The James V. Brown Library, Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Pre-1934 Reader’s Card No. 51582 issued to Lawrence Mulliner

Pre-1934 Reader’s Card No. 51582 issued to Lawrence Mulliner (front)
Pre-1934 Reader’s Card No. 51582 issued to Lawrence Mulliner (back)

The James V. Brown Library

The James V. Brown Library, Williamsport, Pennsylvania (Pre-1923 public domain postcard)

The James V. Brown Library, at 19 East Fourth Street in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, opened its doors to the public in 1907.  James V. Brown, a wealthy business owner, had long desired to build a public library for the citizens of Williamsport, but plans in earnest didn’t begin until 1899 when Brown purchased a plot of land on which to build the new library.  Brown then hired Philadelphia architect, Edgar V. Seeler, to design the new library.  By May 1900, Seeler had proposed a grand, French Renaissance building, complete with monolithic, twenty-two foot, dual columns flanking the entrance.  Seeler designed the building to include an art gallery space, marble statues imported from Italy, an elevator, steam heat and electric lights throughout.  

Edgar V. Seeler’s Rendering of the proposed James V. Brown Library (from the Altoona Tribune, December 1, 1901)

The cornerstone was laid on March 10, 1906, and the library opened to the public on June 17, 1907. 

The James v. Brown Library Reading Room and Delivery Desk (pre-1923 public domain postcard)

The James V. Brown Library Reader’s Card Application

1918-1928 Reader’s Card Application (front)
1918-1928 Reader’s Card Application (back)
1918-1928 Reader’s Card Application Return Envelope (front)
1918-1928 Reader’s Card Application Return Envelope (back)

James V. Brown

James V. Brown (from the Altoona Tribune, December 1, 1910)

James Van Duzee Brown, born on March 4, 1826, was a business owner and philanthropist in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  He amassed a large fortune through a number of early business ventures, including lumber, coal and flour milling.  He was an early founder of the First National Bank in Pennsylvania, President of the Williamsport Water Company and the Citizens’ Gas and Water Company.  Prior to his death, he pledged $400,000 to build a public library.  James V. Brown died on December 8, 1904, three years before completion of the new library.    

The Panama Canal Library, Panama Canal Zone

The Panama Canal Library, Panama Canal Zone, 1941 Library Card No. 06953 issued to Mrs. M. E. Nantz

The Panama Canal Library, Panama Canal Zone, 1941 Library Card No. 06953 issued to Mrs. M. E. Nantz (front)

The Panama Canal and The Panama Canal Zone

In 1903, the Republic of Panama, having just gained independence from Columbia, granted the United States full control of a 20 mile wide stretch of territory in the Isthmus of Panama to build a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to create shipping routes.  In addition to the construction of the canal, homes, schools, hospitals, offices and recreational areas were built for the thousands of Americans that would protect and oversee operations of the canal.   

The Panama Canal Zone was built to resemble an American suburb, complete with cream and gray stucco houses and manicured lawns.  American automobiles were imported and movie theaters showed the latest movies being shown in the States. Peak population was around 100,000 during 1950-1953.  Although “the Zone” was described by some as “a kind of paradise,” it was anything but for many residents.  A “rigid social hierarchy”  and Jim Crow by-laws enforced social and racial inequities.

In 1999, the Panama Canal Zone was transferred back to the Panamanian government, thus ending U. S. involvement in the maintenance and protection of the Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal Library

In 1914, The Panama Canal Library was established providing an official reference service for the Panama Canal Zone.  The library system consisted of nine stations — a Main Library, three branches and five circulating libraries.  Anyone that lived in or worked in the Canal Zone was eligible for library privileges. However, non-U.S. Citizens or anyone not working for or living in the Canal Zone was required to make a refundable deposit when borrowing materials.  In 1951, the Panama Canal Library became the Canal Zone Library-Museum.  

Mrs. M. E. Nantz

Maria Nantz (1898-1990) was born in Puerto Rico.  Her husband, Merle Edward Nantz (1902-1989) was a Civil Engineer for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Corp of Engineers, working in Wyoming, the Panama Canal Zone, and Nebraska. They retired to Sarasota, Florida. 

The Josephine-Louise Public Library, Walden, New York

Pre-1951 Josephine-Louise Public Library Card No. 163 issued to Thelma Van Houten

Pre-1951 Josephine-Louise Public Library Card No. 163 issued to Thelma Van Houten (front)

The Josephine-Louise Public Library, Walden, New York

The Josephine-Louise Public Library, Walden, New York (Pre-1923 Public Domain Postcard)

The Josephine-Louise Public Library is a memorial library dedicated to Josephine Dennison Bradley (1843-1903) and Louise Harper Bradley (1869-1900), wife and daughter of Col. Thomas Wilson Bradley (1844-1920), President of the New York Knife Factory, Medal of Honor recipient for his service during the Civil War, and a member of the US Congress.

The library began as a circulating library club in 1896 by a group of Walden residents that included Josephine Bradley. Upon petitioning the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York, the circulating library was granted a 5-year provisional charter and, in 1901, the first Walden Public Library opened. In 1915, plans to build a new Municipal Building were put into place.  Colonel Bradley, in honor of his wife and daughter, matched “dollar for dollar” the town budget to build the new facility which included a firehouse, as well as offices, an assembly room and, of course, a library space.  In addition, he fully funded a temporary location in the village hall until the new Municipal Building was completed.   The new Walden Municipal Building and Library opened at 5 Scofield Street in Walden in 1916.  

Thelma Van Houten

Thelma Louise Van Houten (1/30/1929 – 6/19/1992), life-long New York native.

The Queens Borough Public Library, Maspeth Branch, Queens, New York

Pre-1930 The Queens Borough Public Library, Maspeth Branch Library Card No. MA 421 issued to Edith Wietzke

The Queens Borough Public Library, Maspeth Branch, Queens, New York

In the Report of the Queens Borough Public Library (1906), it was noted that there were large communities in the Queens Borough without library facilities. Maspeth, with a population of 3,800, was among those communities named.  With this in mind, the Queens Borough Public Library opened a “traveling library station” at 80 Grand Street in Maspeth on July 27, 1911.  Traveling libraries were often housed in drug stores, recreation centers, or other public spaces and tended to by proprietors that were willing to look after the distribution of books. In addition, dedicated “library stations” were housed in rented rooms and open to borrowers three times a week. Trained librarians that travelled to the stations maintained the distribution of the books and would oversee a monthly rotation of the stock to provide readers with an always up-to-date selection. 

By July 1929, due to overwhelming use of the Maspeth library station, additional days and evening hours were added to the schedule giving borrowers additional time to use the library station facilities. 

Over the years, the Maspeth Branch library station was housed in multiple locations, including 80 Grand Street, Grand Street and Columbia Place, the Legion Building at 47 Grand Street (in 1923); 66-40 Grand Avenue (during the 1930s), and ultimately 69-70 Grand Avenue, when a new facility was built in 1973.

Maspeth Library in the News

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 8, 1921. Clipping courtesy of Newspapers.com. No known copyright restrictions.

Edith Witzke

Edith Wietzke (1913-unknown) was born in Vohwinkle, Germany.  In April of 1923, Edith and her mother, Meta (1888-1950), and father, Reinhold (1880-1977), left the turmoil in Germany for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Two years later, in May of 1925, Edith’s father set off for America, followed by Edith and her mother three months later. The family settled in Maspeth, New York. 

Freeport Public Library, Freeport, Illinois

Pre-1937 Freeport Public Library Borrower’s Card No. 4873 issued to Marian E. Holmes

Freeport Public Library, Freeport, Illinois

The Freeport Public Library had modest beginnings in 1874 as a small collection of 250 volumes housed in a spare room at the YMCA, which was located over Emmert & Burrell’s drug store at 111 Stephenson Street in Freeport.  A subscription fee of 75 cents quarterly permitted the subscriber to borrow books every Saturday afternoon and Wednesday evening.   In 1889, the YMCA opened a new building at a site formerly occupied by the First Presbyterian Church at Walnut and Stephenson and made room for the small library. 

The Y.M.C.A. building at Walnut and Stephenson Streets, Freeport, IL, second home of the Freeport Library (Public Domain Pre-1923 postcard)

On February 21, 1901, the Carnegie Corporation provided  a $30,000 grant to build a new public library building.  In 1902, the new public library opened at 314 West Stephenson Street with 19,000 volumes.  Designed by Patton and Miller of Chicago, the new library was the first Carnegie library in Illinois.  By 1924, the library had issued over 1,200 library cards and inventory had increased to over 43,000 volumes.  As the years passed, the city outgrew the West Stephenson Street building, so in 1991 plans were put into motion to construct a new, modernized building.  After years of planning, a new 40,000 sf building was opened on Douglas Street in 2002.  In 2017, the old Carnegie building underwent a $2.3M renovation and now serves as Freeport’s City Hall.

Freeport Public Library (Public Domain Pre-1923 postcard)

Marian E. Holmes

Marian Elaine Holmes was born in Illinois on May 5, 1889.  She married Lloyd Eugene Holmes (1886-1930) and had one son, Stanley Campbell Holmes (1929-2005).  After being widowed in 1930, she and Stanley moved to Florida where she was a bookkeeper and secretary.  She died in Panama City, Florida in 1966.  

Free Public Library, St. Joseph, Missouri

Free Public Library, St. Joseph Missouri, Pre-1915 Library Card No. 2643 issued to Orta Gabbert

Free Public Library, St. Joseph Missouri,
Pre-1915 Free Library Card No. 2643 (front)
Free Public Library, St. Joseph Missouri,
Pre-1915 Free Library Card No. 2643 (back)

Free Public Library, St. Joseph, Missouri

The Free Public Library of St. Joseph had its beginning as a membership library on the 2nd Floor of the Samuels Building at Sixth and Charles Streets.  The space was offered free of charge by Mr. Warren Samuels if money  could be raised for the books.  After a campaign led by Mrs. John S. Lemon, which raised $3000 through the sale of lifetime memberships at $50 each, the library opened on November 8, 1887.  The library inventory held over 3,200 books in its first year of operation.  In 1890, public interest in a free library grew and by 1900, construction on a new building began.  In the meantime, having outgrown the Samuels Building space, the library relocated to Tenth and Sylvanie Streets.  On February 9, 1891, with an inventory of over 5,500 volumes, the Public Reading room opened, followed by the opening of the Circulation Department on March 16, 1891. The library remained at the Tenth and Sylvanie Streets location until March 13, 1902, when the new Carnegie library building opened at Tenth and Felix Streets.  Designed by Edmund Jacques Eckle, the French Baroque style building features terrazzo flooring in the foyer, a glass-floored balcony, and a stained glass dome.  The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 20, 1982.

Free Public Library at Tenth & Felix Streets  built in 1902
(Photo: Edmund Jacques Eckle, Courtesy of United States Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (no know copyright restrictions) 

Edmund Jacques Eckle

Edmond Jacques Eckel (1845-1934), was a French architect trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He settled in St. Joseph, Missouri around 1870 and established the architectural firm of Eckel & Meier.  Other significant projects include. the German-American Bank Building (now Mosaic), the Corby Building (the tallest building in St. Joseph), the Paxton Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska, and the Courthouse and “Squirrel Cage” Jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Orta Gabbert

Orta Allen Gabbert Conner (1901-1966), was a Missouri native.