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TIME Device: Iowa’s first Carnegie library

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TIME MACHINE Iowas first Carnegie library

This postcard shows the Jefferson County Library/Museum in Fairfield when it experienced a gabled roof. In 1940, the roof had to be eliminated and changed with a flat roof mainly because of harm to the walls and chimney. The 130-calendar year-old developing is now the Jefferson County Carnegie Library Museum.

When a Jefferson County library opened in 1853, it was housed in rented rooms and open up only to those who could fork out dues.

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It experienced amassed 20,000 guides by January 1892, when the library gained a letter from Washington, D.C., from Iowa’s U.S. Sen. James F. Wilson, who lived in Jefferson County.

He wrote that Pittsburgh steel magnate Andrew Carnegie experienced agreed to donate $40,000 — a lot more than $1.3 million in today’s dollars — to establish a general public library in Fairfield.

This drawing by Gazette artist Harry E. Larimre of metal baron and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie ran in the newspaper in 1901, as Carnegie’s push to fund public libraries are buying up steam. Carnegie’s first donation to establish a community library outside the house of Pennsylvania went to Fairfield, Iowa, in 1892. (Gazette archives)

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The Jefferson County Library/Museum was constructed at 112 S. Court docket St. on land donated by Wilson. The setting up was built by architect C. Stafford of Kansas City, Mo.

It was the first Carnegie library constructed outside the house of Pennsylvania and the initial of 101 Carnegie libraries that inevitably would be crafted in Iowa. It also was the only Carnegie library created without the need of any stipulations connected.

James F. Wilson was a U.S. senator from Iowa when he persuaded Andrew Carnegie to donate funds to construct a community library in Fairfield, in which Wilson lived. Wilson’s portrait now hangs in the Jefferson County Carnegie Library Museum in Fairfield. (Merideth Langton)

The library, devoted Nov. 28, 1893, even now stands and is now the Jefferson County Carnegie Library Museum.

The library “was a significant building, created just about solely of stone and iron, in a sizeable manner, comprising not only all requisites for a library but a corridor seated with opera chairs and a museum crammed with specimens of organic heritage, geology, and so forth.,” the Muscatine Journal reported Feb. 26, 1894.

“It was not erected, as a single could suppose, with an appropriation voted by the men and women of the county, as is allowed beneath our legislation, but wholly by personal munificence. The principal contributor was Andrew Carnegie, the celebrated producer, who gave $40,000.”

The library’s 3rd-floor museum housed Dr. J.M. Shaffer’s purely natural background selection of 684 mounted chicken and animal specimens acquisitions of Indigenous Indian curios from W.W. Junkin a collection of Roman antiquities and relics from Italy and Switzerland from Main S.H. Byers and archaeological goods procured from Samuel B. Evans.

City acquisition

But any constructing involves routine maintenance, and people expenses turned a worry.

W.H. Johnson of the Iowa Point out Library Affiliation requested if the option may possibly lie with the metropolis of Fairfield. What if the town took more than those bills?

The stockholders of the Jefferson County Library Association favored that proposition. The make a difference was place to a vote — in which ladies were allowed to forged a ballot — in 1899. The measure handed by a vast margin, with citizens agreeing to a tiny tax to support the library.

Buffalo head

In 1914, the museum obtained its iconic buffalo head.

In the early 1900s, Maple Grove Farms proprietor J.O. Singmaster of Keota had a herd of buffalo. Two buffalo were being slaughtered for the 1912 Fairfield Previous Settlers celebration and all over again in 1913, with the hides and heads sold.

E.R. Smith offered a person of the mounted heads to the library at the 1914 Previous Settlers celebration. “May it be preserved for hundreds of several years as a memento of pioneer days,” he reported in the course of the presentation.

It was a short while ago refurbished and nevertheless hangs in the museum stairwell.


At Fairfield’s Centennial in 1939, the Fairfield Everyday Ledger described how the library would assist the metropolis rejoice.

“The museum will be open each individual day all through the Centennial,” the Ledger claimed. “The basement space has been rearranged with the division publications in convenient arrangement.”

The aged newspapers in the library’s basement proved a useful supply for centennial functions.

In June 1940, when it was decided the bodyweight of the library’s timber and slate roof was harmful the constructing, the original gabled roof was eliminated and replaced by a flat roof, with a firewall included to the best of the building. Sections of ruined brick partitions and the chimney also had been repaired.

Sen. Wilson’s granddaughter frequented the library in 1956, searching for her grandmother’s scrapbooks. She also located her grandfather’s personal papers — including letters from Carnegie and President Ulysses S. Grant — in the drawers of an aged bookcase. The Fairfield Every day Journal had reported in 1916 claimed that the Wilson family members had given the papers to the library.

In 1965, the library’s very first-floor ceilings have been dropped and the entry transformed.


The Jefferson County Carnegie Library Museum is celebrating the building’s 130th anniversary. The making was outlined on the Countrywide Sign-up of Historic Destinations in 1983.

The general public library moved to a new developing in 1996, and the museum shares the primary library setting up with Indian Hills Group Higher education. Indian Hills courses use the 2nd ground, and the museum fills the building’s top and lessen floors.

The Jefferson County Carnegie Library Museum in Fairfield was focused in 1893 as the to start with Carnegie library west of the Mississippi River. (Merideth Langton)

The 3rd flooring has a spinning wheel as soon as owned by Mary Ann Rutledge, mom of Ann Rutledge, reportedly Abraham Lincoln’s initial love. It also has a quantity of other Jefferson County historic artifacts, including a product of the USS Iowa that arrived to the museum in 1897.

The museum also has a symphonium audio box. When our information, Interim Director Lawrence Eyre, wound it up, its audio drew guests from all over the third ground to view and listen.

Digital tour

A digital tour of the Jefferson County Carnegie Library Museum is accessible for viewing at https://3dmedianow.com/3d-model/carnegie-historic-museum/fullscreen-nobrand/

Reviews: D.fannonlangton@gmail.com

The indicator in entrance of the Jefferson County Carnegie Library Museum displays that it shares its place with Indian Hills Group School classes. (Merideth Langton)

Indigenous American relics from the W.W. Jenkin assortment are displayed on the 3rd ground of the Jefferson County Carnegie Library museum in Fairfield. (Merideth Langton)

A model of the USS Iowa was offered to the Fairfield General public Library/Museum in 1897 by U.S. Sens. John Equipment of Burlington and James Wilson of Fairfield. It was encased in glass by shipbuilding organization Cramp Bros. of Philadelphia. (Merideth Langton)

An inscription earlier mentioned the door demonstrates the Jefferson County Library/Museum was “erected by Andrew Carnegie.” The 12 months 1853 signifies the year the county began a library in advance of Carnegie donated money for a library setting up in 1892. (Merideth Langton)

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