revision of an exhibit that I had last shown three years ago. It won a gold medal at all four of the shows plus the Reserve Grand (second best exhibit in the show) in Minneapolis. It also won several other special awards including the American Philatelic Society's Research Medal at Milwaukee. I plan another major revision of the exhibit in 2013. My one frame exhibit "Melvil Dewey's Postal Card" received a silver medal at the St. Louis Stamp Expo and a vermeil medal (the medal level between gold and silver) at the Denver stamp show.

A major part of my library history activity is the collecting of librariana and memorabilia. Collecting postal librariana including library postcards is the focus of this activity. However, I also collect other paper items and some three dimensional artifacts. EBay is the best friend of today's collector of librariana. The trick is to focus your collecting. I particularly look for items that I can display in my exhibits or feature on the Library History Buff Blog and website.

In July I was interviewed by the University of Missouri School of Information Science and Learning Technologies. The interview was webscast for Dr. Jenny Bossaler's Library History course.

As a result of displaying my exhibits of library memorabilia and my other travels, I got to see and visit a number of historic library buildings in Wisconsin this year. Included were the Carnegie libraries in Tomah, Bayfield, and Durand (now an office building). Alslo the Matheson Memorial Library in Elkorn.

I'm looking forward to 2013 and the library history opportunities it holds.

Happy holidays to all!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

John Cotton Dana and Newark Public Library Bookplates

I was very happy to add the colorful and attractive bookplate for the Newark (NJ) Public Library (shown to the left) to my collection recently. The legendary early library leader John Cotton Dana was Director of the Newark Public Library. Two posts on the blog "Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie" had made me aware of the interest of John Cotton Dana in bookplates. In the first post, Lew Jaffe, publisher of the blog, featured a bookplate for Dana's personal library and requested assistance in identifying the designer of the bookplate. In the second post, Chad Leinaweaver from Newark Public Library's Special Collections Division surmised that Dana may have designed the bookplate himself, and shared another Dana bookplate. He noted that Dana had designed bookplates for the Newark Public Library. As part of a sesquicentennial celebration of John Cotton Dana in 2006, the Newark Public Library created a publication (PDF) which highlighted some of the bookplates personally designed by Dana. On my bookplate, the name Frank M. Snyder appears in the lower right hand corner of the plate. Snyder was an architect and publisher. Dana who was greatly interested in graphic design likely recruited Snyder to design the bookplate. Click here to see my other blog posts about library bookplates and here to see my website page on library bookplates.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A 1902 Letter and the Library Career of Charlotte Templeton (1877-1970)

As sometimes happens with my approach to library history, the recent acquisition of a piece of postal librariana led me on a chase for more information about the item. It's a May 18, 1902 letter to Mrs. Robert Templeton in Sturgeon Bay, WI  from her daughter Charlotte in Omaha, NE.  The letter was written on Omaha Public Library stationery and begins with: "It has come around to my Sunday to work again already and I am in the reference room. It is a hot windy day so I am not kept very busy." The letter which is eight and a half pages long is full of news about Charlotte's life and includes other references to her work at the library. Some excerpts: "I am pretty well acquainted with some of my employers - Miss Tobitt [Edith Tobitt served as Director of the Omaha Public Library from 1898 to 1936] is noncommittal as to what I am to do except that I am to have the cataloguing of the Spanish books. I will like it if I can do it at all." "I wish I was one of the girls going to Madison this summer. Lillian Snell, Miss Hammand, Miss O'Brien, Miss Parsons, and Miss Swartzlander are all going. The girls are all expected to go sooner or later but I shan't do it unless I think I can't possibly go to a library school for a regular course. I think that my experience will be invaluable to me if I ever go." This second excerpt refers to the Summer Library School conducted by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission in Madison, Wisconsin, the predecessor of the current School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. After working at the Omaha Public Library in the reference department from 1902 to 1904 Charlotte Templeton did go to "a library school for a regular course" at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. After library school Charlotte became Director of the Oshkosh (WI) Public Library in 1905. She only stayed in Oshkosh for a little over a year before returning to Nebraska as Secretary of the Nebraska Library Commission in 1906. She worked there until 1919. She then became Secretary of the Georgia Library Commission where she worked until 1923. On September 1, 1923 she became head of the Greenville Public Library in South Carolina. In an interesting coincidence, I also served as director of the Greenville Library (now the Greenville County Library) over 50 years later. In September 1931 Charlotte left Greenville to become librarian of the Atlanta University Library in Georgia, a historically black university. She resigned from that position in 1942. Charlotte was a co-founder, along with Mary Utopia Rothrock, of the Southeastern Library Association in which she served as Secretary and President. Another interesting coincidence, I also served as Secretary of the Southeastern Library Association. Charlotte was also active in the American Library Association where she served as a Second Vice-President. I haven't been able to find out anything about Charlotte after leaving Atlanta University. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Women Librarians and ALA's Library War Service in WWI

Mary Josephine Booth

By 1917 women librarians in the United States had begun to exert more and more leadership in a profession previously dominated by men.  With the decision of the American Library Association to play an active role in providing reading materials to America's armed forces during World War I, it was only natural that women would seek to be involved in that enterprise.  Their efforts, however, to be part of ALA's Library War Service was thwarted to a large degree by Herbert Putnam, the Librarian of Congress and the General Director of the Library War Service. In particular Putnam opposed women serving as the head of the camp libraries operated by ALA. At the ALA Conference in Saratoga Springs in the summer of 1918, seven women including Theresa Elmendorf, ALA's first woman president, petitioned ALA's War Service Committee which had oversight over the Library War Service to modify the policy against women serving as camp librarians. Interestingly, Blanche Galloway had become the first woman to direct an ALA camp library (at the Pelham Bay Naval training Station in NY) in May of 1918 just prior to the ALA Conference. Even before that, female librarians had played other roles in the ALA Library War Service including serving as hospital librarians on military bases. Two prominent women librarians, Gratia A. Countryman and Electra C. Doren, served on the Library War Service Committee.  Female librarians also served in ALA libraries overseas including Portland librarian Mary Frances Isom who served in hospitals in France. She wrote to her Portland library staff: "I can stand anything now. I can even look on the most horrible wounds without flinching." By the summer of 1919 women were in charge of eight camp libraries.  The source for most of the information in this post is Arthur P. Young's Books for Sammies: The American Library Association and World War I (Beta Phi Mu, 1981). Also consulted was Cultural Crusaders: Women Librarians in the American West, 1900-1917 by Joanne E. Passet (Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1994).  The photograph of a Library War Service worker in Europe shown above was recently sold on eBay. Robert V. Hillman, University Archivist at Eastern Illinois University has identified her as Mary Josephine Booth. According to Hillman, Booth was on leave for a couple of years (1917-1919) from her position as library director at Eastern Illinois State Normal School (now Eastern Illinois University.)  During those years she served overseas, first as a Red Cross volunteer, and then as a member of ALA’s Library War Service.  When she returned to Eastern she resumed her duties as library director here, a position she held for a total of 41 years. The library building at Eastern is now named in her honor. The postcard showing the  World War I military hospital library in New Haven, CT with a female librarian is from my collection. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vintage Library Bookplates

This post features three vintage library bookplates (shown above) in my collection. All three were formerly in books that were probably discarded from the libraries they represent. I acquired each of the bookplates after they had been removed from the books by someone else. I just got the Library of Congress bookplate which was used by the library after 1814 when the library was burned by the British but not too long after that.  The Library Company of Philadelphia bookplate is from the James Cox collection. Cox sold his collection of almost 5,000 art books to the Library Company in 1832 for an annuity of $400. Because he died a year later, the Library Company got a real bargain. The third bookplate is from the Social Friends' Library at Dartmouth College, a student literary society. This bookplate was a gift from Lew Jaffe of Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie. There's a great story about the effort of the faculty to seize this library in 1817 in an earlier blog post. The student literary society libraries at Dartmouth were formerly merged with the College library collection in 1903. I have more images of vintage bookplates from my collection on the Library History Buff website. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

