A real photograph postcard (RPPC) view of the interior of the old Lancaster Public Library. This postcard was mailed from Lancater to Blunt, South Dakota on Sept. 19, 1908. Real photograph postcards are photographs printed on paper with a postcard format backing.
Library postcards are one of my favorite kinds of library collectibles. I’ve been collecting Wisconsin library postcards since 1995 and my collection now consists of about 300 cards which feature 140 different Wisconsin library buildings. Ann Waidelich, a retired Madison librarian and advocate of historical preservation, introduced me to library postcard collecting. Ann has a collection of 283 Wisconsin library postcards which feature libraries in 119 Wisconsin communities. One of these days it would be nice to get these two collections digitized so that images of the postcards could be added to the Web. In the meantime, I will continue to add selected Wisconsin library postcard images to the WLHC website.
There are also several collections of Wisconsin library postcards already available on the Web. Judy Aulik’s website “Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America” includes a substantial group of Wisconsin library postcards. As does the Sharon McQueen and Richard Douglas Library Postcard website. The American Library Association Archives is in the process of adding digital images from the postcard collection of Sjoerd Koopman to its website which includes many Wisconsin library postcards. There are also a number of Wisconsin library postcards included in the digital image collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society (search using the term “library building”).
The former Carnegie library building in Sheboygan, Wisconsin is pictured on the envelope above. All but a portion of the Carnegie building has been razed. 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. Libraries are often one of the buildings being depicted on these envelopes.
The Sheboygan advertishing envelope is part of my postal librariana exhibit “The Evolution of the American Public Library”. The exhibit includes more than 300 postal and related artifacts. The exhibit will be on display at Mt. Mary College in the Milwaukee area on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (Sept. 12-13). The exhibit is one of many which will be part of MILCOPEX, Milwaukee’s annual national level stamp show. For information on the stamp show click here. For information on the exhibit click here.
The Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin claims to be Wisconsin’s oldest log cabin library. Are there really more? The library was founded in 1925 and has been in the same building throughout its history. Located on County M in Cable, it’s certainly worth a visit, so we’ve added it to the Library Heritage Trail page of the WLHC website. The Forest Lodge Library does something that every library should do. On its website, it has an “About the Library” section and in this section it has a brief history of the library. Your library’s heritage should be part of your marketing/public relations plan and the library’s website is a great place to put it front and center.
Update: As it turns out there is another log cabin library in Wabeno, Wisconsin which also claims to be the oldest log cabin library. See the entry on the Wabeno Public Library here.
A personalized stamp depicting the Eager Free Library in Evansville
The Eager Free Library in Evansville is one of several Wisconsin libraries celebrating significant anniversaries this year. The building in which the Eager Free Library is housed is one hundred years old this year. The architect for the building was the architectural firm of Claude and Starck which was responsible for the design of nearly forty libraries in the Midwest. The library’s design was the first Prairie School design by Claude and Starck. Local merchant Almeron Eager bequeathed $10,000 for the contstruction of the building in 1902. When finally completed in 1908 the cost was $16,000. Ruth Ann Montgomery, a member of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Steering Committee, has written a history of the library for its centennial.
Other Wisconsin libraries celebrating anniversaries include the Milwaukee Public Library which is celebrating the the 130th anniversary of its founding and the 110 anniversary of its building; the Bloomington Public Library which is celebrating its centennial, the Black Earth Public Library which is celebrating its centennial; and the Independence Public Library which is also celebrating its centennial.
Tips of celebrating anniversaries can be found here.
Photograph of an early Marathon County Public Library bookmobile along with library trustees. Reproduced with permission of the library.
Many library institutions are digitizing a wide variety of printed resources which record our cultural heritage. Wisconsin has a number of major initiatives for digitizing such resources. As is often the case, libraries have a tendency to overlook their own unique heritage when pursuing digital projects. This is not the case with the Marathon County Public Library. One of the collections in the “State of Wisconsin Collection” of digital resources is the “Libraries and Schools of Marathon and Lincoln Counties” collection. For this collection the Marathon County Public Library has contributed 96 images relating to the library’s history. These images include photographs and historic documents. Other libraries are encouraged to emulate the Marthon County Public Library and digitize similar resources related to your library’s heritage.
Andrew Carnegie is noted for his gifts for the construction of public library buildings. However, he also gave gifts to help build 108 academic libraries in the United States. In addition to the Carnegie grants for 63 public library buildings in Wisconsin, there were two academic institutions that received Carnegie grants for library buildings – Beloit College and Lawrence University. The Lawrence University Carnegie building was razed in 1974, but the Beloit College Carnegie building still survives. In 1962 it became home to the Pettibone Center for World Affairs. Check out the “Carnegie Libraries” link on the right to find out more about Carnegie library buildings in Wisconsin.
Postcard showing the Lawrence University Carnegie Library Building
Postcard showing the Beloit College Carnegie Libray Building
Two members of the WLHC Steering Committee have articles in the Summer issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History. Michael Edmonds is the author of “On the Trail of Paul Bunyan” and Christine Pawley is the author of “The Wisconsin Idea in Action: Reading, Resistance & the Door-Kewaunee Regional Library, 1950-52”. Congratulations to both of them.
Although the Paul Bunyan article by Michael is wonderful, it is Christine’s Pawley’s article that will be of most interest to the library history buff. Obtaining state funding for the 1950-1952 Door-Kewaunee Regional Library demonstration was one of the Wisconsin Library Associations greatest legislative victories. Pawley’s article provides insight into why the county funding referendums which followed the demonstration in Kewaunee and Door counties failed and passed respectively. Passage in both was required for continuation of what was primarily bookmobile service in the rural areas of the counties. The article is well illustrated with some great bookmobile photographs including one of the bookmobile being loaded on the ferry to go to Washington Island.
The Wisconsin Historical Society makes available freely online its archive of the back issues of the Wisconsin Magazine of History from 1917 up through the 2006-2007 volume year. Only the current volume year is not available online. By searching the archive using the terms “libraries” and “librarian” several articles of interest to the library history buff can be found.
On a recent trip to Minneapolis I made a point of stopping off at the Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum in Menomonie, Wisconsin. The Museum is part of the Dunn County Historical Society. It houses one of Wisconsin’s most important library artifacts – Traveling Library #13 of the original 32 traveling libraries established in Dunn County by Senator James Stout in 1896. Traveling libraries were small rotating collections of books. This first demonstration of the traveling library concept in Wisconsin expanded until there were hundreds of traveling libraries throughout the state.
When I indicated to the volunteer museunm staff member the purpose of my visit, I was half expecting that she would not know what I was talking about. Instead she led me immediately to what is a permanent display of Traveling Library # 13. The museum is well aware of the importance of their unusual library artifact. For a library history buff like me, it was like visiting a shrine.
Traveling Library #13 is an good example of why the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is not trying to establish a physical library history museum. Instead, the WLHC hopes to identify the location of important Wisconsin library artifacts, archives, and buildings and make this information known to all. This is an important role for this website. If you have information about any of these historical treasures, we would like to hear from you.
More information on Wisconsin’s traveling libraries can be found on the Traveling Libraries Page of this website.