Monday, December 12, 2022

Library Postcards for the Holidays

As a collector of postcards featuring libraries, I seek out those that are less typical. Few are less typical than those that have a winter holiday theme.  Here are a few in my collection. 

What is the Santa on this 1910 postcard featuring the Cossett Library in Memphis, TN thinking?

This postcard featuring the Santa Rosa, CA public library was mailed on Dec. 24th, 1909. It was published by Richard Behrendt of San Francisco. I have several of Behrendt's California library holiday cards.

This postcard was mailed on Dec. 24th, 1920 and features the George Maxwell Memorial Library in Rockville, CT.

This multi-view postcard for Boise, ID was probably enclosed in an envelope when it was mailed in 1909 since it has a message but no stamp.  It includes an image of the Carnegie Library.

Robert H. Lord of Boston, MA published postcards with original messages and illustrations. This one was mailed on Dec. 18, 19ll from Molin, IL and has a message about public libraries.

A dramatic postcard featuring an angel and the Binghamton, NY public library. It was not mailed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Happy 125th Anniversary Book Palace of the American People

On November 1, 1897 the new Library of Congress building opened to the public. Ainsworth Rand Spofford, the sixth Librarian of Congress who was largely responsible for getting the building built, referred to it as the "Book Palace of the American People". Some even claimed that it was "The World's Most Beautiful Building". The building was renamed the Thomas Jefferson Building in 1980. IMHO it should have been named the Ainsworth Rand Spofford Building. I am a collector of a wide variety of artifacts that feature the 1897 building. One of the indicators of the beauty and importance of the building is the number of picture postcards that feature the exterior and interior of the building. On a recent search of eBay there were over 2,000 Library of Congress postcards listed which is more than any other library. I have over 150 in my personal collection of library postcards. There are also a large number of other souvenir items that feature the building. The history of the Library of Congress building coincides very well with the history of picture postcards. There are excellent examples of Library of Congress postcards for every postcard era. Here are a few from my collection.

PIONEER ERA (1873-1898)

1894 U.S. Post Office issue postal card. Mailed to Freiburg, Germany on Nov. 7, 1897, only 6 days after Library of Congress building opened to the public.


Mailed via the S.S. Kronprinz Wilhelm to Floha, Sachsen, Germany on April 5, 1902 just 7 months after its maiden voyage.


Washington, DC to Hagerstown, MD, Sept. 27, 1906.


Washington, DC to Lyon, France, April 21, 1908. Images of exterior and reading room.

WHITE BORDER ERA (1915-1930)

Great Falls, VA to Canton, NJ, Aug. 2, 1929. 

LINEN ERA (1930-1945)

Unmailed. 1940 date on back.





Friday, August 12, 2022

America's First First Day Covers

I'm a member of the United States Stamp Society. One of the most important benefits of being a member is receiving their monthly journal The United States Specialist. It is a wonderful source of philatelic information about postage stamps of the United States. The August issue for 2022 contained an especially interesting and informative article by Jay Stotts titled "One Collector's Fourth Bureau Issue Top Ten List". The Fourth Bureau set of stamps was first issued in 1922 and continued until 1938. Among Stotts' top ten list of these stamps were two that were of special interest to me. The first was the 11 cent Rutherford B. Hayes stamp which was issued by the United States Post Office Department (USPOD) on October 4, 1922. A special First Day of Issue ceremony was held for the stamp in Fremont, Ohio, the location of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library. First day covers were processed with the Hayes stamp and canceled with a Fremont, Ohio, October 4, 1922 cancel. One of those covers is shown above. The image is provided with the courtesy of Jay Stotts. According to Stotts this began the practice of holding first day of issue ceremonies and mailing first day covers at the site of the ceremony which continues to this date. I collect postal artifacts related to America's presidential libraries and have shown an exhibit of those items at several stamp shows. Jay told me that in his opinion the Fremont first day ceremony at the Hayes Library was in his eyes, a key philatelic event involving a presidential library. Which makes the Hayes first day cover a highly desirable item for my exhibit. If only I could afford one. 

Jerry Katz has a fantastic site on the  FDCs of the 11¢ Hayes Postage Stamp of 1922.

