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Albertson Public Library – In the beginning 1921-1931

ABOVE: Postcard of the Albertson Public Library at 165 East Central Avenue at the corner of Central and Rosalind.

Offer Made and Agreement Signed

On November 10, 1921, Captain Charles L. Albertson, a winter resident of Orlando and a retired Police Inspector from Waverly, New York, met with the Orlando City Commissioners and a committee from the Chamber of Commerce to offer his personal library of 12,000 books valued at around $75,000, to the City of Orlando.

The announcement of Captain Albertson’s offer was published on the front page of the Evening Reporter Star the following day. On November 12, 1921, the Orlando City Commissioners met and unanimously accepted Capt. Albertson’s offer to donate his library to the City of Orlando. The formal agreement was signed on November 26, 1921. It stipulated that the City of Orlando would “erect a fireproof library building of sufficient capacity to accommodate the said books, and that the same shall be known as The Albertson Library…”

Funding secured

On February 21, 1922, the City held a bond election for the purpose of issuing bonds for certain municipal improvements, including a public library building. It should be noted that not all were enthusiastic about the construction and funding of a library, but the measure passed with 446 votes for and 155 against.

The citizens of Orlando, however, had apparently been paying library taxes since 1920. In a letter asking for assistance from Tampa head librarian Helen Virginia Stelle dated March 8, 1923, Albertson Public Library Board president Sexton Johnson states: “…Orlando citizens have been paying library taxes for three years….”

In response to a request by the Melbourne library building committee to borrow the building plans for the Albertson Library, board president Sexton Johnson explained how forming the library under Florida law allowed “municipalities to levy up to two mills for library purposes”, thereby providing funds needed for the library. 

The 1921 City of Orlando Audit, Exhibit 9 – Library Building Lots Fund, shows that the library assets include about $8500 in cash and lots 15 and 16 of the Gramiss and Sperry Addition valued at $9,000.  By July 31, 1922, the library account at the State Bank of Orlando & Trust Company was in excess of $14,500 dollars – the equivalent of about $240,000 in 2022 dollars!

1921 City of Orlando Audit, p. 6. View 1921 City of Orlando Audit.

Blueprints Completed – Permit Granted!

The permit number for the construction of the “City Library at the North West Corner of East Central and R0siland [Rosalind], C. C. Hanner [construction company] to be constructed of steel and concrete for the price of $73,500” dated August 8, 1922, is noted on the back of the blueprints for the Albertson Public Library.

Architectural drawings for the construction of the Albertson Public Library dated August 9, 1922, created by architect Murry S. King, provide a detailed look at the exterior elevations and interior systems of the library. A copy of a warranty deed dated May 11, 1920, indicates the city swapped property in order to secure the land for the future library.

ABOVE: C. C. Hanner advertisement, 1921 Orlando City Directory, p. 57

The booklet created in 1923 for the opening of the library describes the beauty of the structure:

The library building is of the Greek Doric style of architecture, the simplicity of which is in keeping with the dignity and beauty of the structure. Eleven broad white steps lead to the entrance on the main floor, which opens into the delivery room. Here the decorations are harmonious and tasteful, the designs being Greek throughout… There is an abundance of natural light, as the windows are large, and extend almost to the ceiling… The glass floors permit the light to penetrate from one floor to another…

The original blueprints are stored at the Orlando Public Library in the Facilities and Operations Department, but you may view the blueprints prepared in 1922 for the new library and in 1928 for the installation of the Dunham heating system.

Library Commission 

Sexton Johnson, Superintendent of Orlando Public Schools and a 1920 Rollins College graduate, was chosen to head the library commission as its president in February 1923. In a letter to Tampa Public Library head, Helen Virginia Stelle dated March 8, 1923, Johnson explained that the “library commission was appointed less than thirty days ago.”

Articles of Incorporation established how commission members were to be appointed, their duties and their terms, hiring and replacement of employees, and duties of the librarian who was responsible for every aspect of the library. The five members appointed to the original library commission are listed in a booklet that appears to have been created for the opening of the library.

Professor Sexton Johnson, President
Mrs. Frederick W. Taylor, Secretary (Zeriah “Zeedie” Ingoldsby)
Captain Charles L. Albertson, General Superintendent
Mrs. T. Picton Warlow (Clara)
Mrs. W. T. Jamieson (Anna)

All three female commissioners were members of Sorosis, and Anna Jamieson and Clara Warlow were, at that time, serving on the Executive Board.

Beginning on February 18, 1923 through the end of 1930, the minutes of the library board provide an insight into the successes and challenges not always reflected in the monthly or annual reports. The minutes, initially handwritten making them susceptible to fading, and sometimes difficult to read, have been transcribed. In addition to the board minutes, newspaper clippings and other documents have been inserted and pasted in the minutes book. Two documents of importance are the original and supplementary Articles of Agreement Between  Charles L. Albertson and the City of Orlando. The first was signed on November 26, 1921, and required the library to be open to the public within one year from the signing. As this deadline was not met, the supplementary agreement was signed on October 17, 1922, extended the completion date to October 1923.

Library Commission Seeks Advice

Captain Charles Albertson had experience creating the library in his home in Waverly, New York, but this was an entirely new and much more complicated venture. The library board sought advice from head librarians of other established Florida libraries.

Western Union Telegrams dated March 7, 1923, followed by detailed letters, were sent to Librarian Helen Virginia Stelle of the Tampa Public Library and Librarian Joseph F. Marron and Library Board President, C. D. Rhinehart of the Jacksonville Public Library with an urgent request to meet with commission members in Orlando.

The excerpt (below) of the letter sent by Sexton Johnson, explains why their advice was urgently needed. The library commission members had been appointed just weeks earlier and, while the construction of the building was complete, determining the layout, selecting furnishings and equipment, and hiring the librarian needed to be addressed immediately.

Excerpt from Sexton Johnson letter to Helen Stelle, March 8, 1923. VIEW  telegram and letter.

Invoices and check stubs confirm that the invitees traveled to Orlando via train and their expenses were reimbursed.

Search for Head Librarian

The duties of the “librarian” enumerated in Article IX of the library’s Articles of Incorporation (pp. 3-4) indicate that in addition to serving as a librarian, the person hired as head librarian oversaw all departments and actually performed the duties of a director.

Article IX, Section 1. The Librarian. View Articles of Incorporation.

In a letter dated March 3, 1923, the A.L.A. sent the names of four candidates for the position of head librarian:  Emma Baldwin of Denville, New Jersey; Ruth Cowgill of Topeka, Kansas; Mrs. Mary E. S. Root of Geneva, New York, and Miss Georgia McAfee of Evansville, Indiana. The board promptly sent letters of introduction but apparently they were not interested. Board minutes show that Helen Stelle, librarian of the Tampa Public Library was offered the position of Library at the Albertson Public Library in March and again in April 1923, but declined the offer.

It was fortuitous, therefore, that the April 1923 board minutes  reveal that at the same time, the board received an application from Miss Olive Brumbaugh!

Sunday Report Star, January 31, 1926, p. 4.

Miss Olive Brumbaugh accepted the position of Librarian and Organizer in April 1923.

Read more about the Albertson Public Library Staff.


Librarian Helen Stelle at Tampa Public Library was especially helpful with recommendations for the furnishings for the library, specifying items in the Library Bureau company catalog and reviewing the proposed bid. Comparing catalog images, blue prints of the furnishings, detailed lists and photographs of the library provides a complete picture of the interior space.

1923 Library Bureau, New York City, blueprint for the charging desk.

See more images and view the furniture lists for the Albertson Public Library.

Books and Beyond

At the opening of the Albertson Public Library on November 8, 1923, the books available to the public included about 3,000 books donated by the Sorosis Club and 12,000 donated by Captain Charles Albertson. The personal library of Captain Albertson was described in detail in 1908 in the Waverly Free Beacon but his musings on collecting some of his prized titles are fascinating!

Additional books were donated by groups including Wesleyan Bible Class, the Unitarian Church, D.A.R. of Orlando, Eclectic Club, First Church of Christ, Unity Alliance, Father Michael J. Fox, Pastor of St. James Cathedral, and countless individuals.

By the end of the first month, there were 106 periodicals for reading at home, and 10 newspapers. Captain Albertson’s cherished “loose leaf encyclopedia” collection of clippings, pamphlets and photographs were not yet available.

Excerpt from November 1923 Monthly Report. View Monthly Reports.

Accession books document all the books that were part of the original Albertson Public Library.

Monthly Reports 1923 – 1931

The Albertson Public Library first welcomed Orange County residents to peruse their new library on November 8, 1923.

Beginning that month and continuing every month thereafter, a report was completed providing key information about users and materials. Olive Brumbaugh, head librarian from 1923-1943, likely received reports from various departments and directed the preparation/completion of the reports.

The data is presented on a form from the Library Bureau company in New York City, with some additions. Generally, the reports provide:

  1. Circulation information (number of times books are checked out).
  2. Registrations for new library cards are listed by city and county and then by adult and juvenile. An entry called “Depositors” is added to early reports and is part of the form under Registrations on later reports. It appears to track the number of winter residents or visitors who are permitted to check out materials after paying a deposit of $2.00, according to the Library Rules (1923 Library booklet, p. 9).
  3. Book Account section presents the total number of books purchased or received as gifts, the number of books withdrawn, the total number of periodicals and newspapers, and the number of pamphlets and clippings added.
  4. Reports from the Catalog or School Departments are sometimes attached on small pieces of paper or recycled catalog cards.

Peruse the monthly reports from November 1923 through December 1931.

Booker T. Washington Branch Library and Librarian Eddie T. Jackson

Beginning in June 1924, attached to the preprinted Monthly Report forms, are beautifully handwritten reports on the Booker T. Washington Branch Library by the library’s first African American librarian, Eddie T. Jackson.  Her reports create a wonderful history of the branch and her efforts to share the joy of reading with the community. The reports have been transcribed by year and originals are included with the monthly reports.

Financial Crisis 1931

Correspondence, financial statements, newspaper clippings, board minutes, and monthly and annual reports indicate that the library encountered financial difficulties even before the stock market crash in October 1929. The situation came to a head in the summer of 1931 when the library board decided it was necessary cut the library’s operating expenses by 25 percent. With the support of the librarian, they determined it was necessary to limit access to the library to Orlando residents only, close the Grand Avenue Branch and school libraries, reduce hours, and cut staff pay.

Letters to the library and editorials in the local newspapers indicated that many did not realize that, while residents of Orange County were permitted to use the library’s resources, the county did not contribute anything to the library’s operation. Most conveyed their love of the library and sadness that they would no longer have access. Read more about the financial crisis.

The 1931 Annual Report (above) mentions closing of branches on July 1, 1931, and shows an overdraft for the year of $1,321.32, equivalent to about $25,000 in 2022 dollars.

Annual Reports

Annual Reports, beginning with 1924, provide an overview of the library similar to the information provided in the monthly reports with additional general information.

Early annual reports include the members of the library board, all staff (including new hire and resignation dates), branch libraries and stations, circulation totals, and the financial statement. Some even include expenditures, receipts and petty cash disbursements!

The recently discovered 1924 Annual Report gives a detailed account of the history of the Albertson Public Library from 1920-1924. It recounts the trials and tribulations of the newly appointed Library Board as they took the shell of a building and worked to transform it into a well-staffed, functioning library that opened to the public on November 8, 1923.

The detailed information presented in the 1926 Annual Report is interesting, to say the least.

Cover of the 1926 Annual Report. View the report in full.

Peruse some of the Annual Reports from 1926-1979.

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Copy of Warranty Deed Library Property

Copy of Warranty Deed Library Property and surrounds.

Waverly Free Beacon 1906

Front page article on the personal library of Captain Charles Albertson, enumerating most of the works in the collection. These and many...

1921 City of Orlando Audit cover

Cover of the 1921 City of Orlando Audit.

1923 booklet on the Albertson Public Library

Cover 1923 booklet, probably created for the the opening in November 1923.

1923 photograph of the Albertson Public Library

Albertson Public Library from a 1923 booklet, probably created for the opening. The address was 165 East Central Avenue.

Albertson Public Library, circa 1925.

Albertson Public Library postcard taken from Central Blvd. at Rosalind on the southeast corner. The address was 165 East Central Avenue.

Article IX. The Librarian

Description of the duties of the Librarian from the Articles of Incorporation for the Albertson Public Library.

Collection as of November 30, 1923

Books, newspapers, periodicals as of November 31, 1923.

Library Bureau catalog

Page from the Library Bureau Catalog belonging to Tampa Public Library Librarian Hellen Stelle.

Miss Olive Brumbaugh, January 31, 1926

Photo published in Sunday Reporter Star January 31, 1926, p. 4.

1926 Annual Report

Albertson Public Library 1926 Annual Report.

Building Permit August 8, 1922

Notation on the blueprint set for the Albertson Public Library: City Library - Permit #578, City of Orlando, Aug. 8, 1922, N.W....

1929 APL postcard - Front

A postcard written in 1929 from Mrs. C. B. Alleyn to Miss Ella Ladd in Mystic, Connecticut, was donated to the library...

1929 APL postcard - Back

A postcard written in 1929 from Mrs. C. B. Alleyn to Miss Ella Ladd in Mystic, Connecticut, was donated to the library...

Staff desk - First Floor

Albertson Public Library, staff desk on the 1st floor.

Adult reading room

Albertson Public Library, adult reading room.

Children's reading room

Albertson Public Library, children's reading room.

Art Gallery and Meeting Room

The Art Gallery room at the Albertson Public Library was used for meetings and performances.

Business department at the library.

Albertson Public Library business department.

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1920 Review of Capt. Albertson's Library

Review by inspector of the department of education of Captain Albertson's library in 1920.

City of Orlando Audit 1921.
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Supplemental Agreement 1922

Supplement agreement extending the date by which the library must be completed.

Library Board Articles of Incorporation

The rules stipulating how the library and board would operate.

ALA Recommendations

ALA Recommendations for Head Librarian

1923 Booklet with Rules

Appears to be a booklet created to introduce people to the library.

Response from Sexton Johnson.

Response to request to borrow Albertson Library building plans by member of committee to erect library in Melbourne, Florida, wherein Sexton Johnson explains how to secure financing under Florida Law.

Letter to head librarian and president of the library board in Jacksonville, Florida

The Library Board president Sexton Johnson requested that the Tampa and Jacksonville head librarians meet with the board in Orlando and advise them on the new library.

Letter to Tampa Librarian Helen Stelle.

The Library Board president Sexton Johnson requested that the Tampa and Jacksonville head librarians meet with the board in Orlando and advise them on the new library.

Correspondence regarding furniture bid

1924 Annual Report

The recently found 1924 Annual Report is different from all others as it presents a detailed history of how the Albertson Public Library came to be. It is ironic, as the post was created prior to finding the report!

1926 Annual Report

1926 - Third Annual Report on the condition of the library.

1931 Annual Report

1931 Annual Report - Closing of branches on July 1, 1931 due to financial crisis.

Early check registers

Early check register for checks used by the Orlando Library Commission.

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