During the Library History Seminar XII, a national meeting of library historians, which was held in Madison, WI, in September. Wayne Wiegand was surprised after his keynote presentation when he was presented with his own library trading card. Wiegand is the F. William Summers Professor of Library and Information Studies at Florida State University, and is considered to be the dean of current library historians in the United States. Wiegand is also a native of Manitowoc, Wisconsin and a former Professor at the UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies. The trading card which is shown above is supposedly #64 in a set of 100 famous librarian trading cards. The card is accompanied by a list of the 100 famous librarians as selected by by the Wayne Wiegand Library Trading Card Coordinating Committee (Jim Danky, Karen Krueger, Doug Zweizig, and Larry Nix). Using a partially tongue-in-cheek baseball metaphor the back of the card begins "Wayne's first sand lot tryouts with a library team, the Manitowoc (WI) Library Mirros, showed the promise his subsequent career demonstrated." Wiegand is perhaps best known for his biography of Melvil Dewey, Irrepressible Reformer. In his presentations he often mentions that there are more public library outlets than McDonalds restaurants. He is a strong advocate of approaching library history from the viewpoint of the "library in the life of the user" in contrast to the "user in the life of the library". Wiegand plans to retire next year. The list of famous librarians includes, among others, Melvil Dewey, Herbert Putnam, Peggy Sullivan, John Cotton Dana, Margaret Monroe, Arna Bontemps, Benjamin Franklin, Lutie Stearns, Fred Glazer, Pope Pius XI, E. J. Josey, S. R. Ranganathan, Augusta Baker, and Callimachus. It also includes former librarians at the Manitowoc Public Library.
You can obtain a copy of the Wiegand trading card and the list of the 100 famous librarians by sending $5 (check or cash) to Larry T. Nix, 3605 Niebler Ln., Middleton, WI 53562. All proceeds from the sale of the cards will go to the Center for the History of Print Culture in Modern America at UW-SLIS which Wiegand, along with Jim Danky, founded.
The early philosophy and work of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission is aptly communicated by the logo and and quotation on this library envelope mailed in 1901. The quotation "Had I the power I would scatter libraries over the whole land, as a sower sows his wheat field" is from Horace Mann. The logo shows a farmer scattering seed with Wisconsin Free Library Commission across the top. Later envelopes used by the WFLC have the logo but not the quotation and eventually the logo was dropped. Either Frank Hutchins or Lutie Stearns could have been responsible for the design of the stationery used by the WFLC. They jointly led the WFLC in its early years and they certainly did all they could to scatter libraries and library services throughout Wisconsin. In her tenure at the WFLC, Stearns helped establish 150 free public libraries and 1,400 traveling libraries.
One way that communities in the first two decades of the 20th century sought to attract new businesses was through advertising on envelopes. These envelopes typically included pictures on the front of the envelope that depicted significant buildings and attractions in the community. The back of these envelopes included written text which made the case for locating in a particular community. During this same period new public library buildings were being built in communities across the country, many as the result of grants from philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie. So it is not surprising that libraries are often one of the buildings being depicted on the front of the envelope. The envelope above is for the community of Stoughton and it has an image of the building that housed the city hall, the library, and the opera house. This envelope was mailed in September of 1905. In December of 1905 Stoughton received a grant from Andrew Carnegie to build a separate public library building. Both buildings are still in existence in Stoughton and the Carnegie building has been incorporated into an expanded public library. A previous post shows postcards depicting both buildings. A community advertising envelope for Sheboygan can be seen here. In 1992 the Postal History Foundati0n in Tucson, Arizona received a collection of 1,204 community advertising envelopes. An analysis of the envelopes found that Wisconsin communities had the second highest number of envelopes - 75. Only Michigan with 76 envelopes had more.
