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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Hales Corners Library 35th Anniversary Exhibit

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Tuesday, January 11, 2011
in Public libraries

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This year the Hales Corners Public Library is celebrating its 35th anniversary.  The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is helping out with its exhibit of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia which will be on display now through the end of February. As part of its celebration the library sponsored a contest to design a new library card.  The winner and other entries are located HERE.  The library will have a 35th anniversary birthday party on Sunday, January 23rd, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.  Congratulations Hales Corners! 

 

Carnegie's Wisconsin Legacy - An Exhibit

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Tuesday, August 31, 2010
in Exhibits
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"Andrew Carnegie's Wisconsin Library Legacy - An Exhibit of Memorabilia Featuring Wisconsin's Carnegie Libraries" will be on display at the Middleton Public Library (WI) for the month of September. November 25th will be the 175th anniversary of Carnegie's birth. Sixty Wisconsin communities were the recipients of 63 public library grants from Andrew Carnegie. In addition, two academic institutions also received Carnegie library grants. Fourteen of these Carnegie buildings have been razed, 28 are no longer used as libraries, but 23 are still being used as libraries. Most of those being used as libraries have been expanded and in some cases they are the smaller part of the expanded library. A number of Carnegie buildings have been repurposed as historical museums, and others have become office buildings. Wisconsin has the only Carnegie building serving as a bed and breakfast (Ladysmith). One former Carnegie is now a private residence (Superior, East Branch). For public libraries, Wisconsin communities received a total of $1,045,511. For the two academic libraries it received $104,000. Wisconsin ranked seventh among the states in the number of communities receiving grants for public libraries. A total of 7 grants were received in 1901, the first year that communities in Wisconsin received Carnegie grants. The East Branch of the Superior Public Library was the last Carnegie library constructed in Wisconsin (1917). The exhibit at the Middleton Public Library includes postcards depicting 62 of the 65 Wisconsin Carnegie libraries. The exhibit also includes more than 30 souvenir china pieces along with souvenir spoons and paper weights. The exhibit is sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center, a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation. The curator for the exhibit is Larry T. Nix. The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center maintains a section on its website devoted to Wisconsin's Carnegie libraries. This post is also being published in The Library History Buff Blog.


A Tale of Two Libraries Exhibit in Menasha

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Friday, April 02, 2010
in Exhibits

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Located near the fireplace on the main floor of the Menasha Public Library is an extraordinary antique bookcase. The unusual revolving bookcase was part of the Tabard Inn Library, an early 20th century commercial lending library that spanned the nation. The Tabard Inn Library was a subsidiary of an even larger enterprise called the Booklovers Library. Both libraries were founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Seymour Eaton, a Canadian born writer, educator, and entrepreneur. During the month of April there will be a special display at the Menasha Public Library related to the Tabard Inn Library bookcase and Eaton’s two libraries. The display will be located on the Art Wall near the fireplace and in the display case adjacent to the circulation desk of the library. The exhibit  consists of a variety of printed ephemera and artifacts for the two libraries collected that I have collected over the years. In addition to the items related to the Tabard Inn Library and the Booklovers Library there will be selected items from the Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit which has been displayed at a number of Wisconsin libraries.


 


Community Advertising Envelopes

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Saturday, November 21, 2009
in Library artifacts

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One way that communities in the first two decades of the 20th century sought to attract new businesses was through advertising on envelopes.  These envelopes typically included pictures on the front of the envelope that depicted significant buildings and attractions in the community.  The back of these envelopes included written text which made the case for locating in a particular community. During this same period new public library buildings were being built in communities across the country, many as the result of grants from philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie.  So it is not surprising that libraries are often one of the buildings being depicted on the front of the envelope. The envelope above is for the community of Stoughton and it has an image of the building that housed the city hall, the library, and the opera house. This envelope was mailed in September of 1905. In December of 1905 Stoughton received a grant from Andrew Carnegie to build a separate public library building. Both buildings are still in existence in Stoughton and the Carnegie building has been incorporated into an expanded public library. A previous post shows postcards depicting both buildings. A community advertising envelope for Sheboygan can be seen here. In 1992 the Postal History Foundati0n in Tucson, Arizona received a collection of 1,204 community advertising envelopes. An analysis of the envelopes found that Wisconsin communities had the second highest number of envelopes - 75. Only Michigan with 76 envelopes had more.


Library Buttons

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Friday, April 24, 2009
in Library artifacts

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Library buttons are fun and they are an interesting collectible, but they can also be artifacts that link us to our past.  In the image above are four buttons that each have a Wisconsin library story to tell. The crossed out AB 720 button was created to oppose a piece of library legislation that was supported by the majority of the Wisconsin library community and was passed into law.  The "Bark In The Dark" and the "It won't fit in the box" buttons were created for the particpants of two different groups that were charged with revising Wisconsin's public library standards.  The phrases reflect frustrations at critical points in the process of developing the standards.  The Jim Danky button recognizes the retirement of one of Wisconsin's stellar librarians. To see more library buttons including others from Wisconsin click here.

Library Charging Systems

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Tuesday, April 07, 2009
in Library artifacts


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In 1881 under the direction of Librarian Klas Linderfelt, the Milwaukee Public Library implemented a new charging system. Linderfelt made a presentation on library charging systems at the 1882 American Library Association conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.  In that presentation he identified twenty questions that should be answered in evaluating a library charging system. The first four were: 1) Is a given book out?; 2) If out, who has it?; 3) When did he [she] take it?; and 4) When is it to be sen for, as overdue?  Another Milwaukee Public Library innovation was the pencil dater. Library charging or circulation systems have been evolving for many decades.  I was recently interviewed by John Kelly of the Washington Post about the stamping of library books with the date due.  Kelly wrote an article in his blog today about the move to printed receipts in public libraries. As a result of the Kelly interview I scanned my library card collection to the Library History Buff website which included this well used Milwaukee Public Library card from the 1920s.


Lawrence Bookplates

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Thursday, April 02, 2009
in Library artifacts


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Two bookplates from libraries of Lawrence University are shown above.  The first is for the Samuel Appleton Library which was a 1963 addition to the Carnegie Library which was razed to make way for the Seely G. Mudd Library which opened in 1976. Samuel Appleton was the person for who the City of Appleton is named for. The second bookplate is for the John Herbert Farley Memorial Library of Lawrence College.  This is probably a book collection within the library not an actual library building.  According to Pete Gilbert, Lawrence University became Lawrence College in 1908 and then changed back to Lawrence University in 1964 when it merged with Milwaukee-Downer College. So the bookplates dates to before 1964. Bookplates are collected by a number of collectors. I have a collection of library bookplates, but not many from Wisconsin libraries. I would love to add more to the Wisconsin Library Memorabilia collection. Hint hint. 


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  • Al Lederer says #
    Larry Nix, I have some questions about the obtainment of land for the Milwaukee Public Library in 1886. Can you email me so I can ...

Memorabilia Exhibit Milwaukee

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Monday, March 30, 2009
in Exhibits

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Today, with the assistance of my wife Kathy and Dawn Lauber of the Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) staff, I installed the Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit at the Central Library of MPL for the month of April.  MPL generously made available eight display cases for the exhibit which is on the second floor of the library. It includes one of the largest collections of Wisconsin library memorabilia ever assembled. This exhibit is supplemented by MPL's permanent vintage library office exhibit (see photo below, pardon the glare from the glass). The permanent exhibit includes an example of the pencil dater that was invented by the Milwaukee Public Library.  In addition to the pemanent exhibit MPL will be displaying other items including some vintage wooden cases used to transport books to the branch libraries.  Of course, a visit to MPL's magnificent Central Library which was originally built in 1898 is a treat in itself. 



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Williams Free Library - Beaver Dam

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Thursday, February 26, 2009
in Exhibits

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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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Maxon Bookmark

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Tuesday, February 03, 2009
in Library artifacts
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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...

The Bookworm

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Wednesday, December 10, 2008
in Postcards


pc-wi-bookworm-72.jpgThe original painting of a very popular image showing an elderly gentleman standing on a ladder in a library is owned by the Milwaukee Public Library. The painting is "The Bookworm" by Carl Spitzweg. The collector who donated the painting to the library also gave several Spitzweg paintings to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Shown here is the painting on a postcard. Prints and posters of the image are readily available on the Internet by searching "Spitzweg bookworm".


Charles R. McCarthy (1873-1921)

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Wednesday, November 19, 2008
in Hall of Fame

mccarthy1-72.jpgCharles R. McCarthy was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame at the Wisconsin Library Association Conference in Appleton on October 22, 2009. McCarthy was the first head of the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library which began as the Documents Department of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission and eventually became the independent Legislative Reference Bureau. The Legislative Reference Library was the first of its kind in the nation and served as the model for the Congressional Reference Service of the Library of Congress. McCarthy was a leader in the Progressive Movement and wrote The Wisconsin Idea. McCarthy's leadership of the Legislative Reference Library was so well thought of by the State Legislature that a memorial plaque of  McCarthy was placed in the Assembly Chambers of the State Capitol. When McCarthy died in 1921 his body lay in state in the State Capitol where thousands of people passed his bier.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WLHC Booth Update

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Monday, November 10, 2008
in Exhibits
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WLHC Steering Committee member Pete Gilbert at the WLHC booth at the WLA Conference.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center hosted a booth in the exhibits area of the 2008 WLA Conference which took place November 4-7 in Middleton. The exhibit featured selected items from the Wisconsin Library Memorabilia Exhibit which is available for display at individual libraries.  The booth provided an opportunity for members of the WLHC Steering Committee to interact with a great many conference goers. 



wlhc-booth2-72.jpgA big hit with those viewing the booth exhibit were the library souvenir spoons.  


Seymour Eaton's Libraries

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Saturday, October 25, 2008
in Library artifacts
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At the turn of the 19th century entrepreneur Seymour Eaton established two national commercial libraries that had an impact on Wisconsin. The first of these libraries was the Booklovers Library which provided home delivery of books by subscription. The Booklovers Library might be described as the Netflix of books for this period.  It had a circulation in the millions.


The Milwaukee Library Centre for the Booklovers Library was located at 463 Broadway. This photograph is from a 1902 promotional brochure for the Booklovers Library.


 


 


 


 



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The Booklovers Library pre-dated parcel post so delivery was accomplished through a combination of express companies via train and wagon and the Booklovers Library's own fleet of horse drawn wagons. This illustration from a promotional brochure shows the distribution plan for Eastern Wisconsin.  For more on the Booklovers library click here


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


The second of Seymour Eaton's libraries was the Tabard Inn Library which was also a paid subscription library. This library had stations in the form of revolving bookcases located in drug stores and other commercial establishments throughout the United States including Wisconsin. The bookcases held 120 books which were changed from a central location every week.




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A photograph of a Tabard Inn Library Bookcase which is currently located in the Menasha Public Library. A member deposited five cents in a compartment in the bookcase  The carved message around the top of the bookcase reads "The Best Reading Rooms In the United States Are the Homes of the American People". The Menasha Public Library is on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail. For more on the Tabard Inn Library click here.  


 


 


 


 


 


 


Library Artifact from Hell

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Friday, October 24, 2008
in Library artifacts

Over the years I have collected a variety of library artifacts which reflect Wisconsin's library heritage.  Many of these are included in the exhibit of Wisconsin Library Memorabilia which is sponsore by the WLHC. Most of these artifacts have been relatively easy to acquire, but one artifact required considerably more effort.  I call it the library artifact from hell and here is its story.


With the beginning of the restoration of the Capitol's East wing in 1999, the State Law Library moved out of the Capitol into temporary quarters. A decision was made to discard all of the library's heavy cast iron shelving except for a few sections that would be used in the Supreme Court Reading Room in the Capitol. The shelving was dismantled and piled on the lawn of the Capitol. Rob Nurre, a fellow history buff, discovered that the iron shelving was on the way to the dump and mounted a rescue effort in July of 2000.  Rob rented a U-Haul truck and four of us showed up in the morning of one very hot day to salvage as many sections of shelving as each of us thought we could use. I parked my car on the street in a two hour parking spot thinking the task could be taken care of within that timeframe. However, sorting the pieces of heavy iron shelving so that we were assured of having the correct number and kinds of pieces to reassemble the shelving was no easy feat. By the time I realized my two hour parking meter had run out, I already had a $20 ticket. Did I say that it was a hot day.  Did I say that it was heavy iron shelving. After a lunch break during which I discovered that I had another $20 ticket we finally completed loading the U-Haul truck. Rob then drove the truck to each participating person's home where the correct pieces were unloaded. I think it was after 5:00 p.m. when I finally got my pieces unloaded.


I now had lots of different pieces of iron shelving on my garage floor. Because of the weight and height of the shelving, the only place that I could place the shelving was in the garage. The problem was that the only wall in the garage where I could place the shelving was already being utilized. So basically I had to re-arrange the  entire garage in order to put the shelving there. While I was at it, I decided that this was a good time to paint the garage.  When I finally had the garage painted and the wall where I wanted to put the shelving cleared, I still had a bunch of iron pieces of shelving on the garage floor.  Fortunately for me, Rob ageed to come over one Saturday and help me assemble the shelving.


As a result of this effort, I now have four sections of shelving in my garage from the State Law Library that are almost 100 years old. It turns out that this type of shelving has an interesting history. The shelving was originally designed by engineer Bernard Richardson Green for the Library of Congress. The design came to be known as the Library of Congress or Green (Snead) standard. The shelving was manufactured by the Snead & Company Iron Works of Louisville, Kentucky.  If Wisconsin ever gets a library heritage museum, I will be happy to contribute my library artifact from hell. 



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wi-capitol-shelves-72.jpgA photograph of the shelves in the Supreme Court Reading Room in the State Capitol.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


Mr. Carnegie's Portrait

Posted by Larry Nix
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on Thursday, October 23, 2008
in Carnegie libraries


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In 1935 to celebrate the centennial of Andrew Carnegie's birth, the Carnegie Corporation of New York donated a framed portrait of Andrew Carnegie to every library in America that had received a Carnegie grant for a library building. I don't know how many of the Carnegie portraits donated to Wisconsin's 63 public library buildings and two academic library buildings still exist, but some of the Carnegie buildings that are used as libraries and some that are used as historical societies still have them prominently displayed. Some that I am aware of include:  Columbus Public Library, Watertown Public Library, Berlin Public Library, Tomah Public Library, Lafayette County Historical Society (former Darlington Public Library), T. B. Scott Library (Merrill, WI), McIntosh Memorial Library (Viroqua, WI), Chippewa Falls Public Library, and the Waupun Heritage Museum (fomer Waupun Public Library).  If you know of others, let me know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


For more on Wisconsin's Carnegie libraries click here.


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