World's Largest Collection of Souvenir Library Spoons Goes on Sale

The Wisconsin Library Association Foundation and its Wisconsin Library Heritage Center are the recipients of one of the largest collections of library memorabilia ever assembled by an individual. It was donated by retired Idaho librarian Dan Lester who was downsizing for a move to a retirement community in St. George, Utah. The WLA Foundation has contracted with the American Spoon Collectors to dispose of what may be the world's largest collection of library souvenir spoons which was part of the Lester donation. As described in the catalog that was prepared for the sale: " A Collector has consigned a Wide Ranging Collection of Library Souvenir Spoons. The libraries (Public & Carnegie) are generally depicted in the bowl; some depictions of the libraries are embossed while others are beautifully represented by master engravers in exquisite bright cut images. Many of the spoon bowls are gold-washed. Of the 82 spoons listed in this sale about 20 are non-library spoons which should also be of interest to collectors." The sterling silver spoons are for sale individually on a first come basis and range in price from $20 to $65. I am serving as the intermediary between the WLA Foundation and the American Spoon Collectors. I can provide a pdf listing of all the spoons for sale (contact me at ) for anyone who is interested. Images of spoons can also be provided for specific spoons. These would make a great Christmas present for a lover of libraries.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mystery Woman on Postcards

Enlarged detail of postcard above.
I came across three real photo postcards (2 shown above) showing an unknown woman in a library/study/office/museum? I thought she might be someone of note. The framed print abover her head on the first postcard depicts the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln before the cabinet.  Any ideas about her identity?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Library Journal Envelope Circa 1880s

The American Library Journal (later the Library Journal), the first professional library magazine, began publication in 1876. It was one of several major library history events that occurred in that year including the establishment of the American Library Association. Three individuals played prominent roles in the establishment of both the Library Journal and the American Library Association. They were: Fredrick Leypoldt, editor and publisher of the periodical Publisher's Weekly; Richard Rodgers Bowker, Leypoldt's partner and later publisher of the Library Journal; and Melvil Dewey, the first editor of the Library Journal.  The Library Journal served as "The Official Organ of the Library Associations of America and the United Kingdom". It was not until 1907 that the American Library Association began publishing its own journal, the ALA Bulletin (now American Libraries). I recently acquired an early envelope mailed by the Library Journal (shown above). Based on the return address and the stamp on the envelope, it was mailed in the 1880s. The envelope included material classified as a circular which qualified it for the one cent postage rate. Because I use envelopes and other postal artifacts to tell the story of America's libraries in my philatelic exhibits, its nice to have this envelope with connections to the early history of one of the most prominent professional library periodicals and the American Library Association.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wisconsin Library Memorabilia Exhibit

I have a large collection of Wisconsin library memorabilia that I exhibit under the auspices of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center. The exhibit is currently on display at the Kimberly branch of the Kimberly - Little Chute Public Library. The exhibit will be at the Kimberly library through the end of December and a smaller exhibit will be at the Little Chute branch in January and February of 2013. Because of the unusually large display area at the Kimberly library, the exhibit is one of the largest that I have put together. I've really been able to clean out my basement for this one. Some images of the exhibit at Kimberly are shown above.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Renovated St. Louis Central Library Set to Reopen

The Central Library of the St. Louis Public Library has been undergoing a $70 million restoration and modernization and is set to reopen in December. Today marks a special occasion in the fundraising campaign for the project. The library will hold a sold-out "Central to Your World" gala at which Vartan Gregorian, current president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, will speak on "Public Libraries in the 21st century". The Central Library was built with funding from Andrew Carnegie and opened on January 6, 1912. The St. Louis Public Library has set up a website that includes information about the history of the Central Library and the current renovation. The postcard shown above which features a drawing of the proposed new library was mailed on September 17, 1909, more than two years before it opened.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Rosenberg Day at the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, TX

Andrew Carnegie's generosity to libraries often obscures the fact that there were many other early benefactors of libraries. One of those was Henry Rosenberg (1824-1893) of Galveston, Texas. Rosenberg's estate set aside more than $600,000 for a free public library in Galveston. The Rosenberg Library was the first free public library in Texas.  Rosenberg's estate included funding for several other school and civic projects in Galveston in addition to the public library. To celebrate his legacy the Galveston school board designated May 1 as Rosenberg Day a few years after his death. I recently acquired a wonderful postcard (shown above) which is a photograph of part of the Rosenberg Day celebration in 1913. The postcard shows lots of people, a buggy, a vintage car, and even an early motorcycle in front of the library.  In June of this year the Rosenberg Library carried out a number of activities to celebrate Rosenberg's 188th birthday.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Library of Arts and Sciences of Salem, MA 1804

I've had in my collection of librariana for some time a receipt for the payment of an annual assessment for the Library of Arts and Sciences which is dated March 18, 1804. There is no indication on the receipt of the location of the library, and it has only been recently that I have been able to determine that location. It turns out to be Salem, Massachusetts. The receipt was issued to Joshua Ward, Senior. Ward was a prominent merchant in Salem who built the appropriately named Joshua Ward House which is said to be haunted. The receipt was signed by the librarian whose name I'm not sure of. John Pennel? John Fennel? It was the website of the Salem Athenaeum that helped me identify the location of the Library of Arts and Sciences. According to the website, at the time the Salem Athenaeum was founded in 1810 there were more libraries in Salem than Boston. It mentions the Library of Arts and Sciences among several others. This is the second oldest piece of librariana in my collection. The oldest being a similar receipt for the New York Society Library which was dated March 1, 1793.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Postcard Tribute to Military Libraries on Veterans Day

For Veterans Day 2012 I've put together a collection of my World War II era military library postcards. Also see my 11-11-11 tribute, my 11-11-10 post, and my 11-11-09 post.

Fort McClellan, AL
San Diego Marine Corp Base
San Diego Naval Training Station
Camp Livingston, LA
Library, USO Club, Spartanburg, SC

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Vintage Library Cards

I recently added a couple of new cards to my collection of vintage library cards. One is for the Pennsylvania Hospital Library dated Nov. 14, 1846 and the other is an unused 1876 library card for the Rochester (NY) Athenaeum & Mechanics Association. The Pennsylvania Hospital Library is the oldest medical library in the United States and was founded in 1762. The Rochester Athenaeum & Mechanics Association was formed in 1847 by combining the Rochester Athenaeum and the Rochester Mechanics' Literary Association. The new entity eventually morphed into the Rochester Institute of Technology. Both libraries required a fee to use them. For the Pennsylvania Hospital Library, the fee was $10 a year in 1846. The $2 annual fee in 1876 for the Rochester library also entitled one to vote in the annual election of officers. The library card included a voting coupon for this purpose.

Friday, October 26, 2012

WI Library Hall of Fame Inducts 7

Zona Gale
Pulitzer Prize winning author Zona Gale (1874-1938) was one of seven individuals inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame on October 25 at the Wisconsin Library Association Conference in La Crosse, WI. Gale was a champion of libraries and served as Chair of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Also inducted was former American Library Association Adult Education Specialist John Miller Chancellor (1896-1980). Chancellor resigned from ALA to become a Wisconsin farmer, but ended up playing a leadership role on the Wisconsin Free Library Commission at a critical juncture in its history. Chancellor was made an Honorary Member of ALA (the Association's highest honor) in 1962. Others inducted included: former Milwaukee Public Library City Librarian Richard E. Krug (1905-1983); Wisconsin Free Library Commission instructor and later Oregon State Librarian Cornelia Marvin Pierce (1873-1957); former Brown County Library (Green Bay) Director Gerald A. Somers (1921-2003); former Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission Clarence Brown Lester (1877-1951); and former Wisconsin Library School Director Rachel Katherine Schenk (1899-1973). This was the fifth class of Library Hall of Fame inductees which now total thirty-six. 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. It's been my pleasure to Chair the Steering Committee of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center that selects the Library Hall of Fame inductees each year.

Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society Digital Collection.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wisconsin's Library Lions

By far the most famous library lions are those that grace the front entrance of the New York Public Library's building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The Oshkosh Public Library in Wisconsin also has a pair of library lions and, like those in New York, they have provided an important visual symbol of the public library. Also like the lions of the New York Public Library, the library lions in Oshkosh are named. They were named Harris and Sawyer in 1977 for two of the prominent early donors to the library.  Earlier this month the Oshkosh Public Library celebrated the 100th anniversary of the installation of the lions in front of the library in 1912. The celebration included a variety of activities including a "Lion's Pride" mini sculpture contest. The lions sit in front of the library that was built in 1900. A major expansion and renovation of the building took place in 1994. The Oshkosh Public Library has a commemorative history of the lions as well as an overall history of the library on its website. The website of the New York Public Library has a page on its lions. There is also a good printed history of the New York Public Library lions titled Top Cats: The Life and Times of The New York Public Library Lions by Susan G. Larkin (Pomegranate, 2006).

Friday, October 12, 2012

Library History Buff Google Images

Pinterest has become a popular Internet program to group and share images on a wide variety of topics in an interesting way. One of my favorite Pinterest boards is the American Libraries Bookmobiles board. A Google image search also offers a way to do this in a less sophisticated manner. Almost all of my blog posts include an image that is related to the post. I did a Google image search using the term "library history buff blog" and it resulted in most of the images that I have used on the blog.  It also retrieved some images from my Library History Buff website and from other  blogs and websites that have linked to the Library History Buff blog.The Google image search provides a visual index to the Library History Buff blog that offers an alternative method to access the blog's content. It also let's me know who is linking my blog and website. One of the images retrieved (see below) led me to an interesting post on Cosmopolitan Scum, a blog "about architecture, urbanism, and design from a humanistic perspective". The post uses images of Library of Congress souvenir china in the Norman D Stevens archive  at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal as the starting point for a larger essay on the role of libraries. It includes a link to my web page on the Stevens collection. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Boston Athenaeum Staff 1897

My collection of postal librariana consists mostly of envelopes usually without the contents. It is much more interesting when I find the letter which was sent in an envelope, especially when it has tidbits of information about the staff of the library. I have a letter (first page shown above) which was mailed in June of 1897 by a staff member of the Boston Athenaeum to another staff member who was evidently on vacation. The letter was mailed by Minnie Hortense Webster to Miss DeMeritt and it mentions a number of other staff members.  The Athenaeum Centenary (Boston Athenaeum, 1907) contains a list of all staff members who worked at the library up to 1907 so I was able to identify most of the staff members mentioned by Miss Webster along with the dates of their employment.  Miss Webster worked at the Athenaeum from 1897 to 1901 so she had only been employed for a short time when she wrote the letter. Evidently other senior staff members were also on vacation and at one point in the letter Miss Webster writes, "Miss Rabardy and I are left to our own devices, and we are both so fearful of making some abominable blunders that we actually forget to carp(?)." Miss Rabardy was Etta Lebreton Rabardy who started working at the Athenaeum in 1895 and was still working there in 1907. Miss DeMeritt to whom the letter was sent was Jennie Mabel DeMerritt who worked at the Athenaeum from 1892 to 1901. Also mentioned in the letter are Walter Lewis Barrell (1896-1900), Mary Honoria Wall (1890-1906), and Linda Frobisher Wildman who was employed in 1883 and was still working there in 1907. Miss Webster reports that a nice letter was received from Mr. Lane (William Coolidge Lane served as Librarian of the Athenaeum from 1893 to 1897 and left to become Librarian of Harvard University in 1898). Miss Webster also makes note of the Stanwood - Bolton wedding. This was the wedding of Charles Knowles Bolton to Ethel Stanwood. Bolton became Librarian of the Boston Athenaeum in 1898 and served in that capacity for the next 35 years. A lot of historical connections in a single letter. Today letter writing is a lost art, but then we can often keep update on the activities of our colleagues through Facebook.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Tabard Inn Library Revolving Bookcases

One of the really nice things about writing a blog about library history and its artifacts is the contacts I get from people who share an interest in the things I write about. I was recently contacted by Chuck from Florida who shared an image of his restored Tabard Inn Library revolving bookcase (shown here). These bookcases are wonderful pieces of furniture as well as an integral part of the story of Seymour Eaton's two libraries - the Booklovers Library and the Tabard Inn Library.  Both were commercial lending libraries, and I have written previously about them on this blog and on my Library History Buff website. In an initial advertisement for the Tabard Inn Library, Eaton indicated that 10,000 of these bookcases would be manufactured at a rate of 25 and then 50 a day. The bookcases were placed in drug stores, hotels, and even public libraries. After paying an initial life membership fee of $3.00, members could exchange books on any revolving bookcase for an additional 5 cents. The bookcases have now become treasured antiques and have been sold for as much as nine thousand dollars. The Menasha Public Library in Menasha, WI is fortunate enough to have one of these bookcases, and I recently came across an online article about another restored Tabard Inn Library bookcase at the Oceanside Civic Center Library in California. I would love to have one of these bookcases but they are a little above my price range. However, I do have a fairly extensive collection of memorabilia related to both the Booklovers Library and the Tabard Inn Library including some of the books that were in their collections. Thanks Chuck for sharing the image of your Tabard Inn Library bookcase and for giving me an excuse for writing about these bookcases again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association

My exhibit of postal librariana titled "America's Public Libraries and Their Forerunners 1731 to 1956" includes a section on membership libraries. It begins with artifacts related to Benjamin Franklin's Library Company of Philadelphia which was established in 1731. The Peterborough Town Library in New Hampshire, the first public library in the U.S. was established in 1833 and the Boston Public Library, the first large municipal public library, was established in 1854. Even as free public libraries began to replace fee based membership and subscription libraries there were still membership libraries that were being established. One of these was the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association (HLRRA) which was established in 1879 when Hawaii was still a country ruled by a king. Hawaii also had its own postal system, and in my collection of postal librariana I have two postal cards that were issued by Hawaii that were mailed by the HLRRA. One is an 1892 printed notice of the annual membership meeting sent by H. A. Parmelee, the Secretary of the HLRRA and a founding member, and the other is an 1898 hand written second overdue book notice from the librarian.  The library component of the HLRRA became a free public library in 1903 when the Territorial Government appropriated $10,000 annually for its support (Hawaii became a Territory of the U.S. in 1900). The Association component of the HLRRA continued as a fundraising and support organization and eventually became the Friends of the Library of Hawaii. Hawaii received a $100,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie in 1909 for a library building which opened as the Hawaii State Library in 1913. I found two online resources on the history of the HLRRA. One is the website of the Friends of the Library of Hawaii and the other is a library school class paper by Avis Poai at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Incidentally, if you are in the Milwaukee area this weekend you can see my postal librariana exhibit on display at the Milwaukee Stamp Show.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New York's First County Bookmobile

Images of children using bookmobiles are among the most endearing portrayals of public library service. An especially appealing image (shown above) is included in a publication titled The Library of the Open Road by Ralph A. Felton and Marjorie Beal published by the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell University in November, 1929. It shows children using the Monroe County (NY) Traveling Library. The publication is Cornell Extension Bulletin number 188 and it makes the case for establishing county libraries in New York. The image of the Monroe County Traveling Library also appears in an article titled "The County Library" in the January, 1926 issue of The American City Magazine. I also found a 1923 newspaper article about the Monroe County Traveling Library which includes the same image. The newspaper article which appeared in The Monroe County Mail stipulates that the Monroe County service is the first of its kind in New York. The headline reads: "Only County in the State Which Provides Free Books for Residents of the Smaller Villages and Farm Districts and Delivers Them From a Real Library on Wheels Right at Their Homes - As Many as 200 Books Loaned Daily". The article makes very positive comments about Miss Ruth Drake, the librarian of the Traveling Library, who was interviewed for the article. She is probably the woman in the doorway of the Traveling Library image. I also have a postcard (see below) showing a later bookmobile used by the Monroe County Library in New York. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

