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.

Subscribe to feed Viewing entries tagged Capitol Fire 1904

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
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."
Recent comment in this post Show all comments
  • Ginny Moore Kruse says #
    I've never known about this fire. Thank you for such a comprehensive and yet brief report.


Popular Tags

Association of Library Trustees Advocates and Friends Wisconsin Historical Society Meter mail slogans Uncategorized National Library Week Ruby Roeder Hall of Fame 2012 Public libraries Milwaukee Public Library Wisconsin State Law Library Nolan I. Neds Pewaukee Public Library Dianne McAfee Hopkins Wisconsin Free Library Commission Exhibits Bernard Schwab Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Rusk County Community Library White House Conference on Library and Information Services Hall of Fame 2016 Soughton Public Library WLA 125 Beloit Public Library Zona Gale Library people Postcards caly film Manitowoc Public Library Marketing-Publicity John Miller Chancellor Public libraries Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library Edward Asahel Birge state historical society UW-Milwaukee Libraries Increase A. Lapham caly film Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide Sarah Janice Kee Buttons American Library Association Library War Service Library People campaign Gerald A. Somers 28 library education James Huff Stout DeForest Area Public Library Centennial Brown Deer Public Library Council on Library and Network Development Cooperative Children's Book Center Marjorie Sornson Malmberg Digital Collections Woman's Congress Hall of Fame 2015 State Law Library Jane K. Billings bookworm Tower Hill Wisconsin Wisconsin Library Bulletin Beaver Dam Public Library J. D. Witter 22 James Duane Doty Gertrude Thurow Clarence Brown Lester Hall of Fame 2017 Hall of Fame 2011 Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians Campaing for Wisconsin Libraries Milwaukee Public Library Wisconsin State Normal School-Milwaukee Hall of Fame 2015 ca WLA 125 Sandra Friedman Dolnick Carnegie libraries Library Buildings Hall of Fame 2012 WAAL background Brown County Library Ruth Ann Montgomery Wilbur Lyle Eberhart anniversaries Postcards 24 World War I Events & Meetings COLAND William J. Wilson Historical Register Postcards Matthew S. Dudgeon books-by-mail Library celebrations Irene W. Newman Hartford Public Library Portage Public Library WLA 125 Capitol Fire 1904 Anniversaries 20 membership libraries Orrilla Blackshear People WWI Library War Service Hall of Fame 2015 Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends library exhibit Academic Librarians Inform Wisconsin Pinback buttons Hall of Fame 2008 Public library systems library memorabilia Klaus Linderfelt Hall Hall of Fame 2009 McMillan Memorial Library Appleton Public Library cam Hall fo Fame 2012 Black River Falls Public Library Library Buidlings Hall of Fame 2013 Clinton Public Library Wisconsin Library Association Campaign Brown Deer Public Library 21 Cam Bookmobiles Louise S. Robbins Library Trustees caly film Lutie Eugenia Stearns campaign Library Systems WHCLIS Katharine MacDonald Jones Richard E. Krug WLA 125 School of Library and Information Studies Dorothea M. Krause Charles Bunge Gilbert H. Doane Library people Superior Carnegie Libraries Jerome P. Daniels trav Larry T. Nix Ice Storm UW-Madison school of library and information studies National Bookmobile Day Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Library e Lutie Stearns Events Middleton Public Library Oshkosh Public Library Library History Ripon Public Library CCBC Lowell W. Wilson Parcel post bed and breakfast Anniversaries Eratus Swift Wilcox Delia Ovitz buil I Love Libraries Milwaukee Art Museum 10 John J. Jax Postcards Elroy Public Library Evansville Wisconsin campaign Hall of Fame 2012 14 library legislation Library Artifacts Frank Avery Hutchins Academic Libraries Events & Meetings Hall of Fame 2015 Madison Public Library American Library Association Suring Area Public Library 27 Peter G. Hamon Governor's Conference on Library and Information Services Hall of Fame 2010 23 Eager Free Public Library Wisconsin Rapids Black River Falls Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Campaign T. B. Scott Free Public Library archives School libraries Campaign Wisconsin Free Library Commission Cornelia Marving Pierce 11 Amer UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies campa Special libraries Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Publications S. Janice Kee hall of Carl Spitzweg Hall of Fame 2015 Hall of Fame 2014 Wayne A. Wiegand presentations traveling libraries

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo