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.

Capitol Fire of 1904

Posted by Larry Nix
Larry Nix
Larry Nix has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, June 07, 2016 in WLA 125
pc-wi-capitol-fire-72
Two of Wisconsin's most significant libraries were dramatically impacted by the fire that began in the late evening of February 26, 1904 and destroyed most of the State Capitol in Madison. Stanley H. Cravens article "Capitals and Capitols in Early Wisconsin" in the Wisconsin Blue Book for 1983-1984 contains an excellent account of the 1904 fire. A pdf version of that article is located HERE. The first library impacted was the Wisconsin State Library (now the Wisconsin State Law Library). Through quick action the library's collection was mostly saved.  Cravens describes the rescue as follows:
 
"University students continued to arrive to aid in the rescue and fire-fighting efforts. Because of thick smoke filling the building, they were unable to use the stairways and several ladders were secured and raised to the windows in the north wing, which contained the State Law Library. Once inside, they began throwing volumes out the windows to snow banks below; others below began stacking the books haphazardly until State Supreme Court Justice R. D. Marshall arrived and organized the students into lines to pass the books hand-to-hand to nearby stores and later, to waiting wagons. According to Solon J. Buck (who later became archivist of the United States), then a senior attending the University of Wisconsin, this effort grew to five to six hundred people 'and it began to get too crowded to work'."
 
The second library impacted, the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, did not fare nearly as well. Henry E. Legler, Secretary of the Commission, described the impact in the Fifth Biennial Report of the Commission. Legler wrote:"The Commission sustained a severe loss by reason of this fire, not only as regards the records, but in the books and material then on hand, and manuscript copies of important publications contemplated.... The Document department [later the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau] which had acquired an exceedingly valuable collection of pamphlets and books, was entirely destroyed.  Much of the destroyed material cannot be replaced, inasmuch as, prior to the fire, most of the state departments had transferred to the Document department the accumulated files gathered for years past.... During the eight years of the Commission's existence, large and useful collections had been made of plans, photographs, and half-tone engravings of library buildings throughout the country, bibliographies, books on library economy, bulletins, reports, blanks, collections of children's books, sample bindings, library devices, and technical tools of every sort.  All of these collections, many of which were thought to be the best extant, were consumed. Of the traveling libraries, 28 were destroyed." Legler continues:  "Libraries throughout the country responded most generously to the request for material.  To the Carnegie library of Pittsburgh, the Commission is indebted for a set of printed cards for 1,000 children's books.  The New York state library sent complete files of its own publications and other library literature.  The public libraries of Cleveland, Providence, Cincinnati, and many older cities supplied valuable publications.  The library of the University of Wisconsin made large contributions of library literature."
 
About the postcard shown above, Cravens writes:"One of the first Madisonians to awake to the sight was 15 year-old Joseph Livermore, who had the presence of mind to use his vest-pocket Kodak to take a most spectacular, if not the only, night photograph of the Capitol fire. Livermore later made copies of the photograph to sell for 10 cents apiece to earn enough money to purchase a bicycle; his father, however, felt the price too exorbitant and made Joseph reduce the price to 5 cents. One of Livermore’s customers was a postcard printer, who ran off and sold hundreds of the postcards, without sharing any of the profits with the boy."
wla125logo-small

Comments

Ginny Moore Kruse Tuesday, June 07, 2016

I've never known about this fire. Thank you for such a comprehensive and yet brief report.

Leave your comment

Guest Thursday, April 27, 2017

Categories

Popular Tags

Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide bed and breakfast Black River Falls American Library Association Library War Service Dianne McAfee Hopkins Campaign Larry T. Nix ca Hall of Fame 2015 Klaus Linderfelt UW-Madison school of library and information studies Exhibits Campaign Wisconsin State Normal School-Milwaukee Ruth Ann Montgomery Matthew S. Dudgeon Pinback buttons Brown County Library Council on Library and Network Development Tower Hill Wisconsin Ice Storm Library e Milwaukee Public Library bookworm Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends WLA 125 Wisconsin Free Library Commission Woman's Congress Campaign Cooperative Children's Book Center DeForest Area Public Library Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Centennial Public library systems Hall of Fame 2015 10 Anniversaries Gertrude Thurow library legislation Oshkosh Public Library Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library Beloit Public Library WAAL Sarah Janice Kee People Brown Deer Public Library Delia Ovitz Uncategorized trav School libraries Postcards Hall of Fame 2008 anniversaries Hall of Fame 2016 Milwaukee Art Museum National Bookmobile Day Hall of Fame 2012 Elroy Public Library Wisconsin Library Association McMillan Memorial Library 23 Hall of Fame 2012 Governor's Conference on Library and Information Services Library celebrations Gerald A. Somers Library people UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies Lutie Eugenia Stearns Library People Eager Free Public Library Hall of Fame 2012 Postcards cam Anniversaries library education hall of 22 William J. Wilson 14 Edward Asahel Birge Carl Spitzweg Wisconsin Historical Society Charles Bunge Carnegie libraries CCBC Milwaukee Public Library 24 Orrilla Blackshear Capitol Fire 1904 Meter mail slogans Postcards Parcel post archives Wayne A. Wiegand Zona Gale Association of Library Trustees Advocates and Friends Black River Falls Public Library Cam Hall John Miller Chancellor Special libraries campaign Library Buildings Wisconsin Rapids World War I Hartford Public Library Marketing-Publicity Inform Wisconsin State Law Library Increase A. Lapham Peter G. Hamon Irene W. Newman Cornelia Marving Pierce Nolan I. Neds Beaver Dam Public Library 28 Lutie Stearns campa Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries J. D. Witter WLA 125 S. Janice Kee library exhibit I Love Libraries caly film COLAND American Library Association Dorothea M. Krause Gilbert H. Doane 27 Jane K. Billings Eratus Swift Wilcox Wisconsin Library Bulletin Appleton Public Library Wisconsin Free Library Commission Hall of Fame 2015 21 Middleton Public Library Public libraries James Huff Stout Soughton Public Library Madison Public Library Digital Collections School of Library and Information Studies Hall of Fame 2011 Hall of Fame 2014 Wisconsin State Law Library background caly film Jerome P. Daniels Buttons Library people Postcards Hall of Fame 2010 Suring Area Public Library Hall of Fame 2009 Wilbur Lyle Eberhart caly film Library Trustees Superior Carnegie Libraries WLA 125 books-by-mail state historical society campaign library memorabilia Frank Avery Hutchins Library Systems Rusk County Community Library Events & Meetings WHCLIS Hall of Fame 2015 Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries UW-Milwaukee Libraries Hall of Fame 2015 Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Ripon Public Library Katharine MacDonald Jones Academic Librarians Brown Deer Public Library Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Events & Meetings Marjorie Sornson Malmberg Library Buidlings Pewaukee Public Library presentations Amer traveling libraries 20 National Library Week WWI Library War Service Bookmobiles 11 Portage Public Library Hall fo Fame 2012 Academic Libraries WLA 125 Library Artifacts Events campaign Historical Register Clinton Public Library Campaing for Wisconsin Libraries Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians Hall of Fame 2013 Evansville Wisconsin membership libraries Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries James Duane Doty T. B. Scott Free Public Library White House Conference on Library and Information Services Publications Bernard Schwab buil Clarence Brown Lester Manitowoc Public Library Library History Richard E. Krug Public libraries

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo