Connecticut State Library with state seal

History, 1854 - 1910

Connecticut State Library

In 2004, the Connecticut State Library will proudly celebrate 150 years of service to the people of Connecticut. This is the history of our earliest years, before moving to this beautiful building across from the State Capitol in 1910.

Legislation appointing first State Librarian for Connecticut The Connecticut General Assembly first recognized the need for a State Librarian in 1854 when Representative Asa Train of Preston introduced legislation that organized a State Library Committee.   The Committee was given the "authority to appoint a Librarian, whose duty it should be to take charge of the State Library, to arrange, catalogue, and index the same, and to have bound such unbound books or works, belonging to the Library, as the Committee shall deem to be of sufficient value to the State to warrant the expense..."

 

 

J. Hammond Trumbull,State Librarian 1854-1855In the autumn of 1854, J. Hammond Trumbull began his tenure as the first State Librarian. The collection consisted mainly of volumes accumulated by the Secretary of State and stored in their Old State House offices on Main St. in Hartford.

 

Old State House

Trumbull described the storage conditions of the 3,000 volumes entrusted to his care at the Old State House. "The rooms in the upper story of the State House at Hartford, which were then, and formerly, appropriated to the Library, were small, badly lighted, inconvenient, of difficult access, and required extensive alterations and repairs, involving considerable expense, to provide for even the temporary accommodation of the books, and for their security from damp..."  New quarters were quickly provided in a partitioned section off the main hallway on the second floor of the State House.

Catalog of the Connecticut State Library 1854, excerpt

Trumbull compiled a catalog of the volumes already in the collection. His plan was to develop the collection in 5 areas:

These are images of the title pages from some of the original volumes of the collection.

Title page from Statutes of the United Kingdom

Title page from Journal of the SenateTitle page from Army Register 1848Title page from Day's Digest, 1786-1838

Title page from Report on the Geology of the State of Connecticut, 1842.

 

Charles Jeremy Hoadly,  State Librarian, 1855-1900Trumbull only served for one year.
Upon his resignation, Charles Jeremy Hoadly was appointed as State Librarian in September 1855. He continued to serve for 45 years until his death in 1900.

Books Added to the Connecticut State Library, May 1856

Loan Book 1855, Connecticut State Library

Hoadly kept a daily record of additions to the collection. He also maintained a Loan Book indicating which items were being used and by whom. The collection continued to grow in the 5 main categories established by Trumbull

Connecticut State CapitolIn 1878, the State Library moved to the newly completed State Capitol on Capitol Avenue in Hartford.  The Library was located on the 3rd floor on the north side of the building, and opened directly into the rotunda.

 

Connecticut State Library in the State Capitol May 1885 looking west

The ornate Library was 85 feet long, 55 feet wide, and 35 feet high and featured "tiled flooring, beamed ceiling, carved cornices, pillared windows, and frescoed walls." Seven massive wooden bookcases, each 10 feet high with shelves deep enough for 2 to 4 rows of books, provided 3,000 feet of shelving. Several ladders placed throughout the room provided access.  This view is looking west.

 

Connecticut State Library in the State Capitol 1892 looking east

Lighting for the Library was provided by huge windows and inefficient, yet decorative gas lamps. The Library was equipped with spittoons, inkwells on the desks, and pitchers of water. Portraits of the Governors decorated the walls. This view is looking east.

 

George Seymour Godard,  State Librarian 1900-1936George Seymour Godard was appointed State Librarian in 1900 upon the death of Mr. Hoadly.  He served for 36 years until his death in 1936.

 

Connecticut State Library in the State Capitol ca. 1901 (with Godard)

In his first Annual Report in 1901 Godard comments on  the crowded conditions in the Library: "As to the number of books and pamphlets contained in the Library I am unable to state...they are stored in four different rooms often with two or more rows upon a shelf or in heaps..." He is also concerned about the fire threat inherent in the wooden shelves, and the lack of lighting. This view of the Library, facing east, shows Mr. Godard at his desk.  Note the books piled on top of the bookshelves and the telephone line coming down from the ceiling to the desk.

 

Connecticut State Library in the State Capitol after 1902 looking east

In 1902 Godard was successful in procuring new 2-tiered metal shelving for the Reading Room.  It was installed by the Art Metal Company of Jamestown, New York.  Although it didn't take up any more floor space than the old oak shelves, it provided 8,000 feet of shelving, almost triple what they had before.  It was finished in olive enamel with brass trimmings.  The balcony to the second tier was protected with an ornamental wrought iron railing, which bore bronze medallions representing the Great Seal of the State.  This view is facing east.

 

Connecticut State Library in the State Capitol after 1902 looking west2

The gas lamps in the Reading Room were replaced by modern electric ones.  The Hartford Courant reported on Aug. 31, 1902: "Stacks and wall cases are lighted by 262 electric lights located over the several sections and governed by switches placed at east end of the cases.  In addition to these lights the room is lighted by about 150 lights located in the cornices around the room and the thirty-six light chandelier in the center of the ceiling."  Glass flooring, three-quarters of an inch thick is the stack area, helped diffuse the light.  This view is facing west. 

 

Connecticut State Library in the State Capitol after 1902 looking west

The renovation also included safes with adjustable roller shelves to protect the manuscript and archives collection, and a fireproof vault to house the Charter and the Constitution of 1818.  This view is facing west with the archives safe in the far wall and the vault against the stairs.  The Governors portraits were also rearranged.

Bookplates used by the Connecticut State LibraryBeginning in 1902, bookplates designed by W. F. Hopson of New Haven were inserted in each volume in the collection.  The bookplates bear representations of the Seal of the State, the Fundamental Orders of 1638, the Charter of 1662, the Charter Oak, the first State House in Hartford and the Capitol Building.

 

Smoking in the Connecticut State Library

 

 

 

 



I
n 1904 as the Library celebrated its 50th anniversary, statistics showed that 7, 221 readers used the Library and 2,697 volumes were borrowed by the Supreme Court. The Library also welcomed a "daily stream of visitors and sightseers."

Masthead from Connecticut Farmer

Masthead from Connecticut Workman

Godard's vision for the Library to acquire "...whatever illustrates the history, character, resources and development of that particular state or section.", resulted in soaring acquisition rates.  In his 1907-1908 report, Godard records receipts of 4, 482 bound volumes, 14,620 pamphlets, and 6,038 miscellaneous items that year alone. These are the mastheads from two publications we received that year.

 

Connecticut State Library Staff

Additional material required additional staff.  By 1908, Godard's staff included five Assistants and three Catalogers.  "The State Librarian has selected his several assistants only after much consideration...with hope and expectation that all assistants so selected may work together as one interested, happy family, for in that way only, can the important work at hand be best accomplished. " 

 

Eventually, even the renovations and new shelving could not keep pace with  the burgeoning collections, or the Reading Room provide all the advantages Godard desired for the public.  He stated in his 1906 Annual Report:  "It has been my thought and hope that some provisions might be made...whereby all the books of the library could be brought together, where the several portraits and paintings could be properly and safely hung, where regularly constructed vaults for invaluable records and papers might be accessible, and where rooms or special apartments for study could be provided and proper provisions made for the development and work of our State Library." 

His hopes were realized at the groundbreaking for a new Connecticut State Library and Supreme Court building on October 23, 1908.

Prepared by Nancy Peluso, Connecticut State Library. 2004.