Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America

Richland Center

One would not think that 63 Carnegie libraries would require yet another web page, but they do. This section begins with Kaukauna and goes through Ripon.
The elusive Kilbourn (Wisconsin Dells) card has been found. I did not enjoy searching through Wisconsin Dells' postcards during the last five years or so, but these three pages immortalize all of Wisconsin's Carnegie buildings.
From here on out, it will be mainly photography.

Most of my Richland Center cards came from a single collection. In case you're wondering about the upper center building, it's a milk condensery (canned condensed milk plant) that became part of the Carnation company.

Carnegie Libraries of Wisconsin
Cities K - R


Kaukauna, WI Carnegie building

Similar to Richland Center, and to a lesser extent, Durand. Even some early UW-Madison campus buildings were built in this style.

Card sent 1927.
Kaukaunians don't give you this construction date, but I do, from the Nix site: 1902.

The building is intact and still in use as a library. I don't know whether that saddens or gladdens me.


Kilbourn, WI Carnegie Library

If you're not from Wisconsin, you might not realize that Kilbourn preceded Wisconsin Dells: the name was changed in 1931.
However, the public library stuck with the founder's name, and serves three communities.

The Carnegie grant dates from 1912, and the 1914 building serves as offices - after being moved to a location across from the current building.

This photocard is a product of the H.H. Bennett Studio.


Ladysmith, WI Carnegie building (L) E.S. Cardinal/Black and White card
(R) Unattributed photo card.
Ladysmith, WI Carnegie building

Planned by Claude & Starck. Funds came from a 1907 grant. 30 years later, the Carnegie building became the city and county library. Replaced ca. 1997.

Since 1999, in use as the Carnegie Hall Bed & Breakfast. Unfortunately, damaged by a tornado in 2002, and fortunately, reopened in 2006.
Pat and Marty Reynolds are two devoted Carnegie caretakers!


Madison Carnegie Building, Main branch Madison Carnegie Building, Main branch Madison Carnegie Building, Main branch
Monochrome. Classified with a
Dewey Decimal Number.
Bricks tinted ochre.

This Madison Public Library, bearing a strong, unfortunate resemblance to a school, predates the replacement's location on Mifflin Street. There was also a Sixth Ward Carnegie branch, which is still standing.
In addition, Madison has 8 branch libraries. When I lived there, many were in storefronts, but the circumstances have improved. One new building is the Sequoya Branch, which was very overcrowded 20 years ago.

An excellent site by Dr. Bob Kann gives Madison Public Library history.


Manitowoc, WI Carnegie library Manitowoc, WI Carnegie library Manitowoc, WI Carnegie library Manitowoc, WI Carnegie library
L.L. Cook photo card with
notations and dated 10-9-46.
One of two (the other is Rock Island, IL)
sent (1909) by the Johnson Service Company
to tout its system of temperature regulation.
Its one-cent stamp has a perfin monogram.
Auermiller photo;
Heyrorth-Miller publisher.

Built 1902-1904. Replaced 1966.

The current (1998) building is handsome, but resembles a small factory. There hadn't been (strange, because the library has a great local history section) a library history page when I first added the Manitowoc cards, but then there was, and now it's gone.


Medford, WI Carnegie library (L) Monochrome card, showing the whole side of the building.
(R) There are a lot of northern Wisconsin photo cards that have the black bottom edge with carefully lettered information. Most date from the '30s to the '50s. I've been able to date the others from card details, such as cars, but I'm stymied by this one.
Medford, WI Carnegie library

Built in 1913; replaced, and now used for the city Chamber of Commerce.
This is a charming building in the California Bungalow style. The details in the brickwork, the stucco, and the windows are beautifully executed. Letting the ivy cover them up is a shame, but maybe they saved a few bucks by skimping on the side decoration. Ivy is cheap.

Merrill (T.B. Scott Memorial Library)

Merrill, WI Carnegie library 2 E.A. Bishop cards.
For the latest information on the T.B. Scott, plus photos, go here.
Merrill, WI Carnegie library


Neenah, WI Carnegie library

According to Nix, Neenah received its Carnegie grant in 1901.

Written on this E.C. Kropp Card: 'This library is just this side of Shattuck Park a little below our home nearer town and we also see this from our windows. Fox River is back of it.'

My monochrome E.C. Kropp card looks pretty sad in comparision.


1913 grant. Renovated in the 1990s, and still in use. Information from the Clark County pages of U.S. GenNet stated that the Withee Construction built the library in 1914.

Neillsville, WI Carnegie library Neillsville, WI Carnegie library Neillsville, WI Carnegie library Neillsville, WI Carnegie library
E.C. Kropp card. Photo card shows that this is on US 10. Ivy obscures the trim on this photo postcard.
I don't know what the object just to the right of the light pole is.
It's too bulbous to be a fire hydrant.
Perhaps it's a drinking fountain (bubbler)?
The ivy has gone berserk,
and the added tinting makes the library look like a kudzu victim.

Oh dear. It looks like there are both fasces and a menorah over the front entrance.

New London

New London, WI Carnegie library (L) Curt Teich card.
(R) E.C. kropp card.
New London, WI Carnegie library

Late 1903 grant: Still in use with an addition. Replaced the earlier City Hall/Library combination, similarly as had Merrill.

Neither card is in the best condition: both required cropping for display.


Platteville, WI Carnegie library (L) By E.C. Kropp.
(R) By L.L. Cook.
Platteville, WI Carnegie library

Dates from a 1914 Carnegie grant. Building no longer in use as of 2007, but still stands.

Tudor stylings appear to be somewhat common among Wisconsin libraries. Not stylistically accurate, but attractive nonetheless, above the doorway is some nifty metalwork spelling out 'Public Library' in a rather neat font. The RPPC was mailed in 1960.


Plymouth, WI Carnegie library Plymouth, WI Carnegie library Plymouth, WI Carnegie library
Possibly an L.L. Cook product. B.H. Dingman card. E.C. Kropp publication.

Dates from the 1908 Carnegie grant. I had believed that the building was no longer in use as of 2005, but a recent correspondent informs me that it was merely renovated instead.


Racine, WI Carnegie main library (L) Card published locally, by E.A. Bishop. Never postally used.
(R) Card layout and color choices resemble that used on the Duluth, MN card.
Racine, WI Carnegie main library

Thanks to the Johnson Wax Company's HQ designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Racine has a reputation as a cool place in architectural circles. I don't think they noticed this 1913 Beaux-Arts contribution.

The Carnegie building was still standing in 2007, not looking abandoned, but not looking as if it's serving any particular purpose.
Racine did obtain two Carnegie grants (per Bobinski), but the second building is Prairie style, and apparently was used as a barber shop after its closure.

Racine, WI Carnegie main library

(L) Another weirdly tinted scene shows the library without obscuring tree leaves.

The new Racine library has the cool version of '60s architecture, and after a huge addition, now overlooks Lake Michigan.


Reedsburg, WI Carnegie library

Yet another library of Claude & Starck design.
This one was completed in 1912 and funded from a 1911 Carnegie grant. It received a 1970 addition, but the Library now is in a building across the street from the old. Its current function is unclear.

Although it does not look like an E.C. Kropp product, it came from Milwaukee, and must have been produced shortly after the building's completion. It was mailed in September, 1912.


Rhinelander, WI Carnegie library (L) Product of Chas. D. Bronson, with entire back.
(R) F.L. Hinman card.
Rhinelander, WI Carnegie  library
Rhinelander, WI Carnegie library (L) Produced by E.C. Kropp.
(R) Postmarked 1924, and published locally for the United 5-10-25 ¢ store.
The Labrador retriever in the front is an especially homey touch.
Rhinelander, WI Carnegie library
Rhinelander, WI Carnegie library (L) A.J. Kingsbury specialized in postcards of north central Wisconsin, particularly Antigo, his hometown. However, this is the first Rhinelander card I have seen from his work.

