ALA in Milwaukee 1886
In July, 1886, ten years after its founding, the American Library Association held its annual meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There were 131 men and women in attendance making it the largest meeting of the association up to that date. The site of the conference was Milwaukee’s Plankinton House hotel. Over twenty presentations were made on a wide variety of topics at the meeting by the most prominent librarians in America at that time. A major topic under discussion at the meeting was cooperative cataloging. Although the meeting was substantive from a professional point of view, it was the post-conference excursion that was the most interesting aspect of the meeting. Melvil Dewey described the excursion at length in the October, 1886 issue of his publication Library Notes (pages 95-99, in Google Books). The eight day train excursion was arranged by Klas Linderfelt, Librarian of the Milwaukee Public Librarian. The excursion traveled almost 1,500 miles from Milwaukee to Madison to Kilbourn City (now Wisconsin Dells) to La Crosse to Minneapolis to Bayfield and the Apostle Islands to Oshkosh and back to Milwaukee and Chicago. The stop at Kilbourn City included a trip through the Upper Dells (before it was dammed) by steamboat and a float trip back down by row boats. In appreciation of the efforts of Klas Linderfelt in arranging the excursion, those who participated gave him a small gold plated book inscribed “From the A.L.A. to K.A. Linderfelt In grateful recognition. Milwaukee, 1886”. Six years later ALA accepted Linderfelt’s resignation in disgrace as President of the ALA. But that’s another story.
Note: This was previously published in the WLA Newsletter for July, 2008. The image of the Plankinton House is from the Wisconsin Historical Images collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Image Id: 54454.