There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library
August 23, 2007 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Almost 1700 Carnegie Libraries (wikipedia) were built in the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from Pennsylvania to California, from Florida to Oregon, and almost every other single place in between . (Scotland, too!) Some of them are still in use as libraries. Others aren't. This person is trying to collect post cards of as many of them as possible.
posted by dersins (23 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
(Disclosure of personal connection: I used to co-own this one, which is the same as this one.)
posted by dersins at 1:46 PM on August 23, 2007

I would simply like to be the first yinzer in this thread to say, "We've got the best one! Uncle Andy likes us best! WOOOO!!!"
posted by jefgodesky at 1:56 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

From The Many Legacies of Andrew Carnegie

But with huge profit margins in steel and little real competition, even at the time the workers asked, "You can afford to raise our wages, so why don't you?"

And he said, I'll tell you why. If I raised your wages, where would they go? They would go to better cuts of meat, to drink, to clothing, to things of the flesh, to things of the body. That's not what the working people need. That's not what this community, Pittsburgh, needs.

What it needs are things of the spirit: libraries, concert halls, schools. And you wouldn't pay for that yourselves, so you need me to take it out of your paychecks and give it back to you.
posted by ND¢ at 1:57 PM on August 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Cheers, dersins. I walk past the one in Vancouver every day - I knew some of the history but had no idea it was part of such a large undertaking.
posted by doublesix at 2:01 PM on August 23, 2007

This (plans, internal shot embedded in PDF) one is round the corner from me. I think the city fathers had the plans in place anyway, but wrote the guy a letter saying "Hi, we heard you were giving away money for libraries - could we have some too, please?" Not the city's proudest moment, IMO.
posted by Leon at 2:15 PM on August 23, 2007

I just have to say that it would be amazing to be able to convert an old library into a house. Especially if it had great old, built in bookshelves everywhere.
posted by bove at 2:17 PM on August 23, 2007

They starting doing rock shows at the Carnegie Music Hall at the Carnegie Library in Homestead, PA. It's near Pittsburgh and famous for a major steel strike. Some say the library/music hall/athletic facility/pool was a peace offering to the town. Great venue, I hope they use it more often.

Carnegie, PA named the town after him. They got a free library in return.
posted by ALongDecember at 2:25 PM on August 23, 2007

Dersins, I've tried and tried to come up with something that would contribute to a discussion, but all I can say is that your post did something to my heart and made me weepy. I grew up in the blue-collar badlands of Wyoming and way before the 'net the only salvation for a geeky kid there was the Carnegie library, 20 miles away. I've often thought that if there was anyone I could go back in time and meet, it would be Mr. Carnegie, so I could shake his hand and tell him, "Thanks so much for making my life wonderful. Your library...meant everything."

Thank you for this neat post on a subject that means so much to me, and I suspect, lots of other people as well.
posted by barchan at 2:27 PM on August 23, 2007

People who want books should BUY them. Libraries just promote Idea Theft. How is a writer supposed to make any money when libraries give out an author's life work FREE OF CHARGE?

Also: I love the thinking behind his Gospel of Wealth. I can't raise your wages because you'll just waste it on better quality food. (Now, if you'll excuse me, it's too hot, so I'll be heading on home to Millionaire's Row to enjoy some of that newfangled climate control, and maybe have dinner with my next door neighbor, Cornelius Vanderbilt.) Oh, and please don't try to improve your OWN station in life, or I'll have the Pinkertons bust out your teeth.

I mean, as far as Robber Barons go, he was cool. But, it's not easy to appear noble when surrounded by abject villany.
posted by absalom at 2:33 PM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

The above in no way is meant to take away from the awesomeness and beauty of the things built with his money. Culture is a good thing, but I can't help but think that helping people physically and culturally would not be mutually exclusive to the first Billion Dollar Man.
posted by absalom at 2:35 PM on August 23, 2007

I am sitting in this one right now while my second grader picks out Encyclopedia Brown books.
posted by LarryC at 3:20 PM on August 23, 2007

Great post! I have fond memories of going to this Library when I was a little kid in Michigan. Apparently it is no longer in use as a library, but hasn't been demolished.
posted by trip and a half at 3:26 PM on August 23, 2007

Carnegie's money not only helped Regina build its first public library... a second grant paid to repair it when it was seriously damaged by the 1912 tornado.
posted by evilcolonel at 3:39 PM on August 23, 2007

absalom: but it's an interesting argument, nonetheless. I mean, are you working class? Have you spent all your wages on cigarettes, booze, and lottery tickets?

I'm just saying, translated to our era: the average joe might go from drinking bud light to bud select, from smoking basics to smoking marlboros, and from getting the basic satellite package to the premium one.
posted by chlorus at 3:49 PM on August 23, 2007

we have one, too. not a library anymore though.
posted by RedEmma at 4:30 PM on August 23, 2007

Dave Chappelle has his piece on Reparations for Slavery, in the same spirit.
posted by anthill at 6:52 PM on August 23, 2007

Does the Peace Palace count as a Carnegie Library?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:59 PM on August 23, 2007

The old robber barons still haunt us here in Pittsburgh a hundred years later. Almost everything here is named either Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, Westinghouse or Heinz. Going to school at CMU, you almost forget that old Neggie isn't still alive, his picture seems to be everywhere.
posted by octothorpe at 7:26 PM on August 23, 2007

Spent a couple days in Abergavenny, Wales, last year; went to the library to use their Internet connection, and lo and behold it was a Carnegie library.
posted by Creosote at 7:58 PM on August 23, 2007

Amazingly, though I was no more than 5, I have memories of checking out books with my mother at our old Carnegie [postcard]

Amazingly, the new library that was built down the street was already rebuilt into a larger (much better) facility several years ago.

Anyway, when I was doing a local history project, we found evidence of the city's first free lending library sometime before the Civil War. In the 19th century they were considered an essential public good and a town without one was always desperate to start one.
posted by dhartung at 12:18 AM on August 24, 2007

I work in this one, which is 100 years old next month.
posted by gleuschk at 5:16 AM on August 24, 2007

I go to this one just about every week.
posted by cass at 11:21 AM on August 24, 2007

I was just here last night, making pots (the part on the right was originally a Carnegie Library, the bit on the left is the new expansion);

Baltimore Clayworks
posted by newdaddy at 11:27 AM on August 24, 2007

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