It all began when librarian Clara Webber was working in Alliance, Ohio. She began corresponding with Laura Ingalls Wilder. She later moved to California and was hired as children’s librarian at the Pomona Public Library. At the time they were in a Carnegie building that was bursting at the seams. The children’s room was less than inviting and as one of her first projects she set out to change it, with paint, new furniture, and “storybook picture fabric.” She also asked Laura if it would be all right to name the room for her. She replied that she would be delighted. Laura sent them a letter (see photo by following link below), a handwritten manuscript of “Little Town on the Prairie” and typescript of “By the Shores of Silver Lake.” She also sent an autographed photo and an autographed set of the books, and eventually a map where she marked all the places she had lived (she was a little off, she couldn’t find Walnut Grove she explained – probably because she was looking east of New Ulm). When a new library was built, it was decided not only would the name remain, but a special alcove off the children’s room would be built for Wilderana. Webber continued to build the collection of Wilder material and today has one of the best collections not at one of the homesites. This is the library mentioned in the only known recording of Laura’s voice when she is thanking the library in California.
They even reprinted some of their collected articles in a special booklet to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Laura’s birth. To celebrate that momentuous occasion, the Pomona Public Library held a gingerbread sociable in her honor. The Friends of the Pomona Public Library have held it every year since on the Saturday closest to Laura’s birthday. While it was not the first library to host one of these, they certainly have been holding it the longest. In the Summer 2004 issue of “The Homesteader,” I wrote a history of their Sociable, although I have learned more since.
Early on a major attraction was a spelling bee which broke up over a controversy. Melissa Sue Anderson was a guest of honor one year and William Anderson was guest of honor another year. I still haven’t made it to one myself, but I hope to sometime. The children’s room is also known locally for a collection of dolls.
Follow the link below to the library’s own blog where they talk about their Wilder collection and show a collection of photos. I’ve added my comments about each one below the link.
Photo 1 – Sign of Room from when the new library building opened.
Photo 2- Photo of Melissa Sue Anderson when she attended the Sociable in the early 1970s. Probably their highest attendence ever.
Photo 3 – Letter Laura sent for the dedication of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Children’s Room. It is quite similar to the one she sent for the Detriot opening. She apologizes in the letter that was enclosed with it that her thoughts don’t come as easily now that Almanzo had passed on.
Photos 4 & 5 – A sculptural wall map was put together based on a map Laura sent marking the approximate places she lived in blue ink and other information. Unfortunately it has been worn and needs some repair.
Photo 6 – Display case – Dolls from collection, early Laura booklets, photos of the family, a Harvey Dunn print, and pages from the Les Kelly calendar.
Photo 7 – A plate I’ve never seen, not sure if it’s specifically Wilder or generic pioneer. Sewell editions of the books (maybe their signed set?). In the lower right hand corner there appear to be dolls in the Barbara Brooks style, but not the family set.
Photo 8 – Carved Ingalls Family see my next post. They also appear in photo 9.
Photo 9 – More generic dolls plus a Charlotte and you can see part of the Barbara Brooks doll set (one of at least 3 sets she made) that Laura is describing in the only known recording of her voice. The set made for Laura is now on display at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Branch of the Wright County Library in Mansfield, Missouri and a second set is on display at the museum there.
Photo 10 – Some old clothes, some Laura plates and the current DeSmet version of the china shepherdess.
Photo 11 – More copies of the series in various editions.
Photo 12 – Manuscript in long hand, should be Little Town on the Prairie, but a little hard to read in the photo.
Photo 13 – More of the manuscript, a bound script of an episode of the TV show and some napkin rings labeled as Laura’s.