San Diego Public Library, San Diego, California

Pre-1937 San Diego Public Library Borrower’s Card No. 75273 issued to Lee R. Moore

Pre-1937 San Diego Public Library Borrower’s Card No. 75273 issued to Lee R. Moore (front)
Pre-1937 San Diego Public Library Borrower’s Card No. 75273 issued to Lee R. Moore (back)

San Diego Public Library

San Diego Public Library (pre-1923 public domain postcard)

Opened to the public on July 15, 1882, the San Diego Public Library’s first location was the Commercial Bank building (aka the Consolidated National Bank) at 5th and G Streets.  The use of rooms on the 2nd floor2 was provided to the library non gratis for the first six month,1 after which rent was paid from the $650 city appropriation.

Commercial Bank Building (pre-1923 public domain photo; photographer unknown)

In 1893, the library was moved once again to the fashionable St. James Building at 7th and F Streets and would remain there for at least five years.3

Drawing from a 1890’s St James Hotel breakfast menu (No known copyright restrictions)

By 1898, the library began to outgrow its accommodations, so arrangements were made for space on the 4th floor of the new Keating Building at Fifth and F Streets.  Rent increased from $50 to $85, but the rooms were more spacious and well-lit, and a modern elevator made access to the library much easier.4 The Keating Building was designed by George J. Keating, founder of a farm equipment company, and built in 1890 by his wife, Fannie, after his death on June 25, 1888.


Keating Building.  Photo by John Margolies.  No known copyright restrictions.   From the John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

While the Keating Building provided adequate square footage to accommodate the growing library, library space had been a concern several years prior to the move into the Keating Building.   Efforts to raise funds for the building of a permanent home large enough to house the growing library was undertaken by the Ladies’ Wednesday Club as early as 1896.5. But it wasn’t until mid-1899, that a new library building became a realistic goal.  In response to a letter sent to the Andrew Carnegie Corporation by library trustee, Mrs. Lydia K. Horton, in which she asked for photographs of previously built Carnegie libraries in hopes that the photographs would spark interest by her fellow trustees, the Carnegie Corporation promised a $50,000 grant to build the first Carnegie library west of the Mississippi River.6  On April 23, 1902, the new library building opened at Eighth and E Streets.  The building designed by architects, Ackerman & Ross of New York, had room for 75,000 volumes and boasted a museum, art gallery, and lecture room. The Carnegie Library building would serve as the main library until 1952 when the building was razed to allow the construction of a new, modernized building. The new library opened at the same location on June 27, 1954. The current location of the San Diego Central Library is 330 Park Blvd. in San Diego.

San Diego Public Library and Comic-Con

Since 2013, the San Diego Public Library has partnered with Comic-Con and designed limited-edition comic-themed library cards, which are only available at the San Diego Public Library booth at the yearly Comic-Con convention in San Diego.  The 2019 card, of which only 3,000 were made available, features Waldo over an image of  the San Diego Central Library, which is located at 330 Park Boulevard in San Diego.  

2019 San Diego Public Library Special Edition Comic-Con Library Card and Keychain Card (front)
2019 San Diego Public Library Special Edition Comic-Con Library Card and Keychain Card (back)

Lee R. Moore

Lee Reed Moore was born August 7, 1921, in Kansas City; He was the son of Lee R. Moore, Sr  of Texas and Orpha Moore.  Lee R. Moore was a salesman for Ryan Aeronautical Co.  He died on April 29, 1980.

1 Catalog of the San Diego Free Public Library: Compiled by the Order of the Board of Trustees, by Lulu Younkin, April 1889

2 The Record (National City, California), June 11, 1885, p. 2

3 The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) April 5, 1893, p. 7

4 The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) April 7, 1898, p. 13

5 The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California), December 7, 1896, p. 5

6 The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California), July 18, 1899, p. 15

The National Library of the Philippines, Manila, Republic of the Philippines

March 1940 National Library Circulation Division (American Circulating Library) Supplemental Library Card No. 38218 S issued to Bernardino Orque from Araullo High School

March 1940 National Library Circulation Division (American Circulating Library) Supplemental Library Card No. 38218 S issued to Bernardino Orque
from Araullo High School (front)
March 1940 National Library Circulation Division (American Circulating Library) Supplemental Library Card No. 38218 S issued to Bernardino Orque
from Araullo High School (back)

The National Library of the Philippines was established as the Museo-Biblioteca de Filipinas through a royal decree by the then-ruling Spanish colonial government on August 12, 1887. The library opened to the public with 100 volumes on October 24, 1891. On December 10, 1898, as part of the peace agreement between Span and the United States to end the Spanish-American War, the territory of the Philippines was granted to the United States.  

During the American occupation, the Museo-Biblioteca de Filipinas was abolished and replaced by the American Circulating Library (ACL), which was stocked with books donated by the American Red Cross. By 1901, the ACL’s collection grew to over 10,000 volumes and proved challenging to manage. Thus, the ACL donated the library collection, mainly comprised of English-Language fiction, periodicals, and newspapers, to the government of the Philippines. The formal acceptance of the ACL’s library collection on March 5, 1901, ushered in the official beginning of the National Library and public library system of the Philippines. The National Library’s original location was Rosario Street (now Quintin Paredes Street), and growth necessitated a move to the Hotel de Oriente (on Plaza Calderon de la Barca) in 1904.

The American occupation proved chaotic for the library system in the Philippines. Over the next 25 years, the name, location, and governing of the library would change multiple times, but on December 7, 1928, Philippine Assembly would again become the governing body and changed the name of the library to the National Library. The National Library moved to the Legislative Building on Padre Burgos Street in Ermita and would serve as the library’s home until 1944.

The Legislative Building on Padre Burgos Street in Ermita, which now houses the National Museum of Fine Arts (Pambansang Museo ng Sining), would serve as the National Library’s home from 1928 to 1944. (public domain)

In 1942, the islands fell under Japanese occupation, and the US and Philippines military forces fought together during 1944-45 to regain control. Initially, the Japanese occupation did little to disrupt the functioning of the library, but the Battle of Manila resulted in significant destruction to the library’s collections.  

On March 23, 1960, construction began on a new building to house the National Library. The new six-story library building opened to the public on June 19, 1961, with a capacity of one million volumes. The National Library currently holds over 1.6 million pieces in its collection, including over 210,000 books; over 880,000 manuscripts, more than 170,000 newspaper issues from across the Philippines; theses and dissertations; government publications; 3,800 maps and 53,000 photographs.

The present home of the National Library of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines, 1964 (no known copyright restrictions)

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.

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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 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.

Los Angeles Public Library System, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, Los Angeles, California

Pre-1944 Los Angeles Public Library System, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, Library Card No. 4H 3669 issued to Mrs. Clara M. Cota

Pre-1944 Los Angeles Public Library System, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, Library Card No. 4H 3669 issued to Mrs. Clara M. Cota (front)
Pre-1944 Los Angeles Public Library System, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, Library Card No. 4H 3669 issued to Mrs. Clara M. Cota (back)

Los Angeles Public Library, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch

In the mid 1920s, community growth began to strain the existing Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library System.  Accordingly, the Helen Hunt Jackson Branch opened to the public on November 1, 1925 at Naomi Avenue and 25th Street in Los Angeles.  Named after the 19th Century American writer, Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), who penned the classic novel, Ramona, which told the story of a romance between Ramona, a Scottish-Native American orphan girl and Alessandro, a Native American sheep herder, set during the days of the California missions. The novel had significant positive impact on the cultural image of Southern California. The Spanish Colonial Revival building was designed by C. E. Noerenberg and boasted a 25’ x 26’ main reading room, a separate 22’ x 23’ children’s reading room, and a community room and kitchen. 

In 1940, the Helen Hunt Jackson Branch ceased operations as a fully staffed branch library and was converted to a station with a shortened, weekly 21-hour operating schedule.  Eventually, the Helen Hunt Jackson Branch ceased operating as a library and was eventually converted into a church building (Rock of Salvation Church).

In 1987, the Helen Hunt Jackson Branch and several other branch libraries in Los Angeles were added to the National Register of Historic Places.  

1925 photo of Los Angeles Public Library System, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, at Naomi Avenue and 25th Street in Los Angeles, California (Photo from the SPNB Collection – Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection and used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 and the Doctrine of Fair Use)

Miriam Matthews

Miriam Matthews (1905-2002) was the first African American Librarian for the Los Angeles Public Library System, and the state of California.  Called the “Dean of California Black History,” Matthews was instrumental in the creation of Black History Month.  During her tenure at the Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, Matthews found a small cache of books devoted to black history in California.  She then began researching and preserving the contributions of African Americans to California history and created the Los Angeles Public Library System’s first research collection on Black History.  

In 1926, Miriam Matthews earned a Bachelor’s degree, followed by a Certificate in Librarianship in 1927 from UC Berkeley.  After graduating, Matthews passed California’s civil service exam despite attempts by civil service administrators to sabotage her efforts.  In July 1927, Matthews began working  as a Substitute Librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library System’s Robert Louis Stevenson Branch, and within three months, became a full-time Librarian.  Matthews remained a branch librarian until taking a leave of absence to earn a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Chicago in 1945.  After returning to Los Angeles, she was promoted to regional librarian and supervised a dozen branch libraries.  Matthews worked with the Los Angeles Public Library System from 1927 until her retirement in 1960. 

The Public Library, Fairbanks, Alaska

The Public Library, Fairbanks, Alaska (Public Domain pre-1923 post card)

The Public Library of Fairbanks located at 901 1st Avenue in Fairbanks, Alaska, was built in 1909, with funds provided by Philadelphia philanthropist and cartographer, George Coupland Thomas (1884-1955), who made his fortune publishing atlases, maps and tourist guides.  Prior to that, the city of Fairbanks had limited library services provided by the Episcopal Church.  The log building served as the public library until 1977, at which point the Noel Wien Public Library opened.  In 1978, the building was designated a National Historic Landmark due to the historic conference that took place on July 5 and 6, 1915, when the building was the site of a meeting between Alaska Native leaders and the U.S. federal government, during which native land claims were discussed.  It was not until the 1971, when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was enacted, that those matters were resolved.