Classic Holiday Film Celebrates Its 75th Anniversary

In 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life debuted in theaters across the country. This iconic family Christmas film was based on the short story and booklet The Greatest Gift. Initial tickets sales were disappointing, and reviews mixed. Though it received five Academy Award nominations, it did not win any Oscars. The film did not even come close to breaking even. Years later, the movie lapsed into the public domain, which allowed it to be broadcast without royalty fees. Television audiences rediscovered the film, and its popularity grew. It’s a Wonderful Life is now considered one of the greatest films of all time. It is No. 1 on the American Film Institute’s list of most inspirational movies. In 1990, the Library of Congress added it to the National Film Registry.

The Austin American 12.8.1946

When author Philip Van Doren Stern began writing The Greatest Gift in 1939, he could have never dreamed that his story would one day become one of the most beloved holiday films of all time. Stern was a respected historian and best known for his books on the Civil War. This story was his first attempt at fiction. He finished the story, loosely based on the Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol, in 1943. Unable to find a publisher, Stern printed 200 copies and sent them to friends as Christmas cards. One copy went to a producer at RKO Pictures, who then bought the motion picture rights. He showed the story to actor Cary Grant, who became interested in playing the lead role. Before anything concrete materialized, RKO sold the rights to director Frank Capra’s production company, Liberty Films, for $10,000. Capra adapted the story for the big screen.  

The Baltimore Sun 5.12.1946

Jimmy Stewart played the lead character, George Bailey. Initially, Stewart was hesitant to accept the part. He was still recovering from his traumatic experiences during the war and considered giving up acting altogether, seeing it as frivolous and unimportant. However, when Stewart read the script, he was touched and signed on to do the film. The plot centered on Bailey, a discouraged man who was contemplating suicide and wished he had never been born. Bailey then meets his guardian angel, who grants him his wish. Bailey soon realized that his absence left a gaping hole in the lives of his family and friends. The realization brought a renewed zest for life and joy in living.

The Pantagraph 12.20.1987

The film debuted the first Christmas after WWII ended. The nation was in a celebratory mood, and though It’s a Wonderful Life ended on a joyful note, the film didn’t immediately resonate with audiences. “Our movie just got lost,” said Stewart. In 1974, the copyright for the movie lapsed, allowing television stations to broadcast it at no cost. A whole new generation discovered the film, and its popularity soared. More than 80,000 people purchased a videocassette copy of the movie in 1986. In 1987, that number nearly doubled. Watching the film became a Christmas tradition for many American families. Later in his life, Jimmy Stewart said that It’s a Wonderful Life was his favorite film.

Seventy-five years later, audiences continue to cherish It’s a Wonderful Life. Do your holiday plans include this Christmas classic? To see more newspaper clippings related to this iconic holiday movie, search Newspapers.com™ today.

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The Cocoanut Grove Fire: November 28, 1942

On November 28, 1942, a crowd of about a thousand people crammed into the Cocoanut Grove supper club in Boston, Massachusetts. The swanky club, known as “The Grove,” was a popular attraction in the city. It contained elaborate decorations, including artificial palm trees, bamboo and rattan accents, and fabric draped ceilings. The club filled up to twice its legal capacity that night, and some of the emergency exits were blocked. About 10:15 p.m., a fire broke out in the basement. It spread quickly, fueled by the flammable decorations. Patrons became trapped inside and nearly 500 died. The fire ranks as the deadliest nightclub fire in American history. It also spurred new fire safety laws to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring again.

The Cocoanut Grove supper club was a single-story building with a basement that contained a bar known as the Melody Lounge. It was owned by Barnet Welansky, a lawyer with ties to the mafia. The club had become a popular place and often entertained celebrities.

On the evening of the fire, 16-year-old busboy Stanley F. Tomaszewski was working in the basement bar when the bartender asked him to replace a missing light bulb. The lightbulb was in the corner of the room and was purportedly unscrewed by a young man seeking more privacy while kissing his date.

Tomaszewski lit a match until he spotted the empty socket. He screwed in the missing light bulb and blew out the match. Moments later, patrons noticed a small fire near the ceiling over the palm tree. Initially, Tomaszewski attempted to extinguish the fire, burning his hands and face in the process. Other employees joined the effort to douse the flames but were unsuccessful. Tomaszewski noticed crowds pressing towards a staircase already blocked by panic-stricken patrons. He flung open a camouflaged door that led to the kitchen and guided several patrons to safety in a walk-in refrigerator. By now, the fabric-draped ceiling caught fire as well, creating a toxic gas that filled the room. 

Upstairs, patrons ran for the revolving door as flames and smoke quickly filled the room. The revolving door was the only source of egress in the room and became jammed with a pile of bodies as smoke overcame patrons. Some guests dropped to their knees and crawled through the darkness, looking for a way out.

The fire raged and ultimately claimed the lives of 491 victims. In the days following the fire, Tomaszewski was held for questioning. Friends and teachers rallied to his defense, defending his character as a bright, capable young man who excelled in school and was captain of his high school military battalion. Eventually, authorities cleared Tomaszewski of any charges, and owner Barnet Welansky was charged with manslaughter because three exits were locked and impassable. The tragedy led to improved building codes. Revolving doors would now be required to be flanked by stationary doors. The new laws also banned flammable materials for decorations and required well-marked exits in public buildings. The cause of the fire remains a mystery to this day.

If you would like to learn more about the Cocoanut Grove fire, search Newspapers.com™ today.

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150th Anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire

On the evening of October 8, 1871, Catherine O’Leary stepped outside her house in Southwest Chicago. She fed the horses and led them to the barn before retiring for the night. Catherine and her husband Patrick were already in bed when a neighbor noticed flames coming from their barn. He alerted the O’Learys’, but dry and windy conditions allowed the fire to grow out of control. Within ten minutes, two blocks were ablaze. The fire came to be known as the Great Chicago Fire, and by October 10th, it consumed some five square miles. More than 17,000 buildings burned to the ground, and 300 people died. Although folklore states that the fire began when Catherine’s cow kicked over an oil lamp, no one really knows how it started. This month marks the 150th anniversary of the fire.

Chicago Tribune October 11, 1871

Chicago was incorporated in the 1830s and grew to become the world’s largest grain port by the 1850s. The city was built predominantly of wood and was prone to fires. It had been unusually hot and dry in Chicago that fall, and the area was experiencing a drought. When the fire started at the O’Leary farm, tinderbox conditions quickly led to a firestorm that overwhelmed the city. Firefighters attempted to douse the massive flames, but the city’s waterworks burned and cut off water to the hydrants.

As the fire spread, it jumped the south branch of the Chicago River and destroyed much of central Chicago before jumping the river again and consuming the Near North Side. Windswept sparks landed on roofs and sheds, starting new fires. The fire burned for about another 24 hours, essentially unchecked.

Emma Schultze was 8 years old at the time. She recalled that her family woke at 2:00 a.m. to friends pounding on the door, telling them the city was ablaze. Although they lived on the outskirts of town, the Schultze family saw flames headed in their direction. Emma’s father dug a hole in the front yard and dumped in the family linen, silver, dishes, bedding, and even furniture. Emma’s mother quickly dressed her in layer after layer of petticoats and dresses. Finally, with their arms laden with household items, the family set out on foot towards the home of a friend. Several days later, they returned to find the smoldering foundation of their home. As they explored the ruins, hot ashes burned the soles of their shoes off. The Schultze family joined more than 100,000 people left homeless in the wake of the fire.

The Chicago Tribune, unable to publish papers on October 9th or 10th, described the scene in the October 11th edition. “This city has been swept by a conflagration which has no parallel in the annals of history.” By the night of the 9th, the fire began to burn itself out. A light rainstorm that night helped douse the final hot spots.

Chicago Tribune October 11, 1871

Reconstruction began almost immediately, and relief poured in from around the country and abroad. Railroads offered free passage to those who wanted to leave. Improved building techniques and updated fire standards helped Chicagoans rebuild and emerge as a modern city. Just two decades later, Congress named Chicago the host city for the 1893 World’s Fair.

If you would like to learn more about the Great Chicago Fire, search Newspapers.com™ today or visit our Great Chicago Fire Topic Page to see curated clippings related to the fire.

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Twentieth Anniversary of 9/11

September 11, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of four coordinated terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda, an Islamist extremist group, against the United States. The attacks began at 8:46 a.m. EST on September 11, 2001, when terrorists crashed a hijacked commercial jet into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. A second hijacked jet crashed into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. A third hijacked plane hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., and a fourth hijacked plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field at 10:03 a.m., after passengers and crew aboard attempted to retake the aircraft from terrorists. In less than two hours, 2,977 innocent people lost their lives, and our country changed forever. Many remember where they were and what they were doing the moment they heard the news of 9/11. Newspapers around the world worked feverishly in the hours and days following the attacks. Reporters gathered facts and reported the news. Soon the human toll emerged as heartbreaking stories came to light. We’ve combed through our archives to bring you a sample of 9/11 headlines from across the country and around the world.

Los Angeles Times – September 11, 2001
New York Daily News – September 12, 2001
The Independent: London – September 12, 2001
The Sydney Morning Herald: Sydney, Australia – September 12, 2001
Calgary Herald: Calgary, Canada – September 12, 2001
Evening Standard: London – September 12, 2001

Where were you on the morning of 9/11? See more headlines from this tragic chapter in American history on Newspapers.com™.

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The Berlin Wall Goes Up: August 12, 1961

Sixty years ago this month, two tired, gray-haired women stood waving their handkerchiefs. Tears spilled down their cheeks as they strained to see a baby, lifted high in the air by its parents. They were the child’s grandmothers, separated from their family by a newly built wall. Just days earlier, on August 12, 1961, officials strung barbed wire through the heart of Berlin. The wire was then replaced with rows of concrete blocks, now nearly five feet tall and growing by the day. The Berlin Wall, built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), would separate East Berlin from West Berlin. It remained standing for the next 28 years until the Cold War thawed and protestors tore it down in 1989.

The Logan Daily News – August 18, 1961

As WWII came to an end in 1945, leaders from the Soviet Union, the UK, and the United States gathered at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences to discuss the postwar reorganization of Germany. They decided to divide Germany into four zones. The Soviet Union occupied the eastern part, while the United States, Great Britain, and France combined their zones and occupied the western part of the country. As the capital city, Berlin would also be divided into similar sectors, even though it was located entirely in the Soviet part of the country.

In 1948, the Russians tried to starve the Allies out of Berlin by creating a blockade to prevent food and supplies from reaching the city. Rather than retreating, the Americans responded with the Berlin Airlift, which supplied food to the residents of Berlin. The Soviets called off the blockade the following year. Between 1949-1961, an estimated 2.5 million people left East Germany for the west. The steady stream included younger skilled workers and educated professionals. The exodus threatened the economic viability of East Germany, so to stem the tide, government officials decided to seal the border.

Stevens Point Journal – August 19, 1961

On August 12, 1961, East Berlin started building a wall. Residents living on Harzer Strasse (the road that delineated East from West Berlin) found themselves in a unique situation. Their front doors were in East Berlin, and their back doors opened to West Berlin. Shocked residents watched as workers arrived to nail their back door shut and then further sealed the exit by building brick walls inside the door frame. After rolling out barbed wire to create a temporary barrier, construction began immediately on a more permanent structure. Over time, the concrete block wall was further fortified with barbed wire on top, watchtowers, and electrified fences. Border guards were under orders to shoot anyone attempting to flee. Over the next several decades, there were many attempts to escape. Refugees tunneled under the wall, climbed over it, or even flew to West Germany in homemade hot-air balloons. About 5,000 were successful and made it to West Berlin. Another 5,000 were captured, and nearly 200 died trying to escape.

The Guardian – August 24, 1961

In October 1989, the chief of the Communist Party in East Germany was forced from power. He had rejected the growing chorus of calls to reunite East and West Germany saying, “Socialism and capitalism can no more be united than fire and water.” Just weeks after his departure, East Germany announced that they would relax restrictions, allowing citizens to apply for a visa to travel to West Berlin. Ecstatic crowds gathered at the wall to celebrate the news. Border guards, unsure what to do, opened the gates. A flood of people poured through while others climbed the wall or began to chip away at it with sledgehammers and tools. The Berlin Wall came down, both physically and figuratively. On October 3, 1990, East Germany and West Germany officially reunited.

If you would like to learn more about the Berlin Wall, search Newspapers.com™ today. You can also find more curated clippings on our Berlin Wall topic page.

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Discovery of the Rosetta Stone: July 15, 1799

On July 15, 1799, during Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt, a French soldier spotted a black stone covered in inscriptions outside of the Egyptian city of Rosetta. Suspecting it could be an important cultural find, he brought it to the attention of his superiors. The Rosetta Stone, as it came to be known, contained an ancient decree written in three types of scripts. One of them was Egyptian hieroglyphics. Using the Rosetta Stone and comparing the hieroglyphics to the other writings, a French linguist was able to crack the hieroglyphic code. For the first time since hieroglyphics died out in the 4th century, scholars were able to decipher a lost language and the field of Egyptology was born.

The Maryland Gazette – 12.10.1801

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte led a French campaign through Egypt and Syria. His goal was to defend French trade interests and ultimately drive the British from India. He brought scholars along on the expedition to document the antiquities they discovered. While digging a foundation in Rosetta in July 1799, a young officer named Pierre-Francois-Xavier Bouchard discovered a stone covered in inscriptions. The broken stone was part of a larger tablet and contained an official message or decree about King Ptolemy (204-181 BC). The same message was written in hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Ancient Greek.

After Napoleon’s defeat, the Rosetta Stone fell into British hands. The Treaty of Alexandria required that all antiquities gathered during Napoleon’s campaign be turned over to the British, including the stone. It was loaded on a ship, arriving in England in February 1802. That summer, it was presented to King George III, then displayed at the British Museum. Scholars immediately began studying the inscriptions. A British physicist named Thomas Young was the first to realize that a group of hieroglyphics repeated several times on the stone wrote the sounds of the name Ptolemy.

The Morning Chronicle 8.9.1802

He continued his extensive study of the stone, as did other scholars, including French scholar Jean-Francois Champollion. Over the next two decades, the race to decipher the Rosetta Stone continued. In 1822, Champollion made the first of several breakthroughs, and in 1824, he realized that hieroglyphics combined phonetic and ideographic signs. Combined with his knowledge of the Coptic language, which is derived from ancient Egyptian, Champollion cracked the code and was able to read the hieroglyphics.

Champollion then transcribed the message on the Rosetta Stone. He is heralded as the founder of the study of Egyptology. The message on the stone was a decree celebrating the first anniversary of the coronation of King Ptolemy V. More importantly, scholars could now decipher hieroglyphics on other Egyptian antiquities.

The Rosetta Stone is still displayed in the British Museum today, where it has drawn curious crowds for nearly 220 years. To learn more about the Rosetta Stone, search Newspapers.com™ today!

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June 10, 1942: The Lidice Massacre

The village of Lidice was located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) during WWII. In reprisal for the assassination of a Nazi official in the Spring of 1942, Adolf Hitler ordered the assassination of all men in Lidice, aged 16 and older. The women and children were taken to concentration camps or gassed, and the village of Lidice was destroyed.

The Age – June 15, 1942

In 1939, the area around Lidice came under Nazi control. Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking German official, was appointed Deputy Reich Protector of the area. Heydrich was one of the principal architects of the Holocaust. He was known for brutality, murder, and efforts to destroy any Nazi resistance. On May 27, 1942, Heydrich was being driven to his headquarters at Prague Castle when his car was attacked by two Czechoslovak resistance operatives. The operatives were trained in Great Britain and operated under the approval of the Czechoslovak government. Heydrich was wounded and died less than a week later.

The Shreveport Journal – June 6, 1942

German officials declared a state of emergency and established a curfew in Prague. They began a massive search for the attackers, promising that anyone involved, and their families, would be executed. Days later, when they failed to locate any conspirators, they decided to destroy the village of Lidice in reprisal. They chose Lidice because its residents were suspected of harboring members of the local resistance.

On June 10, 1942, German police and SS officials surrounded Lidice to block off any escape route. They rounded up 192 boys and men from Lidice and marched them to a farm on the edge of town, where they lined them up and shot them in groups.

Nazi officials separated the women and children and loaded the women onto rails cars for transport to concentration camps. Most went to Ravensbrück, where 60 died. A few of the children considered racially pure were handed over to SS families. The rest were likely killed in late June when Nazi official Adolph Eichman ordered the children to be gassed to death at Chelmno extermination camp.

In all, some 340 people from Lidice died and the town was destroyed. Nazi officials shelled the village, set it on fire, and plowed over the remains. To further erase the memory of Lidice, the name of the village was removed from all local municipal records. The massacre in Lidice angered people from around the world and garnered Allied support for the war. In the years following the war, those found complicit in the Lidice massacre were prosecuted. If you would like to learn more about the tragic story of Lidice, search Newspapers.com™ today.

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The Arkansas Pearl Rush

In the 1850s, a New Jersey shoemaker found a large pearl inside a mussel pulled from a New Jersey river. The valuable pearl was sold to Tiffany & Co. for $1500. The find inspired others to scour freshwater rivers and lakes, hoping to find more gems. The hunt for pearls moved south, and in the early 1880s, more pearls were discovered in Arkansas. The discovery set off the Arkansas pearl rush which produced more than $2.5 million in pearls annually before the mussel population began to dwindle around 1905.

A group of Arkansas pearl hunters examine a pearl in 1905

It was the discovery of a large pearl in 1897 that fueled the Arkansas pearl rush. Dr. J. Hamilton Meyers found a large, valuable pink pearl in a mussel shell from the Black River. News of the discovery spread, and people flocked to the lakes and rivers, hoping to make a similar find. Makeshift settlements popped up along the rivers as men, women, and children joined the search. Newspapers compared the frenzy to the Klondike Gold Rush. The mussels were abundant, and pearl hunters gathered them by hand in shallow waters. Those lucky enough to find a pearl inside discovered gems in many colors, including white, pink, blue, purple, and black. The pearls were prized by jewelers and some even became part of a royal gem collection.

St. Louis Dispatch 1905

Single pearls could command a premium price if they met the specifications a jeweler required to form a matched string of pearls or earrings. One Arkansas pearl buyer recalled selling a single pearl to a French jeweler for $1,500. It was the final pearl needed to complete a necklace. The finished string of pearls had a value of $200,000!

The pearl rush also gave birth to a robust shell button industry. In the late 1890s, thousands of mussel shells were shipped by rail from Arkansas to Iowa, where button factories turned them into beautiful mother-of-pearl buttons. By 1900, button factories were operating in Arkansas, popping up along northeastern Arkansas rivers. Factory workers gathered mussel shells and placed them in hot water to open them. They removed the meat, graded the shells, and then cut them into button blanks. By the end of WWII, plastic buttons put most shell button factories out of business.

Daily Arkansas Gazette 1897

Overharvesting led to a dwindling mussel population in Arkansas, and by 1905, pearls were much harder to find. Shells were no longer available in shallow waters and pearl hunters relied on boats and special tools like long-handled tongs called pearling rakes to search in deeper waters. About the same time, cultured pearls were also making their way into U.S. markets. A Japanese man, Mikimoto Kokichi, had patented a new process of injecting a grain of sand or ground mussel shell into an oyster, forcing the oyster to form a pearl. Cultured pearl jewelry became popular and much more accessible.

Does someone in your family have a piece of jewelry that contains Arkansas pearls? If you would like to learn more about the Arkansas pearl rush, search Newspapers.com™ today!

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April 2, 1863: The Richmond Bread Riot

During the Civil War, lack of food, money, and supplies created unbearable conditions for women living in the southern United States. Inflation and the lack of supplies left families reeling. Women especially felt the financial pinch and had difficulty providing food for their families. The situation was further exacerbated when the drought of 1862 impacted the harvest. Meager food supplies became even scarcer. The salt needed for preserving meat was also hard to come by. It was imported from the North and generally unavailable, or too expensive to purchase.

The Lancaster Examiner 4.15.1863

Tensions reached a boiling point in the spring of 1863 when civil unrest broke out in cities across the South. The unrest was organized by women, enraged by the exorbitant price of bread. They attacked stores and warehouses, stealing food, clothing, and supplies. The largest of these riots took place in Richmond, Virginia, on April 2, 1863.

In March 1863, a Richmond woman named Mary Jackson began recruiting women to participate in an organized protest. She was the mother of a Confederate soldier and frustrated with the government’s inability to provide aid for her and other women whose men were away fighting. She garnered the support of about 300 women. On the morning of April 2, 1863, Jackson arrived at the market in Richmond. She was a peddler, but that day she brought nothing to sell. Instead, she increased recruitment efforts and began warning men that trouble was brewing. The growing crowd of women began marching towards the governor’s office in Capitol Square, where they were turned away. There are varying reports of what happened next, with some claiming the governor eventually came and met with the women. The angry crowd began marching towards Ninth Street. As the women marched, hundreds began to follow, and the crowd ballooned. 

Liverpool Mercury 4.20.1863

Armed with guns, hatchets, and household implements, the women began to chant “Bread or Blood!” They attacked grocery stores, warehouses, and other businesses, stealing food, supplies, and even fine jewelry.

Soon, Richmond Mayor Joseph Mayo arrived and read the Riot Act aloud to the mob. They ignored him. Governor John L. Letcher sent for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He begged the women to disperse, warning that an artillery unit would open fire on the mob. Davis then emptied his pockets, throwing his money to the women. Tensions finally eased, and the crowd disbursed.

Rioters take more than bread – The Chanute Times 5.29.1889

Confederate secretary of war James A. Seddon asked the local press to refrain from publishing news of the incident, fearing it would fuel Union propaganda. Confederate deserters, along with Union prisoners who watched the scene unfold from their cell windows, leaked the story. The New York Times published a front-page account of the riot on April 8th.

Following the riot, more than 60 demonstrators were arrested, including Jackson. The women received varying degrees of punishment. Jackson’s punishment was merely nominal. The City of Richmond increased efforts to provide aid to the poor, restoring a measure of calm. The 1863 bread riots showed just how difficult life had become for women on the home front. If you would like to learn more about the Richmond Bread Riot, search Newspapers.com™ today.

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March 18, 1889: The First Carnegie Library Opens in America

On March 18, 1889, the Carnegie Free Library of Braddock opened in a suburb of Pittsburgh. It was the first library donated by businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in America. From 1886-1919, Carnegie donated more than $40 million to open 1,679 libraries across the country. He also built additional libraries around the world. These libraries were in communities both small and large and opened up a world of learning, entertainment, and possibilities to millions of patrons. Carnegie was a Scottish-American immigrant who made his fortune in the railroad and steel industries. Before the end of his life, he donated nearly 90% of his fortune ($350 million) to various causes.

During the second half of the 19th century, the idea of “free” libraries began to spread. Carnegie, who was born in Scotland in 1835, immigrated to America as a boy after industrialization forced his father out of the textile business. The Carnegie family settled in the suburbs of Pittsburgh where young Andrew got a job as a messenger boy. There he met Colonel James Anderson. Each Saturday, Anderson opened his personal library and allowed young workers like Carnegie to borrow books. The books opened up a new world for Andrew who vowed that if he ever became wealthy, he would provide this generosity to others.

Carnegie spent the next 50 years building his fortune, though occasionally his methods were scrutinized. He faced criticism in 1892 when workers at his Homestead Steel Mill decided to strike over low wages and better working conditions. The strike spiraled into a violent gun battle requiring a militia to restore peace. One editorial complained, “Ten thousand Carnegie public libraries would not compensate…for the evils resulting from the Homestead lockout.” Some argued that Carnegie built his fortune on the backs of poor workers. Carnegie however, believed that a library was one way that workers could improve themselves. He wanted libraries housed in beautiful buildings, with big windows and ample light. This was a change for many towns that housed makeshift libraries in churches, stables, or at the back of shops.

Carnegie Library in Perry, Oklahoma – 1909

Carnegie devised a plan to award grants for library construction for communities in need. Grants were conditional upon three conditions. First, municipalities had to own the property where the library would be built. Second, the property had to be large enough for future expansion if demand arose, and third, grant recipients had to pay 10% of the gift for building maintenance.  

Initially, when an application was approved, a community could build any type of building they wanted. Carnegie felt some of the buildings were not an efficient use of space and later insisted on approving plans before construction began. He even wrote a book, Notes on Library Building, and sent it to each community that received a grant. The standards outlined in the book meant that many Carnegie libraries looked similar. They had high ceilings and spacious interiors. The exterior was often stone or brick. The high ceilings meant that access to the library from street level usually included a flight of stairs. These stairs became a hallmark of Carnegie libraries, and some claimed they represented climbing towards wisdom or working towards knowledge. The stairs, however, proved a hindrance to older or disabled patrons.

Carnegie Libraries in Iowa – 1917

By the time Carnegie issued the last library grant in 1919, most states had at least one Carnegie library, while other states had many (California had 142)! Some Carnegie libraries are still in use today. Others are no longer standing or have been converted into civic centers or commercial businesses.  Do you have a Carnegie library in your community? To learn more about Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie libraries, search Newspapers.com today!

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