Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland Public Library, Pre-1932 Library Card No. 4006 and Card Sleeve issued to Walter R. Miller

Cleveland Public Library Pre-1932 Library Card (front)
Cleveland Public Library, Pre-1932 Library Card (back)
Cleveland Public Library Pre-1932 Card Sleeve (front)
Cleveland Public Library, Pre-1932 Card Sleeve (back)

Cleveland Public Library

In March 1867, a legislative statute was passed authorizing the Board of Education to tax the citizens of Cleveland for the purpose of funding a public library.  Housed on the third floor of the Northrup & Harrington Block on Superior Street, the library opened to the public on February 17, 1869, with approximately 2,000 books obtained from the public school library.  By August 1869, there were nearly 4,000 registered members.

Northrup & Harrington Building, Superior Street, Pre-1923 Public Domain Postcard

Between 1873 and 1879, the Library moved multiple times.  The Clark Building on Superior Street, the new City Hall, and the second and third floors of the old Central High School building on Euclid Avenue. 

In 1884, the Cleveland Public Library appointed William H. Brett as Head Library.  Brett, who was considered to be  one of the most influential librarians of the twenty century, introduced the then-novel idea of an “open shelf” system, whereby library members would have direct access to the books.  Brett served as Head Librarian until his untimely death in 1918.

William Howard Brett, Head Librarian of the Cleveland Public Library (1885-1911) (Public Domain)

In 1915, the Cleveland architectural firm, Walker and Weeks, won a competition to design a new library building, but due to the demands of World War I, construction was delayed until 1923.  Finally, in September 1925, the $4,000,000  classical Renaissance-style building opened its doors to the public.  

Cleveland Public Library, Superior Street, Pre-1923 Public Domain Postcard
Photo Erik Drost – photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en (no changes)

In 1997, the 10-story Louis Stokes Wing was dedicated and the main building underwent a $24 million renovation, including careful restoration of the original ceiling finishes,  original leather doors, exterior marble and historical light fixtures.  


The Louis Stokes Wing of the Cleveland Public Library.  The Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) June 12,1997, Page 75.

The Cleveland Public Library celebrated its 150-year anniversary in 2019.  Today, the Cleveland Public Library system has twenty-seven branch libraries.  

William H. Brett

William Howard Brett (1846-1918) was head librarian for the Cleveland Public Library from 1884 to 1918.  He is considered one of the “100 most important librarians of the 20th century”. Under Brett’s guidance, book circulation at the Cleveland Public Library went from 50,000 volumes in 1889 to over 3 million volumes in 1918, placing the library in the top three of the greatest libraries in the United States at that time.

Brett was known for introducing several new library management concepts that are still used today. While at the Cleveland Public Library, he instituted an “open shelf” concept whereby allowing library members to have direct access to library materials and the ability to browse and research independently. Another major contribution was “divisional arrangements.” Brett and his vice-librarian, Linda A. Eastman, divided the reference and circulating books into major categories and had dedicated staff handle each subject matter. Brett also championed separate children’s reading rooms believing that children deserved their own space.

Brett’s life and library career were cut short by a drunk driver in 1918.

\

LaGrange Negro Library, LaGrange, Georgia

1952-1962 LaGrange Negro Library Borrower’s Card No. 3346 issued to Edward Paige, Jr.

1952-1962 LaGrange Negro Library Borrower’s Card No. 3346 issued to Edward Paige, Jr. (front)
1952-1962 LaGrange Negro Library Borrower’s Card No. 3346 issued to Edward Paige, Jr. (back)

LaGrange Negro Library

Established after 1951 with local funding, the LaGrange Negro Library was part of the Negro Library Community Center in LaGrange.  

Edward Paige, Jr.

Edward Paige, Jr.  (1933-1978) served as a Private First Class for the US Army during the Korean War.

The Fletcher Public Library, Fletcher, Vermont

1896 Fletcher Public Library Card No. 53 issued to James Fitzgerald

1896 Fletcher Public Library Card No. 53 issued to James Fitzgerald (front)
1896 Fletcher Public Library Card No. 53 issued to James Fitzgerald (back)

The Fletcher Public Library

The Fletcher Public Library opened on August 8, 1896, with an inventory of 110 volumes provided by the state of Vermont.   The library was located in the Fletcher Post Office and Mrs. C. Carpenter was the librarian.

Chartered in 1781, Fletcher, Vermont, is located in Franklin County in northwestern Vermont and currently has population of about 1,400 residents.

Havana Military Academy, Biblioteca Rafael Maria Mendive, Havana, Cuba

Pre-1960 Book Pocket and Book Card, Havana Military Academy, Biblioteca Rafael Maria Mendive

Pre-1960 Book Pocket with Book Card for Victor Hugo’s biography of William Shakespeare, Havana Military Academy, Biblioteca Rafael Maria Mendive
Pre-1960 Book Pocket, Havana Military Academy, Biblioteca Rafael Maria Mendive
Pre-1960 Book Card for Victor Hugo’s biography of William Shakespeare, Havana Military Academy, Biblioteca Rafael Maria Mendive

The Havana Military Academy, Havana, Cuba

The Havana Military Academy, founded by Raúl Chibás in 1947, before the Cuban Revolution, was an elite military-style boarding school on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba.

