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.

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Parcel Post and Library Service

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on Tuesday, March 10, 2009
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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.


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On This Day 1903

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pc-wi-janesville-72.jpgAccording to the Wisconsin Historical Society, on this day in 1903 construction began on the Janesville Public Library.  Andrew Carnegie had approved a grant of $30,000 on March 1, 1901 to assist with the contruction of the library. It was one of seven communities in Wisconsin to receive Carnegie grants in that same year. In addition to the grant from Carnegie, F. S. Eldred donated $10,000 for the Janesville library's children's room. The Carnegie library building in Janesville is still in existence and has has been converted to a senior center.


 

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On This Day 1904

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in Events
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The Wisconsin Historical Society has a "Today in History" feature on its website that alerts the viewer to what happened on this day in Wisconsin history.  I just happened to note that this was the day in 1904 when the State Capitol fire occurred. That fire dramatically impacted the Wisconsin Free Library Commission and the State Law Library which we reported on in an earlier post.

Williams Free Library - Beaver Dam

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on Thursday, February 26, 2009
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The City of Beaver Dam is home to the historic Williams Free Library building which was built in 1890-91. It housed the Beaver Dam Public Library until its move into its current facility.  The building is an outstanding example of the Richardsonian Romanesque Revival style which was inspired by architect Henry Hobson Richardson. The building has been depicted on several of the souvenir items in the Wisconsin Library Memorabilia Exhibit which are pictured above. The Williams Free Library is named for John J. Williams who donated $25,000 for the construction of the building.


Before moving to Madison, Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame inductee Frank Avery Hutchins was a resident of Beaver Dam and served on the library board. Hutchins was an early advocate for open shelves in libraries and the Beaver Dam library was one of the first public libraries in the nation to implement this concept.


The Dodge County Historical Society has been located in the former library building since 1985. The Williams Free Library is on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail and is well worth a visit.



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Reuben Gold Thwaites (1853-1913)

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Reuben Gold Thwaites was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2008. Thwaites was one of the founders of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1891. He served as President of WLA 1892-1894. Thwaites served as assistant to Lyman C. Draper, Secretary State Historical Society of Wisconsin from 1885 to 1887.  He became Secretary of the Historical Society after Draper's retirement in 1887, and served in that capacity until his death in 1913.  He served on the Wisconsin Free Library Commission from its inception in 1895 until 1913 in his capacity as Secretary of the Historical Society. He was elected President of the American Library Association in 1900. In 1951 he was one of 40 of America’s most significant library leaders selected by the Library Journal for inclusion in a “ Library Hall of Fame". He is listed in the Dictionary of American Library Biography and the Dictionary of Wisconsin History . The image of Thwaites is from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Historical Image Collection  Image ID: 4158.


Bookmobiles

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bkm-photo-whs-90.jpgThe 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.


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Book Wagons and Crazy Socialists

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The Machinists' Monthly Journal for July, 1904 wrote:"These crazy Socialists in Wisconsin are going too far. A book wagon, the first public library on wheels to be sent out in the United States, is contemplated in a plan just completed by the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. It will invade the State next October. As the wagon passes through the counties the farmers will be invited to select their winter's reading. There will be books for the old and young, and each family will be allowed to make as large a selection as is desired. The following Spring the wagon will make another trip through the same territory to gather up the books and return them to the central library." The proposed book wagon was the idea of Lutie Stearns, and as far as I can determine it was never implemented. Stearns first discussed the concept of a book wagon at the American Library Association conference at Niagra Falls in 1903. The idea was more fully explained in a letter reprinted in the July, 1904 issue of Public Libraries (p. 331). Stearns a major supporter of rotating or traveling libraries felt book wagons could provide more current material. The first book wagon to actually go forth in the United States was from the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland in April, 1905. Whether Mary Titcomb, the Librarian in Hagerstown in 1905, got her inspiration from Lutie Stearns is unknown. The first Hagerstown book wagon was destroyed in 1910 while crossing a railroad track. It was hit by a freight train leaving only fragments of the wagon.

Note: This entry was also posted on the Library History Buff Blog on Feb. 10, 2009. More on bookmobiles in Wisconsin can be found here.
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  • Ian Hunter says #
    It should read: Niagara Falls

Neenah's Carnegie

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Volume I of the History of Winnegago County Wisconsin by Publius V. Lawson (C. F. Cooper & Co., Chicago, 1908, page 474) recounts the story of how Neenah, Wisconsin got its Carnegie Library.


"Robert Shiells [former president of Neenah's subscription library] still kept up his interest in the work [of the library] and one day in 1904 wrote a letter to Andrew Carnegie suggesting that he furnish the funds for a library building in Neenah.  The reply was that a town with so much wealth could well build their own building.  Mr. Shiells replied, they were building public improvements, schools and churches, and therefore could with good grace call on Mr. Carnegie to furnish the library. But he still refused. There lives in Washington Mr. William R. Smith, the landscape gardener at the White House for the last fifty-five years.  He is a great student of Robert Burns, and of course a Scotchman.  He had gathered together a duplicate of the library used by Burns, many of them the very books used by Burns, and as near as possible the same editions.  Mr. Andrew Carnegie is a great friend of Mr. Smith, and spends many days each year at his home in Washington.  During this correspondence he was at the home of Mr. Smith, and asked him if he knew of a Scotchman out at Neenah, Wisconsin, named Robert Shiells.  He said he did not know him personally, but was well acquainted with him by his writing, and thought a great deal of him, and if  he ever went west he promised himself to call on Mr. Shiells.  Then Mr. Carnegie told of the correspondence.  Mr. Smith said, 'Why, Andy, you made a mistake; give Mr. Shiells his library.'  Then Mr. Carnegie replied, 'All right, Smith, I will do it.'  One day soon after, a little to his surprise, the letter came to Mr. Shiells offering the city $10,000, provided they would support it with $1,000 per annum.  The offer was accepted.  The citizens raised $15,000 in addition, of which Theda Clark gave $5,000 and the site where it is at present located.  It cost nearly $30,000."


The Carnegie building was razed to make way for the current Neenah Public Library building. The Friends of the Neenah Library are a Founding Contributor of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center for which we are grateful.  


James Huff Stout (1848-1910)

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James Huff Stout was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2008. Stout in his capacity as a state senator was the first legislative champion for Wisconsin’s libraries.  He also used his personal wealth accumulated in the lumber industry to advance the cause of libraries and education. At the behest of Frank Hutchins, he personallyf funded the first “Summer School in Library Economy” in Wisconsin which became the Wisconsin Library School in 1906.  Working with Frank Hutchins and Lutie Stearns, he introduced legislation which created the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC) in 1895.  In 1897 he became Chair of the WFLC and continued in this capacity until 1905.  Stout also personally funded the first traveling libraries in Wisconsin in Dunn County. He founded the Stout Manual Training School in 1891 which was the forerunner of the University of Wisconsin – Stout. He is listed in the Dictionary of Wisconsin History . Click here for more information. The image of Stout is from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Historical Image Collection  Image ID: 29376 .


T. B. Scott Free Library

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T. B. Scott, for whom the T. B. Scott Free Library in Merrill is named, willed the City of Merrill $10,000 in 1886 to found a free public library.  In a special election in 1889, 120 years ago, residents voted to establish the public library. In 1909, 100 years ago, Merrill received a grant of $17,500 from Andrew Carnegie for a new library building. The building which was designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Starck opened in 1911. An extensive expansion and rennovation of the building was completed in 2001. The library has a detailed outline of its history on its website, something we recommend for every library. If you look at the history, you will note that the library has benefited from the leadership of some outstanding Wisconsin librarians. We especially like the fact that a link to the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website has been placed on their library history page. We are also grateful that the T. B. Scott Free Library is a Founding Contributor to the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center.


Maxon Bookmark

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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.
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  • Laine Farley says #
    I wrote a column about the Maxson bookmark and its history - http://www.bibliobuffet.com/content/view/174/284/ I have always hoped...

Milwaukee-Downer College

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Milwaukee-Downer College, one of Wisconsin's historic colleges, ceased to exist as a separate institution in 1964 when it became part of Lawrence University. Milwaukee-Downer College was created in 1895 when Milwaukee Female College (founded in 1851) merged with Downer College (founded as Wisconsin Female College in 1855). The former campus of Milwaukee-Downer College along with the Chapman Memorial Library building was sold to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1964.  The Lawrence University webpage for Milwaukee-Downer College is located here.


The former Chapman Memorial Library building of Milwaukee-Downer College is now Chapman Hall on the UW-Milwaukee campus and houses administrative offices. The library was built in 1937 from the bequest of Alice Greenwood Chapman,a graduate of Milwaukee Female College. The Teakwood Room in the library was moved to the Lawrence University campus along with library's rare book collection which is now housed in the Milwaukee-Downer Room of the Seeley G. Mudd Library.


Digital images of Milwaukee-Downer College including the Chapman Memorial Library are included in the Lawrence University Archives which are located here. The postcard image of the Reference Room of Chapman Memorial Library at the top of this page is part of Larry T. Nix's postcard collection. 



pc-wi-downer2-72.jpgThis postcard was mailed in 1907 and shows an interior view of the library building which preceded the Chapman Memorial Library. 


South Milwaukee Exhibit

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The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit is on display in the months of February and March at the South Milwaukee Public Library as part of their 110th anniversary celebration. South Milwaukee received a $15,000 grant on September 29, 1915 from Andrew Carnegie for a new public library building. That building was razed in 1965. It was one of 63 public library buildings in Wisconsin that were built with assistance from Carnegie.


A Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) view of the razed South Milwaukee Public Library Carnegie Building.


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More on Lutie

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In Part I of her autobiography My Seventy-five Years, Lutie Stearns provided the following description of her work promoting traveling libraries:

 

"From 1895 through October, 1914, I traveled thousands of miles in Wisconsin by stage, sleigh, buggy, wagon, passenger coach, and caboose, wearing out five fur coats in succession in my efforts to reach all parts of the state.  In taking traveling libraries to the rural districts of Dunn and Wood Counties during the winter I would secure a black bearskin to wear over my fur-lined muskrat coat, which was inadequate for the frequent below zero weather. I would get a three-seated sleigh, remove the last two seats, and fill the space with books which I would locate in farmers' homes, rural post offices, schools, and other available stations.  On reaching what was then Grand Rapids--now Wisconsin Rapids--late one evening after a forty-mile drive, a long day's drive in those times, my black bearskin attracted the attention of Mrs. Anna W. Evans, Librarian, who wrote the following poem concerning my appearance:

 

 There is a woman named Stearns;
Her living she easily earns,
By driving 'round,
When the snow's on the ground.
Though the dangers she never discerns.

 

She dons a coat of black hair;
A cap is next put on with care;
She looks like a man,
But to tell you ne'er can
If the product be woman, or bear.

 

Now if in her drives through the brush,
A Bruin should come out with a rush,
Would the woman hug the bear,
Or the bear hug the hair?
Or which would be lost in the crush?

 

Would the bear barely hug the bold jade?
Or the bearskin propelled by the maid
Hug the bear? or the hair
Of the bear would she tear
Or her own, as the price to be paid?"

 

The image of Lutie Stearns is from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Historical Image Collection, Image ID: 29372.

 

Lutie Eugenia Stearns (1866-1943)

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stearns-72.jpg Lutie Eugenia Stearns was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2008. Stearns, along with Frank Hutchins and James Stout, was instrumental in establishing the Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC) in 1895. From 1895 to 1897 she served as the unpaid Secretary of the Commission. When the WFLC was reorganized with increased funding in 1897, she resigned from the commission and became its first paid staff member.   In this capacity she traveled the state establishing traveling libraries and free public libraries. In 1951 she was one of 40 of America’s most significant library leaders selected by the Library Journal for inclusion in a “ Library Hall of Fame". She is listed in the Dictionary of American Library Biography and the Dictionary of Wisconsin History . Other entries on this site related to Stearns are here and here. The image of Stearns is from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Historical Image Collection  Image ID: 42955.

 

 

Wisconsin Magazine of History articles about Stearns:

The Library Career of Lutie Eugenia Stearns by Earl Tannenbaum

My Seventy-five years: Part I (Stearns autobiography) 

My Seventy-five years: Part II (Stearns autobiography)

My Seventy-five years: Part III (Stearns autobiography)

A Thousand Little Libraries by Stuart Stotts

Stuart Stotts has also written a fictional account of Lutie Stearns life entitled Books in a Box. Although the book was written for children, it is well worth reading by adults.

Carthage College Lincoln Connection

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The nation is celebrating the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth this year. Wisconsin has a number of connections to Abraham Lincoln including those of Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Carthage College was founded in 1847 as the Literary and Theological Institute of the Lutheran Church of the Far West.  After a series of name changes it became Carthage College when it moved to Carthage, Illinois in 1870. It relocated to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1962. Abraham Lincoln served as a Trustee of the College in 1860-61 and sent his oldest son Robert Todd to the Preparatory Department of the College when the college was located in Springfiled, Illinois. The special envelope above was created when the "A Nation of Readers" stamp was issued in October of 1984. 


A high point in the recent history of the college was the dedication of the Hedberg Library on October 18, 2002. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington gave the dedicatory address. The Hedberg Library at Carthage College was the 2004 Wisconsin Library Association Library of the Year.


Lyman Copeland Draper (1815-1891)

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draper-72.jpgLyman Copeland Draper was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2008. Draper became corresponding secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in 1854, an office he held until 1886. In that capacity he was responsible for significantly increasing the size of the Society's library. He was elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the period 1858-1859. In that capacity he was instrumental in promoting the beginnings of the University of Wisconsin Library. He is listed in the Dictionary of American Library Biography and the Dictionary of Wisconsin History . An biographical article by William B. Hezzeltine appeared in the Spring 1952 issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History. The image of Draper is from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Historical Image Collection  Image ID: 2628.

 

Anne Morris Boyd and UW-Whitewater

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Today (January 13, 2009) is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Anne Morris Boyd (1884-1969) who served as Librarian of the State Normal School at Whitewater (now the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater) from 1913 to 1917.  Boyd served on the faculty of the University of Illinois Library School from 1918 to 1949 and was an authority and an advocate for government publications.  She was the author of the landmark publication United States Government Publications As Sources of Information for Libraries, and served as President of the Association of American Library Schools. She is listed in the Dictionary of American Library Biography.The postcard of the interior of the library shown above was mailed on Sept. 30, 1912, one year before the arrival of Boyd. More about Boyd can be found here.  


The State Normal School which was founded in 1868 became the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1971.  The University Library at UW-Whitewater is a far different library today than when Boyd was librarian. A set of Flickr photographs of Willie the mascot at the University Library can be found here. A history of the Anderson Library Building at UW-Whitewater is located here.


ALA Waukesha Follow-up

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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. 


 


 


 


 


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Death of a Library

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Postcard depicting Whitford Memorial Hall which housed the Milton College Library from 1906 to 1967. It is now a retail store.


 


 


 


 


 On May 15, 1982 a Wisconsin college library along with the college it was part of died. The death of the college was announced to the staff and faculty in the library. The doors of the library were closed and the building in which it was located and the collection of books were transferred to other entities. Staff were only able to retrieve their posessions under supervision.


The college was Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin.  The library was the the Shaw Memorial Library. Milton College dated back to the Milton Academy which was established in 1844, and was one of the oldest continuously operating colleges in Wisconsin. The Shaw Memorial Library building was completed in 1967. Prior to that time the library was located in Whitford Memorial Hall from 1906 to 1967, and before that in Main Hall. Both the Whitford Hall building and the Main Hall building are still in existence and are part of a historical district in Milton.


The Shaw Memorial Library building was acquired by and now houses the Milton Public Library. The library's collection was sold as a unit to a college in Milwaukee.


Links related to Milton College and its libraries:


Milton College Preservation Society
http://www.miltoncollege.org/


Library History
http://www.miltoncollege.org/hist07.htm


Whitford Memorial Hall
http://www.miltoncollege.org/hist09.htm


Newspaper article on closing of the college
http://www.gazetteextra.com/milton062407.asp


Whole Earth Review article by Barbara Rubin Hudson, Spring 1988


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