Carnegie Library building celebrated its anniversary, the event reminded East
Texans of the legacy Andrew Carnegie left before his death in 1919.|
a Scottish-born steel magnate, helped create a network of public libraries across
America in the early l900s. Before he launched his effort, the country had only
about 600 fledgling libraries. By the time he was done, the nation had added nearly
Carnegie donated $645,000 to 31 Texas communities ranging in population from Houston,
which had only 44,600 people at the time, to Pecos,
which had only 639. It is little wonder that an early writer called the old capitalist
“the Santa Claus of Texas libraries.”
East Texas, the Carnegie legacy continues
in the communities of Tyler,
Palestine and Franklin.
Some of the towns’ Carnegies have remained libraries while others serve different
community roles. Carnegie buildings, however, have vanished in Clarksville,
Springs, and Winnsboro.
Carnegie is the home to the Smith County Historical Museum and houses a wonderful
collection of materials related to the county’s history. Tyler is currently raising
nearly a half-million dollars to give the building a centennial facelift. During
the Depression, the building acquired murals entitled “Industry of East Texas,”
painted by Dallas artist Douthett Wilson.|
Carnegie today houses the Chamber of Commerce in a Prairie one-story and basement
building with a series of graceful arched windows across the facade. The interior
is almost original.
Franklin, the Carnegie is similar in design. It served as a library for only
a few years after it was built in 1914 and today houses classrooms and shop classes
for the Franklin school district.
Carnegie is still maintained as a library six days a week and Marshall’s
Carnegie is used as an administrative building on the campus of Wiley College.
Courtesy The Carnegie Center of Brazos Valley History
public libraries Carnegie built didn’t come cheap. Between 1890 and 1919, he spent
$40 million of his own money for library grants. In Texas
he also built one college library and a lecture hall.
the Pittsburgh-based philanthropist began his Texas grants at Pittsburg
in East Texas with a gift of $5,000
Carnegie had a good personal reason for building libraries.
Growing up in Scotland, he had seen his father persuade his fellow weavers
to pool a portion of their salaries and buy books, which were read aloud as they
When he was twelve, after his family came to America, Carnegie
wrote a letter to the Pittsburg newspaper, seeking public access to a private
library which, to that point, had been reserved for mechanics and tradesmen. Carnegie
never forgot the opportunities libraries gave him during his career.
But a town didn’t get money for a library because it requested one. It had to
provide a location for the building and annual taxes to support the library.
If the library proposal had been up to Eugene Debs, an American socialist
leader, no libraries would have been built. Debs believed Carnegie’s money came
from an unfair capitalist system and, as such, no one should take any of it.
January 25, 2005
Column, updated February 10, 2012
Bob Bowman's East Texas
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
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