Advertisement for the 1953-1954 School Season of the Havana Military Academy,
Havana, Cuba

The 1947 Montreal Royals

Before opening to students in late 1947, the Academy famously hosted the Brooklyn Dodgers and their AAA farm team, the Montreal Royals for their 1947 spring training season. After having experienced racial harassment from white crowds in Daytona Beach during the 1946 spring training season due to the Royals integrated roster that included the first black minor league player, Jackie Robinson, management decided to change the location training location to Cuba after learning that baseball teams in Cuba had been integrated since the early 1900s. However, Jim Crow laws followed Robinson and the Royals to Havana. While the Dodgers stayed at the swank Hotel Nacional and the Royals at the brand new Havana Military Academy, Jackie Robinson and other African American teammates were given accommodations at a third-rate boarding house in downtown Havana. This unfair treatment didn’t deter Jackie Robinson from making baseball history. In the 1947 regular season, Jackie Robinson was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers and become the first African American major league baseball player in the history of American baseball, became the Rookie of the year, and helped the Dodgers go all the way to the 1947 World Series.

The Cuban Revolution of 1953

Before the Cuban Revolution, Cuban politics were rife with corruption, dictatorships, and episodic American intervention and interference. The Cuban economy, at times robust due to the growing exports of sugar to the United States, continually fluctuated and ultimately stagnated because of restrictive trade policies introduced by the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930.
In 1933, the Sergeants’ Revolt, a coup led by Fulgencio Batista, led to the deposition of President Carlos Manuel de Cespedes and the introduction of a United States-backed military dictatorship. While the economy prospered under Batista, so did social ills and inequalities. Cuba became known for its decadence, a destination for prostitution and gambling at mafia-infested casinos. Moreover, while the economy under Batista was burgeoning for many, the underclass was experiencing extreme poverty and unemployment. In 1952, a young attorney named Fidel Castro petitioned the courts to overthrow the presidency of Batista due to his corruption, but Castro’s arguments were not persuasive to the Cuban courts. It was then that Castro concluded that more forceful steps were needed to rid Cuba of an administration he saw as tyrannical. With the help of his brother Raul, Castro organized a paramilitary organization called “The Movement,” and by the end of 1952 had recruited over 1,200 followers. In 1953, a failed attempt at stealing weapons from a military garrison landed Castro in prison for a term of 15 years but was released early due to international pressures. Upon his release, Castro traveled to Mexico to receive paramilitary training, and there met a young militant revolutionary named Che Guevara. Guevara joined forces with Castro, and both returned to Cuba to begin the revolution in earnest. On November 25, 1956, Castro, Guevara, and other supporters crash-landed a small yacht onto the shores of Playa Las Coloradas. After a brief but lethal attack by Batista’s army, they fled into the mountains, where they continued plans for a coup. In response to the growing revolutionary movement, Batista solicited the help of the United States to combat the rebels, but the United States played both hands and supplied support to the rebels, as well, sensing the need to establish a relationship should Castro’s revolution be successful. From 1957 through 1958, there was a dramatic shift in public support for the revolution. Batista’s public approval was dwindling, and an arms embargo by the United States further weakened Batista’s military powers. On January 1, 1959, Batista fled Cuba and Fidel Castro’s first appointed President, Manuel Urrutia Lleo, took office on January 3, 1959. In a speech by Fidel Castro on November 28, 1960, Castro spoke of the Havana Military Academy that had been abandoned by Raúl Chibás upon his defection to the United States. “A gentlemen left, leaving a school behind called the Havana Military Academy. Now we are adding to it, and it will be the first rebel army polytechnic school for the revolution … and it has the manpower to do all the tasks and achieve all the goals it proposes.”

Havana Military Academy Educators and Students

Raúl Chibás

Raúl Chibás (1917-1998) founder of the Havana Military Academy, and a long-time critic of the Batista administration, joined Fidel Castro’s revolutionary movement in 1957. Politics was no stranger to the Chibás family. His brother, Eddy Chibás, was the founder of the Partido Ortodoxo in Cuba, a former Senator and a controversial radio talk show host who committed suicide on air in an act of political contrition. Raul, believing that Castro was the answer to the overthrow of President Batista and the advent of democracy in Cuba, joined Castro in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, where he co-authored the Sierra Maestra Manifesto laying out the democratic intentions of the revolution. But Castro, needing the support of those with less radical leanings like Chibás, concealed his communist intentions. After the revolution, Chibás became disillusioned with Castro’s authoritarianism and defected to America in August 1960.

Félix Rodríguez

Félix Rodríguez (b. 1941), also known as Félix “El Gato” Ramos Medina, was a Havana Military Academy graduate recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency shortly after his defection to the United States in 1960. In 1961, Rodríguez slipped back into Cuba to prepare for the covert Bay of Pigs operation, but due to the failure of the mission, sought refuge at the Venezuelan embassy before he was allowed to leave Cuba. Rodríguez was involved in many CIA-backed operations, but he is most well-known for his participation in the assassination of Che Guevera on October 9, 1967, and arms trafficking for the CIA and the Nicaraguan Contras.

