Preus Library
700 College Dr
Decorah, IA 52101

Summer Hours
Mon.-Fri.: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sat.-Sun.: Closed
except Sat., Aug. 31:
10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Juneteenth (6/19)
July 4

Full Hours

Phone: 563-387-1166

Special Collections

What are Special Collections?

“Special Collections” is an umbrella term used at Preus Library for materials located in areas of the library that are typically outside of or separate from the main collection. Materials in Special Collections do not circulate and are segregated from the main collection in closed stack areas to which there is no public access. Most of the materials are cataloged and can be found on WorldCat Discovery, the online catalog.

Areas included in Special Collections are the Alumni, Faculty/Staff, Luther College Press collection, the DEPO collection, and the Rare Book collection. Two adjunct assemblages of materials related to Special Collections should also be mentioned. The Luther College Archives collects and makes available records of enduring value, focusing principally on the College. The Fine Arts Collection comprised of the visual art owned by the College, is supplemented by extensive documentation maintained on the art and artists represented in the collection.

What are some highlights in Special Collections?

Materials in Special Collections have originated from a variety of sources. A number of works are considered “special” and part of a “collection” when they have been cataloged to show a common attribute. The most typical example of such material would be a collection (such as books, periodicals, recordings, etc.) donated by a common donor. Another example would be a collection of material designed and published by a well-known printer such as the Roycrofters Press. Many items assigned to Special Collections in Preus Library have been transferred from the main collection after review and evaluation.

Numerous core materials from the beginning days of the library at the College have been placed in Special Collections, although some remain in the main library collection. Early Luther College student organizations donated a number of works to the college library from their private libraries when they dissolved. These books or periodicals had been purchased with their own funds.

  • Mimer – Begun in 1873 as a reading society and dissolved in 1889 when 900 books were absorbed by the college library. The catalog of this collection indicated the books were mostly standard works of English, American, and Norwegian literature with some books focused on history and the natural sciences.
  • Normannalaget – Organized in 1892 to be a Norwegian literary society but ended temporarily in 1918. It was reorganized in 1925 and lasted another four or five years. The society donated its collection of 150 volumes of Norwegian literature to the library.
  • P.A. Munch – Started in 1903 as a society to promote the study of history and ended in 1919. Its collection of 125 books focusing on history, especially of the Scandinavian countries, was given to the library in 1920.

American newspapers and magazines were contributed to the library by the literary societies Niffelheim (1874-1889) and Muspelheim (1879-1932). Muspelheim especially was known for furnishing daily, weekly and monthly periodicals to the library. In addition, these and many other societies produced their own publications which have been preserved in the Luther College Archives.

Books and periodicals were transferred to the library from other sources as well. The library of approximately 2,000 titles originally acquired by the Luther College museum was recommended for transfer to the College by the faculty in 1921 and approved by the Board of Trustees. This collection contained many books by Norwegian-American authors and publishers. Eventually Norwegian-American newspapers and magazines held by the museum were also transferred to the college library.

Preus Library has several substantial collections which were donated directly or indirectly by individuals whose names are used to designate the collection. Examples of large collections received during the early years of the College are the Bishop Bang Collection of 5,000 books that was donated to the College in 1913 and the Haldor Hanson Collection of 3,000 books and periodicals which the College received in 1930. Smaller collections were donated by the following individuals: Knut Gjerset, who gave many books to the library during his tenure at the College, but especially between 1922 and 1936; J.C.M. Hanson, ’82, who gave donations starting in 1923, culminating in a bequest and endowment after his death in 1943; Margaret Metcalf Howie who provided a collection in 1976 in memory of Dr. George S. Metcalf, Ernest M. Espelie, ’31, who donated books during the years 1980-1983; William A. Heintz whose bequest was received by the library in 1997.

Expand the sections below to learn more about each named collection.

Bishop BangAnton Bishop Bang was the author of numerous books on general and Norwegian church history and had a fine library. In 1914, friends of the College arranged to acquire 5,000 of these books and add them to the Luther College library.

The announcement of the acquisition was received on founder’s Day in 1913 and prompted steps toward erecting a new library building on campus.

This collection was purchased from the estate of Bishop Bang by the Hon. Lauritz S. Swenson, LC 1886, Mr. Herman Haugan, banker from Chicago, and various alumni clubs which donated sums of $150.00 or more each to secure the collection and donate it to the Library.

The collection was especially rich in Norwegian literature and history, church history, geography, and topography.

Librarian Karl Jacobsen, LC 1902, Mrs. Jacobsen, and Prof. Enoch Peterson. LC 1912, arranged the Bishop Bang collection, classifying part of it and arranging the remainder by classes in a special collection. When the library moved from Koren to Preus Library in 1969, this special collection was dismantled and the books dispersed into the remainder of the library with some volumes transferred to the Rare Book Room and others to the stacks or the DEPO (closed stack) collection.

All of the books received as part of the Bishop Bang collection are marked with bookplates stamped with the name “Bang” while the catalog records also record the donation.

  • Reference: Jacobsen, Karl T. “Library and Museum” in Luther College Through Sixty Years (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1922); Nelson, David T. Luther College, 1861-1961 (Decorah, IA: Luther College Press, 1961); Interview with Angeline Jacobson, Professor Emerita of Library Science, October 11, 2002

Anton Christian Bang

Anton Christian Bang (1840-1913) bishop, church historian, and Doctor of Theology, was the son of farmer and fisherman Ivar Christian Bang (died 1847) and Mariane Klabo. He was born September 18, 1840, in Dønna, also the birthplace of O.E. Rolvaag. He grew up in this farming and fishing community. Like Rolvaag, he went fishing in Lofoten as a young man.

In 1860 he graduated from Tromsø teacher training college. He became a theological candidate in 1867. From 1868-1872 he was a chaplain in Gran and in 1874, he became a pastor at a mental hospital in the capital, Christiania (Oslo). His career grew when he was appointed as a professor of theology in Christiania in 1884. In 1893 he became head of the department of church and education, a position he held until October 1895.

He became bishop of Christiania from 1896-1912. In 1895, he received the Order of St. Olaf. He died in Christiania, December 29, 1913. In 1868 he married Laura Helene Marie Kaasen, born in Eidsvold, April 10, 1838, daughter of Sheriff Ole Kaasen and Anna D. Bay, who died in 1909.

Bang was one of the most significant public figures in the church of Norway around 1900. He was the first to translate text from the Bible into New Norse (nynorsk) and as a bishop, he supported the efforts to introduce New Norse as a church language. He was a friend of the famous Norwegian poet, Aasmund Olavsson Vinje, who died in Bang’s parsonage in Gran in 1870.

Bang was trained in orthodox Lutheranism. He was conservative in both theology and politics, but he understood the value of the culture of common people. He wrote a famous book on the reform figure, Hans Nilsen Hauge (1874). A prolific writer, he published a new explanation
of Luther’s Catechism among numerous other works.

As bishop of Christiania, he was a friend of the Swedish royal family who were concurrently the royal family of Norway. This situation placed him in a difficult dilemma in 1905 when the Danish prince was installed as the King of Norway, Haakon VII. While Bang delivered the sermon for the king’s coronation, he did not set the crown on the king’s head. He published his memoirs in 1909.

  • Translation and notes by Øyvind Gulliksen, Visiting Scholar, and Kari Grønningsaeter, Visiting Faculty Member, Scandinavian Studies, Luther College, 2002, from Norges Portraet-galeri (Christiania: A.M. Hanche, 1906-) and Norsk Biografisk Leksikon (Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget, 1999).
  • Photo: Brochmann, Johannes, Biskop Dr. A. Chr. Bang. Et Livsbillede (Kristiania, Norway: Alb, Cammermeyers Forlag, 1898).

K.O. Eittreim

K.O. Eittreim was born June 15, 1870, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Ole O. and Martha Eittreim. On August 24, 1893, he married Anne Maria Digerness at Radcliffe, Iowa. They were the parents of seven children. Eittreim died on September 29, 1942, in Decorah. The funeral was held at First Lutheran Church and burial was in the Lutheran Cemetery in Decorah. Memorial services for him were also held in the C.K. Preus Gymnasium, conducted by Dr. Oscar Olson.

