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.