Library buttons are fun and they are an interesting collectible, but they can also be artifacts that link us to our past. In the image above are four buttons that each have a Wisconsin library story to tell. The crossed out AB 720 button was created to oppose a piece of library legislation that was supported by the majority of the Wisconsin library community and was passed into law. The "Bark In The Dark" and the "It won't fit in the box" buttons were created for the particpants of two different groups that were charged with revising Wisconsin's public library standards. The phrases reflect frustrations at critical points in the process of developing the standards. The Jim Danky button recognizes the retirement of one of Wisconsin's stellar librarians. To see more library buttons including others from Wisconsin click here.
In 1881 under the direction of Librarian Klas Linderfelt, the Milwaukee Public Library implemented a new charging system. Linderfelt made a presentation on library charging systems at the 1882 American Library Association conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. In that presentation he identified twenty questions that should be answered in evaluating a library charging system. The first four were: 1) Is a given book out?; 2) If out, who has it?; 3) When did he [she] take it?; and 4) When is it to be sen for, as overdue? Another Milwaukee Public Library innovation was the pencil dater. Library charging or circulation systems have been evolving for many decades. I was recently interviewed by John Kelly of the Washington Post about the stamping of library books with the date due. Kelly wrote an article in his blog today about the move to printed receipts in public libraries. As a result of the Kelly interview I scanned my library card collection to the Library History Buff website which included this well used Milwaukee Public Library card from the 1920s.
Two bookplates from libraries of Lawrence University are shown above. The first is for the Samuel Appleton Library which was a 1963 addition to the Carnegie Library which was razed to make way for the Seely G. Mudd Library which opened in 1976. Samuel Appleton was the person for who the City of Appleton is named for. The second bookplate is for the John Herbert Farley Memorial Library of Lawrence College. This is probably a book collection within the library not an actual library building. According to Pete Gilbert, Lawrence University became Lawrence College in 1908 and then changed back to Lawrence University in 1964 when it merged with Milwaukee-Downer College. So the bookplates dates to before 1964. Bookplates are collected by a number of collectors. I have a collection of library bookplates, but not many from Wisconsin libraries. I would love to add more to the Wisconsin Library Memorabilia collection. Hint hint.
Parcel post, the delivery of packages through the mail, began in the United States on January 1, 1913. Libraries had long lobbied for a special rate for library materials sent through the mail, and in 1914 the postmaster general authorized the shipment of books at the parcel post rate. This decision opened up significant possibilities for library service to geographically remote poputlations. One of the first librarians to realize the potential of parcel post and library service was Matthew S. Dudgeon, the Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC). Under Dudgeon's leadership the WFLC began implementing a system in which any resident of the state could request a book from the major libraries in Madison including the University of Wisconsin Library and the State Historical Society Library. There was little red tape involved. All that was required was a letter requesting a book along with the postage. Under the new postal rates a book could be sent anywhere within a 150 of Madison for an average of six cents and for greater distances for eight cents. Implementation of this system was facilitate by the fact that the President of the University of Wisconsin and the Secretary of the Wisconsin Historical Society served on the Wisconsin Free Library Commission board. An article about Didgeon's parcel post system appeared in the December, 1915 issue of American Review of Reviews.
The bookmobile shown in this image was the first motorized bookmobile in the United States. It was manufactured by the International Harvester Company which had manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin and was used by the Washinginton County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland (see previous entry on book wagons). This image is from the Wisconsin Historical Society's International Harvester Company digital collection. We have recently completed a new bookmobile page on the WLHC website which tells the story of bookmobiles in Wisconsin.
Henry E. Legler, former Secretary of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, wrote the following about the Maxon bookmark in his 1918 book Library Ideals:
"What is known far and wide as the Maxon book- mark originated in Wisconsin, and was the conception of the Rev. Mr. Maxon, then resident in Dunn County. It has been reprinted on little slips in hundreds of forms, has circulated in every state and territory in the country, and doubtless a full million copies of it have been slipped between the leaves of children's books. It may fittingly be reproduced here:
'Once on a time A Library Book was overheard talking to a little boy who had just borrowed it. The words seemed worth re-cording and here they are:
'Please don't handle me with dirty hands. I should feel ashamed to be seen when the next little boy borrowed me.
Or leave me out in the rain. Books can catch cold as well as children.
Or make marks on me with your pen or pencil. It would spoil my looks.
Or lean on me with your elbows when you are reading me. It hurts.
Or open me and lay me face down on the table. You would not like to be treated so.
Or put in between my leaves a pencil or anything thicker than a single sheet of thin paper. It would strain my back.
Whenever you are through reading me, if you are afraid of losing your place, don't turn down the corner of one of my leaves, but have a neat little Book Mark to put in where you stopped, and then close me and lay me down on my side so that I can have a good comfortable rest.'"
Note the illustration of a "Maxon bookmark" is from a library supply catalog of the period with a slight variation in wording.
In a previous post on the 1901 American Library Association meeting in Waukesha, I mentioned that momentos or favors were often given to conference participants. I recently discovered another such momento for the Waukesha conference. It is the book Shakespeare the Man by Walter Bagehot which was published by McClure Phillips and Company of New York. There were 1,000 copies of the book published with 450 designated specifically for distribution at the ALA conference.
As noted in the previous post, the American Library Association met in Waukesha in July of 1901. As reported in the magazine Public Libraries: "The twenty-third annual meeting of the A. L. A. was held at Waukesha, Wis., with an enthusiasm and interest that has not been equaled more than two or three times in the history of the association." The conference was held at the Fountain Spring House, Waukesha's premier resort. The Public Libraries article concluded: "A large majority of the people present attended their first conference of American librarians at Waukesha, and the interest, enthusiasm, and evident progress made at this meeting is due largely to that fact. For months the local associations in the middle west were at work to interest thelibrarians of their diffferent states in the importance of being present at Waukesha. Their efforts were successful, and there was but one note sounded in regard to the meeting, and that was satisfaction."
The full Public Libraries report on the Waukesha conference can be found in Google Books on pages 459-497 of the 1901 annual compilation.
At early ALA Conferences, momentos were routinely given to participants. At the Waukesha conference, the attendees were given an elaborate medal. At the top of the medal was a pin-back badger followed by a ribbon similar to those on military medals and finally there was a copper colored medallion. The medallion, which is in my collection of Wisconsin library memorabilia, is shown below. Someone probably took the medal apart for the attractve badger pin. A complete medal is located in the ALA Archives at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
I came across this illustration in an 1886 Library Bureau supply catalog. It gives credit to the Milwaukee Public Library for creating the pencil dater which became a fixture in most libraries in the first half of the 20th century. Does anyone have an example of a pencil dater? Has anyone used one?
At the turn of the 19th century entrepreneur Seymour Eaton established two national commercial libraries that had an impact on Wisconsin. The first of these libraries was the Booklovers Library which provided home delivery of books by subscription. The Booklovers Library might be described as the Netflix of books for this period. It had a circulation in the millions.
The Milwaukee Library Centre for the Booklovers Library was located at 463 Broadway. This photograph is from a 1902 promotional brochure for the Booklovers Library.
The Booklovers Library pre-dated parcel post so delivery was accomplished through a combination of express companies via train and wagon and the Booklovers Library's own fleet of horse drawn wagons. This illustration from a promotional brochure shows the distribution plan for Eastern Wisconsin. For more on the Booklovers library click here.
The second of Seymour Eaton's libraries was the Tabard Inn Library which was also a paid subscription library. This library had stations in the form of revolving bookcases located in drug stores and other commercial establishments throughout the United States including Wisconsin. The bookcases held 120 books which were changed from a central location every week.
A photograph of a Tabard Inn Library Bookcase which is currently located in the Menasha Public Library. A member deposited five cents in a compartment in the bookcase The carved message around the top of the bookcase reads "The Best Reading Rooms In the United States Are the Homes of the American People". The Menasha Public Library is on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail. For more on the Tabard Inn Library click here.
Over the years I have collected a variety of library artifacts which reflect Wisconsin's library heritage. Many of these are included in the exhibit of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia which is sponsore by the WLHC. Most of these artifacts have been relatively easy to acquire, but one artifact required considerably more effort. I call it the library artifact from hell and here is its story.
With the beginning of the restoration of the Capitol's East wing in 1999, the State Law Library moved out of the Capitol into temporary quarters. A decision was made to discard all of the library's heavy cast iron shelving except for a few sections that would be used in the Supreme Court Reading Room in the Capitol. The shelving was dismantled and piled on the lawn of the Capitol. Rob Nurre, a fellow history buff, discovered that the iron shelving was on the way to the dump and mounted a rescue effort in July of 2000. Rob rented a U-Haul truck and four of us showed up in the morning of one very hot day to salvage as many sections of shelving as each of us thought we could use. I parked my car on the street in a two hour parking spot thinking the task could be taken care of within that timeframe. However, sorting the pieces of heavy iron shelving so that we were assured of having the correct number and kinds of pieces to reassemble the shelving was no easy feat. By the time I realized my two hour parking meter had run out, I already had a $20 ticket. Did I say that it was a hot day. Did I say that it was heavy iron shelving. After a lunch break during which I discovered that I had another $20 ticket we finally completed loading the U-Haul truck. Rob then drove the truck to each participating person's home where the correct pieces were unloaded. I think it was after 5:00 p.m. when I finally got my pieces unloaded.
I now had lots of different pieces of iron shelving on my garage floor. Because of the weight and height of the shelving, the only place that I could place the shelving was in the garage. The problem was that the only wall in the garage where I could place the shelving was already being utilized. So basically I had to re-arrange the entire garage in order to put the shelving there. While I was at it, I decided that this was a good time to paint the garage. When I finally had the garage painted and the wall where I wanted to put the shelving cleared, I still had a bunch of iron pieces of shelving on the garage floor. Fortunately for me, Rob ageed to come over one Saturday and help me assemble the shelving.
As a result of this effort, I now have four sections of shelving in my garage from the State Law Library that are almost 100 years old. It turns out that this type of shelving has an interesting history. The shelving was originally designed by engineer Bernard Richardson Green for the Library of Congress. The design came to be known as the Library of Congress or Green (Snead) standard. The shelving was manufactured by the Snead & Company Iron Works of Louisville, Kentucky. If Wisconsin ever gets a library heritage museum, I will be happy to contribute my library artifact from hell.
A photograph of the shelves in my garage.
A photograph of the shelves in the Supreme Court Reading Room in the State Capitol.
The entire Wisconsin Historical Society Library was housed in this bookcase in 1853. It is currently located on the second floor of the library near the circulation desk. It has been described as the "Holy Grail" of Wisconsin library artifacts. The WHS Library has grown from this small beginning to be one of the world's greatest historical libraries. Few libraries have preserved an artifact that is as significant to its history as is this bookcase to the WHS Library. What is the most historically significant artifact that has been preserved by your library? The WHS Library is included on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.
On a recent trip to Minneapolis I made a point of stopping off at the Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum in Menomonie, Wisconsin. The Museum is part of the Dunn County Historical Society. It houses one of Wisconsin's most important library artifacts - Traveling Library #13 of the original 32 traveling libraries established in Dunn County by Senator James Stout in 1896. Traveling libraries were small rotating collections of books. This first demonstration of the traveling library concept in Wisconsin expanded until there were hundreds of traveling libraries throughout the state.
When I indicated to the volunteer museunm staff member the purpose of my visit, I was half expecting that she would not know what I was talking about. Instead she led me immediately to what is a permanent display of Traveling Library # 13. The museum is well aware of the importance of their unusual library artifact. For a library history buff like me, it was like visiting a shrine.
Traveling Library #13 is an good example of why the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is not trying to establish a physical library history museum. Instead, the WLHC hopes to identify the location of important Wisconsin library artifacts, archives, and buildings and make this information known to all. This is an important role for this website. If you have information about any of these historical treasures, we would like to hear from you.
More information on Wisconsin's traveling libraries can be found on the Traveling Libraries Page of this website.