The Library History Buff

Promoting the appreciation, enjoyment, and preservation of library history



 Postal Librariana

Library History

Library Cover Stories 2007
A cover is a philatelic term for an envelope, postal card, or similar postal artifact that has been sent through the mail (or is intended to be sent through the mail).

January 2007

2007 is the 25th anniversary  of the issuing of two library stamps by the United States Postal Service.  This First Day Cover contains both stamps and is signed by Betty Stone, ALA President, and Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of Congress. The cover is Cachet Number 1 for ALA.


February 2007

Postcard extending Christmas greetings from the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia in World War I and the Library War Service of the American Library Association. This card was one of many published by the American Library Association to promote its Library War Service.  For more on these postcards click here.



March 2007

The entire collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society Library was housed in this bookcase in 1853.  It has been described as the "holy grail" of Wisconsin library artifacts. In 2005, when the case was located in an unprotected hallway, someone broke into the case.  It has since been moved to a more secure location in the library.  Few libraries are so fortunate to have such a prominent link to their past. (Obviously, this bookcase is not a library cover.  My original idea for this feature on the Library History Buff home page was to feature a broader range of library artifacts.)




April 2007

The National Library Week that is sponsored by the American Library Association started in 1958.  This envelope shows that Hawaii was celebrating Library Week in 1941.  The cachet reads in part: "The nation's Pacific outpost salutes the nation's libraries and honors our own Library of Hawaii."  Ten months later, the nation's Pacific outpost would be in deadly turmoil. Click on this link for a philatelic tribute to NLW.

May 2007

Government issued postal cards which have been mailed to or from libraries are one of my favorite types of postal librariana because they provide a view of real library work during another time in our history.  This postal card was mailed from the Univ. of Illinois Library to Salzburg, Austria and reused for the return message.  To find out more about this interesting postal card click on this link.

June 2007

The first day cover for the "A Nation of Readers" stamp which was issued on October 16, 1984. It was Cachet Number 9 for the Library of Congress Philatelic Club.  The cachet features Cap'n O.G. Readmore and the dome of the Jefferson building of the Library of Congress.  The Readmore character was created jointly by the LOC Center for the Book and ABC Television. The Center for the Book celebrates it's 30th anniversary in 2007. For more information click here

July 2007

This bedraggled postal card  was mailed on October 21, 1884 by Melvil Dewey in his capacity as Secretary of the American Library Association to Ainsworth Spofford who was the Librarian of Congress and a member of the Executive Board of ALA. Dewey indicates that the Executive Board will meet in Cambridge, MA on Oct. 29, 1884 and will decide on a place and time of the next ALA conference. Click here to find out more about this interesting piece of postal librariana.

August 2007

World War II devastated the public libraries in the Philippines.  On April 1, 1949 the Philippine postal administration issued a set of 3 semi-postal stamps to raise funds to help rehabilitate the public libraries.  Semi-postal stamps have two values assigned, one to pay the postage and the other to go to some charitable activity.  This set of stamps included the first semi-postals for the Philippine Republic.  The United States issued its first semi-postal stamp in 1998 (the Breast Cancer stamp).  One of the Philippine stamps depicts 3 of the former Librarians of the Philippine National Library in Manila. They Include: Teodoro M. Kalaw (1884-1940), Librarian, 1916-17 and 1929-40;  Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera (1857-1925), Librarian 1923-25; and Cristobal Epifanio De los Santos (1871-1928), Librarian 1925-28. The second of the three stamps depicts the title page of the Philippine book Doctrina Christiana, and the third depicts the title page of the book Noli Me Tangere.

September 2007

This envelope and the letter inside are among the most treasured items in my collection of postal librariana. The significance of this envelope is revealed by the note on its left side.  It reads "Grandfather and Aunt Abbey June 18, 1852".  Samuel Abbot Smith, the person to whom the envelope is addressed was the grandson of Abiel Abbot.  Abiel Abbot was the person most responsible for founding, in 1833, the Peterborough (New Hampshire) Town Library, the first tax supported free public library in America and the world. The year 2008 will mark the 175th anniversary of the founding of this library.  For more on this envelope, Abiel Abbot, and the Peterborough Town Library click here.

October 2007

This postal card was used by the California State Library to collect news items for its magazine. It is postmarked May 5, 1906.  The Martinez Free Reading Room and Library responded with a note that reads in part: "The earthquake of the 18th [April 18, 1906] damaged our building so that it is unfit for use until repaired which will mean we shall have to remain closed six weeks or two months.  Damage about $1,500."  The postal card is an example of a "library" sized postal card.  These postal cards were the exact size of a catalog card and were issued by the Post Office Department in response to lobbying by Melvil Dewey.

November 2007

In collecting and exhibiting postal librariana, the thing which gives me the most satisfaction is discovering the stories behind individual postal artifacts. The cover (envelope) featured this month led me to the story of how a librarian played an influential role in World War II.  The librarian was Thomas S. Shaw who worked for many years in the Bibliography and Reference Division of the Library of Congress and later taught at the Library School of Louisiana State University. Earlier this year, I came into possession of a large lot of envelopes addressed to Shaw.  Among those envelopes was this one which was mailed to Shaw at his home address from the White House by G.M.E. on January 26, 1949. G.M.E. turns out to be George McKee Elsey, a military advisor to Franklin Roosevelt and later an Administrative Assistant to Harry Truman. Shaw secretly obtained books for Elsey who used them to compile background information to brief Roosevelt and his military advisors for Roosevelt's trips outside the country during World War II.  For more on this library cover story click here.

December 2007

The Library Bureau and its predecessors were the first significant providers of library supplies and "fittings" for America's libraries.  Although this envelope, mailed in 1885 to the Librarian of Cornell University, indicates that the Library Bureau was founded by Melvil Dewey in 1876, it was not legally established under that name until 1881. Melvil Dewey initially sold library supplies through the American Metric Bureau which he established in Boston in 1876.  On June 30, 1877, the library supply component of the American Metric Association became the "Supply Department" of the Library Cooperation Committee of the American Library Association. In March 1879, Dewey moved the Supply Department out of ALA and created a new company with the name Readers and Writers Economy Company. Financial and management difficulties led to the demise of the Economy Company in 1881. Dewey then founded a new library supply business under the name Library Bureau. In 1886, the Library Bureau was once again facing financial and management difficulties and it underwent a further reorganization. (Source:  Irrepressible Reformer by Wayne A. Wiegand, American Library Association, 1996). To see items from an 1886 Library Bureau supply catalog click here.

See also Library Cover Stories 2008

See also Library Cover Stories 2009

See also Library Cover Stories 2010



 Postal Librariana

Library History

This site created and maintained by Larry T. Nix
Send comments or questions to

Last updated: 01-01-11   2005-2011 Larry T. Nix
Also check out the Library History Buff Blog.