"You think your pains and your heartbreaks are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who have ever been alive." James Baldwin, author
I often am filled with delight when I visit the public library. Sometimes, I feel eager anticipation at the prospect of finding the item I'm seeking. At other times, I stroll through the library and gleefully stumble upon an interesting book or a compact disc I've never heard of or long since forgotten. My habitual browsing of "Best Seller Rental Books," "New Mysteries," "New Fiction," "New Nonfiction," "New Children's Books," and the common occurrence of looking for one book and discovering another supply me with a steady stream of pleasing surprises. Both when I'm directed and meandering, there are gems to be found.
When the Madison Free Library opened in 1875, the library inherited the 3,170 volume collection from the Madison Institute. Citizens who came to the opening contributed an additional 200 volumes to the collection. During the subsequent one hundred twenty-five years, the holdings have grown to more than 871,000 books, periodicals, videos, compact discs, and cassette tapes.
By examining book and magazine titles from the early days of the library, we can observe many striking similarities between what Madisonians read in the nineteenth century and what is read today. Jules Verne, the French author whose Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea forecast the submarine of today, was read by MFL patrons in 1875 and remains popular today. Tom Sawyer, Little Women, David Copperfield, Origin of Species, and Les Miserables are but a few of the many books that have stood the test of time.
During the twentieth century, newspapers, staff newsletters, and annual reports to the library board periodically included articles describing the specific reading preferences of Madisonians at different points in time. Those same publications also sporadically printed articles praising Madison's citizens for their insatiable reading habits. In combination, we find that Madisonians regularly have been identified as a populace who loves to read and who have a public library that offers them a diverse collection of materials.
The lending of records service initiated in 1948, and now a service to lend compact discs, exemplifies the library's commitment to provide for the needs of the public beyond print. Over time, the library has granted access to typewriters, allowed children to check out toys, and permitted adults to check out tools and works of art. The record collection tale is representative of this broad vision of how to offer service.
The thought and care with which books are selected for the collection can be seen in the internal debates over the acquisition of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books in the early 1970s. Like the record collection tale, these discussions also demonstrate the characteristic responsiveness of MPL to the desires its clients.
Though the collection contains a limitless supply of extraordinary materials, what constitutes "extraordinary" is undoubtedly in the eyes of the beholder. A brief newspaper blurb from the Wisconsin State Journal on April 12, 1940, headlined "Library Has Story of Time" described an amazing book that had just been acquired by the library. This chapter concludes with the story of "The Book of Record of the Time Capsule of Cupaloy" to serve as reminder of the many phenomenal materials that have been a part of the MPL collection.
The Catalog of the Madison Free Library-1877
In 1876, librarian Virginia Robbins was instructed by the library board to prepare a catalogue of the library's book collection. The public at this time was not admitted to the shelves to examine the books directly and hence such a catalogue would inform them of the choices available. Miss Robbins was paid $150 to produce what would be called the Catalog of the Madison Free Library-1877. She listed each book both by author and by title. The catalog had three general classifications: fiction, juvenile, and an unmarked group, adult nonfiction.
The collection had 4,858 volumes, many of which remain a part of the collection in 2000. World literature abounded with works from Virgil, Dante, Cervantes, Moliere, and Shakespeare among others. There was poetry by Tennyson, Longfellow, and Emerson; philosophy by Plato, Aristotle, and Kant; books on Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and American Indian religions; political theory from Machiavelli, de Tocqueville, and Adam Smith; history, biography, travel, science, art, music, and a smattering of books in German and French; even juvenile fiction, despite the fact that children under fifteen years of age were forbidden from entering the library. These books formed a firm foundation from which the collection has grown ever since.
Some of the titles and authors include:
Adams, John - Letters
Adams, W.T. - Oliver Optics
Alcott, Louisa M. - Little Men, Little Women
Aldrich, Thomas - Story of a Bad Boy
Andersen, Hans C. - Fairy Tales
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - Benjamin Franklin
Bartlett, John - Famous Quotations
Bellows, A.J. - How Not to Be Sick
Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily - Wuthering Heights
Bulfinch, Thomas - The Age of Chivalry
Burnand, F.C. - Happy Thoughts
Bushness, Horace - Moral Uses of Dark Things
Cervantes-Saavedra, Miguel - Don Quixote
Cicero - Orations
Clemens, Samue - Tom Sawyer
Dante - Divine Comedy
Darwin, Charles - Origin of Species
Dickens, Charles - David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist
Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Essays, Letters and Social Aims, Poems, Society and Solitude
Hammond, W.A. -Insanity in its Relation to Crime
Holmes, I.W. -Aristocrat of the Breakfast Table
Homer -The Iliad
Hugo, Victor -Les Miserables
Irving, Washington - Alhambra
Longfellow, H.W. -Poems of Places
Machiavelli, N. - The Prince
Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
Moliere, J.B.T. - Dramatic Works
Plato - Works
Plutarch - Lives
Poole, H.F. - Anti-Slavery Opinions
Shakespeare, William -Works
Smith, Adam -Wealth of Nations
Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Tennyson, Alfred -Holy Grail and Other Poems
Thackeray, William M. - The Book of Snobs; Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
Tocqueville, Alexi de - Democracy in America
Turgenev, Ivan -Fathers and Sons
Verne, Jules - Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea
Virgil - Aeneid
Warner, Susan - Queechy, Wych Hazel
Xenephone - Expedition of Cyrus
Periodicals Available in the Madison Free Library, 1879: What Were They Reading?
In 1879, the Madison Free Library moved within City Hall from its former location inside of the old city treasurer's office into the more spacious environs of the newly remodeled fire department room. Since the new room was larger, one part of the room could serve as the Reading Room. Whereas in the former location the library patrons' only privileges were to submit to the librarian the name of the only book they wanted to take home, the Reading Room enabled patrons to browse books and prompted the library to begin a periodical collection. Listed below are the titles of those periodicals, the "Contents" page from the Atlantic Monthly for the year 1879 to provide an example of the articles such a magazine might contain, and an excerpt from one of those articles by Mark Twain on "The Recent Great French Duel."
excerpt from "The Recent Great French Duel," by Mark Twain
"Much as the modern French Duel is ridiculed by certain smart people, it is in reality one of the most dangerous institutions of our day. Since it is always fought in the open air, the combatants are nearly sure to catch cold. M. Paul de Cassagnac, the most inveterate of the French duelists, has suffered so often in this way that he is at last a confirmed invalid; and the best physician in Paris has expressed the opinion that if he goes on dueling for fifteen or twenty years more, - unless he forms the habit of fighting in a comfortable room wihere the damps and draughts cannot intrude. - he will eventually endanger his life. This ought to moderate the talk of those people who are so stubborn in maintaining that the French duel is the most health-giving of recreations because of the open-air exercise it affords. And it ought also to moderate that foolish talk about French duelists and socialist-hated monarchs being the only people who are immortal."
1879 Madison Free Library Periodical Collection
Weekly Papers: The Nation, Nature, London Times, London Economist
Semi-Monthly: Dwight’s Journal of Music, Literary World, Ueber Land und Meer
Monthlies: Blackwoods Magazine, Contemporary Review, Nineteenth Century, North American Review, International Review, Atlantic Monthly, Scribner’s Monthly, Lippincott’s Monthly, Penn Monthly, Popular Science Monthly
Quarterlies: Princeton Review
NOTE: In the year 2000, the following periodicals listed above remain part of the Madison Public Library collection one hundred twenty five years later:
The Nation, American Review, Atlantic Monthly, Popular Science Monthly, Princeton Review
Popular Titles in the Twentieth Century: What Were We Reading?
"From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." Groucho Marx, comedian
The books people read can help us to understand the intellectual and cultural fabric of a society. Periodically, newspapers and library publications have furnished the titles of the best sellers and popular books of the day at the MPL. In 1904, for example, librarian Julia Hopkins reported that books of a "more serious character" like Helen Keller's Story of My Life and Thomas Aldrich’s Ponkapog Papers circulated just as freely from the rental collection as books of a lighter nature. Presented below are the titles of the most popular books and magazines that have been identified at different points in time in MPL's history.
