Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Fenton Metallic Mfg Company Fire of 1892

The Fenton Metallic Manufacturing Company of Jamestown, NY was one of the early manufacturers of steel stacks for libraries. On October 20, 1892 the company's plant in Jamestown was totally destroyed by fire. The company sent out the postal card above on October 22 to its customers and potential customers announcing the destruction of the plant and its intent to immediately rebuild. It did indeed rebuild and continued to provide steel stacks for libraries among its other metal products. The ad for the company's stacks shown below was included in the publication announcing the American Library Association's conference for 1898 which took place at Lakewood-On-Chautaugua, NY near Jamestown. The company later became the Art Metal Company and continued to operate a plant in Jamestown until 1969.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Elroy (WI) Public Library and the Ice Storm of 1922

My library postcard collection includes Wisconsin libraries and unusual library postcards. The postcard above showing the impact of the 1922 Wisconsin ice storm around the Elroy Public Library combines both categories. In February of 1922 Wisconsin experienced one the worst ice storms in its history. During that storm ice accumulations ranging from one inch to as high as four inches brought down over 15,000 communication poles and caused $10 million in property damage (an enormous sum at that time). Interruptions in power and communications ranged from 2 to 15 days.  The Elroy Public Library still occupies the same building (with an expansion). It was originally funded with a Carnegie grant. An earlier postcard of the library is shown below. Note that the telephone or power pole in front of the library managed to survive the ice storm.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Solberg, Woods, and the Library of Congress

Thorvald Solberg (1852-1949) was the nation's first Register of Copyrights in the Library of Congress. He served in that capacity from 1897 to 1930. Harriet de Krafft Woods served in the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress from 1900 to 1922. In May of 1922 she was appointed by Congress as Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds for the Library of Congress, the first woman to serve in that capacity. I recently acquired a postcard that ties these two individuals together in an unusual way. The postcard which depicts Wisconsin Street in Milwaukee, WI was mailed by Henrietta Solberg, Thorvald Solberg's sister, on August 1, 1904 to Mrs. Woods in the Copyright Department of the Library of Congress. The messages on the postcard reads: "Dear Mrs. Woods, Please send my brother's address to 742 N. Hoyne Av., Chicago and greatly oblige. Yours sincerely, Henrietta Solberg". Woods at the time may have served as an assistant to Solberg. She would eventually work her way up to become head of one of the Copyright Office's most important divisions. It is unclear why Solberg's sister didn't have his address. Perhaps he was out of the country on one of his numerous trips abroad. Woods only held the position of Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds for one month, from June 1, 1922 to July 1, 1922. That is because Congress abolished the position as a position appointed independently of the Librarian of Congress. Woods, however, continued to perform the responsibilities for the position as an administrative assistant to Herbert Putnam, the Librarian of Congress.  In his report for 1922  Putnam indicated that this change was one of the most significant events of the year. Also in his report, Putnam sang the praises of Woods.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Libraries With the Most Librariana

If you follow this blog, you know that I am a collector of librariana. Although my primary emphasis is on the collection of postal librariana, I collect a wide range of other library souvenirs and memorabilia. The golden age of  souvenirs is generally considered to span the period from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago to the start of World War I. Coincidentally, this was the period when a large number of library buildings were constructed in the United States. This resulted in many souvenirs depicting library buildings, and the more prominent and spectacular the building, the more souvenirs there were that depicted the building. Souvenirs included postcards, decorative china, spoons, and a large variety of other items. Hands down, the library building that is most depicted on library souvenirs is the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress which was completed in 1897. On its completion it was often characterized as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. The Copley Square building of the Boston Public Library, completed in 1895, was a landmark in library construction and influenced library architecture for several decades. The Boston Public Library is one of the top three U.S.libraries with the most librariana. The Central Library of the New York Public Library completed in 1911 is the final member of the trio of libraries with the most librariana. In a recent eBay search there were 531 items related to the Library of Congress in the collectibles category; 470 related to the New York Public Library; and 392 related to the Boston Public Library. The largest portion of these items by far was postcards although there were also souvenir spoons and china.  Norman D. Stevens in A Guide to Collecting Librariana (Scarecrow, 1986) confirms that the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library are the libraries most widely represented on library souvenirs. Stevens' personal collection which included many examples of librariana related to these three libraries is now located at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. I have a listing of his collections at the CCA on a web page devoted to him. Some of the items in my collection depicting the Library of Congress are shown above. Images of items in my collection related to the Boston Public Library are located HERE. In Wisconsin the two libraries most widely depicted on librariana are the Milwaukee Public Library and the Wisconsin Historical Society Library. Some of the items in my collection related to the Milwaukee Public Library are located HERE.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Trailers

Gary (IN) Public Library book trailer

Clark County (IN) Public Library book trailer
Kenosha (WI) Public Library book trailer
Southwest Wisconsin Library System book trailer

This post was inspired by a post on the Bibliophemera blog which asked this about book trailers: "Is it or isn't it a bookmobile?".  The Bibliophemera post includes images of three book trailers. I wrote previously about a 1937 publication of the American Library Association titled Book Automobiles. In that publication there is a chapter on "Book Trailers" which includes photographs (shown above) of the Gary (IN) Public Library book trailer and the Clark County Public Library in Springfield, OH. The chapter introduction indicates that, "The greatly increased use of trailers by motorists today has apparently given new impetus to the use of trailers by libraries."  It notes that the Gary Public Library's book trailer is " a standard twelve-foot house trailer which is fitted up as a small branch library" and that "Its shelves hold 1,500 to 1,700 volumes."  According to the ALA publication the book trailer for Clark County, OH was started by the Rural Committee of the Y.W.C.A.. The ALA publication describes a proposal by Henry Bailey Stevens, then Secretary of the Agricultural Extension Service of the University of New Hampshire, for the use of book trailers in a kind of traveling library system. He visualized " a trailer fitted with waterproof bookcase under lock and key and loaded with a choice collection of offerings. A chain of responsible volunteer community leaders, acting in their neighborhoods as assistant librarians. A system of chain telephoning and neighborly agreements.  The trailer left for two or three days in a farmer's barn or yard.  And this trailer hauled by cooperative agreement from point to point over the county and back again." The Kenosha (WI) Public Library used book trailers for many years as did the Southwest Wisconsin Library System in Fennimore, WI. The American Libraries magazine has a Pinterest site showing numerous images of bookmobiles including a couple of book trailers.

Friday, June 15, 2012

New Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Website

As part of a major reworking of the websites for the Wisconsin Library Association, the website for the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center has been reorganized and transferred to a new blog/website software. It is one of only a handful of websites on the Internet that is devoted to library history. I'm currently chair of the Steering Committee of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center and maintain its website. The website contains a blog with irregular posts and more stable content web pages. In the new site, the more permanent content web pages are listed as topics under the menu headings at the top of the home page. The "History" menu includes much of the content. Blog posts are organized under broad categories on the right side of the website and are also indexed with tags. Inductees to the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame are highlighted on the website with individual blog posts under the "Hall of Fame" category. The new platform used by the Wisconsin Library Association is based on Joomla and the blog software is EasyBlog by Stackideas. The main WLA website is located HERE and the website for the Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries is located HERE.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bradbury on Carnegie

Author Ray Bradbury died on June 5 at age 91. A post in the Fine Books & Collections Blog by Nate Pedersen about Bradbury reminded me of a letter (shown above) in my collection from Bradbury to a friend in which he refers to Carnegie as "one of my favorite Revolutionary heroes of American History". He continues, "Yep. Revolutionary. He gave us 2500 free libraries and Trusted us to USE them, without restraint. What a fabulous creative man." I came across this other pro-library quote from Bradbury in another blog post: "Libraries raised me. I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries, because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years." It's tough to loose such a great library supporter.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Carnegie's World War I Libraries

First camp library completed with Carnegie funds 
Interior of Camp Johnston, FL Library
When the American Library Association assumed a major responsibility for providing reading matter for U.S. armed forces during World War I through its Library War Service, it applied to the Carnegie Corporation for funding to build camp libraries. On September 14, 1917 the Carnegie Corporation approved a grant for $320,000 to build thirty-two camp libraries.  The cost of each building could not exceed $10,000. The buildings based on a uniform plan were designed without charge by noted New York architect Edward L. Tilton.  The single story buildings were originally designed to be 120 feet long and 40 feet wide although costs later required a reduction in size.  Seating was provided for 225 library users and shelving for 14,000 volumes. A room was set aside for living space for the librarian. Eventually, the Carnegie funding actually provided for thirty-six camp libraries. ALA came up with funding from other sources for four more for a total of forty camp library buildings. The first camp library was opened at Camp Lewis, Washington on November 28, 1917. Most of the others were completed by February 1918. Sadly, there is only one surviving ALA camp library building and it has been significantly modified. It is the Camp Sherman library building in Chillicothe, Ohio. Other posts on this blog about ALA's Library War Service can be found HERE. More ALA camp library postcards can be found HERE. An architectural biography of Edward L. Tilton can be found HERE (large pdf file). The primary source for information in this post is Books for Sammies: The American Library Association and World War I by Arthur P. Young (Beta Phi Mu, 1981).

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Branch and a Bookmobile for African Americans in Carrollton, GA

I recently acquired a postcard (see above) which shows the Delta Sigma Theta bookmobile in front of the King St. Branch Library of of the West Georgia Regional Library in Carrollton, GA. The caption on the back of the postcard indicates that the bookmobile served Carroll, Douglas, Haralson, and Heard Counties in Georgia. The postcard was mailed on September 5, 1956. The Delta Sigma Theta sorority was founded in 1913 at Howard University and has a long history of public service as it relates to the African American community. In 1937 it initiated the  National Library Project which had the goal of providing library service to African Americans in the rural South.  In doing some background research on the postcard I came across a history of the West Georgia Regional Library titled Yonder She Comes! A Once Told Li'bry Tale by Edith Foster (Gateway Printing Co., 1985) which has been placed online in pdf format. Edith Foster was the original director of the West Georgia Regional Library and served in that capacity from 1944 to 1976. Chapter 8 of the book tells about Foster's efforts to establish the King Street Branch Library and the bookmobile service to serve the African American community at a time when the South was still segregated. For two years Foster drove the Delta Sigma Theta bookmobile herself and set up service points for African Americans in all counties. Foster recounts that in order to be prepared to respond to the question "Are you mixing the books?" each book for the King Street Branch was marked with a triangle symbol. The King Street Branch Library ceased operation in 1967 with the completion of the Neva Lomason Memorial Library in Carrollton which served the entire community.