Bangkok Library Association, Bangkok, Siam

1913 Bangkok Library Association Subscription Dues Reminder Mailing Card addressed to Mrs. A. Link

1913 Bangkok Library Association Subscription Dues Mailing Card sent to Mrs. A. Link (front)
1913 Bangkok Library Association Subscription Dues Mailing Card sent to Mrs. A. Link (back)
Close-up of the Royal Coat of Arms of Siam (from upper right corner)
1897 Stereoscope image of the Royal Coat of Arms of Siam (public domain)

Bangkok Library Association

In 1869, the Ladies’ Bazaar Association, a charitable organization of English-speaking women living in Bangkok, Siam, founded the Bangkok Ladies’ Library Association to provide much-needed English-language books to the growing number of English-speaking residents of Bangkok. Bangkok, called “the key to Siam,” became home to many English-speaking missionaries and British trade agents during the reign of King Rama IV, due to trade agreements and Western expansionism.  

In the beginning, the small subscription library was open one day a week and staffed by volunteers. The library contents were housed in private homes and later the vestry of the Protestant Union Chapel. 

The library’s name changed to Bangkok Library Association in October 1911.

Jennie Neilson Hays 

Jennie Neilson Hays was born on September 19, 1859, in Aalborg, Denmark. As a Protestant Missionary, Miss Neilson arrived in Bangkok, Siam, in October 1884. In 1885, Miss Nelson began her relationship with the Bangkok Ladies’ Library Association conducting benefits for raising funds and assisting in library duties. Jennie Nelson Hays served as the Librarian of the Bangkok Library Association until her death of Cholera on April 26, 1920.  

Jennie Neilson Hays Passport Photo 1916

In a letter from the American Consulate, dated May 20, 1920, Carl C. Hanson, the American Vice-Consul in Charge, reported the death of Mrs. Hays to the Secretary of State of the United States, Bainbridge Colby.

The letter read:

Death of an American Citizen

Mrs. Jennie Neilson Hays

Sir:

I have the honor to enclose herewith a report of the death of an American citizen, Mrs. Jennie Nelson Hays, the wife of Dr. Thomas Heyward Hays, now living in Bangkok. Mrs. Hays always took the leading part on all occasions connected with public welfare and was well known for her charitable work. His Majesty the King of Siam sent a special message of condolences to Dr. Hays, and by the King’s command, a royal wreath was placed on the grave of Mrs. Hays. 

I have the honor to be Sir,

Your obedient servant,

Carl C. Hanson

American Vice Consul in Charge

After her death, Mario Tamagno, an Italian architect, was commissioned by her husband, Dr. Thomas Heyward Hays, to design a permanent home for the library on Surawong Road. The Neilson-Hays Library, a then state-of-the-art Neo-classical building, opened to the public on June 26, 1922.

Jennie and her husband, Thomas, are buried at the Bangkok Protestant Cemetery.

Mrs. Williamson

Lady Marion Maria Winifred Crozier Williamson served as President of the Bangkok Library Association.

Maria Crozier was born on October 21, 1875, in the former British territory of Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. There she married Walter James Franklin Williamson on August 15, 1894. Sir Williamson was financial counsel to the government of Siam and later, a financial expert at the League of Nations. Sir and Lady Williamson are also known for the contribution to the ornithological community. Sir Williamson was a noted ornithologist whose collection is incorporated into the British Museum of National History. Lady Williamson is the namesake of the Indochinese Bush Lark species mirafra assamica marionae. Lady Williamson died on May 30, 1945, in London, England.

Mrs. A. Link

Erma Link was the wife of Adolf Link, a partner of B. Grimm & Co., importers, and merchants. Adolf Link joined B. Grimm & Co. as a manager in 1903. Under Adolf Link’s management, B. Grimm & Co. grew rapidly. However, at the outbreak of World War I, Siam joined allied forces and declared war on Germany. In February 1918, Siam’s government designated all German residents as enemies of the state. Consequently, Siam’s government seized the Link family’s possessions and placed the family in an internment camp in India. After World War I, the Links returned to Siam, but World War II resulted in house arrest. Despite the effects of the World Wars on the company, B. Grimm continues its 150-year history with Thailand, now operated by a 4th generation Link family. member

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. 

Rosenberg Library, Colored Branch, Galveston, Texas

Pre-1949 Rosenberg Library, Colored Branch, Library Card No. 1273 issued to Walter Lacey

Rosenberg Library, Colored Branch, Library Card (front)
Rosenberg Library, Colored Branch, Library Card (back)
Rosenberg Library, Colored Branch, Library Card (sleeve)

Rosenberg Library, Colored Branch, Galveston, Texas

Engraving above side entry to the Old Central Cultural Center (author unknown) (no know copyright restrictions)

The “Colored Branch” of the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas, was the first public library in Texas for African Americans.  It is believed that it was also the first public library for African Americans in the entire southern region of the United States. The main branch of the Rosenberg Library, established in 1904 from a trust bequeathed by Henry Rosenberg, was located at 2310 Sealy Street, but due to Jim Crow laws and forced segregation, African American residents were prohibited from using the new library.  Shortly before the opening of the new Rosenberg Library, the Board of Directors resolved to open a “colored” branch “so that the white and colored citizens of Galveston may separately derive advantages from the bequest of Henry Rosenberg for the establishment and maintenance of a Free Public Library for the use of the people of Galveston.”  Subsequently, a new “colored branch” opened in 1905.  It was located in an annex building of Central High School, the first public school for African Americans, located at 1304 27th Street.  The segregated branch opened with over 4,000 volumes and 210 library members.  In 1965, the Galveston School District integrated and the students at Central High School slowly merged with Ball High School.  Central High School closed it’s doors in 1968 and in 1976 became the Old Central Cultural Center.  The words “Colored Branch of Rosenberg Library” are still above the stone doorway leading into the annex.

Henry Rosenberg

Portrait of Henry Rosenberg courtesy of the Rosenberg Library.  No known copyright restrictions.  Used in accordance with the 17 USC 107, Fair Use Doctrine.

Henry Rosenberg born in Switzerland in 1824, arrived in Galveston, Texas in February 1843 and worked as a clerk in a dry-goods store.  He eventually purchased the business and turned it into the leading dry-goods store in Texas by 1859.  Subsequently, he branched into financing and investing in the banking, real estate and transportation industries.  He died in Galveston in 1889 and bequeathed part of his fortune to the city of Galveston.

Walter Lacey 

Lt. Walter Jay Lacy (1915-1998) was a 1932 graduate of Central High School in Galveston, and joined the Galveston Police Department in 1939. After enlisting in the US Marine Corps and serving a tour during WWII, he resumed his duties for the Galveston Police Department and served the community of Galveston as a detective for 40 years and a civil employee for another 15 years. Lt. Lacy, a highly decorated officer, was recognized by the Texas House of Representatives for his services to the Galveston Police Department, received The Outstanding Officer and Detective Division Award from the 50’s Club of Galveston, and an award from the Texas Peace Officers Association for outstanding services in 1997. 

Merced County Free Library, Gustine Branch, Gustine, California

Pre-1946 Library Card issued to Madeline Agnes Leite

1946 Merced County Free Library Card (front)

Merced County Free Library

The Merced County Free Library’s Gustine Branch, opened in November 1910.  Born from the donations of benefactors, including the Merced County Ladies Library, a membership social library which operated out of Nelson Cody’s (Buffalo Bill’s cousin) Corner Drug Store at 17th and Canal Streets in downtown Merced.  The initial offering of 500 volumes were donated by Nelson’s wife, Anna Marie Nelson Cody, and were located in a back room at the Park Restaurant.  The Gustine Branch relocated in 1948 to 6th Street and 2nd Avenue at Henry Miller Park where it still operates.

Madeline Agnes Leite (1928-2009)

Madelyn Agnes Silva “Mattie” Leite Amaral was a California native and advocate for disabled persons.