Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mary Salome Cutler Fairchild (1855 - 1921), Library Pioneer

 I recently acquired a letter on the stationery of the United States Hotel in Boston dated June 27, 1886 from George T. Cutler to his sister Mary Salome Cutler (later Mary Salome Cutler Fairchild). Salome, as she preferred to be called, was one of the outstanding American librarians of the 19th century. She was one of “40 leaders of the library movement” selected for a Library Hall of Fame by Library Journal in 1951 as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the American Library Association. Salome Fairchild is also included in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) which has a comprehensive biography by Budd L. Gambee. Fairchild was hired by Melvil Dewey in 1884 as a cataloger for the Columbia College Library, and she also served as an instructor in cataloging at the library school founded by Dewey at Columbia. She followed Dewey to the New York State Library when the library school was moved from Columbia to New York in 1889. Fairchild became vice-director of the library school in 1891, and served in that capacity until 1905. As vice-director Fairchild was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the library school and also maintained a heavy teaching load at the school. In his biography of Fairchild, Gambee writes: “The inspirational quality of her teaching was highly praised by her contemporaries. Her enthusiasm and her faith in the perfectibility of mankind sustained her missionary zeal for the library movement. Her specialties were cataloging book selection, and a seminar that combined library history with a study of contemporary libraries.”  Fairchild was also in charge of the New York State Library for the Blind. In his biography about Dewey Irrepressible Reformer (ALA, 1996) Wayne A. Wiegand notes that Fairchild and Dewey had significant philosophical differences in regard to the their approach to library education. Dewey emphasized the practical aspect of instruction whereas Fairchild advocated for a more theoretical and cultural approach. Fairchild was an active member of ALA and served as vice-president in 1894-95 and 1900-1901. One of her major contributions to ALA was serving as chair of the committee which arranged the ALA exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 which included a model library. An annotated book selection list created for the exhibit was the first of several that became known as the A.L.A. Catalogs. The Wikipedia entry for Fairchild includes an interesting section on her 1904 study of “Women in American Libraries”.  The 1886 letter to Cutler/Fairchild from her brother includes advice to her about her upcoming extended trip to the Mid-west and information about financing the trip. There is only one library reference in the letter. At the end her brother writes, “I got the bulletin from Library Bureau.” I’m happy to have this artifact with a connection to this great library lady.

Monday, August 24, 2015

1862 Library of Congress Envelope

This weekend I attended StampShow 2015 sponsored by the American Philatelic Society in Grand Rapids, MI. This is the largest annual stamp show in the nation. Over the years a small cadre of philatelic dealers have been thoughtful enough to save items related to my collecting interest of postal librariana until the next time they see me at a stamp show. Several of these dealers were at the Grand Rapids show. One dealer (thanks Doug) was holding an especially nice item for me. It is an envelope (shown above) mailed by Ainsworth Rand Spofford at the Library of Congress on March 13, 1862 to Washington, D.C. bookseller P.R. Fendall. At the time Spofford was Chief Assistant Librarian of Congress. He became Librarian of Congress in 1864 and served in that capacity until 1897. The envelope has an embossed Library of Congress return address and has a hand written notation indicating that it contained a letter from Spofford and that Fendall had sent the books which Spofford had requested. I have a large collection of postal items related to the Library of Congress and have a philatelic exhibit of these items. This envelope is special because it is the first one I have seen which includes a postage stamp and was mailed prior to 1870. Mail sent by the Library of Congress was limited before the library was authorized to handle the copyright function on behalf of the United States in 1870. For much of its early history the Library of Congress made use of the free franking privilege of members of congress for its outgoing mail. After 1877 the Library of Congress used a special category of stampless mail for government agencies referred to as “penalty mail” because of the statement on envelopes threatening a penalty for private use. I’m revamping my Library of Congress exhibit and this envelope will make a very nice addition.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Superior, WI Carnegie Library For Sale

Central Library

Branch Library

Haven’t done much blogging lately. Lots of travel this summer. On one of my trips I went through Superior, WI and was able to see both Carnegie library buildings. The old central library was abandoned in 1991 when it moved to new quarters, and is currently for sale. Superior was one of three communities in Wisconsin to receive a grant from Carnegie for a second branch library building. The branch library in Superior was converted to a private residence (also in 1991) and is still occupied by the owner.  After my trip I found out about a recent article about the central library. The writer of the article managed to get inside of the library and posted a number of pictures. The library is for sale for $125,000 and would probably cost a few hundred thousand more to restore. The branch library is overgrown with vegetation and looks like it could use some TLC. I have more information about both of Superior’s Carnegie libraries on my Library History Buff website.