Library history buffs and those interested in architecture won’t want to miss a program at the WLA Conference in Middleton on the Wisconsin Carnegie libraries designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Stark. The program is entitled “The Shared Ideal: The Carnegie Libraries of Claude & Starck” and will take place in the La Crosse Room of the Marriott on Thursday, November 6 from 4:00 to 5:15. The presenter will be Sheridan A. Glen, Board Member, Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts. The description of the program in the WLA Program reads as follows:
“The Madison architectural firm of Claude & Starck received commissions for 25 of 63 Carnegie libraries built in Wisconsin. This slide show, illustrated by postcards, will show the different styles—Classical, Sullivanesque, Prairie, Original, English Gothic, and Swiss Chalet—that Claude and Starck developed for Wisconsin libraries. The legacy of their beautiful libraries seems particularly meaningful, given the importance these libraries were to the development of small town America.”
According to Kristin Visser in Frank Loyd Wright & the Prairie School in Wisconsin, the architectural partnership of Louis Claude and Edward Starck designed hundreds of buildings in Madison and the Midwest including over 40 library buildings.
The Columbus Public Library which was dedicated on November 1, 1912 was one of those library buildings. According to Visser, “The Columbus library is unique among Claude and Starck designs in that it combines elembents of Prairie sbyle with English cottage decorative features.”
The Columbus Public Library which is shown on the postcard below is on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A photograph of the shelves in my garage.
A photograph of the shelves in the Supreme Court Reading Room in the State Capitol.
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 email@example.com .
For more on Wisconsin’s Carnegie libraries click here.
On Wednesday, October 15, 5 – 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, Terrie Goren, Director of the Madison Public Library Foundation, will be presenting the video “The History of the Madison Public Library”, written and narrated by local author and historian Stuart Levitan. This event is a part of the Wisconsin Book Festival.
The Madison Public Library also has one of the most comprehensive histories on the web that I’ve seen. It was written by Dr. Bob Kann in 2001 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Madison Public Library. To see the history click here.
Every library should have at least a brief history of the library accessible from its website. Examples of Wisconsin library web histories can be found here.
The City of Madison was one of three Wisconsin communities to receive a second Carnegie grant for a branch library (the other communities were Racine and Superior). The Carnegie branch library of the Madison Public Library is no longer used as a library. It now houses the offices of Yahara Builders. The building is located at 1497 Williamson St. near the corner of Williamson and Baldwin. It is located at the east end of the Williamson Street Co-op grocery store. The Central Library building funded by Carnegie was razed.
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.
Archives are essential resources for both library history scholars and library history buffs. Wisconsin is fortuanate to have many excellent archival collections. In celebration of American Archives Month, the Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has created a blog to celebrate Wisconsin’s archives. Go to http://archivesmonth.blogspot.com/. Throughout October, they are posting entries about archival repositories that preserve and make available for use the records of Wisconsin’s rich heritage.
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.
The entire Wisconsin Historical Society Library was housed in this bookcase in 1853. It is currently located on the second floor of the library near the circulation desk. It has been described as the “Holy Grail” of Wisconsin library artifacts. The WHS Library has grown from this small beginning to be one of the world’s greatest historical libraries. Few libraries have preserved an artifact that is as significant to its history as is this bookcase to the WHS Library. What is the most historically significant artifact that has been preserved by your library? The WHS Library is included on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.
On September 10, I posted an entry about the Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin which claims to be the oldest log cabin library in the state. That claim has been challenged by the Wabeno Public Library in Forest County which is also located in a log building. Lois Radloff, Director of the Wabeno Public Library, has provided the following information about the library building.
In 1993, the Wabeno Public Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The research for that designation was completed by the Nicolet National Forest Service in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. The structure was completed by the Chicago Northwestern Railroad as its land office in 1895. The application for designation on the National Register states “the Land Office turned the building over to the city of Wabeno in 1923 to be used as the library.” It has been in continual use as a library to this day.
Thanks to Lois for bringing this information to our attention. We have included the Wabeno Public Library on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.