Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America

Milwaukee's Bookmobile

The State of Wisconsin traditionally had a different, Progressive philosophy towards funding its libraries. In short, every resident is entitled to a card. If you don't live within a district, you might wind up with two or more cards!

However, your local library may be open fewer than 40 hours per week, and may not even be open every weekday.

Non-Carnegie Wisconsin Libraries
Cities N - Z

Paper mill barons are among the early philanthropists that funded the first Wisconsin public libraries. Therefore, many of the non-Carnegie libraries appear in the Wisconsin River or Fox River valleys.

New London

City Hall and Public Library, New London, Wis.

City Hall and Public Library, New London, Wis.
Still standing.

A 1903 Carnegie grant enabled the library to find its own home, which appears to still be in use, with the assistance of a honkin' addition.

Not that this Romanesque hulk didn't have its own peculiar charms. Clock towers are always nice, especially when they hold a clock.

The card is a product of A.C. Bosselman & Co., printed in Germany, for John T. Faber of Milwaukee. It was mailed in 1912.

Oconto (Farnsworth Public Library)

Farnsworth Public Library (L) This is another one of those pseudo-Blue Sky cards, but the effort to tint seems hardly worth the effort.
(R) An L.L. Cook photo postcard shows some more detail.
Farnsworth Public Library

Not Philo T., but George W., president of the Oconto Lumber Company.

Farnsworth's donation was joyfully accepted in 1902, and the new library opened in 1903. Apparently, it's still in use.


Oshkosh's library has the peculiar distinction of appearing in the 2009 movie Public Enemies.

Reading room of Oshkosh Public Library Isn't this an amazing reading room?
Mercifully, this was mostly left alone when the Library was expanded in 1967 and in 1993.
William Waters built the magnificent original building, with this room, and a dome. The dome (a really silly affectation, if you ask me) was closed off in 1951.
Oshkosh Public Library Oshkosk (sic) Public Library Oshkosh Public Library Oshkosh Public Library
Postmarked 1906, with a view
of the gaslit reading room overlap-
ping the picture of the entire library.
Note the newly planted tree.
Misprinted caption (Oshkosk). Third card is postmarked 1911. Note that the entrance is barren. Fourth card, in linen finish
and heavily retouched,
is by E.C. Kropp of Milwaukee.
Note the addition of the lions.
Oshkosh Public Library Oshkosh Public Library Oshkosh Public Library Oshkosh Public Library
Beautiful Rotograph card.
No lions.
Dated, in red pen,
Sept. 29, 1909.
Photo card, mailed 1926.
Righthand card dates from the 1950s.
These simply cannot be the trees from the second card.
Oshkosh Public Library Another city which turned down Carnegie funding. Read the library's history at its site.
Despite having declined the Carnegie grant, Oshkosh's old library strongly resembled that of Rockford, IL. Unlike Rockford, when Oshkosh expanded, it did so with delightful grace, retaining the beauty of the old section in its local history room.
OPL was also an early adopter of digitization and electronic resources.
Oshkosh Public Library
(L) Hmm, that tree sure took off.
This card was postmarked 1911,
and its message is written in code.
(R) Chrome postcard, probably pre-addition,
with many details.


Oxford, WI Public Library and Village Hall

Village hall. Library. Loading dock?

Photo postcard, likely by L.L. Cook.

Pardeeville (Angie Williams Cox Library)

Pardeeville, WI Public Library

Both the building and the Chevy are 4-door models.

Dedicated August 26, 1934. Still in use, although only since 1985 was it a true public library.

L.L. Cook card mailed in 1977.

Port Washington (W.J. Niederkorn Public Library)

Not a motel. Really.

Chrome card from the late 1950s.

Frankly, I think it looks like a motel.
Perhaps that's because it's a chrome postcard.


Portage, WI library Founded in 1900.
Appears to have moved twice since the Armory days.
(L) This image sat as an unsolved mystery in a card drawer for years until I realized it was of Portage.
(R) On the left street corner is Story's College of Commerce and Training School, with a cigar store downstairs.
In the Armory, Bob.
An Intensive Historical Architectural and Historical Survey of the City of Portage, Columbia County, Wisconsin has 400+ pages of information about Portage's buildings.
(R, below) An A.C. Bosselman card, printed in Germany, shows a bit more detail.

Zona Gale Breese Memorial Library

Zona Gale Breese Memorial Library

No longer in use as the city's library, but serves as a museum.

Another L.L. Cook postcard. Many times in the midwest, L.L. Cook photo postcards are the only record of historical buildings.
At least this one wasn't demolished.

Prairie Du Sac

Prairie Du Sac Public Library

City Hall and Library

The card, No. 6501, is by an unknown manufacturer. The building is rather generic, but Prairie du Sac is not that large a town.


Racine, WI Public Library

Replacement for the Carnegie building, which is still standing.
According to the L.L. Cook card, it was dedicated May 18, 1958.
Still in use, albeit heavily renovated in 1991.

Are you squinting at the words on the building?
They read:

The World of Books
is the most remarkable creation of Man

Randolph (Hutchinson Memorial Library)

Hutchinson Memorial Library, Randolph, WI (L) Photo postcard, unattributed, but probably a Wisconsin product.
(R) Poor quality Excel Post Card. Deckle edge cropped.
Hutchinson Memorial Library, Randolph, WI

The multi-color sandstone library was built in 1936 by Clas & Clas, and is so highly regarded that it's on the National Register of Historic Places. The horrible Excel postcard must not have surfaced during the decision making.

Still in use, with an addition. Given the size of Randolph, I'm surprised it was needed.

Rib Lake

Rib Lake (WI) Public Library

878 people, and they have a library!

Pleasant building, probably from the 1920s. Google Maps evidence points to a replacement building.

The library has recently developed a web site, but seems to have had a blog first. Very Web 2.0.


American Legion Bldg. and Library, Rio, Wis.

This building served as an American Legion Hall and the Library. Both institutions have found newer locations.

L.L. Cook card.

Richland Center (A. Keith Brewer Public Library)

A. Keith Brewer Public Library (L) Dexter Press postcard.
(R) L.L. Cook photo postcard, surprisingly recent.
Brewer Memorial Library

The Carnegie building, which was demolished in favor of this, is featured on another page, along with most of the library's history.

River Falls

River Falls, WI Public Library

City Hall and Library

Not too impressive looking an institution for a university town. Sometime along the way, an attractive library building was built, somewhat resembling the UWRF buildings' style.

The card, by L.L. Cook, dates from 1958 or later, judging by the Chevy near the corner. The little sign is a Navy recruitment poster.

Sauk City

Sauk City, WI Public Library

Building believed to be standing, but replaced. In the right-hand background is a Cities Service gas station.

Probably by L.L. Cook.

Stanley (D.R. Moon Memorial Library)

Stanley, Wisconsin (L) Multiview card.
(R) Bloom Brothers postcard.
Stanley, WI library
Stanley, WI Library (L) Another Bloom Brothers postcard, mailed in 1916.

An early Library Journal article states that Mrs. D.R. Moon ponied up the money for this building. Stanley has a population of only 3,500 today. The original building is still in use.

Spring Green

Sun Prairie, WI Public Library (L) RPPC identified by comparison with the card on right.
(R) L.L. Cook photo postcard.
Sun Prairie, WI Public Library

Sun Prairie

Sun Prairie, WI Public Library

1924 building, now replaced.

Joseph A. Fagan 'Clear View' card. Normally, he's identified as J.A. Fagan on Madison-area postcards.


Wabeno, WI Public Library

Part of the Wisconsin Valley Library service. Still in the log cabin.

Another L.L. Cook postcard, surprisingly common.

Whitewater (White Memorial Library)

Whitewater, WI Public Library (L) H.J. O'Connor card.
(R) Ft. Wayne Paper & Box card, likely printed during WWII.
Whitewater, WI Public Library
White Library Park (L) Printed for Main St. Variety Store by E.C. Kropp. This is unusual in that it bears an 'M' code, instead of the 'N' code that Kropp normally used on its printed cards.

1904 -
Replaced by Irvin L. Young Memorial Library in 1991. According to the library's website, viewed several years ago:

The White Memorial building continues to serve the community as it provides office space for the Chamber of Commerce, Cable Station 13, and the Community Development Authority.


Wittenberg Public Library

Tiny building, still in use in a town best known for Nueske's bacon. Now a branch library for Shawano City-County Library.

Unidentified photo postcard of a style common to north central Wisconsin.

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.

e-Mail me at (first name)(at)roadmaps (dot) org.