In the 1980s, this Wisconsin resort community updated its Carnegie library to become accessible to patrons with disabilities. And it was crowded inside before the upgrade! Unfortunately it cost the building a space on the National Register of Historic Places.

Needs must.

Rice Lake

Rice Lake, WI Carnegie main library (L) Published for the Fair Store, mailed in 1919.
(R) E.C. Kropp card.
Rice Lake, WI Carnegie main library
Rice Lake, WI Carnegie main library We need a Real Photo card to tell us the truth about Rice Lake's Library. Note the wayward youth loitering in the perimeter. Not a one seems to be reading a book.
Look at the utility pole, cropped from the other cards. It has an original Wisconsin State Highway marker painted on it! It looks like route 23: this will merit further investigation.

Similar to the Arcadia Carnegie Library: the tower evident on the upper righthand card may not be part of the library, but of a nearby building. The library building was added to the National Register in 1986, and is privately owned.

Richland Center

Library dates from 1903 Carnegie grant.
Stylistically similar to Durand's 1905 library.
Replaced by the Brewer Public Library,
not to be confused with the Brewer Science Library.
Richland Center also wanted to tear down the Frank Lloyd Wright
designed A.D. German warehouse.
Sometimes progress isn't.

Richland Center, WI Carnegie library Richland Center, WI Carnegie library. Card used for advertising. (R) Well, this card deserves all the captioning I can give it below.
No identification. On the front, in addition to the library caption:
This is a sample of our Zimochrome cards which we make to order from local photographs.
Price in quantities of 500 of a subject $6.50. In quantities of 1000 of a subject $7.50. Time required for delivery is three weeks.
That's ¾¢ each.
The back message is also spiffy:
We have your order of Yrs. F. Grunkau and have entered same for immediate attention.
Awaiting your further favors, we remain,
Yours truly, H.G. Zimmerman & Co.
Mailed in 1909 to F.J. Rich of Mauston, Wis.
Richland Center, WI Carnegie library Richland Center, WI Carnegie library Richland Center, WI Carnegie library
H.G. Zimmerman card, mailed 1911. Dates from the late 1940s or 1950s. Real Photo Postcard dated 1909.


Ripon, WI Carnegie library Carnegie Library, funded 1902, built 1905, replaced 1972. Still standing and in use as offices for Ripon College.
Postcard (L) has undivided back.
Ripon, WI Carnegie library
Ripon, WI Carnegie library on leather postcard (L) Leather post cards are not rare. However, this is the first leather library postcard I ever saw. Since it was never mailed, I don't have a clue as to its age. However, the small round tree is in the same place as on the card directly above, and is absent from the right-hand card.
(R) German card with entire back, mailed 1907.
Ripon, WI Carnegie library
Ripon Library photo card (L) ca. 1912 photo card.
(R) Author's 2004 photo.
2004 Photograph by the author

The old library looks like a bank. The current library, shown on its web page, looks like a Lutheran church. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
Its delightfully improved web site has a clear, concise timeline of the library's history.

One can never have too many Rockford, Ripon, or Antigo library postcards.

Addendum: Recalling Ripon's history as a glove manufacturer, the leather postcard might be a legacy of those times. It's a good thing they didn't decide to make a card from tobacco. There was also a cigar factory in the city.

Author's comments

To the best of my knowledge, the majority of these cards has reached the public domain by virtue of the postcards' age. I claim full copyright on the text, which may be used in citation only. Also, I claim copyright on the scans, although given their quality, you might wonder why. Most of the troublesome scans are of early works, not linen-finish cards.

The last updates planned for this page are if I ever locate a 6th Ward Madison branch library card, or a Racine Uptown branch library card.