Conventioneers this year will not be visiting the Franklin
Institute to see the most famous of all a.j. libraries as they
did during our diamond jubilee. In lieu of such a pilgrimage,
here is an up-dated history.
David W. Jagger, editor of the
wanted to sell his 2000 amateur paper collection for the price of
indexing. Edwin Hadley Smith paid the required $10 in 1897.
These papers were enough to spark Smith's collecting instinct.
When he moved from Salt Lake City to New York in 1899, he had
already acquired 7000 papers. During the next three years he
added 13,000 more. He tried to catalog his journals during his
spare time, but decided it would be better to resign his
position and work full time on the collection. He had saved some
money but the estimated six months stretched to a year and a half.
He exhausted his funds, went into debt, was arrears in his rent,
but doggedly continued, existing on one meal a day, sleeping on a
packing crate in an unfurnished room-often working 18 hours a day,
completing the task in the summer of 1904.
After having the collection bound (there were now 25,700 papers),
he began to search for a place where the collection could be
placed in order to make it available to other interested amateur
journalists. His altruism was rewarded. On November 5, 1908,
the Smith Collection was opened to the public at the Pratt
Institute Public Library in Brooklyn. Five years later the
collection was moved to the Pulitzer School of Journalism,
Columbia University, at the request of the director, Dr. Talcott
Williams. Charles C. Heuman, an ex-president of the Fossils,
purchased the collection from Mr. Smith in March 1916. It then
became known as the Fossil Library.
Two years previous to the purchase by Heuman, Smith had published
his notice of retirement from amateur journalism. His
"retirement" apparently was prompted by the failure of the
Fossils to raise funds to give the collection a permanent home.
Later sufficient monies were raised by voluntary means. The
formal opening of the Fossil Library took place on October 10,
1916, in the New York Sun Building. Joseph Dana Miller was named
Smith remained inactive for fifteen years. The library suffered
a similar fate. It was practically complete to 1915 and contained
29,500 papers, 750 books, 1800 clippings, 2200 photos, 4500
printed relics (ephemeral and 14,000 catalog cards. A new era
began when Cyrus H. K. Curtis, the publisher of the Saturday
Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal and other magazines, lent his
weight to the suggestion of Leonard Tilden that the Fossil Library
be housed in the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. A letter
dated June 16, 193 1, to Heuman formally accepted the collection
and stated that: "We shall house it permanently in the new
Benjamin Franklin Memorial; it will be kept intact and will be
in its own separate alcove in the library of the Franklin
Shortly before this event, Smith had once again become active.
At the NAPA convention in 1933, he was elected an executive judge,
but resigned when the president of the association, Harold Segal,
asked that he take the position of librarian.
The Franklin Institute actually accepted the collection on April
6, 1934, through its librarian, Alfred Rigling. The collection
then consisted of both the Fossil Library (items to 1915) and the
National Amateur Press Association Library (items from 1931).
These two were combined to form the Library of Amateur Journalism.
The years 1916-1930 were not represented in either collection, so
Smith set out to fill in the missing journals for those neglected
Attendees at the 60th convention in Oakland, California, learned
that the NAPA Library contained 2200 papers, 100 books and
additional printed clips and relics. Only six issues of the
were needed to complete the 1878-1935 file of the official organ.
A year later Smith was able to report that the collection was
At the 1940 convention, in grateful appreciation for his
cooperation, Rigling was named an honorary member of the NAPA.
His successor, Walter Pertuch, was later similarly honored.
When Edwin Hadley Smith died, March 3,1944, the NAPA librarianship
passed to his wife, Nita Gerner Smith (daughter of one of the
1876 founders). In 1955 Bernice Spink took over from ailing Mrs.
Smith. Seven years later, her husband, Helm, was appointed
In April 1964, thirty years after the Franklin Institute accepted
the Library of Amateur Journalism and had promised to "house it
permanently," Mrs. Spink received a letter requesting removal of
the library. At the convention in Des Moines the same year,
"Edwin Harler, Harold Segal and the librarian were appointed to
meet with the institute." Due to Spink's ill health, he and Mrs.
Spink resigned their duties and Stan Oliner, a professional
librarian, took over the duties.
The Franklin Institute gave those involved ample time to decide
upon a recipient. Oliner thought that everything should be
sorted and re-catalogued before being sent to a new home.
Because it bad so often been referred to as the Fossil Library,
and historic information in
led them so to believe, the NAPA felt that the Fossils should make
the decision on the library's disposal. The Fossils permitted
Oliner to do as he requested. To pay the trucking charges to
Oliner at Grand Junction, Colorado, the NAPA donated $ 100 and
the Fossils $7.
On September 30, 1967, the Library of Amateur Journalism was
formally transferred to the New York University Library, Special
Collections division, in New York City. The papers were signed
by delegates of the Fossils, NAPA and the American Amateur Press
Association, whose journals have been added to the total.
However, lack of funds have hampered sorting, indexing and filing.