Manuel Artime

Manuel Artime (1932 –1977), a professor at the Havana Military Academy, was a former member of Castro’s rebel army.  In 1959, after becoming disillusioned by Castro’s increasingly communist leanings, he formed a counter-revolutionary group called the Movimiento de Recuperación Revolucionaria (MRR).  However, fearing assassination by Castro’s army, Artime defected to the United States with the help of the American embassy and the CIA.  After defecting, Artime was recruited by the CIA and become the leader of the Bay of Pigs resistance fighters and other anti-Castro campaigns, including a failed assassination attempt against Fidel Castro in 1965.  In the 1970s, Artime organized the Miami Watergate Defense Relief Fund, collecting money for the convicted Watergate burglars, a number of whom were American or Cuban veterans of the Bay of Pigs operation.  Artime died suddenly on November 18, 1977, prior to his scheduled appearance before the House Select Committee on Assassinations to give testimony on the John F. Kennedy assassination.

The Harvard College Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts

1895 Harvard University Bursar’s Office Freshman Security Receipt issued to R. E. Andrews

Harvard University Bursar’s Office Freshman Security Receipt for library privileges dated September 23, 1895 issued to R. E. Andrews (front)
Harvard University Bursar’s Office Freshman Security Receipt for library privileges dated September 23, 1895 issued to R. E. Andrews (back)

Founded in 1636, Harvard College (now Harvard University) and Harvard College Library is the oldest University and private and academic library in the United States.

Established through personal donations from the University’s namesake, John Harvard, a Puritan minister who bequeathed over 400 religious texts to the College on his death, the Library was initially located at the Old College building.

The Old College. From the Harvard University Archives,
Records of Early Harvard Buildings. No known copyright restrictions.

In 1676, The Library moved to Harvard Hall, where it remained for nearly 100 years until the building and library collection was destroyed by fire in 1764.

The original Harvard Hall destroyed by fire on January 24, 1764. Location of the Harvard College Library from 1676 to 1764. Artist unknown. No known copyright restrictions.
News article detailing the fire of 1764. The Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), February 23, 1764. No known copyright restrictions.

Rebuilt in 1766, the Library reopened with a new inventory of over 15,000 volumes, an inventory primarily donated by Thomas Hollis of England and books that were re-collected from students after the fire. Harvard Library’s online catalog system, HOLLIS (Harvard On-Line Library Information System), is thus named in his honor. Through a generous endowment provided by Hollis upon his death in 1774, the Library was able to continue purchasing books for the library, thus maintaining its position as the most extensive library in the United States. 

Harvard Hall, rebuilt in 1766. Location of the Harvard College Library from 1766 to 1841.
Pre-1925 public domain postcard.

Due to this continued growth, the Library moved once again in 1841 to Gore Hall. By 1912, Gore Hall was no longer suitable to hold the ever-growing collection, so the Library was disbursed into smaller specialty libraries.  

Gore Hall. Location of the Harvard College Library from 1841 to 1912.
Pre-1925 public domain postcard.

Libraries of the Harvard Library System

 • Andover-Harvard Theological Library (1911)

 • Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library (1903)

 • George F. Baker Library (1927)

 • Biblioteca Berenson (Florence, Italy) (1961)

 • Botany Libraries

 • Godfrey Lowell Cabot Science Library (1973)

 • Francis A. Countway Library (1958)

 • Dumbarton Oaks Research Library (Washington, DC) (1940)

 • Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (1861)

 • Fine Arts Library (1895)

 • H.C. Fung Library (2005)

 • Monroe C. Gutman Library (1972)

 • Harvard Film Archive (1979)

 • Harvard Kennedy School Library and Knowledge Services (formerly the Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration) (1936)

 • Harvard Law School Library (1817)

 • Harvard University Archives (1851)

 • Harvard-Yenching Library (1928)

 • Arthur A. Houghton Library (1942)

 • Thomas W. Lamont Library (1949)

 • Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library (1976)

 • Frances Loeb Design Library (1969)

 • Robbins Library of Philosophy (1905)

 • Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Radcliffe (1943)

 • Alfred Marston Tozzer Library (1866)

 • Harry Elkins Widener Library (1915)

 • John G. Wolbach Library (1934)

At 15 million volumes, The Harvard College Library continues to hold one of the largest collections in the United States, surpassed only by the Library of Congress. 

Robert Eaton Andrews

Robert Eaton Andrews was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 4, 1878.  He earned his B.A. from Harvard University in 1899, and his M.D. from Harvard University Medical School in 1903. He was a resident of Springfield, Massachusetts, until his death in 1963.  

Charles F. Mason

Charles F. Mason (1860-1947), graduated from Harvard in 1882 and subsequently served as the Bursar of the University for 34 years from 1887-1921. 

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.