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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Oshkosh Public Library May 29, 1895

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The "On This Day" feature of the Wisconsin Historical Society's website alerted me to the information that on this day in 1895 the voters of Oshkosh, WI approved the establishment of a free public library. The Oshkosh Public Library was the beneficiary of private and public funding totaling $150,000 that resulted in the construction of a grand new library building which opened in 1900..  The architect for the building was William Waters who had designed the Wisconsin building at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  The 1900 building is incorporated into the current library building which was completed in 1994. An excellent history of the library and its building is located on the library's website.



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Historic Preservation Month

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May is National Preservation Month and this year's them is "This Place Matters!".  The website for the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides background information on National Preservation Month for 2009.  The Wisconsin Historical Society provides the leadership for historic preservation in Wisconsin. Ironically the Wisconsin Historical Society's headquarters building has been in need of restoration for years. In my opinion this building is second only to the State Capitol in Wisconsin in its historic importance. This place definitely matters.  Fortunately, good things are about to happen to this wonderful building. The magnificent reading room on the second floor is about to undergo a full restoration, and the front entrance to the building will also be restored. The building was completed in 1900 and was designed to house both the Wisconsin Historical Society Library and the University of Wisconsin Library.  Jackson E. Town has written about the inception of the building in the Wisconsin Magazine of History in the Winter 1955-56 issue. When the American Library Association met in Waukesha in 1901, conference attendees came to Madison to visit the newly completed building and, "There was but one opinion of the entire party in regard to the beauty and arrangement of the building, and that was satisfactory to the highest degree." More on the history of the building can be found here. Wisconsin is celebrating Historic Preservation and Archaeology Month with a number of activities.


National Postcard Week

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This is National Postcard Week. Diana Dretske, collections coordinator for the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Illinois, provides some background information on National Postcard Week on her blog "Illuminating Lake County, Illinois History".  I have previously posted on the WLHC blog about Wisconsin library postcards. Also by clicking on the "Postcards" category you can see all the previous posts to the WLHC blog that have included a Wisconsin library postcard image.


The Real Photograph Postcard (RPPC) of the Oakfield Public Library features the building in which the library was located in various configurations from 1913 to 2001. When this postcard was mailed the library shared the building with the Fire Department and the Village Hall. The message on the reverse of the postcard talks about the new fire whistle on the bell tower of the building which was run by an electric motor and cost $300. The person sending the card has also added comments to the front of the card relating to the new whistle. For a history of library facilities in Oakfield click here.


 


Academy Libraries

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Among the earliest libraries in Wisconsin were the libraries of academies. Academies were basically private high schools and often preceded colleges or universities. Carroll College in Waukesha County was originally incorporated in 1841 as Prairieville Academy in the Town of Prairieville in Milwaukee County. Plattevillw Academy established in 1843 preceded the State Normal School at Platteville, later the University of Wisconsin - Platteville. Milton Academy established in 1844 preceded Milton College. Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin was established in 1855 and went through a number of ups and downs before finally becoming a co-educational private academy which it continues as today. Wayland Hall, the first building of Wayland Academy, housed the library. A major rennovation of Wayland Hall began in March of this year. The real photograph postcard (RPPC) above shows an early view of the interior of the well appointed Wayland Academy library.


On This Day 1903

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pc-wi-janesville-72.jpgAccording to the Wisconsin Historical Society, on this day in 1903 construction began on the Janesville Public Library.  Andrew Carnegie had approved a grant of $30,000 on March 1, 1901 to assist with the contruction of the library. It was one of seven communities in Wisconsin to receive Carnegie grants in that same year. In addition to the grant from Carnegie, F. S. Eldred donated $10,000 for the Janesville library's children's room. The Carnegie library building in Janesville is still in existence and has has been converted to a senior center.


 

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Williams Free Library - Beaver Dam

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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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Neenah's Carnegie

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Volume I of the History of Winnegago County Wisconsin by Publius V. Lawson (C. F. Cooper & Co., Chicago, 1908, page 474) recounts the story of how Neenah, Wisconsin got its Carnegie Library.


"Robert Shiells [former president of Neenah's subscription library] still kept up his interest in the work [of the library] and one day in 1904 wrote a letter to Andrew Carnegie suggesting that he furnish the funds for a library building in Neenah.  The reply was that a town with so much wealth could well build their own building.  Mr. Shiells replied, they were building public improvements, schools and churches, and therefore could with good grace call on Mr. Carnegie to furnish the library. But he still refused. There lives in Washington Mr. William R. Smith, the landscape gardener at the White House for the last fifty-five years.  He is a great student of Robert Burns, and of course a Scotchman.  He had gathered together a duplicate of the library used by Burns, many of them the very books used by Burns, and as near as possible the same editions.  Mr. Andrew Carnegie is a great friend of Mr. Smith, and spends many days each year at his home in Washington.  During this correspondence he was at the home of Mr. Smith, and asked him if he knew of a Scotchman out at Neenah, Wisconsin, named Robert Shiells.  He said he did not know him personally, but was well acquainted with him by his writing, and thought a great deal of him, and if  he ever went west he promised himself to call on Mr. Shiells.  Then Mr. Carnegie told of the correspondence.  Mr. Smith said, 'Why, Andy, you made a mistake; give Mr. Shiells his library.'  Then Mr. Carnegie replied, 'All right, Smith, I will do it.'  One day soon after, a little to his surprise, the letter came to Mr. Shiells offering the city $10,000, provided they would support it with $1,000 per annum.  The offer was accepted.  The citizens raised $15,000 in addition, of which Theda Clark gave $5,000 and the site where it is at present located.  It cost nearly $30,000."


The Carnegie building was razed to make way for the current Neenah Public Library building. The Friends of the Neenah Library are a Founding Contributor of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center for which we are grateful.  


T. B. Scott Free Library

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T. B. Scott, for whom the T. B. Scott Free Library in Merrill is named, willed the City of Merrill $10,000 in 1886 to found a free public library.  In a special election in 1889, 120 years ago, residents voted to establish the public library. In 1909, 100 years ago, Merrill received a grant of $17,500 from Andrew Carnegie for a new library building. The building which was designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Starck opened in 1911. An extensive expansion and rennovation of the building was completed in 2001. The library has a detailed outline of its history on its website, something we recommend for every library. If you look at the history, you will note that the library has benefited from the leadership of some outstanding Wisconsin librarians. We especially like the fact that a link to the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website has been placed on their library history page. We are also grateful that the T. B. Scott Free Library is a Founding Contributor to the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center.


Milwaukee-Downer College

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Milwaukee-Downer College, one of Wisconsin's historic colleges, ceased to exist as a separate institution in 1964 when it became part of Lawrence University. Milwaukee-Downer College was created in 1895 when Milwaukee Female College (founded in 1851) merged with Downer College (founded as Wisconsin Female College in 1855). The former campus of Milwaukee-Downer College along with the Chapman Memorial Library building was sold to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1964.  The Lawrence University webpage for Milwaukee-Downer College is located here.


The former Chapman Memorial Library building of Milwaukee-Downer College is now Chapman Hall on the UW-Milwaukee campus and houses administrative offices. The library was built in 1937 from the bequest of Alice Greenwood Chapman,a graduate of Milwaukee Female College. The Teakwood Room in the library was moved to the Lawrence University campus along with library's rare book collection which is now housed in the Milwaukee-Downer Room of the Seeley G. Mudd Library.


Digital images of Milwaukee-Downer College including the Chapman Memorial Library are included in the Lawrence University Archives which are located here. The postcard image of the Reference Room of Chapman Memorial Library at the top of this page is part of Larry T. Nix's postcard collection. 



pc-wi-downer2-72.jpgThis postcard was mailed in 1907 and shows an interior view of the library building which preceded the Chapman Memorial Library. 


South Milwaukee Exhibit

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The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit is on display in the months of February and March at the South Milwaukee Public Library as part of their 110th anniversary celebration. South Milwaukee received a $15,000 grant on September 29, 1915 from Andrew Carnegie for a new public library building. That building was razed in 1965. It was one of 63 public library buildings in Wisconsin that were built with assistance from Carnegie.


A Real Photo Postcard (RPPC) view of the razed South Milwaukee Public Library Carnegie Building.


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Anne Morris Boyd and UW-Whitewater

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Today (January 13, 2009) is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Anne Morris Boyd (1884-1969) who served as Librarian of the State Normal School at Whitewater (now the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater) from 1913 to 1917.  Boyd served on the faculty of the University of Illinois Library School from 1918 to 1949 and was an authority and an advocate for government publications.  She was the author of the landmark publication United States Government Publications As Sources of Information for Libraries, and served as President of the Association of American Library Schools. She is listed in the Dictionary of American Library Biography.The postcard of the interior of the library shown above was mailed on Sept. 30, 1912, one year before the arrival of Boyd. More about Boyd can be found here.  