The second item in Jay's top ten list of particular interest to me is a first day cover featuring the 1923 2 cent Warren G. Harding stamp which was issued by the USPOD on September 1, 1923. This cover is considered to be America's first cacheted first day cover. It was produced by George W. Linn, the founder of Linn's Stamp News. A cachet in philately is any kind of illustration or printed information on a cover (envelope) that is not related to the cancellation, postmark, or address. The cachet on Linn's first day cover includes printed information about Harding. The cover is also a mourning cover. An example of the cover is shown below. 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Anon E Mouse Library Covers

In July I attended the Minnesota Stamp Expo. A highlight of the show was the philatelic exhibits which included a number of exhibits of first day covers. One of the first day cover exhibits was titled "How Now Brown Mouse? - The Evolution of Anon E. Mouse Cachets". The exhibit was the work of Cynthia Scott the creator of Anon E. Mouse Cachets. I collect and exhibit first day covers for library stamps and I was delighted to find a first day cover for one of those stamps in Cynthia's exhibit. It was the first day cover for the 1982 Library of Congress stamp which is shown above. I own a copy of that cover as well as Cynthia's cover for the 1982 America's Libraries stamp, also shown above. Cynthia has an amazing website which in addition to serving as a vehicle for marketing her covers also explains how she produces the covers. For the two covers above, she drew the cachet (illustration) designs using pen and pencil on a small sheet of paper which she inserted into multiple envelopes one at a time. Using a light box she then traced the original design on the envelopes. She then hand colored the designs on the envelopes. All of Cynthia's first day covers include an image of a small mouse. Cynthia received a gold medal for her exhibit in Minnesota. She has a copy of the exhibit on her website. I have a first day cover exhibit for the America's Libraries stamp which includes Cynthia's cover for that stamp.

The American First Day Cover Society (AFDCS) has lots of excellent information for anyone interested in learning more about first day covers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

40th Anniversary of the Stamp Honoring America's Libraries

Forty years ago on July 13, 1982 the United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a postage stamp honoring  America's libraries. It was the result of years of lobbying by the library profession for such a stamp. A first day of issue ceremony for the stamp was held in Philadelphia at the annual conference of the American Library Association (ALA). Originally the stamp was supposed to also honor the Library of Congress, but Librarian of Congress Daniel Borstin persuaded the USPS to issue a separate stamp for the Library of Congress. That stamp was issued on April 21, 1982. I previously wrote a post about that stamp. Both stamps were designed by Bradbury Thompson, one of the world's great graphic designers and typographers. ALA, led by its President Betty Stone, went all out to promote the America's Libraries stamp. This included producing a first day cover (FDC) for the stamp (shown above) which was sold in various configurations. The one above is signed by Stone and ALA Executive Director Robert Wedgeworth. The cover included an insert with information about ALA. ALA contracted with ArtCraft, the major publisher of FDCs, to design and print its FDC. Over a hundred other FDC producers (called cachet makers) also designed an FDC for the America's Libraries stamp. I collect the different FDCs for the America's Libraries stamp and I have developed an exhibit of those covers which I have shown at national level stamp shows. Among the most sought after FDCs by collectors are those that are hand drawn and painted. The one below was created by arguably the most famous cachet maker Dorothy Knapp.  I wrote an article titled "Bradbury Thompson's 1982 Library Stamps" for the July issue of PHILATELI-GRAPHICS, the publication of the Graphics Philately Association of the American Topical Association

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Braddock Carnegie Library 25th Anniversary Postcard

The Braddock Carnegie Library in Braddock, PA was the first Carnegie library built in America. The library was dedicated by Andrew Carnegie on March 30, 1889. On April 29, 1914 there was a 25th anniversary celebration of the opening of the library. Andrew Carnegie was also on hand for this event. I have many postcards in my library postcard collection related to Carnegie libraries but the one above is exceptional because of its image and its content. The real photo postcard (RPPC) depicts the grandstand and its dignitaries (including Carnegie) at the 25th anniversary celebration in Braddock.  The content on the picture side of the postcard reads: "The above picture represents Doc. Whitfield introducing Andy to the crowd. Library street was packed from the Maple alley to above Parker. You can see Dinkey Schwab, Bope, Hunt all those big guys." The content on the message side reads: "Just to show you that I'm still busy. This is one of 24 pictures I got on the day of the 25th celebration. I got two catalogs from Penn State." The message is signed by Laddie P-?. The postcard was mailed from Braddock, PA to State College, PA on May 18, 1914. It is mailed to Mr. A. Northington. 

An article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazett for October 3, 2012 describes the 25th anniversary event as follows: "Braddock’s streets were packed when Andrew Carnegie arrived to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the library he’d built for the town.  Flags flew from almost every building, according to newspaper reports, and hundreds of pictures of the steel king were on display. Carnegie led the crowd in the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” and remained on his feet during the entire two-hour ceremony."

Wikipedia had a nice entry about the Braddock Carnegie Library which recounts the history of the building. The library is now operated by the Braddock Carnegie Library Association

I wrote a previous blog post titled "America's First Carnegie Libraries" in 2012 which noted that both the Braddock Carnegie Library and the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny have a claim to being the first Carnegie library in America.

Enlarged detail of postcard photo showing Carnegie

Thursday, June 30, 2022

1850s Library of Congress Copyright Envelope


I've been collecting Library of Congress postal items for over 25 years. These items contitute a postal history of the Library of Congress. Items mailed by or on behalf of the library before 1860 that still exist are rare. Before I acquired the envelope shown above, I had only seen one other postal item mailed by the library before 1860. Obviously I was excited to add it to my collection. The envelope is identified as being mailed by the Library of Congress by the notation or docket on the left side of the envelope. It reads "Librarian of Congress recpt of our Copy Right articles". The envelope was mailed between 1851 and 1854 to Messrs Troup and Fickardt in Circleville, Ohio. George Fickardt and J.A. Troup were druggists in Circleville. The mailing period is established because their partnership only existed from about 1847 to 1854. Additionally, the 5 cent postal rate shown in the postmark went into effect on July 1, 1851 for unpaid postage (to be paid by the recipient). 

The envelope is also of significance in regard to the impact of copyright laws on the Library of Congress. An August 10, 1846 act of Congress authorized the Library of Congress to receive as a deposit one copy of each copyrighted "book, map, chart, musical composition, print, cut or engraving." Because that requirement had no enforcement provision and was largely ineffective it was repealed by an act of Congress on Feb. 5, 1859. An act on March 3, 1865 reinstituted a requirement that the Library of Congress receive one copy of each copyrighted item. On July 8, 1870 President Grant approved an acto Congress that centralized all U.S. copyright registration and deposit activities at the Library of Congress. The implementation of the 1870 law resulted in an enormous expansion of the use of the mail be the Library of Congress. I have developed a philatelic exhibit on the administration of copyright by the Library of Congress during the period 1870 to 1930. 

I have over 50 other blog posts related to the Library of Congress.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The 1982 Library of Congress Stamp

On this day (April 21, 1982) forty years ago the United States Postal Service issued a stamp honoring the Library of Congress. It was significant in that it was the first United States stamp to specifically honor a library. Although there had been previous postage stamps on which library buildings had appeared, those were issued to commemorate academic and other institutions or architects. Originally, the proposed stamp was to commemorate all of America's libraries collectively and the Library of Congress individually. Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin wasn't happy with the design of the stamp, however, and the Postmaster General agreed to issue a separate stamp for the Library of Congress. The stamp honoring America’s Libraries collectively was issued on July 13,1982 at the conference of the American Library Association in Philadelphia. Both stamps were designed by noted graphics designer Bradbury Thompson. I have a large collection of first day covers for both stamps. One of my favorites for the Library of Congress issue is shown above. It was the Library of Congress Philatelic Club Cachet Number 1. The illustration on the envelope (called a cachet) is a pen and ink drawing by Paul Boswell.  Boswell was a staff member at the Library of Congress where he worked for 46 years. Bowell was also a poet and in 1994 Boswell published a book of his poems and drawings titled No Anchovies on the Moon: Three Score and Ten Washington Pictures and Poems. Boswell died in 1994. The first day cover is signed by Boswell and Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin. 

The Library of Congress Philatelic Club produced first day covers for 18 different stamp issues. Their second first day cover cachet was for the America’s Libraries stamp.

I also published a blog post on the 30th anniversary of the issue of the Library of Congress stamp.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Women on Library Postcards Revisited

 As a tribute to Women's History Month I'm revisiting the topic of women on library postcards which I previously posted about on March 12, 2013. The first postcard below was mailed on July 10, 1907 and depicts the female staff of the Aurora Public Library in Aurora, Illinois. The library had moved into a new building in 1904 funded by a $50,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie. With the help of more recent staff members I was able to identify the women on the post card left to right as Alice Belleau, Gladys V. Hull, Minnie J. Pooley, Matie K. Quinn, Lillian C. Miles, Kate E. Marshall, and H. Belva Hull. James Shaw, the Librarian at the time, is not shown.

Interior William Fogg Library in Eliot, ME. Unmailed RPPC circa 1907.
Librarian Gail Willis is at table in reading room.
Interior Adrian College Library in Adrian, MI. Mailed on 1/10/09.

Interior Hyannis (MA) Public Library. Unmailed RPPC circa 1930s.
Ora Adams, librarian from 1900 to 1943, at desk.

Bookmobile for the Library Associatin of Portland, Oregon. Unmailed circa 1920s.

Monday, February 28, 2022

More Carnegie HBCU Libraries on Postcards

 Andrew Carnegie funded library buildings at fifteen Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). I have previous posts about the library at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and the library at Fisk University. The other libraries are located at: Alabama A&M in Normal, AL; Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA; Benedict College in Columbia, SC; Johnson C. Smith Univ. in Charlotte, NC (formerly Biddle Univ.); Cheyney State University in PA; Florida A&M in Tallahassee, FL; Fort Valley Normal and Industrial Institute Fort Valley, GA; Howard University in DC; Knoxville College in Knoxville, TN;  Livingstone College in NC; Talladega College in AL, Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio; and Wiley College in TX. Postcards for the libraries are difficult, if not impossible, to find. Below are postcards showing Carnegie HBCU libraries in my collection.

Carnegie Library, Alabama A&M Univ. in Normal, AL

Carnegie Library, Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA
Library is building on the left.
Carnegie Library, Benedict College in Columbia, SC
Carnegie Library, Florida A&M in Tallahassee, FL
Fort Valley Normal and Industrial Institute Fort Valley, GA
Carnegie Library is building on the left.
Carnegie Library, Howard University in DC

Johnson C. Smith Univ. in Charlotte, NC (formerly Biddle Univ.)
Carnegie Library is building on the right.


Monday, February 14, 2022

Fisk University Libraries


Fisk University is a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) located in Nashville, TN which was established in 1866. The University was the recipient of a grant for $20,000 from Andrew Carnegie for a library building in 1905. The library opened in 1909. It was designed by black architect Moses McKissack III, and it was one of the first major structures designed by a black architect in the U.S. An image of the library is shown above. The building currently serves as the Fisk University Academic Building. The image is from an online article by John Baldwin titled "Fisk University Academic Building (formerly Carnegie Library)" which is part of Clio: Your Guide to History for May 18, 2018. An interesting aspect of the Fisk University Carnegie library building was that it was made available to Nashville's "colored citizens" under the same rules as it served Fisk students. I learned this information from an excellent historical overview of Fisk University libraries by Jessica Carney Smith in Tennessee Libraries. At the time Smith wrote the article she was the Librarian for Fisk. 

By the late 1920s the Carnegie building was inadequate and a $400,000 grant from the General Education Board made a new library building possible. That building which is shown on the postcard above was completed in the fall of 1930. It was designed by architect Henry C. Hibbs. Then University Librarian Louis S. Shores played a major role in its planning. The building was designed to also serve nearby Meharry Medical College. Provision was also made to include a "Carnegie branch library" for Nashville's black residents. A significant feature of the interior of the building was murals painted by Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas. 

According to Jessica Carnie Smith's article Arna Bontemps, a Harlem Renaissance writer, became Fisk's first black head librarian in 1943. Bontemps added professional staff and built up special collections at the library. He left Fisk in 1965 and was replaced by Jessica Carney Smith. The need for an even larger library facility resulted in a new 74,000 square foot building that opened in January 1970. it was named the John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library in 2000.

I attended George Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University) in Nashville from 1961 to 1965. From 1963 to 1965 I worked part time at the Public Library of Nashville and Davidson County. During that period Arna Bontemps served on the Board of Trustees of the public library. For part of the time his son was also a part-time employee of the public library. In 1965 I applied to the University of Illinois Library School and part of the application process involved an interview with an alumni of the school. Jessica Carney Smith was working at what is now Tennessee State University in Nashville when I applied to the U of I. She had just received her doctorate from the University of Illinois Library School, the first African American to do so, and she conducted my interview. Soon after that Smith became the Librarian at Fisk University.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Hampton Institute's Library School


The otherwise unremarkable envelope above which I recently added to my collection of postal librariana has an interesting black history connection. Hampton University (formerly Hampton Institute) in Hampton, VA is one of America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (UBCUs). The envelope was mailed from The Library School Hampton Institute in Hampton, VA on Dec. 17, 1932 to Northfield, MN. A cooperative effort involving the American Library Association (ALA), the Carnegie Corporation, and other philanthropic foundations resulted in the establishment of a library school at the then Hampton Institute in 1925.  It was the nation's first and only library school to serve African Americans. The library school was initially funded with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation and was accredited by the American Library Association to issue a bachelor's degree in library science. The library school lasted until 1939 when it was cut due to lack of funding. An article on "The Passing of the Hampton Library School" by S.L. Smith appeared in the January, 1940 issue of the Journal of Negro Education. Also under consideration for the library school were Fisk University in Nashville, TN and Atlanta University in Atlanta, GA. The decision to select the Hampton Institute for the library school is explored in an article titled "Hampton, Fisk, and Atlanta: The Foundations, the American Library Association, and Library Education for Blacks, 1925-1941" by Robert Martin and Lee Shiflett in the Spring 1966 issue of Libraries and Culture. After the demise of the library school at Hampton Institute a  library school was established at Atlanta University in 1941. That library school ceased to exist in 1991. A history of the Atlanta University school is located HERE.

In 2018 when Hampton University celebrated its 150th anniversary the University's Library conducted a forum on "Minority Recruitment and Retention in the Library & Information Science Field." 

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Charles Winter Wood, Tuskegee Institute Librarian


The un-mailed undivided back postcard above has several different stories to tell. It includes a picture of Charles Winter Wood (1869-1953) who is identified as the Librarian for the Carnegie Library of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. There is little information, however, about Wood's role as a librarian on the Internet. There is an article about Wood's connection with Beloit College in Wisconsin, something that caught me by surprise. Booker T. Washington hired Wood as head of Tuskegee Institute's English and Drama Departments in 1897, a capacity in which he served for over 30 years. In 1900 the Tuskegee Institute received the first of 15 grants made by Andrew Carnegie for  library buildings for  Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs). The Carnegie Library building is shown on the postcard above. Wood assumed the additional role of Librarian for the Tuskegee Institute in 1904. It is not clear how long he maintained this dual responsibility but the postcard was copyrighted in 1907. Outside of his academic responsibilities at the Tuskegee Institute, Wood is most noted for his acting career which was significant. The Charles Winter Wood Theater at Florida A&M University is named for him. Shaundra Walker has written an interesting article about Andrew Carnegie's library grants to HBCUs. There is also an interesting project at the University of Southern Mississippi about Carnegies grants for public library buildings that served African Americans. 

First day cover for the 1948 Booker T. Washington stamp. Includes a picture of the Tuskegee Institute faculty in front of the Carnegie Library. 

Monday, January 31, 2022

Iowa Carnegie Libraries on Postcards


Iowa City, IA to South English, IA, April 17, 1905.
Message reads: "This is our library - a gift from Andrew Carnegie, that kind old Scotchman who has gladdened the hearts of so many young Americans by his munificent gifts."

Iowa received grants from Andrew Carnegie to help build 101 public libraries in 99 communities and 7 academic libraries. This was the 4th highest number of grants received by any state nationwide. One or more postcard views exist for almost all of these libraries. Judy Aulik has one of the most complete collections of Iowa Carnegie library postcards. These are displayed on her "Civic Pride in a Lost America: Library Postcards" website. The Iowa images start with this link and continue for multiple pages. I have a much more modest collection with one or more postcards for 51 of the libraries. All postcards shown in this blog post are from my collection.

The Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project (CLIP)is the most comprehensive source of information about Iowa's Carnegie libraries. There is a separate page on the website for each of the libraries. On that page is a link to "Images" for the library. These images often include the front and back of postcards which are described in detail. Among those images are many that depict postcards from my collection which I made available to the project. The CLIP is an amazing resource and is worthy of replication in other states.

Fairfield, IA to Burlington, IA, Oct. 2, 1809.
In 1892, Fairfield, IA, received the first grant from Carnegie for a library west of PA.

Cedar Rapids, IA to Toledo, IA, Oct. 20, 1910. Cedar Rapids Public Library interior view.

Sioux City, IA to Western Spring, IL, Nov. 29, 1909. Sioux City Public Library.