In November 1906, the Madison Democrat offered a list of books from the library to combat "what is popularly considered to be the gloomy season of the year." The writer explained that the list "is not by any means complete, but contains some of the best stories of this kind in the library, both old and new-tales for the winter fireside, tales for the sick room, tales that will gently amuse and tales that will give the reader a hearty laugh. It is hoped that the list will prove useful to those who feel the need to be entertained and cheered and made happy."
Aldrich - Goliath; Marrjorie Daw; Story of a Bad Boy, Two Bites at a Cherry
Antey - Vice Versa
Brown - County Road; Court of Love
Bunner - Short Sixes
Daska - Madness of Philip
Davis - Van Bibber Stories
Deland - Old Chester Stories
Fuller - Pratt Portaits
Harland - Cardinal's Snuffbox
Harte - Condensed Novels
Irving - Knickerbocker History
Kelly - Little Citizens
Kipling - Courting of Dinah Shadd, Incarnation of Krishna Mulvaney, Moti Guj
McCutcheon - Day of the Dog
Mikszath - St. Peter's Umbrella
Rice - Mrs. Wiggs of Cabbage Patch; Lovey Mary
Twain - Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court
On February 21, 1956, the Capital Times reported on the library's magazine collection in an article titled "There's Something of Everything Among Magazines at City Library."
"You can get 'both sides of the story' from the magazines and newspapers at the Madison Free Library. Newspapers and periodicals which espouse either the liberal or conservative viewpoint have their places in the library racks, although with the possible exception of the Chicago Tribune and a few others, none leans too far to the left or the right. There are no Daily Workers, USSR Bulletins, or other organs which preach the Communist doctrine or the overthrowal of the American way of life among the more than 250 publications available on the library shelves….
A sampling of the liberal side includes such newspapers and periodicals as the Nation, New Republic, the American Federalist, the CIO News, Harper’s Magazine, the Progressive, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the Milwaukee Journal.
On the conservative side there are Time, Life, Fortune, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, a host of publications catering to business interests-Nation's Business, Forbes, Editor and Publisher-the New York Times and the Milwaukee Sentinel."
On January 8, 1962 the library newsletter the Listening Post published the following list of titles which were currently in most demand at MPL:
Capote - Breakfast at Tiffany's
Cronin - Judas Tree
Derleth - Walden West
Greene - Awakened China
Hindus - House without a Roof
Kahn - On Thermonuclear War
Kantor - Spirit Lake
Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis - Children of Sanchez
McCarthy - On the Contrary
Miller - Tropic of Cancer
Mitchell - Gone with the Wind
Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Schirer - Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
Schorer - Sinclair Lewis
Stone - The Agony and the Ecstasy
Streeter - Chairman of the Bored
Thomas - The Spanish Civil War
White - The Making of the President
1963 "Reader Interests"
The 1963 Annual Report of the Madison Public Library included a brief description of the books that were popular during that year:
"…Reading trends in 1963 reflected interest in the Civil Rights Movement (books by James Baldwin and Allan Lomax especially) and in urban renewal. The death of JFK led to great demand for material about him and by him. Businesses and individuals interested in business made up significant segment of library users seeking information on: electronic data processing, learning shorthand by record, civil service practice examinations, investment services, collective bargaining and labor legislation.…
A small group of books with popular appeal continue to be in demand since their publication:
Friedan. The Feminine Mystique; Lasky. JFK; McCarthy. The Group; Mitford. The American Way of Death; West. Shoes of the Fisherman"
In the February 1975 edition of the Listening Post, the following titles were identified as the most popular of the month:
Azrin - Toilet Training in Less Than a Day
Berle - Milton Berle: An Autobiography
Brodie - Thomas Jefferson
Bugliosi - Helter Skelter
Castaneda - Tales of Power
Cavett - Cavett
Hapgood - The Screwing of the Average Man
Herriot - All Things Bright and Beautiful
Michener - Centennial
Pirsig - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Read - Alive
Ryan - A Bridge Too Far
Shaw - All God's Danger
Winterbotham - The Ultra Secret
In November 1975 the Listening Post provided a list of "MPL's top ten bestsellers," based on number of reserves: Humbolt's Gift, Helter Skelter, Ragtime, Crazy Salad, Minding the Store, Centennial, We're Going to Make You a Star, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Breach of Faith, Beyond the Bedroom Wall
Boasting About Madison's Literary Prowess throughout the Century
Madisonians always have been proud of their city and the achievements of their citizens. They also have taken great pride in the recognition received from outside evaluators. Each "number one" rating or award reinforced what they already knew about their city's assets, although they feared that the many accolades would attract too many newcomers and thereby undermine the high quality of life they sought to maintain. In recent years, these awards have been many:
1999- Zero Population Growth ranked Madison as the 2nd best city in the country among medium size cities as a place for children
1997- Ladies Home Journal ranked Madison first in the nation for women
1997- Bicycling magazine named Madison the 4th best bike town in the country and the best in the Midwest
1997- Parenting magazine ranked Madison as the 3rd best place in the country to raise children
1997- Utne Reader selected Madison as one of North America's 10 most enlightened towns
1996- Money Magazine ranks Madison #1 as the best place to live in America in 1996
1996- Cosmopolitan included Madison as one of ten hot cities to consider if it is "time to move on"
Even back in 1948, Life Magazine published an article in its September 6 issue that suggested that Madison was the best place in America to live.
From the beginning of the twentieth century, Madison's library and the literary prowess of its citizens have been a particular source of civic pride. Madisonians are, and have been, voracious, discriminating readers. The excerpts from the newspapers and journals below show how this pride has been exhibited through the century.
1905:"Madison is a Literary City"- Wisconsin State Journal
"Madison is a literary city, if the library statistics can be taken as a proof of this statement. This is due to the influence the state university has in the community. In many places the percent of light, and trashy novels read is above that of biography, history, and travel. While this is true to some extent in Madison, the percent of fiction read is not so great as in many cities the size of Madison."
1916: "Library Records Show Madison Children are Insatiable Readers" - Wisconsin State Journal
"Nearly 74,000 books and 9,929 pictures were circulated among the children of Madison during the past year," said Miss Mary Smith, chief librarian at the Madison Free Library. This is a great increase over previous years."
1918: "Madison Library has Record Year"- Madison Democrat
"More than half the people of Madison are registered as book-borrowers in the Madison Free Library. During 1917, they have borrowed 195,018 volumes, the largest circulation in the library's history."
1920: "Immense Number of Readers Here"- Wisconsin State Journal
"A survey of cities of 30,000 to 70,000 population showed the Madison library circulation was 81 percent larger than the average city, on only 27 percent more income, and with a population of 12 percent smaller than the average. Miss Smith believes the unusual increase is due partly to general impulse to catch up on reading neglected during the war."
1920: Wisconsin Library Bulletin
"The new census figures show that Madison’s population is 50 percent larger than in 1910, but Madison read 110 percent more books in 1920 than a decade ago. 244,393 volumes were in circulation from July 1919 to July 1920, an increase over last year of 36,073.
1920: "Citizens Use Library More Than Ever: More Books in Circulation Than in Any Badger City Except Milwaukee and Racine" — Madison Democrat headline
1924: "Books Are Read More in Madison"- Wisconsin State Journal
"An increase of 16,624 volumes in book circulation was made in 1923 by the Madison Free Library, according to the annual report of Miss Mary Smith, librarian. The increase is notable at this time because most of the libraries of the country are suffering decreases."
1938: Sixty Fourth Annual Report for year ending December 31, 1938:
The cover of this report had a drawing of a stack of books towering above an adjacent drawing of State Capitol. These drawings were accompanied by figures proudly showing the Capitol to be only 286 feet tall, whereas the stack of books borrowed in a single day (November 28, 1938) to be 533 feet tall.
1960: "Librarian Beams Over New City Reading Record" — Wisconsin State Journal
"In April the total circulation of the city's public library smashed all previous records," head librarian Bernard Schwab said. … Schwab chuckled, "We're pleasantly distressed (about the circulation explosion). There's no telling how long we can keep this up."
1960: "City Library Breaks Circulation Records 6 Times During 1960" — Wisconsin State Journal
"All-time monthly circulation records were broken six times during 1960. By the end of September more books had been borrowed than in all of 1959. The grand total on December 31 stood at 660,000 or 34 percent above 1959. Even more startling is the comparison with 1950 when 234,249 books were issued. Use of public library books has shot up almost 200 per cent while population is up about 30 percent."
The World Before Compact Discs: Madison Free Library Starts Record Lending Service in 1948
The development of the player piano in the 1890s brought music into the drawing rooms of millions of American and European dwellings. On February 2, 1948, the Madison Free Library proudly offered patrons the ability to choose the phonograph records they liked, check them out in much the same manner they would borrow books, and take them home for hours of musical enjoyment. Like the mechanical piano, the phonograph records brought music into the homes of many Madisonians and people elsewhere. At the time of the inauguration of the library record lending service, the largest record collection in the city was in the university's Memorial Union and this only was available to students and members for use within the building.
The new loan collection consisted of 150 records. Library staff had suspected that there was a large latent demand for music in Madison and consequently launched the initiative. The library requested donations to build up the collection. Evelyn Miller, director of the new service, said that classical music was especially sought because its values are never in doubt and it "wears" well.
"Popular songs rise and fall in popularity so rapidly that, even with an unlimited budget, it would be impossible for us to keep a library of popular music up to date enough to circulate at satisfactory use," said Miss Miller. She added that in these days of "doubled up" living in too small quarters, many people did not have the room to store records.
Within two months of the inauguration of the record lending collection, donations were received from William L. Doudna, music editor of the Wisconsin State Journal and a Mrs. John Salerno, increasing the collection to 320 records. Georgia Casley, registration librarian, reported that 108 people signed up for the special record lending card in the first seven weeks of the new service, and a total of 405 albums and single records were taken out.
In 1954, librarian Ruth Anderson wrote an article for the Wisconsin Library Bulletin in which she shared the lessons the library had learned in planning its record collection. She noted that "in 1948, when the Madison Free Library began its phonograph record-lending service, we did not have to contend with the complications of three speeds which now confront a library establishing such a service." She advised libraries to consider the speed of records that should be purchased:
"We have found that most patrons ask for LPs, although there are still many borrowers who do not have equipment for playing them and continue to use 78s. We have had some requests for 45’s but have not purchased this speed."
She also mentioned that the library places a leaflet "How to Enjoy Your LP Records Longer" into the record holder as a reminder to patrons of the care that is needed in handling long-playing records. She lamented that "phonograph records are fragile, and there is the ever-recurring problem of damage. While LPs do not break, they do warp and scratch readily. With the three-speed machines which many record borrowers now have, an expensive record may be ruined by the use of the wrong needle, or the mechanism of even a new machine may work improperly, and the result may be deep-grooved scratches and gouges. One deep scratch may completely ruin a new record, and the unhappy patron must be charged for its replacement."
Appreciation for the phonograph record service was demonstrated in remarks such as those made by a patron who said, "I have only 3 albums of my own and I do get tired of playing them over and over. It’s wonderful to be able to borrow records from the library."
Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: To Buy or Not to Buy, That was the Question!
The Nancy Drew series has been an overwhelming success its initial publication in 1930. By 1971, thirty million copies in seventeen languages had been sold. Courageous, intelligent, resourceful, and caring–from the beginning Nancy exhibited all the qualities that have made her beloved by generations of readers. Nine-to-eleven year olds in particular enthusiastically devoured tales of the intrepid Nancy and her adventures solving mysteries.
Up until the 1970s, librarians traditionally did not purchase juvenile series like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys on the general grounds that the library’s responsibility to children was to provide only the best books available. Although popular, Nancy Drew did not meet most libraries minimal literary standards. The books featured one-dimensional characters, poor literary style, lack of realism, and unvarying plot lines. Characters in early and unrevised editions often were presented in stereotypes and uncomplimentary portrayals of African-Americans and other minorities. Librarians also maintained that series books were readily and cheaply available for purchase by the public, and community funds should not be spent on them.
As of August 1971 the MPL still had not purchased the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books. The pressure to purchase these books mounted as frequent and persistent requests from many patrons poured in. Staff members involved in children’s services responded to their patrons’ interest in series books by requesting that the standing decision not to purchase these series be reconsidered. Library Director Bernard Schwab asked the staff to develop a new book selection policy recommendation for the Library Board that would cover the Nancy Drew books, Hardy Boys books, and similar series.
The subsequent five-page report traced the history of the debate over providing patrons with popular juvenile series. The report revisited the previous MPL Book Selection Policy and Guidelines and concluded that nothing in the Policy statement actually prohibited buying some series titles. The report acknowledged the poor literary quality of the Nancy Drew books, but concluded that "it is insupportable for a public library to refuse to provide books in such great demand when there is nothing harmful in reading them; the literary quality is not that much worse than other titles currently purchased for popular reading by children's librarians…. Series books fill recreational needs, one of the objectives in selecting books for children."
The report recommended that selected titles, to be read before acquisition by the librarians involved, should be purchased at the Main library and duplicated by the Branches according to each individual branch situation. On August 8, 1971, the Library Board approved the motion recommending that books from both the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series be purchased. Shortly thereafter, the books were purchased and remain part of the library collection today.
The Book of Record of the Time Capsule: The Most Amazing or Strangest Book in the Collection?
On April 12, 1940, The Wisconsin State Journal ran a small article describing a new library acquisition:
"Library Has Story of Time"
"The Madison public library has many 'different' publications and one of its strangest is a recent addition to the shelves entitled The Story of the Time Capsule.
The book will be kept on file here and in 908 other libraries throughout the nation. It tells the story of the seven and a half-foot torpedo-like capsule buried 50 feet under ground Sept. 23, 1938 at the New York World's Fair.
Shortly after 'burial,' the Madison library received the capsule's 'Book of Record' containing a key to the English language and messages from outstanding scientists of the day.
The capsule will be opened in the year 6938 and inside the men of the future will find memorabilia-small articles of common use, textiles and materials, an essay in microfilm, newsreel, and miscellaneous items."
This extraordinary book remains part of the Madison Public Library collection in the year 2000. How did people in the late 1930s, a time when the world was on the precipice of a horrendous war, conceptualize and plan to record their history for people five thousand years in the future? In order to provide a sense of their thought processes, a brief outline of the book's contents and some excerpts from the book are presented below:
The title page includes the introductory statement:
"The Book of Record of the Time Capsule of Cupaloy deemed capable of resisting the effects of time for five thousand years-preserving an account of universal achievements-embedded in the grounds of the New York World's Fair 1939."
The preface presents the biblical quote:
"All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee." Job XIV: 14-15.
The book begins, "When we survey the past and note how perishable are all human things, we are moved to attempt the preservation of some of the world's present material & intellectual symbols, that knowledge of them may not disappear from the earth."
The book continues explaining assorted considerations addressed when preparing the Capsule:
"…We have decided that the best possible material is a metallic alloy of high corrosion resistance & considerable hardness, of non ferrous nature, and preferably containing a high percentage of copper. Of all the tools used by ancient peoples, those of stone and copper have come down to us from farthest in the past. It happens that a copper alloy fulfilling these specifications has recently been developed. Known as Cupaloy, it is 99.4 per cent copper, .5 per cent chromium, and .1 per cent silver."
Recovery of the capsule receives considerable attention:
"When the time has come to dig for the Time Capsule, look for it in the area known as the Flushing Meadows, Borough of Queens, New York City, on the site of the New York World’s Fair 1939." Commander C.L. Garner, Chief, Division of Geodesy US Coast and Geodetic Survey and C.H. Swick, Chief, Section of Gravity and Astronomy, Division of Geodesy US Coast and Geodetic Survey explained how the geodetic latitude and longitude of the Time Capsule was determined and could be employed.
The book provides explanations of Gregorian, Jewish, Chinese, Mohammedan, Buddhist, and Shinto calendars to facilitate recovery at the designated time (the 6,939th year since the birth of Christ, year 10699 according to the Jewish calendar etc.)
The contents of the capsule also are described:
"We have included books and pictures that show where and how we live: some in apartments like dwellers in cliffs, but comfortably; others in detached houses, still others moving about the country in homes mounted on wheels…."
To assist readers in the future in deciphering the contents of the capsule and the book itself, Dr. John P. Harrington, Ethnologist, Bureau of Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., provides a complex and fascinating section of the book on "A Key to the English Language." Dr. Harrington presents a brief history of the development of language and through diagrams, pictures, and words, details the sounds of English, the grammar of English, and "The Thousand Most-Used Words of English in Neo-Phonetic Spelling."
To enable explorers from the future to recover the capsule successfully, Sherwin Kelly, Chairman, Committee on Geophysical Methods of Exploration, American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, offers a guide for "Seeking Metallic Substances Beneath the Ground." He suggests that 'the Time Capsule may be discovered by detecting the secondary electromagnetic field induced in it by a strong primal electrical field created at the surface of the ground.'
The book concludes with "Messages for the Future from Noted Men of Our Time." Presented below are those letters from Robert Millikan, Thomas Mann, and Albert Einstein.
From The Book of Record of the Time Capsule, Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, 1938
The Message of Dr. Robert A. Millikan (page 46):
AT this moment, August 22, 1938, the principles of representative ballot government, such as are represented by the governments of the Anglo-Saxon, French, and Scandinavian countries, are in deadly conflict with the principles of despotism, which up to two centuries ago had controlled the destiny of man throughout practically the whole of recorded history. If the rational, scientific, progressive principles win out in this struggle there is a possibility of a warless, golden age ahead for mankind. If the reactionary principles of despotism triumph now and in the future, the future history of mankind will repeat the sad story of Mar and oppression as in the past.
The Message of Dr. Thomas Mann (page 47):
WE know now that the idea of the future as a "better world" was a fallacy of the doctrine of progress. The hopes we center on you, citizens of the future, are in no way exaggerated. In broad outline, you will actually resemble us very much as we resemble those who lived a thousand, or five thousand, years ago. Among you too the spirit will fare badly - it should never fare too well on this earth, otherwise men would need it no longer. That optimistic conception of the future is a projection into time of an endeavor which does not belong to the temporal world, the endeavor on the part of man to approximate to his idea of himself, the humanization of man. What we, in this year of Our Lord 1938, understand by the term "culture" - a notion held in small esteem today by certain nations of the western world - is simply this endeavor. What we call the spirit is identical with it, too. Brothers of the future, united with us in the spirit and in this endeavor, we send our greetings.
The Message of Doctor Albert Einstein, in translation (pages 48-49):
OUR time is rich in inventive minds, the inventions of which could facilitate our lives considerably. We are crossing the seas by power and utilize power also in order to relieve humanity from all tiring muscular work. We have learned to fly and we are able to send messages and news without any difficulty over the entire world through electric waves.
However, the production and distribution of commodities is entirely unorganized so that everybody must live in fear of being eliminated from the economic cycle, in this way suffering for the want of everything. Furthermore, people living in different countries kill each other at irregular time intervals, so that also for this reason any one who thinks about the future must live in fear and terror. This is due to the fact that the intelligence & character of the masses are incomparably lower that the intelligence and character of the few who produce something valuable for the community.
I trust that posterity will read these statements with a feeling of proud and justified superiority.