1928 Rural Libraries Bulletin

The extension of public library service to rural areas in the United States has been a goal of state governments for more than twelve decades (the Massachusetts Free Public Library Commission was established in 1890). The passage of the federal Library Services Act in 1956 was a major impetus to achieving this goal and in many states 100 percent of the state's residents have access to public library service.  I have several items in my collection that document the efforts to extend public library service to rural areas in the 1920s. One of those is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers Bulletin issued in April, 1928. The conclusion of the bulletin states: "The purpose of this bulletin will be accomplished if rural people, State legislatures, local officials, and library agencies, in view of demonstrated accomplishments, cooperate to make rural library service, as compared with other forms of public service, equal, efficient, and complete." The bulletin has been digitized and is available through the Hathi Trust. Of the many illustrations related to rural library service and its promotion in the bulletin, I was most taken with an image of a participant in a parade dressed as a book promoting county libraries in California and an image of a small building at a county fair papered in book jackets promoting county library service. Personal editorial: Even with decades of effort there are still millions of people in rural areas in the U.S. without access to free public library service.  I think this is a national travesty.  Why is it that the library profession can be so passionate about the censoring of a single book and yet tolerates a situation in which so many people have no free access to books and other materials in a public library.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mrs. Thompson's ALA Conference Badges

As a collector of library ephemera and memorabilia I'm always happy to find items that connect me to library workers of the past who engaged in the same kinds of activities that I took part in during my library career. I recently acquired three badges for American Library Association conferences that took place in Detroit, MI (1922); Hot Springs, AR (1923); and Saratoga Springs, NY (1924). All three of the badges belonged to Mrs. Joseph A. Thompson. It took a little Internet sleuthing, but I found out a few things about Mrs. Thompson other than the fact that she attended at least three ALA Conferences. Mrs. Thompson was the first Librarian of the Chickasha (OK) Public Library starting with the completion of Chickasha's Carnegie library building in 1905 when it was still part of the Indian Territory. She was a charter member of the Oklahoma Library Association which was founded in 1907, the same year that Oklahoma Territory and the Indian Territory became the state of Oklahoma. She served as Secretary of the Oklahoma Library Association for a period. Mrs. Thompson's ALA activities included serving on the 1921-1922 Membership Committee which presented a report at the 1922 Detroit conference. It is interesting sign of that period that all the references for Mrs. Thompson used her husband's name and I couldn't find any reference to her own given name [thanks to Barb for discovering Mrs. Thompson's given name was Sallie Lou]. The three metal badges are interesting. There is a slot for the name tag to be inserted. The hand written name tags for Mrs. Thompson were pretty small and you would definitely have to look hard to read them. The name tag for the Saratoga Springs Conference is missing. A brief history of the Chickasha Public Library is located HERE.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Chelsea (MA) Public Library and the Fire of 1908

Fitz Library

Fitz library on right after fire
Carnegie building

The Chelsea Public Library in Massachusetts was founded in 1870. A new building donated by Eustace C. Fitz opened in 1885.  Disaster struck in 1908 when the Great Chelsea Fire destroyed the building. The Chelsea fire of 1908 destroyed 1,000 buildings in all and left more than 10,000 people homeless. The library's entire collection of 80,000 volumes was consumed by the fire. Andrew Carnegie gave $57,500 for a new library in 1908 which was added to $20,000 in insurance money. The Carnegie building was dedicated in 1910. I have three postcards that document these events. The first shows the Fitz library, the second shows the results of the fire, and the third shows the Carnegie building. The Chelsea Public Library still occupies the Carnegie building. More information can be found here.