The Personal Touch from a Phone Company

The Pennsylvania Telephone Company served customers in the eastern half of the state.  It was consolidated with, or purchased by, the Bell Telephone Company of Philadelphia in 1908.


In the company’s Annual Report for the year ending 31 December 1905, the board of directors reports that

Automatic exchanges—that is, exchanges at which no operators are required—were installed in eleven towns too small to justify the installation of manual exchanges which require the use of operators.


The use of automatic exchange apparatus is to some extent experimental, but it is expected that it will prove successful for exchanges too small for a manual system, and that its operation will show a sufficient return on the investment to justify the gradual extension of its use, thereby enabling your company to give telephone service in many places not heretofore supplied, because of the insufficient revenue therefrom to meet the expense of installing and maintaining manual exchanges.

How fascinating, and how different from today, that this telephone company clearly believed that the manual system was the standard model, while those impersonal automatic systems that lacked an actual operator were to be used only where the exchange was too small and unprofitable.  I suppose a telephone historian could pinpoint the year that the business model flipped and live operators started to be viewed by impatient customers as unprofitable annoyances who slowed things down.


Anyway, the 1905 Annual Report of the Pennsylvania Telephone Company has just been cataloged at the State Library in its Pamphlet Volume 1505, and is available for your reading pleasure.

Published in: on 24 March 2009 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Not Your Usual Childrens’ Story Book

I just added cataloging for our copy of a 31 page USDA booklet titled:

The Story of the Cattle Fever Tick : What Every Southern Child Should Know About Cattle Ticks : A Picture Book Which Shows How the Fever Ticks Steal Milk, Meat and Money from Farmers and Kill Thousands of their Cattle. Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture [G.P.O.], 1917.

This childrens’ story book begins with a letter from the chief of the Bureau of Animal Industry to the “school children of the south” asking them to help eradicate the ticks by “reading this story book and then getting your parents to fight cattle fever ticks in your county.”

The eradication effort was eventually successful — whether because because of advocacy by the kids or because of the “arsenical dipping solution” used — and today the focus of vigilance against these particular ticks is in the Texas counties along the Rio Grande.  (Now, if only we could get deer and mice to go through dipping tanks, maybe we could control the ticks that vector Lyme disease….)

Can’t make it to Harrisburg, but still want to see the pictures? Want to print out a copy of this booklet for children you know? You’re in luck. There are various digital versions available in the Internet Archive.

Published in: on 18 March 2009 at 8:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Build a Better Icebox

In our copy of “Pamphlet No. 1” published in Baltimore by the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality in April 1913, one can read many suggestions about the proper care and feeding of infants.

After telling us that we should always keep milk on ice, but warm it up to body temperature before feeding the little nipper, we get this:

If you have not an ordinary ice box, a simple one can be made as follows: Get a wooden box about 18 inches square and 12 inches deep from the grocery store. Go to the tinsmith and have him make you a bottomless cylinder of tin, 12 inches in diameter and 9 inches deep, or a bottomless box of tin, 11 inches square and 9 inches deep.  Then have the tinsmith make another box of tin ….

It goes on, but I won’t include all the directions here.  (We could supply copies if readers want.)  In the “current economic climate” I suppose some folks might have to make their own simple ice boxes, and would want the complete directions. 

But does your grocer even have wooden boxes?  And do you know where your nearest tinsmith is?  Have you ever seen a working tinsmith except at a living history museum?

Published in: on 17 March 2009 at 8:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Dorothea Dix Museum Collection of Asylum Reports

I just recently finished cataloging 178 reports from lunatic asylums, hospitals for the insane, and state hospitals that came to us from as part of the Dorothea Dix Museum Collection from the State Hospital in Harrisburg, Pa.  It really is an amazing set of documentation of the way we treated the mentally ill in instiutional care settings throughout the late 19th century.  A sample of the holdings include the …


“Annual report of the Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum, Anchorage, Kentucky” for 1878, 1886, 1887


“Annual report of the State Homeopathic Asylum for the Insane at Middletown [New York] for the year ending November 30…” 1877-1879, 1884, 1886, 1888


“Annual report of the District Lunatic Asylum at Clonmel, comprising the North and South Ridings of the County of Tipperary [Ireland], for the year ending …”  1894 and 1898


“Annual report of the Eastern State Hospital of Virginia, for the fiscal year ending …” 1896-1898


“Annual report of the Somerset County [England] Pauper Lunatic Asylum.” 1878


“Report … of the State Lunatic Asylum, Austin, Texas” 1876, 1878-1880, 1886, 1888, 1893, 1896-1897


“Annual report of the Alabama Insane Hospital at Tuskaloosa [sic]” 1878, 1880


“Annual report of the Essex County Asylum for the Insane, Newark, N.J. for the year ending …”  1886-1888


“Annual report of the medical superintendent of the State Asylum for Insane Criminals [Auburn, NY]” 1886-1888


 “Biennial report of the Board of Trustees and Superintendent of the East Mississippi Insane Asylum to the Legislature of Mississippi for the years …” 1894/95, 1896/97


“Biennial report of the trustees and resident officials of the Dakota Hospital for the Insane. [ Yankton, Dakota Territory]” 1888


This is just a taste of what is in the 6 cubic feet of material.  The contents of the reports are actually fairly standardized, including: descriptions of the buildings and grounds (and usually the need for better funding to maintain them); medical reports describing treatment methodologies; summaries of coroner’s reports; statistical summaries of patient populations; and of the costs for food and other supplies.


The collection is especially strong in reports from Pennsylvania, New York, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  The collection also includes two reports (1884 and 1889) from the Bethlem Royal Hospital (London, England), the source of the word “bedlam.”


Search the State Library’s online catalog for call number 361.21 D642 to see a list of all the reports.

Published in: on 28 October 2008 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Song to a City Pigeon

Today happens to be the 20th anniversary of my graduation from library school (Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana).  In celebration, I am posting the words of a song I cataloged into our rare collections library this week.  The item this is from is a bound set of Original Songs, Duetts [sic], Glees &c., Sacred, Moral and Amusing. Composed by E. Ives, Junr., Principal of the Philadelphia Musical Seminary. [Philadelphia: s.n., ca. 1835].  There was no bibliographic record for the collection in OCLC’s WorldCat database, and there are only 2 holding libraries in OCLC for copies of this particular song (Brown University and University of Virginia).

Anyway, here are the song’s lyrics. (I’m not sure whether Ives — a distant relative of composer Charles Ives — considered it sacred, moral, or amusing. I’ll leave that up to you.) Happy pigeon watching!

Song to a City Pigeon

Poetry by N. P. Willis, Esqr.

Music by E. Ives, Junr., Principal of the Philadelphia Musical Seminary

Philadelphia: George Willig, [ca. 1835]


O come to my window thou beautiful dove,

Thy daily visits have touch’d my love;

I watch thy coming and list the note

That stirs so low in thy melloe throat

And my joy is high,

My joy is high__to catch thy gentle eye.

            Then come to my window thou beautiful dove

Thy daily visits have touch’d my love

I watch thy coming and list the note,

That stirs so low in thy mellow throat.


Oh! Why dost thou sit on the heated eaves,

And leave the wood with its freshen’d leaves?

Or why art thou haunting the sultry street

When forest paths are so cool and sweet?

            How canst thou bear

The noise of people___this sultry air?

            Then come &c.___


Thou, Pilgrim, alone of the feather’d race,

Dost look unscared on the human face;

And thou alone with a wing to flee

Dost love with man in his haunts to be

            And the “gentle dove”

Is made a title for trust and love.

            Then come &c.___


It is not by chance_ thou art kept apart

By Him who wisely hath tam’d thy heart,

To stir the love for the bright and fair

That else were seal’d in the crowded air;

            I sometimes dream

Angelic rays from thy pinions stream.

            Then come &c.___


O come to me ever, when daylight leaves

The page I read to my humble eaves,

And wash thy breast in the hollow spout,

And murmur thy low sweet music out,

            I hear and see

Rich lessons of heaven sweet bird in thee.

            Then come &c.___


Published in: on 8 August 2008 at 8:04 am  Leave a Comment  

The “study of the man of intellect”

I came across the following paragraphs today on the opening pages of Father and Daughter: a Portraiture from the Life by Fredrika Bremer. Translated by Mary Howitt. Philadelphia: T.B. Peterson and Brothers, [ca. 1860].  The book was recently cataloged into the Pennsylvania Imprints collection at the State Library of Pennsylvania’s Rare Collections Library.

“There is one class of room which, ever since I was quite young, has appeared to me more beautiful, more to be desired, than any other whatever; it is the silent working-room or study of the man of intellect.  How quiet, and yet how full of life is this sanctuary of thought, in which noiseless combats are fought out, bloodless victories are won; victories sometimes more important in their results to the world than all the Waterloos or Sebastpols; in which a lamp burns whose quiet flame prepares light for future generations, because it lights him, the genius of the room, the silent thinker, who in the work-room of his brain measures the heavens, searches through the depths, weighs stars and grains of sand in search of the eternal ideas, the fundamental laws and truths of all things, and questions and proves, and does not stop until he perceives the scattered sounds or lights arrange themselves harmoniously, and he can exclaim, “I have found it!”


“Many who have thus sought and found have been hailed as the world’s light-bearers.  More numerous are they who only open the path for these silent sincere workers, but who never enjoy the honor and the glory which fall to their lot.  Nevertheless, they participate with them in the happiness of seeking and finding, in so far as they do it.  The solitary thinker knows that future generations will be benefited by the results of his labor, of his lonely watching; knows that he is the herald of a better day on earth.  That is his life and his reward.  And even though he be poor, and of little esteem in the world, yet in his silent study he knows himself to be rich, knows himself to be monarch over a vast realm.”


I just like that description.

Published in: on 10 June 2008 at 1:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Possible Genealogical Treasure

So I’m cataloging my little heart out this week and come across a copy of the Fifty-First Annual Report of the Directors and Officers of the American Asylum at Hartford, for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood and Company, 1867).  Turns out that pages 72-117 of this report contains a “list of pupils of the American Asylum from the opening of the school, April 15, 1817, to May 11, 1867.”  Fifty years worth of enrollment information!

And not just the names of the students, but all the following information: Residence (city, state); Year of admission; Age [at time of admission]; Cause of Deafness; “Deaf and Dumb Relatives” [number and relation, but no names]; “How supp’t’d” [by the state, friends, or family]; Time under Instruction; and “Remarks” [including whether still a pupil; profession; whether married; whether dead].

Most of the students came from New England, but a few were from as far away as Ohio and Virginia.  Just seems like a LOT of names, ages, and towns; too many to be ignored.  I’m wondering whether it might unlock a few genealogical puzzles where someone seems to disappear from the records for a few years. 

For example, why might Emeline Thayer not be in the federal census at Warren, Vermont in 1860?  Well, because she was at the school for 7 years starting in 1859.  What about Philander Thayer of Sandisfield, Massachusetts not being in the 1850 federal census there?  He was at the school for 6 years from 1844.  Both were 16 when admitted.  Her deafness came as a result of scarlet fever at age 18 months; his due to “ulcers in head” at age 9 months.

The State Library of Pennsylvania copy of this report is in the Rare Collections Library, PV 100, no.5.

Published in: on 25 April 2008 at 7:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Hold Your Horses!

Posting has slowed down, I know.  Our move is on hiatus while the historic newspapers collection is inventoried and then wrapped in acid free paper for storage.  Meanwhile, I’m cataloging my way into our backlog.  I’m working mostly with our pamphlet volumes, which are primarily from the 19th century but include some late 18th and early 20th century materials.  It’s always surprising when I have to create a new bibliographic record in OCLC for one of these items. How could we possibly be the first library to record this item?

Another section of the backlog that I’m delving into are the legal treatises.  These also reveal a surprising breadth in age and topic (although in this case they are pretty much all legal topics).  And while much of the legal reading is tough going for a non-lawyer, sometimes I happen across things that I find fascinating.

For example . . . from the 1st American edition of “Remarks on the Present System of Road-Making; with Observations Deduced form [sic] Practice and Experience, with a View to a Revision of the Existing Law [etc., etc.] by John Loudon M’Adam, esq. (Baltimore: Printed by J. Robinson 1821) come these little facts about horses and the mail system in England:

in 1819 the ‘Select Committee on the Highways of the Kingdom’ took several days of evidence.  They asked William Waterhouse, the coachman at the Swan-with-two-Necks in Lad-lane, how many horses he kept to move his mail and stage coaches around. Answer: “About four-hundred.” (p.87)

They questioned William Horne, who kept the Golden Cross Inn, Charing Cross and also was “proprietor of many mail and stage coaches,” “Do you find that your horses that are employed in the stages near London, wear out sooner than those at a greater distance? — Much sooner, I should think. I employ about four hundred horses myself, and I am sure I buy one hundred and fifty a year [t]o support the number, and keep the stock in order. I consider that my stock wears out fully in three years.” (pp. 89-90).

Here in the automobile age, we simply have no idea what it took to move people and goods around by true horsepower.

Published in: on 23 April 2008 at 10:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Moving Hiatus and “Sunday at St. Louis”

We spent 3 weeks moving books and newspapers into one of the three renovated spaces, but have been in a kind of suspended animation since the beginning of March while the other areas go through their final preparations to receive collection materials.  This pause in trundling book trucks through hallways, into the freight elevator, into the various ‘air locks,’ and back again has given our other technical processing folks time to inventory and wrap more old newspapers so that they (the newspapers) will be ready when the moving starts up again.

 In the mean time, I came across the following item of interest while cataloging bound pamphlets today. 

‘Sunday at St. Louis’

“Sunday at St. Louis is a queer day.  Go to church and try to be as good as gold, but you can’t help being in the world of work and amusement.  The cars run the same as ever, many of the shops are doing a lively business, lager beer and dance houses and [sic] in full blast and the theatre getting double receipts; out towards the fields the Germans are having a high old time, and down at the levee steamers are arriving and departing mid all kinds of bustle, and astonishing your weak nerves by screeching Yankee Doodle, Oh Susanna, &c., out of their steam pipes, as if determined to leave no quiet on earth.  The effect of these horse power melodies is intensely ludicrous, and with the accompaniment of high jinks from a crowd of boys and men who vary the game of bluff, played in the open street, by casual firing at cats and old tiles, the general absence of sanctity is enough to drive a quiet, moral Philadelphian into fits.”

This is from page 17 of the: Philadelphia Board of Trade.  Narrative of the excursion to the West, made by the delegation of the Board of Trade of Philadelphia. Reprinted from the letters published in the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” from its special correspondent.  Philadelphia: Inquirer Printing Office, 1860.  It is a 24 page pamphlet describing a junket through Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Louisville, Cincinnati  from 16 October to 3 November 1860.  According to the OCLC WorldCat, this pamphlet is held only at the Library Company in Philadelphia, at the New York Public Library, and at the State Library of Pennsylvania.

I used to live in St. Louis and especially enjoy this word picture drawn by “a quiet, moral Philadelphian.”

Published in: on 18 March 2008 at 9:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Go or Stay? Which Will it Be?

Here’s an interesting bit of inner conversation I came across some time back in a book by J. G. Kohl titled Austria : Vienna, Prague, etc., etc. (Philadelphia : Carey and Hart, 1844.)  It is bound in our PV [Pamphlet Volume] 865, no. 6. Here’s something that Kohl says on page 9:

“To travel or not to travel, was once more the question. To wander, to stroll through the world, or to remain and shoot out roots like a tree. Whether ‘twas nobler in a man to tend his own little garden, or to arm himself against a sea of troubles, and plough his way round our terrestrial planet? A house, or a tent? A warm room, or a windy seat in a post coach? A shady tree, or a budless staff? One friend, or a thousand friendly faces?”

As I read various hiking narratives, this is kind of the inner debate lots of people go through.

Published in: on 1 February 2008 at 9:08 am  Leave a Comment