The State Normal School which was founded in 1868 became the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1971.  The University Library at UW-Whitewater is a far different library today than when Boyd was librarian. A set of Flickr photographs of Willie the mascot at the University Library can be found here. A history of the Anderson Library Building at UW-Whitewater is located here.


Death of a Library

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Postcard depicting Whitford Memorial Hall which housed the Milton College Library from 1906 to 1967. It is now a retail store.


 


 


 


 


 On May 15, 1982 a Wisconsin college library along with the college it was part of died. The death of the college was announced to the staff and faculty in the library. The doors of the library were closed and the building in which it was located and the collection of books were transferred to other entities. Staff were only able to retrieve their posessions under supervision.


The college was Milton College in Milton, Wisconsin.  The library was the the Shaw Memorial Library. Milton College dated back to the Milton Academy which was established in 1844, and was one of the oldest continuously operating colleges in Wisconsin. The Shaw Memorial Library building was completed in 1967. Prior to that time the library was located in Whitford Memorial Hall from 1906 to 1967, and before that in Main Hall. Both the Whitford Hall building and the Main Hall building are still in existence and are part of a historical district in Milton.


The Shaw Memorial Library building was acquired by and now houses the Milton Public Library. The library's collection was sold as a unit to a college in Milwaukee.


Links related to Milton College and its libraries:


Milton College Preservation Society
http://www.miltoncollege.org/


Library History
http://www.miltoncollege.org/hist07.htm


Whitford Memorial Hall
http://www.miltoncollege.org/hist09.htm


Newspaper article on closing of the college
http://www.gazetteextra.com/milton062407.asp


Whole Earth Review article by Barbara Rubin Hudson, Spring 1988


In Bed With Carnegie

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Finding alternative uses for Carnegie library buildings that have been vacated for newer and more functional facilities can be a challenge. The old Carnegie library in Ladysmith, Wisconsin was transformed into a very unusual alternative purpose. It is now the Carnegie Hall Bed & Breakfast. In a Google search, I was only able to find a couple of similar uses in the nation. The Carnegie library building in Sterling, Colorado is now the Old Library Inn. The Carnegie library building in Olean, New york is now the Old Library Restaurant in conjunctin with a bed and breakfast. Why not spend a night with Carnegie on your next vacation.


The public library in Ladysmith is now named the Rusk County Community Library. The library has done a good job of outlining its library history.


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  • Marion Howard says #
    The Carnegie building in Darlington is now the home of the LaFayette County Historical Society Museum and Archives. Marion Howard,...

Wisconsin Rapids Public Library History

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This postcard shows the public library building for Grand Rapids (now Wisconsin Rapids). It was completed in 1892. The library shared the building with the city council and the fire department initially, but the library took over the entire building in 1900. The library was named the T. B. Scott Free Public Library at that time after T. B. Scott who donated $5,000 to the library. The library was located in this building until 1948.  


The folks at the McMillan Memorial Library in Wisconsin Rapids, formerly the T. B. Scott Free Public Library,  have done an especially good job of telling the library's story on their website. A recent addition to their website is a Google map of the previous locations of the library with photos and descriptions.  Also on the website is an online version of Centennial Story 1890-1990 : McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
by Alice McCaul Hayward.  There is a section devoted to the traveling libraries initiated by J. D. Witter in Wood County. Information about other Wisconsin traveling libraries can be found here. Finally there is a section that includes digitized newspaper articles that were written in 1921 about the early years of the library. A mural showing the history of the library is located near the entrance to the library. This mural is shown as part of the new Google map feature. 


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  • Larry Nix says #
    I'm sorry, but the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is not in position to do the kind of research which you request. Our area of...
  • Antoine Nouens says #
    Dear Sir, Madam: Please assist me in regard of the following. I do research about US servicemen that were killed in WW 2 in and ne...

The Bookworm

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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".


Beginnings of the UW-Milwaukee Libraries

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The UW-Milwaukee Libraries had their beginning as the Library of the State Normal School in Milwaukee which began in 1885. This postcard was mailed on July 12, 1926. At the time Delia Ovitz was the Librarian. She served in this capacity from 1901 to 1944. A list of all the directors of the UW-Milwaukee Libraries and their predecessors is here. In 1955, the state legislature approved a merger of Wisconsin State College, Milwaukee, and Milwaukee Extension Center of the University of Wisconsin to form the University of Wisconsin– Milwaukee. The new institution opened its doors in 1956. A timeline for the development of UW-Milwaukee can be found here.
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    I was interested in seeing this article, as my great aunt was Dehlia Ovitz-- In addition, I am now a Library Media Specialist in M...

Carnegie Libraries in Superior and Hayward

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The postcard on the masthead for the WLHC website shows the building which Andrew Carnegie helped fund for Superior, Wisconsin. Beth Carpenter, the designer of the WLHC website, picked the postcard for the masthead, but I heartedly approve. I like it because it shows people around the library and a very neat vintage automobile that helps date the card. Unfortunately, the building is at risk. When the City of Superior was set to raze the building, a group of individuals banded together and were able to save the building at least temporarily. But to date they have been unable to find a permanent use for the building.  For more on the Superior Carnegie building click here.


 



carnegie-wi-hayward-1-72.jpgThe situation in Hayward, WI differs dramatically from the one in Superior. When the Hayward Public Library moved to a new building, the old Carnegie building was bought by a retailer that has done a fine job of restoring and preserving the building. A contributing factor to this more favorable outcome was the ideal location of the Carnegie building in a popular commercial district for tourists.  If you're in the Hayward area check it out. 


Stoughton's Historic Libraries

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pc-wi-stoughton-old-72.jpgThe City of Stoughton, Wisconsin has the distinction of having preserved two historic library buildings. An elaborate multi-purpose building which housed the public library in the basement was completed in 1901.  The stone signage on the building says "City Hall 1901 Library".  In addition to the City Hall and Library, the building contained a large city auditorium which became the City Hall Opera House.  The building has been restored and serves as an active cultural and entertainment venue.  More on the building's history can be found here.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


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Wanting a larger space for the public library, the City sought and received a Carnegie grant of $13,000 to help build a separate public library building which was dedicated in 1908. The building was designed by architects Claude and Starck.  A referendum was passed in 1988 to significantly expand the building. The wrap-around addition preserves the original building.  Recently, the interior of the Carnegie building was restored. More on the library's history can be found here.


These two buildings are on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.


UW-Madison Library Pre-1900

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In 1999 the United States Postal Service issued a pre-stamped postal card depicting an 1879 rendering of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to help celebrate the university's 150th anniversary. The stamp image on the postal card helps tell the history of the University of Wisconsin Library up to 1900.  The University of Wisconsin Library was founded in July, 1850 with the appointment of H. A. Tenney as Librarian.  Tenney had previously been designated as Curator of the Unitversity's Cabinet, a collection of specimens. The first home of the library was North Hall (the building at the top right of the stamp image) which opened in 1851. The library moved into South Hall (the building at the top left of the stamp image) when it was completed in 1855. It moved into College Hall (later Main Hall and now Bascom Hall; the building at the top center of the stamp image) in 1859. At the time of the move it had a collection of about 3,000 volumes.

In 1879 the library moved into Library Hall (now Music Hall, the building at the bottom left of the stamp image) with a collection of around 9,000 volumes. It stayed in this location unil 1900 when it moved to the new State Historical Society of Wisconsin building. It's collection had grown to 75,000 bound volumes by the time it made this move.

The postcard below depicts Library Hall which is now Music Hall. More about this building can be found here.

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Wisconsin's First Library School

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 The postcard above shows the second floor atrium of the Madison Public Library when it was located in the building financed by Andrew Carnegie, now razed.  It was here that the Wisconsin Library School, now the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was located from 1906 to 1938.  Carnegie gave additional funding to enable the library school to be located in the public library building. The message on the back of the postcard which was mailed in 1925 is from library school faculty member Winifred Davis to Mrs. N. A. Cushman, Librarian of the Reedsburg Public Library.  Davis invites Cushman to visit a library school exhibit at the University Exposition.

Library education in Wisconsin dates back to 1895 when the newly created Wisconsin Free Library Commission (WFLC) sponsored the first Summer School of Library Economy.  The summer school was the idea of Frank Hutchins, the Commission's first Secretary.  The school was personally financed by library legislative champion Senator James H. Stout and was directed by Katharine Sharp, director of the Library School of the Armour Institute in Chicago.A full time Wisconsin Library School, still under the auspices of the WFLC, was founded in 1906 and housed on the second floor of the Madison Public Library. Mary Emogene Hazeltine was its first Perceptor or Principal. She served in this capacity until 1938. In 1938 administrative control of the library school was moved from the WFLC to the University of Wisconsin.

An excellent web history of SLIS is located here. A collection of digital images was created as part of the library school's centennial celebration in 2006.  Information on Tradition and Vision, a printed centennial history of SLIS, can be found here.

Hutchins, Stout, and Hazeltine will be among the first group of individuals inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame during the WLA Conference in Middleton in November.

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