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 T. Nix
Larry T. Nix
Larry T. 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

Hall of Fame 2018 Woman's Congress Oshkosh Public Library Hall of Fame 2009 Dianne McAfee Hopkins campa library education hall of Cooperative Children's Book Center Council on Library and Network Development Katharine MacDonald Jones Capitol Fire 1904 Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends Carl Spitzweg Public library systems Hall of Fame 2015 Library celebrations Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Hall of Fame 2010 Special libraries Wayne A. Wiegand Library Buildings Hall of Fame 2008 Clarence Brown Lester Black River Falls 14 Helen Adams DeForest Area Public Library James Huff Stout library legislation Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries COLAND Rusk County Community Library Wisconsin State Normal School-Milwaukee Library Trustees Cornelia Marving Pierce caly film 23 Hall of Fame 2015 presentations Hall of Fame 2015 cam Suring Area Public Library Hall of Fame 2017 Library History Eratus Swift Wilcox books-by-mail Events Academic Libraries Ruth Ann Montgomery campaign Pewaukee Public Library Hall of Fame 2012 Wisconsin Library Association Edward Asahel Birge Library Buidlings Gertrude Thurow Portage Public Library Jane K. Billings Gilbert H. Doane Eager Free Public Library Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library library memorabilia Publications Uncategorized Frank Avery Hutchins McMillan Memorial Library James Duane Doty Marjorie Sornson Malmberg bookworm Pinback buttons White House Conference on Library and Information Services Hall of Fame 2016 Sandra Friedman Dolnick People Milwaukee Art Museum Middleton Public Library ca Anniversaries library exhibit Nancy Marshall Gerald A. Somers Wisconsin Rapids campaign UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies School of Library and Information Studies Hall of Fame 2012 Hall of Fame 2011 WLA 125 Campaing for Wisconsin Libraries Milwaukee Public Library Wilbur Lyle Eberhart S. Janice Kee Soughton Public Library WLA 125 Wisconsin Free Library Commission Hall of Fame 2014 WHCLIS Larry T. Nix Beaver Dam Public Library Beloit Public Library National Bookmobile Day Clinton Public Library Richard E. Krug 11 anniversaries Evansville Wisconsin Postcards Zona Gale Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Marketing-Publicity Events & Meetings Dick Sorensen traveling libraries buil Hartford Public Library American Library Association Nolan I. Neds Wisconsin State Law Library trav background Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Ice Storm John Miller Chancellor School libraries Carnegie libraries Library e J. D. Witter Tower Hill Wisconsin Richard J. Sorensen Bob Bochfer Academic Librarians Dorothea M. Krause Hall of Fame 2013 Postcards caly film Library People WWI Library War Service Governor's Conference on Library and Information Services UW-Milwaukee Libraries Inform Wisconsin Brown County Library 10 Parcel post Wisconsin Free Library Commission Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Wisconsin Federation of Women's Clubs Hall of Fame 2019 Increase A. Lapham 21 Lowell W. Wilson Hall of Fame 2018 Matthew S. Dudgeon Ripon Public Library Manitowoc Public Library Amer bed and breakfast Library Systems Campaign State Law Library Madison Public Library Wisconsin Historical Society Sarah Janice Kee Campaign Charles Bunge T. B. Scott Free Public Library caly film Brown Deer Public Library World War I Postcards Digital Collections Library people Postcards Milwaukee Public Library Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians Centennial 28 Brown Deer Public Library Superior Carnegie Libraries Delia Ovitz Historical Register Ruby Roeder Campaign Lucy E. Smith Morris CCBC Bookmobiles 22 campaign Lutie Eugenia Stearns Public libraries Public libraries Wisconsin Library Bulletin Elroy Public Library Anniversaries Hall of Fame 2015 Black River Falls Public Library Jerome P. Daniels Lutie Stearns Cam Robert Bocher Exhibits Orrilla Blackshear Hall of Fame 2015 Association of Library Trustees Advocates and Friends Klaus Linderfelt UW-Madison school of library and information studies Library Artifacts Hall of Fame 2012 Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries National Library Week Irene W. Newman Hall fo Fame 2012 Dick Sorensen Appleton Public Library state historical society Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide WLA 125 WLA 125 WAAL Meter mail slogans Events & Meetings 27 24 American Library Association Library War Service Peter G. Hamon I Love Libraries Library people Buttons Louise S. Robbins Hall Bernard Schwab William J. Wilson archives 20 membership libraries John J. Jax

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo