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
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
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.

Categories

Popular Tags

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

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo