Wisconsin Library Heritage Center

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation promoting understanding and appreciation of the history of libraries and librarianship in Wisconsin.

Library Postcards Revisited

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Manitowoc Public Library
 
Ripon Public Library
 
Postcards depicting libraries are wonderful souvenirs and also serious historical artifacts. The “golden age” of postcard production and collecting was from 1898 to 1918. That period coincided with the construction of large numbers of library buildings as a result of the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie and others. These new libraries were the pride of their communities and were the frequent subject of postcards. This was certainly the case in Wisconsin and there are hundreds of different postcards depicting Wisconsin libraries. Many of these have been featured on this website. Pictured above are two of the more unusual postcards featuring Wisconsin libraries. The first depicts the Manitowoc Public Library and is made of aluminum. The second depicts the Ripon Public Library and is made of leather. Both libraries were Carnegie libraries and both postcards were mailed during the first decade of the 20th century. It was during this period that a variety of novelty materials were used for postcards.  Images of Wisconsin library postcards can also be found on Judy Aulik's website "Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America" and the website of Sharon McQueen and Richard Douglass.

Elroy's Public Library and the Ice Storm of 1922

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I've lived in Wisconsin for 32 years and I've never experienced a serious ice storm. I missed the devastating ice storm of March, 1976. In February of 1922 Wisconsin also experienced one the worst ice storms in its history. During that ice 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 because of the storm ranged from 2 to 15 days. Elroy, WI was one of the communities that was hit hard by the ice storm. I recently acquired the postcard shown above which documents the impact of the storm around the Elroy Public Library.

Brodhead's Early Public Library

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pc-wi-brodhead-detail-enlargedI'm always on the lookout for postcards depicting Wisconsin libraries. I've been so successful that it is not often that I come across one that I don't already have. So it was a real treat when I found a Real Photograph Postcard (RPPC) showing the the public library on the Main Street of Brodhead, WI (shown above). RPPCs as the name implies are photographs printed on a postcard formatted sheet of paper. They are printed in much smaller quantities that other postcards and often depict subjects that can't be found on postcards in other formats. This postcard was mailed on October 30, 1911 from Brodhead to Neenah, WI. The public library is depicted on the far right side of the postcard (see detail to the left). It is located on the second floor of the building and there are covered stairs on the right leading to the library. Also depicted on the postcard is a horse drawn buggy. Although there are people shown on the postcard they have been deliberately blurred. I was able to find some other images (search for "library") of various Brodhead public libraries on the Brodhead Historical Society's website. One of the images depicts the interior of this library. Another gives a better view of the exterior of the library. The public library was founded in 1909. The current building was completed in 2009, 100 years later.

One of Seven Sisters in Merrill, WI

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merrill-frieze-detail-72.JPGMy wife and I installed the exhibit "Andrew Carnegie's Wisconsin Library Legacy" early this week at the T. B. Scott Free Library in Merrill, Wisconsin. The exhibit is sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center. This year is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Carnegie library building in Merrill. A major addition to the building was completed in 2001. The integration of the older building with the new addition has been done remarkably well. The original Carnegie building was designed by the
architectural firm of Claude & Starck in the Prairie School style pioneered by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. The Claude & Starck firm which designed over 40 libraries employed the Prairies School style in a number of them. Seven of those library buildings have been referred to as the "seven sisters" because they share as a design element an ornamental frieze designed (or based on a design) by Sullivan. Wisconsin is the location of four of the seven sisters (Barron, Evansville, Merrill, and Tomah). The others are located in Rochelle, IL, Detroit Lakes, MN, and Hoquiam, WA. The T. B. Scott Free Library has conducted a number of activities to celebrate the centennial of its building during 2011. On Nov. 6, Ellsworth Brown, Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society will make a presentation at the library titled "Andrew Carnegie: The Great Library Benefactor's Life & Mission". It's really great to have the Carnegie exhibit in a Carnegie library building. The exhibit will continue through the end of the year. (This post is also being published on the Library History Buff Blog)

Wisconsin's Early Seminary Libraries

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Two of Wisconsin's oldest libraries are connected to seminaries that date back to the 1840s. The Nashotah House Library is part of the  Nashotah House Episcopal Seminary that was founded in 1842. It is pictured in the first postcard shown above. It is located in Nashotah, Wisconsin which is off of I-94 25 miles west of Milwaukee. The Salzmann Library is affiliated with the St. Francis de Sales Seminary, a Catholic seminary, located in St. Francis, Wisconsin which was founded in 1845. The Salzmann Library, shown in the second postcard, serves a larger community which include anyone who works or volunteers at the parishes, schools, and ministries in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.


Angie Cox's Library

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pc-wi-pardeeville-72.jpgIn 2010 the Angie W. Cox Public Library in Pardeeville will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the gift of books from Angie W. Cox that eventually evolved into the public library that exists today. The history of the library is chronicled by Thomas A. Reinbeck and Steve Thompson on the library's website. Angie Williams Cox (1870-1955) played a continuing role through financial contributions to the development of the library that bears her name. A major milestone in the library's history was its legal establishment as a corporation (but not as a public library) in 1925. The Articles of Organization for the library were signed by the library board on October 24, 1925 and the State of Wisconsin granted it corporation status on November 5, 1925. A major controversy developed over a provision in the Articles of Organization that prohibited Catholics from serving on the library board. The controversy led to a legal battle over the support of the library by the City of Pardeeville. The legal issue was finally resolved by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1929. It determined that the provision prohibiting Catholics on the library board did not prevent support by the City as long as the library was open to all members of the public. In 1985 when Columbia County became a member of the South Central Library System, the Division for Library Services required that the Pardeeville library be established as a public library under Wisconsin Statutes in order to become a member of the library system. It complied with this requirement. The building shown in the postcard above was dedicated on August 26, 1934. It was the result of a major remodeling of an existing building which was accomplished with contributions from Angie Cox. The library continues to occupy this building today.


WLA 119 Today

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pc-wi-madison-capitol-72.jpgOn February 11, 1891 (119 years ago today) a group of librarians and educational leaders gathered in the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the purpose of organizing the Wisconsin Library Association. At that time the State Superintendent's office was located in the State Capitol.  Among those in attendance were K. A. Linderfelt, Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library; R. G. Thwaites, Secretary of the State Historical Society; Frank A. Hutchins, Township Library Clerk of the Department of Public Instruction; E. A. Birge, Professor of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin; Minnie M. Oakley at the State Historical Society and formerly Librarian of the Madison Public Library; and Issac S. Bradley, Assistant Librarian of the State Historical Society. Theresa West Elmendorf, Assistant Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Library, played an important role in bringing the meeting about but was not present at the meeting. At the meeting Linderfelt was chosen as President, Thwaites as Vice-president, and Hutchins as Secretary-treasurer.  The first conference of the Association was held in Madison on March 11, 1891. The State Capitol building shown above was where WLA was born. That building was destroyed in a fire in 1904.


Clarence S. Hean, Agricultural Librarian

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alaconfpc2-72.jpgA postcard mailed in March of 1911 to announce the American Library Association Conference in Pasadena, California provides a link to one of Wisconsin's longtime special librarians. When Clarence S. Hean received this postcard he had been the Agricultural College Librarian and the University of Wisconsin for three years. He didn't complete his service in that position until June, 1952, a span of 44 years. The library he directed is now the Steenbock Memorial Library. A group of letters exchanged with Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg relating to Hean's retirement is located here. The 1911 ALA Pasadena Conference was the conference at which Theresa West Elmendorf was elected the first woman president of the American Library Association. Elmendorf is a member of the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame.


National Postcard Week

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This is National Postcard Week. Diana Dretske, collections coordinator for the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Illinois, provides some background information on National Postcard Week on her blog "Illuminating Lake County, Illinois History".  I have previously posted on the WLHC blog about Wisconsin library postcards. Also by clicking on the "Postcards" category you can see all the previous posts to the WLHC blog that have included a Wisconsin library postcard image.


The Real Photograph Postcard (RPPC) of the Oakfield Public Library features the building in which the library was located in various configurations from 1913 to 2001. When this postcard was mailed the library shared the building with the Fire Department and the Village Hall. The message on the reverse of the postcard talks about the new fire whistle on the bell tower of the building which was run by an electric motor and cost $300. The person sending the card has also added comments to the front of the card relating to the new whistle. For a history of library facilities in Oakfield click here.


 


The Bookworm

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pc-wi-bookworm-72.jpgThe original painting of a very popular image showing an elderly gentleman standing on a ladder in a library is owned by the Milwaukee Public Library. The painting is "The Bookworm" by Carl Spitzweg. The collector who donated the painting to the library also gave several Spitzweg paintings to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Shown here is the painting on a postcard. Prints and posters of the image are readily available on the Internet by searching "Spitzweg bookworm".


UW-Madison Library Pre-1900

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In 1999 the United States Postal Service issued a pre-stamped postal card depicting an 1879 rendering of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to help celebrate the university's 150th anniversary. The stamp image on the postal card helps tell the history of the University of Wisconsin Library up to 1900.  The University of Wisconsin Library was founded in July, 1850 with the appointment of H. A. Tenney as Librarian.  Tenney had previously been designated as Curator of the Unitversity's Cabinet, a collection of specimens. The first home of the library was North Hall (the building at the top right of the stamp image) which opened in 1851. The library moved into South Hall (the building at the top left of the stamp image) when it was completed in 1855. It moved into College Hall (later Main Hall and now Bascom Hall; the building at the top center of the stamp image) in 1859. At the time of the move it had a collection of about 3,000 volumes.

In 1879 the library moved into Library Hall (now Music Hall, the building at the bottom left of the stamp image) with a collection of around 9,000 volumes. It stayed in this location unil 1900 when it moved to the new State Historical Society of Wisconsin building. It's collection had grown to 75,000 bound volumes by the time it made this move.

The postcard below depicts Library Hall which is now Music Hall. More about this building can be found here.

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Wisconsin's First Library School

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 The postcard above shows the second floor atrium of the Madison Public Library when it was located in the building financed by Andrew Carnegie, now razed.  It was here that the Wisconsin Library School, now the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was located from 1906 to 1938.  Carnegie gave additional funding to enable the library school to be located in the public library building. The message on the back of the postcard which was mailed in 1925 is from library school faculty member Winifred Davis to Mrs. N. A. Cushman, Librarian of the Reedsburg Public Library.  Davis invites Cushman to visit a library school exhibit at the University Exposition.

Library education in Wisconsin dates back to 1895 when the newly created Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC) sponsored the first Summer School of Library Economy.  The summer school was the idea of Frank Hutchins, the Commission's first Secretary.  The school was personally financed by library legislative champion Senator James H. Stout and was directed by Katharine Sharp, director of the Library School of the Armour Institute in Chicago.A full time Wisconsin Library School, still under the auspices of the WFLC, was founded in 1906 and housed on the second floor of the Madison Public Library. Mary Emogene Hazeltine was its first Perceptor or Principal. She served in this capacity until 1938. In 1938 administrative control of the library school was moved from the WFLC to the University of Wisconsin.

An excellent web history of SLIS is located here. A collection of digital images was created as part of the library school's centennial celebration in 2006.  Information on Tradition and Vision, a printed centennial history of SLIS, can be found here.

Hutchins, Stout, and Hazeltine will be among the first group of individuals inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame during the WLA Conference in Middleton in November.

Wisconsin Library Postcards

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A real photograph postcard (RPPC) view of the interior of the old Lancaster Public Library. This postcard was mailed from Lancater to Blunt, South Dakota on Sept. 19, 1908. Real photograph postcards are photographs printed on paper with a postcard format backing.


 


Library postcards are one of my favorite kinds of library collectibles. I've been collecting Wisconsin library postcards since 1995 and my collection now consists of about 300 cards which feature 140 different Wisconsin library buildings. Ann Waidelich, a retired Madison librarian and advocate of historical preservation, introduced me to library postcard collecting. Ann has a collection of 283 Wisconsin library postcards which feature libraries in 119 Wisconsin communities. One of these days it would be nice to get these two collections digitized so that images of the postcards could be added to the Web. In the meantime, I will continue to add selected Wisconsin library postcard images to the WLHC website.


There are also several collections of Wisconsin library postcards already available on the Web. Judy Aulik's website "Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America" includes a substantial group of Wisconsin library postcards. As does the Sharon McQueen and Richard Douglas Library Postcard website. The American Library Association Archives is in the process of adding digital images from the postcard collection of Sjoerd Koopman to its website which includes many Wisconsin library postcards. There are also a number of Wisconsin library postcards included in the digital image collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society (search using the term "library building"). 


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