Carnegie Libraries Across America
A Public LegacyUnknown - 1997
"Many people believe that when you've seen one Carnegie library, you've seen them all--and nothing could be further from the truth. Each library was a separate and intentional design effort to construct a landmark. Each played a surprisingly important role in the vast social changes that occurred at the turn of the century, which include women's suffrage, museum development, the movies, the budding labor movements, education, philanthropy, and other vital issues." -- Theodore Jones
In 1893, the same year that Henry Ford built his first car, the doors opened on the first Carnegie library. Not particularly newsworthy at the time--outside of the small town of Fairfield, Iowa, that is--the library event can be seen, in retrospect, as a watershed for democracy in America. Over the next three decades, the Carnegie "free library" program endowed the construction of 1,688 public libraries in 1,419 communities across America--half of all public libraries in the nation. More than just repositories for books, these edifices represented a historic opportunity for everyone, regardless of his or her station in life, to directly benefit from the true wealth of nations--knowledge.
In the only comprehensive history of the libraries that Carnegie built, journalist and historian Theodore Jones revisits these national treasures. He helps us rediscover an important part of who we are as a people. An enthralling read for American history buffs and a valuable resource for preservationists and restoration architects, Carnegie Libraries Across America explores all major historical, social, and technical apexes of the subject.
Writing in a taut journalistic style, Jones introduces us to Andrew Carnegie, robber baron, philanthropist, veritable Horatio Alger character, and explores his motives in endowing the construction of libraries on such a massive scale. He takes us inside the library fund where we meet the decision-makers and learn the criteria by which they judged who was a fit beneficiary of the Carnegie largess and who was not. And with the help of original documents, including letters of petition by schoolteachers, bankers, and civic leaders from across the United States, he provides valuable insights into life in turn-of-the-century American towns and the values and aspirations of their citizens.
And, of course, there are the buildings themselves. Jones tells the stories of many of the most notable Carnegie libraries and the various uses they have been put to over the years. In exploring the impact they had on public architecture in America, he recounts the furious battles waged by factions within the architectural community over the design of the libraries. Using nearly 100 superb reproductions, including many never-before-seen postcards and photographs, he identifies the differing architectural styles represented in various Carnegie libraries, and considers the ideological implications of each. Jones also supplies a complete directory listing the location, date of construction, and current use of each library.
Carnegie Libraries Across America is your guide to treasures to be found in hundreds of communities throughout the United States.