Faxon’s Traveling Conference Albums

Faxon cover
1897 Photo Album

This “Traveling” Souvenir is sent to a few friends, and I hope it may give enough pleasure to offset cost of postage. (Preface, 1897 Photo Album)

“To say that Mr. James lost his head would seem no more than the truth if we look at the picture, where he sits back to us in the foreground. He only removed it for a moment however in order to allow Miss Rathbone’s countenance to be seen.” (1897 Photo Album)

As described in an earlier blog post: Frederick Winthrop Faxon (1866-1936) was the early bard of the American Library Association.  Although he was not a librarian, he was memorialized as someone who “for almost forty years,[…] devoted himself to serving librarians and promoting the library idea.”[1] Attending 43 annual conferences throughout his lifetime, Faxon’s humorous reports enliven several years of the American Library Association Papers and Proceedings.

In the Conference Photographs, 1876-1976 Record Series 99/1/14, the ALA Archives has several of his traveling conference photo albums.  An avid photographer, Faxon documented the entire conference, from austere portraits of ALA Presidents to informal swimming excursions.  After the conference, he annotated and bound the photographs into pocket-sized volumes and circulated them amongst his friends.  Similar to a chain letter, the recipient was encouraged to forward it to the next person on the list after 24 hours.  Among the intended recipients included Melvil Dewey, Katherine L. Sharp, Mary Ahern, John Cotton Dana, Mary Wright Plummer, C. A. Cutter, and Herbert Putnam.

“The sun is rather bright and warm, but we suffer in a good cause – for a frontspiece to the Library Journal. The men who hide their faces are not bashful, but the sun is bright.” (1897 Photo Album)

Many of Faxon’s photographs have been digitized and are available for browsing  here.


[1] Cveljo, Katherine. “Frederick Winthrop Faxon.” Dictionary of American Library Biography. 1978.

[2] Featured images from F. W. Faxon’s 1897 Photo Album, Conference Photographs, 1876-1986 Record Series 99/1/14, Box 2, American Library Association Archives.

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