The Library History Buff
Promoting the appreciation, enjoyment, and preservation of library history
Melvil Dewey (1851-1931)
Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey (known more widely as Melvil Dewey) was born on December 10, 1851in Adams Center, New York. He is considered by many to be the father of modern American librarianship. Dewey had his personal flaws and has been criticized by others. In any case he left many important legacies to the American library community. Several books have been written about Dewey. By far the best is Irrepressible Reformer by Wayne A. Wiegand (American Library Association, 1996). I've included images of some my pieces of Dewey librariana in the exhibit below.
A postcard showing the Amherst College Library in Massachusetts where Dewey served as library assistant while attending college in 1873 and was employed as Assistant Librarian in 1874. It was while he was at Amherst that he developed his library decimal classification system.
Reprint (by the Bruce Row Book Shop, NY, in 1941) of the title page of the original prospectus of the Dewey classification system which distributed by Dewey in 1876 to get feedback prior to final publication of his decimal system.
This envelope was mailed to Melvil Dewey in Amherst, MA in 1876. The mystery here is that Dewey established the American Metric Bureau in Boston on July 4, 1876 after he had left Amherst. Why would someone (Dewey?) at the American Metric Bureau send a letter to Dewey at Amherst?
A facsimile of an invitation to the attendees of the Librarian's Convention of 1876 in Philadelphia which resulted in the formation of the American Library Association. Dewey signed the membership book of the new association as member number one. He played a major role in organizing the convention and was one of three recording secretaries at the convention.
One of the several enterprises established by Dewey in 1876 was the an entity that sold supplies and equipment to libraries. At one point it operated under the umbrella of the American Library Association, but it was established independently in 1881 as The Library Bureau.
Dewey was active in the spelling reform movement. He served as the Secretary of the Spelling Reform Association and is listed in that capacity on this envelope.
This postal card was signed and mailed by Dewey in October, 1884 in Dewey's capacity as Secretary of the American Library Association. It was mailed to Librarian of Congress Ainsworth Rand Spofford who was serving on the ALA Board. The card is in regard to the next meeting of ALA.
Dewey was appointed Chief Librarian of Columbia College in New York City in 1883. In 1887 he opened the School of Library Economy at Columbia. Without official approval from the College trustees Dewey admitted women to the school.
Dewey became Secretary of the Board of Regents of the University of of the State of New York and Director of the State Library in December, 1888. The library school at Columbia College was transferred to the New York State Library in 1889.
Dewey served as President of the American Library Association in 1890 and again in 1892-1893. Major activities of ALA during 1893 was a conference and an exhibit in conjunction with the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 (World's Columbian Exposition).
The American Library Association also had an exhibit at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. The exhibit included a collection of books listed in the A.L.A. Catalog which was edited by Dewey.
This postal card with the pre-printed address to Dewey in Albany has been overwritten with a new address in Lake Placid. Dewey resigned as Director of the New York State Library effective January 1, 1906 under fire for the anti-Semitic admission policies of the Lake Placid Club which Dewey headed.
A postcard showing the Lake Placid Club.
A 1923 stock certificate for the Lake Placid Company. It has been signed by Dewey.
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Larry T. Nix
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Last updated: 12-10-13 © 2005-2013 Larry T. Nix