“We do not loan books &c,” 1885


Postcard c. 1910. ” ‘The Joy Ride’ at the California Alligator Farm, Los Angeles, California.” The Carter Museum of American Art via Google Images.


Before I return J. Fletcher Williams to the file cabinet, I want to share a piece of Minnesota Historical Society arcana: a memo Williams wrote to his temporary assistant in 1885, instructing him in the essentials of running the Library. Those 19th-century newspapers we use, now microfilmed, began their MHS career rolled up in a pigeon hole.

“Instructions for K. A. Guibeau, employed as assistant while I was in California, Dec. 1885” by J. Fletcher Williams, Librarian and Secretary of the Minnesota Historical Society.[1]


See that the daily papers come regularly, and place them in the pigeon holes. At the end of the week, take them out, and lay them in the back room.

All packages, books, &c, coming by mail, should be laid away without removing the wrappers, in some place where no one can meddle with it.

Open all letters. If there seems to be anything urgent, you had better remail it to me, directed to Los Angeles. Or, reply to it on a postal card, stating that I am absent.

Wind the clock every Monday morning.

If express packages or freight, come, take a receipt for the amounts paid the carrier, on the blanks used for that purpose.

We do not loan books &c. Any one is welcome to use them here, as long as is desired.

If any trouble occurs with the steam pipes or plumbing, or gas, report it to George Morton, engineer.

Anything unusual or unexpected, of importance, occurring, you had better report it to Mr. Upham, 1st National Bank, and ask his advice.

The annual meeting is on Jan. 11 at 7 1/2 p.m. J.B. Chaney will act as Sec.

It would be well to keep a memorandum of everything that would probably be important for me to know about, so that on my return I can attend to it, if necessary.


[1] Minnesota Historical Society Institutional Archives, MHS.

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1 Response to “We do not loan books &c,” 1885

  1. I love it. Makes it seem as if life was just that simple. A few instructions and the work of the historical society will continue uninterpreted!

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