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

Edward Asahel Birge Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Clarence Brown Lester Robert Bocher Nolan I. Neds Jerome P. Daniels Beaver Dam Public Library Library Trustees Black River Falls Public Library 23 Postcards Campaign Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library Library Buidlings Hall of Fame 2010 Matthew S. Dudgeon bookworm Historical Register Zona Gale Madison Public Library WLA 125 WWI Library War Service anniversaries 20 Hall fo Fame 2012 Public libraries Portage Public Library Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians John J. Jax Pinback buttons Special libraries Cooperative Children's Book Center Brown Deer Public Library Milwaukee Public Library Richard E. Krug Publications Appleton Public Library Postcards Beloit Public Library Inform Wisconsin Digital Collections Hall of Fame 2016 Meter mail slogans Klaus Linderfelt Jane K. Billings Centennial Wisconsin Rapids Hall of Fame 2018 library memorabilia 27 Exhibits Evansville Wisconsin Hall of Fame 2015 Clinton Public Library Library celebrations bed and breakfast Gilbert H. Doane Events & Meetings Lutie Eugenia Stearns Dorothea M. Krause Elroy Public Library Rusk County Community Library Governor's Conference on Library and Information Services Ruth Ann Montgomery hall of Wisconsin State Normal School-Milwaukee Wisconsin Free Library Commission Hall 21 Middleton Public Library Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends Library People presentations American Library Association Library War Service Frank Avery Hutchins Events buil Hall of Fame 2017 Library Artifacts Hall of Fame 2015 Capitol Fire 1904 James Duane Doty library legislation William J. Wilson Soughton Public Library National Library Week Lowell W. Wilson Sandra Friedman Dolnick Lutie Stearns Uncategorized COLAND Tower Hill Wisconsin campa Wisconsin Historical Society Woman's Congress Wisconsin Library Association McMillan Memorial Library Bob Bochfer Eratus Swift Wilcox Peter G. Hamon Gerald A. Somers Wayne A. Wiegand Marketing-Publicity John Miller Chancellor Milwaukee Art Museum Buttons cam Academic Librarians T. B. Scott Free Public Library Campaing for Wisconsin Libraries Eager Free Public Library caly film UW-Madison school of library and information studies Council on Library and Network Development background Wisconsin Federation of Women's Clubs Larry T. Nix Superior Carnegie Libraries Hall of Fame 2013 campaign Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries traveling libraries 11 Hall of Fame 2012 Brown County Library Association of Library Trustees Advocates and Friends 10 WLA 125 White House Conference on Library and Information Services 28 Oshkosh Public Library Cam Parcel post membership libraries Ripon Public Library Hall of Fame 2014 Hall of Fame 2012 Irene W. Newman Delia Ovitz 14 American Library Association Orrilla Blackshear Anniversaries Gertrude Thurow WAAL Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries 22 Wilbur Lyle Eberhart Bookmobiles Katharine MacDonald Jones books-by-mail World War I Hartford Public Library I Love Libraries Wisconsin Library Heritage Center James Huff Stout Events & Meetings Campaign S. Janice Kee Wisconsin Library Bulletin Pewaukee Public Library Helen Adams Bernard Schwab Ice Storm Hall of Fame 2015 Milwaukee Public Library Manitowoc Public Library Hall of Fame 2015 Dianne McAfee Hopkins Suring Area Public Library School libraries Library e UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies Lucy E. Smith Morris ca UW-Milwaukee Libraries Ruby Roeder Louise S. Robbins People Anniversaries Hall of Fame 2009 CCBC Campaign Brown Deer Public Library School of Library and Information Studies Cornelia Marving Pierce Amer Hall of Fame 2018 Carnegie libraries archives library exhibit National Bookmobile Day WLA 125 Charles Bunge caly film Hall of Fame 2015 library education Wisconsin Free Library Commission caly film campaign Hall of Fame 2011 Library people Postcards Hall of Fame 2008 Increase A. Lapham Carl Spitzweg Public libraries campaign J. D. Witter Library History State Law Library Library Systems Hall of Fame 2012 Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide Academic Libraries state historical society Wisconsin State Law Library Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Library Buildings Library people Sarah Janice Kee Postcards 24 trav Black River Falls DeForest Area Public Library Public library systems WHCLIS Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries WLA 125 Marjorie Sornson Malmberg

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo