Finding the Factory Girls

Addie Card, anaemic little spinner in North Pownal Cotton Mill”

A while back, I wrote a post featuring the poem “The  Factories” by Margaret Widdemer. The post was illustrated by two photographs of the thousands taken by Lewis Hine from 1908 to 1924 to raise awareness of the plight of children laboring in dangerous and unhealthy conditions in America’s factories to help their families put bread and milk on the table.1

Imagine my surprise and delight when last week my subscription to the Library of Congress’ blog yielded an article about genealogist Joe Manning’s successful research to find the descendants of little Addie pictured above–and it only took him two weeks!2  He went on to research and write about more than 300 of these children.3

I encourage you to check out the full article: Inquiring Minds: Opening a Treasure Chest of Unfinished Stories.

And while you’re on the Library of Congress site, why not take a meander through the blog, the latest collections, and the current research projects? Before you do, though, just be sure to tell your loved ones where you’re going so that you don’t end up like poor Charlie on the M.T.A. (one of my dad’s all-time favorite songs, sung with gusto at the kitchen table). This one’s for you, Dad: M.T.A.” 


Image: Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Addie Card, anaemic little spinner in North Pownal Cotton Mill. See photo No. Location: Vermont. August. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2018675329/>.

1Wendi Maloney, “Inquiring Minds: Opening a Treasure Chest of Unfinished Stories,” Library of Congress Blog, last modified January 31, 2019, accessed February 3, 2019, http://Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Addie Card, anaemic little spinner in North Pownal Cotton Mill. See photo No. Location: Vermont. August. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2018675329/>.

2Maloney, “Inquiring Minds,” Library of Congress Blog.

3Maloney, “Inquiring Minds,” Library of Congress Blog.

Prince of Wales Coming to Town? Call the Library!

By Rembrandt Studios – This file has been provided by the British Library from its digital collections. It is also made available on a British Library website.Catalogue entry: HS85/10/36284, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2675006

As I’ve been reviewing the annual report of the Toronto Public Library for 1919, the year my grandmother Velma Jane Moore began working there as a cataloguer, much was made of the Reference Department’s role in preparing the City of Toronto for a state visit by the Prince of Wales:

 . . . no day passed that we should have to wrestle with problems such as: The correct way to address the Prince of Wales; the meaning and the origin of the motto “Ich Dien”; the standard of the Prince of Wales; when flown; his crest and coat of arms; the flag of the Prince of Wales in color; a portrait of the Prince of Wales in his trench coat; the words of the song “God Bless the Prince of Wales”; a description of aiguelettes worn by a Naval A.D.C., to send to a Naval tailor for the Prince of Wales’ reception; material on Rear Admiral Halsey (Chief of Staff), account of the Prince of Wales’ (King Edward) visit to Canada in 1861, etc., etc.1

Let’s see how well I can do with Google:

An account of the Prince of Wales’ visit to Canada in 1861 can be found in Chapter II of H.R.H, the Prince of Wales: an Account of His Career, including His Birth, Education, Travels, Marriage and Home Life; and Philanthropic, Political, and Social Life by Marie Lowndes, published in 1898 by Grant Richards of London. (Retrieved from Hathitrust 1/10/2019. )

Biographical material on Rear Admiral Lionel Halsey can be found in Chapter IX of Admirals of the British Navy: Portraits in Colour by Francis Dodd, published by the Offices of “Country Life,” LTD in 1917. (Retrieved from Internet Archive 1/20/2019.)

The lyrics to “God Bless the Prince of Wales” can be found in the program for the 1882 Christmas Music Festival held at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal. (Retrieved from Internet Archive 1/20/2019.)

I found answers to the other questions as well, but the sources were dated after 1919 or located in online archives with no original source listed, so I didn’t include them. I wouldn’t want to have an unfair advantage over our doughty band of reference librarians!

And now, for a historical oddity found along the way:

Photograph appears in The Prince of Wales’ book: a pictorial record of the voyages of H.M.S. “Renown” 1919-1920, published by Hodder & Stoughton, LTD, 1921. (Retrieved from Internet Archive 1/20/2019.)

And a mystery to be solved!

I found this invitation to meet the Prince of Wales in The Family Archives. Ronald Dalrymple Brown was my maternal grandfather. (He and Velma married in 1926.) At the time of the invitation to meet the Prince of Wales, Ronald was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The only connection I can see between him and the reception to meet the Prince is that it was held in New Brunswick, and Ronald’s mother was originally from New Brunswick. However, that seems like an extremely tenuous connection. Figuring this one out is going to take some doing!


1Frances M. Staton, “Reports from the Departments: Reference Department,” Toronto Public Library Thirty-Sixth Annual Report, 1919, 13.

Sepia Sunday: Librarians Just Want to Have Fun

Toronto Public Library staff in front of Central Library, College Street, northwest corner of St. George Street, Toronto, Ont., 1920

This photograph of my grandmother Velma Jane Moore’s time as a librarian in Toronto was not among her personal memorabilia. I found it in the Toronto Public Library’s digital archives. It’s such a wonderful picture of her that I hope she at least saw a copy of it at the time it was taken.


Image: “Toronto High Park 1921-1922”, photograph album in Toronto Public Library (1883-1998) fonds. Unaccessioned records. Photographs. Box 39. Branches High Park

 

“Assembled Piecemeal by Pack Rats and Vandalized Nightly”

As I continue to research my grandmother Velma Jane Moore’s time as a cataloguer at the Toronto Public Library from 1919–1922, I’m using the Toronto Public Library’s annual reports as primary sources for the historical context of library services at that time. Prominent in these reports is the increased demand for children’s services identified by children’s librarian Lillian Smith. While Smith’s reports were interesting, I didn’t intended to write about them because Velma worked in a different department.

However, I kept coming back to the historical context for children’s library services. Of Velma’s direct descendants, only two are children now, my grandnephews James (10) and Liam (7). As Digital Natives who could swipe an iPhone before they could walk, they have instant access to information, their only challenge being to find it. As movie critic Roger Ebert so aptly put it:

Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly.1

It then occurred to me that for the two generations following Velma’s, my mother’s and my own, our experiences with libraries were the same as hers. If we needed information that wasn’t in the family’s World Book Encyclopaedia, we had to go to the neighborhood library to look it up. If the information was in a book that wasn’t in the library’s holdings, we asked the librarian to order it through interlibrary loan.  Then we went home and waited.

James and Liam, on the other hand, go straight to Google. In order for them to understand and appreciate this young woman four generations removed from them who would become their great-great grandmother, they need the historical context for library services. They need to know that for much of the twentieth century, information was contained primarily in books and periodicals, which in turn were classified and catalogued according to a system, most commonly the Dewey Decimal System or the Library of Congress System. This was a logical and orderly world that appealed to Velma, and she felt very much at home there. She would never, ever have entertained the notion of “a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly.”

I therefore decided to write about children’s library services from the perspective of the historical context that would be most relevant for Digital Natives such as James and Liam to compare with their own experiences at the library. They will find similarities as well as differences!

Lillian Smith: A Champion for Children’s Literacy

I first encountered the name Lillian Smith on the back of one of Velma’s snapshots in The Family Archives. She was in charge of the Children’s Department at the time Velma was there. I went on to learn that Smith was the first professionally trained children’s librarian in the British Empire.2 In 1912, when she was twenty-five years old, the Toronto Public Library recruited her from the New York City Public Library.3  Her career with the Toronto Public Library would span a period of forty years and include many innovations in children’s librarianship.4 Her work extended beyond library walls to community outreach and leadership to provide children’s library services in the city’s schools and two settlement houses.5 From what I’ve read, she was a real dynamo, and the children of Toronto were fortunate to have her as their champion. A branch of the Toronto Public Library was later named for her.6

A Decrease in Book Circulation Due to Fear of Contagion

Smith noted in her annual report for 1919 that the Children’s Department had experienced an interruption of service when the library was forced to close for three weeks due to a smallpox epidemic.7 Curious, I went back a year, and sure enough, the library had closed for a time in response to the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918.8 Smith went on to note:

The decrease [in book circulation] is not only due to the closing of the Library, but also because so many parents have  prohibited their children from taking books after the epidemic through fear of contagion.9

The fear of contracting infectious disease through library books was widely enough held at the time to prompt the Ontario Library Review to publish the article “Library Books Rarely, If Ever, Carry Disease” by the Director of the Institute of Public Health, H. W. Hill. According to Dr. Hill, the belief that diseases such as tuberculosis and scarlet fever could be spread though surface contact even after time had passed since the initial contact by the infected person was based on a faulty analogy with anthrax.10

Google Search Note: Apparently that fear is still around today, if blog posts and message boards are any indication. However, Dear Children, before you demand that Mother microwave, freeze, or spray your library books with Febreeze, just remember to wash your hands before you eat, and you’ll be fine.

Story Hour

One of Lillian Smith’s major initiatives was the establishment of regularly-scheduled story hours at all of the city’s branch libraries to encourage reading. From 1919 – 1922, the number of story hours held increased 118%, from 34511 to 73512. The number of children participating rose 151%, from 15,35913 to 38,55014. The average number of children at each story hour was 45 in 1919 and 52 in 1922. The following photograph from the 1922 annual report is testament to the Story Hour’s popularity.

What Children Were Reading

In the Library’s 1919 report, Smith wrote that “stories of pioneer life and Canadian history, Greek heroes, King Arthur and Robin Hood have been told with great success.”15 For the older children, reading clubs were established to encourage a shift away from reading the popular fiction of the day to reading “standard and classic literature.”16

In 1917, Smith developed a list of approved books to encourage children’s reading, although in her introduction, she does note that the list contains some books of mediocre literary value:

These are included through having justified their place on our shelves as stepping-stones to the better kind of books, which are not always immediately appreciated by children who come from bookless homes, or who have been saturated with the vapid serial reading matter contained in the Alger and Elsie books.17

Vapid Serial Reading Matter

Approved for Children Under Ten

Approved for Children Over Ten

I will close by asking readers to comment on the photograph at the top of this post. The children are wearing winter coats and hats. Do you think their clothing indicates that the building was cold or that the photograph was staged? I can’t decide.


1quotegeek, accessed December 16, 2018, http://quotegeek.com/personalities/roger-ebert/10697/, originally appeared in “Critical Eye” column, Yahoo! Internet Life, September 1998.

2“Lillian H. Smith (1887-1983),” Toronto Public Library, accessed December 16, 2018, https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/about-the-library/library-history/lillian-h-smith.jsp.

3“Lillian H. Smith,” Toronto Public Library.

4“Lillian H. Smith,” Toronto Public Library.

5“Lillian H. Smith,” Toronto Public Library.

6“Lillian H. Smith,” Toronto Public Library.

7Lillian H. Smith, “Reports from the Departments: Children’s Department,” Toronto Public Library Thirty-Sixth Annual Report, 1919, 17.

8Lillian H. Smith, “Reports from Departments: The Children’s Department,” Toronto Public Library Thirty-Fifth Annual Report, 1918, 14.

9Smith, “Children’s Department, 1918” 14.

10H. W. Hill, M.B, D.P.H., “Library Books Rarely, If Ever, Carry Disease,” Ontario Library Review and Book Selection Guide I, no. 1 (June 1916): 7.

11Smith, “Children’s Department, 1919,” 18.

12Lillian H. Smith, “Reports from Departments: Boys’ and Girls’ Library,” Toronto Public Library Thirty-Ninth Annual Report, 1922, 22.

13Smith, “Children’s Department, 1919,” 18.

14Smith, “Boys’ and Girls’ Library,” 22.

15Smith, “Children’s Department, 1919,” 18.

16Smith, “Children’s Department, 1919,” 18.

17Lillian H. Smith, “A List of Approved Books for Boys and Girls,” excerpted from Ontario Library Review, August 1917, 2.

Image: “After School in the Children’s Room, Earlscourt Library,” Toronto Public Library Thirty-Seventh Annual Report, 1920, 16.

Image: “Waiting for the Story Hour, College Street Library,” Toronto Public Library Thirty-Eighth Annual Report, 1921, 10.

Book Cover Images: All book cover images are in the public domain, retrieved from Project Gutenberg.

Sepia Sunday: Ronald & His Mother

This Sepia Sunday is a follow-up to my last post, “Military Monday: Honoring Ronald Brown’s WWI Service.” When the Lexington Historical Society contacted me about the exhibit honoring my grandfather, I learned that they had a photograph of him wearing his Army uniform, but they didn’t have this one of him posing in his uniform with his mother, Margaret Robertson Gunn Brown (1871-1924). I sent them a scanned copy, which, I am happy to say, they are adding to their digital collection.