Eittreim attended Red Wing Seminary, 1888-1889, and Beeman’s Business College, Red Wing, MN, 1889-90. He was a bookkeeper in Chicago from1890-1895 and worked for A. Risser & Co., also in Chicago, who were manufacturers and dealers in harness and saddlery. He also worked for John McLock and Co., wholesale dry goods, Butler Bros., department store, and the Western Passenger Association, all of Chicago. He attended the Chicago Theological Seminary, 1895-1900, and was ordained into the Lutheran ministry. He served as a pastor in Creston, IL, from 1900-1911, at the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church. From 1911-1912 Eittreim taught in the commercial department at Jewell College in Jewell, IA, later becoming president of Jewell College from 1912-1918.

In 1918 Eittreim came to Luther to be a teacher of commercial subjects including accounting, bookkeeping, commercial geography, commercial law, commercial arithmetic, shorthand, typewriting, and penmanship. He also taught Religion, Hebrew and plane geometry. From 1920-1932, he acted as treasurer of the college. After the death of Knut Gjerset, Museum Curator, he was appointed Curator serving from 1936-1939. He retired in 1939 and remained in Decorah.

Eittreim was the Co-editor of “The Lutheran Hymnary,” published in Minneapolis by the Augsburg Publishing House in 1913. A statement in the Preface to the book states that the authors hoped it would “prove no small factor in the efforts made to unify various Norwegian Lutheran Church bodies in our land.” He wrote the chapter on “Income” in Luther College Through Sixty Years, 1861-1911. Eittreim also printed the Luther College Campus News, a single sheet five and one-half by eight and one-half inches which was printed on the “Luther College Press”, a small hand-power machine which he personally owned. Twenty numbers were issued during 1921-22, some being four-page issues.

Eittreim was cited in his obituary as being a “great collector” reflecting his many interests. He had a personal library of over 10,000 volumes, mostly focused on theological subjects but also had collected books devoted to literature, history, art and science. His collection of over 600 hymnals, mostly in English but also in Norwegian and German, was well known.

He also collected stamps, old coins, buttons and Norwegian-Americana. (He was an early member of the Norwegian American Historical Association.) He was a gifted carpenter and built the house he lived in at 517 High Street in Decorah in 1925. He was the architect for the house and did much of the actual construction including the rough and finish carpentry as well as pouring cement. The house was located between Sunnyside (now the location of the Center for the Arts) and Sperati House. It was purchased by the College for $7,500 in 1943 and used for music students (called “Melody Manor”), dormitory space and housed a fraternity for several years before it was demolished.

In 1946-47, Mrs. Eittreim donated a selection of books from Eittreim’s personal library to the Luther College Library. These books focused on a variety of subjects. Some were cataloged for the Rare Book Room but the rest of the books are now in the DEPO collection. Items in the collection can be found by searching on the title phrase “Knute Olson Eittreim Collection” in WorldCat Discovery.

Ref: Chips, April 16, 1930; October 17, 1942; Decorah Journal, October 1, 1942; Luther College Through Sixty Years, 1861-1921. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1922; Nelson, David T., Luther College, 1861-1961. Decorah, IA: Luther College Press, 1961; Strand, Algot E., A History of the Norwegians in Illinois. Chicago: J. Anderson Publishing Company, 1905; A Handbook of American Private Schools. Boston: P. Sargent, 1916; Pioneer, 1949; Luther College Campus News, 1921-1922 and Luther College Directory, 1937, Luther College Archives, Publications.

Knute Gjerset

Knut Gjerset was born on September 15, 1865, in Romsdal, Norway, to Ole S. and Karen Marie (Eidem) Gjerset. He and his family emigrated to Chippewa County, Minnesota, in 1871 where his father was a pioneer farmer and teacher. Gjerset attended Willmar Seminary, Willmar, Minnesota, from 1884-1888.

In 1893, he received his A.B. degree in literature from the University of Minnesota. After graduation he assumed the position of principal at St. Ansgar Seminary in St. Ansgar, Iowa, remaining there for two years from 1893-1895. In 1895, he became a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University for a year followed by two years of study at Heidelberg University where he received his Ph.D. in English literature in 1898.

After receiving his doctorate, he became principal at Glenwood Academy in Minnesota remaining in that position until 1902. At the end of this assignment, he became a professor of History and Norwegian at Luther College where he taught for the remainder of his professional career (1902-1916; 1917-1936), except for one year when he served as president of Park Region Luther College from 1916-1917. During his time at Luther, he also took a leave to study at the University of Christiania (Oslo), 1909-1910, and at the University of Berlin in 1910.

While at Luther College, Gjerset was perhaps best known for his work as Curator of the Norwegian-American Historical Museum, starting in 1922 and ending with his retirement in 1935. During these years, the museum evolved from being a college museum to becoming the Norwegian-American Historical Museum, officially named so by the Luther College Board of Trustees on October 15, 1925. During Gjerset’s tenure as Curator, he renovated the old “Chicken Coop” and took over the ground floor of the newly built Koren Library for the collection. He helped arrange large gifts from museum collections in Norway which resulted in five truckloads of articles coming to Decorah. In 1932, when the space vacated by the Lutheran Publishing House became available in downtown Decorah, he arranged for the move of the museum to that location. Under Gjerset’s leadership, the museum became professionally recognized when it was included on the list of museums maintained by the Smithsonian Institution and in the directory of the American Association of Museums.

As curator of the museum, Gjerset wanted to “arrange a typical Norwegian living-room where articles preserved from pioneer days can be placed as they once stood in grandmother’s own home…The collection must be brought into such form that it breathes Norwegian life.” He was known for forging ahead with plans to “help people visualize the living conditions and activities of the Norwegians who came to dwell in America.” Toward this end, he also was a leader in forming the Norwegian American Historical Association in 1925-26, whose goal was to “seek and gather information about the people in the United States of Norwegian birth and descent, and preserve the same in appropriate forms as historical records.” The Association was headquartered at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

During his career, Gjerset was the Assistant Editor of Symra from 1912-1914. He was awarded a Knight (first class) of the Order of St. Olav in 1916 by the Norwegian government. In 1925, he became the Director of the Norse-American Centennial celebration held in St. Paul/Minneapolis. This celebration commemorated the event which began 100 years before when fifty-three settlers from Norway first landed in New York Harbor on the sloop Restaurationen. In 1927, he was honored with membership in the Icelandic Order of the Falcon.

Gjerset was an active scholar who published numerous books and articles. He wrote Chapter 17 (“Important Events”) in the Luther history, Luther College Through Sixty Years, which was a summary of the early years of the formation of the College. He concluded the chapter noting the effects of World War I including the 1918 proclamation that “English should and must be the only medium of instruction in public, private, denominational, and other similar schools.” Gjerset said in general that the War had led to “a lack of feeling of responsibility and devotion to scholarly ideals” but that he was optimistic that incoming classes of Luther students were beginning to turn this feeling around. Gjerset had two books published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association which were about Norwegian shipping and sailing, one focused on the Great Lakes and the other on the eastern seaboard. Other notable books were the scholarly works he wrote on the History of the Norwegian People and on the History of Iceland. He compiled a history of the Luther College Museum which was published in 1923.

While at Luther College, Gjerset was department head of the history department for more than thirty years. During his tenure, he started the P.A. Munch Historical Society on February 11, 1903. (Munch was a Norwegian historian known for his multi-volume history of the Norwegian people.) The society, which Included both faculty and students, had meetings devoted to lectures on historical topics delivered by professors of the college or by visitors. Gjerset encouraged students in historical study by arranging that their best papers should be published in Chips in the “historical department.” Although no meetings of the society were held after 1919, the library collection which had been gathered by the society was added to the main library where many of the books can still be found. Gjerset is also credited for suggesting the name of the Luther College annual, Pioneer, which began publication in 1920, based on his reasoning that the College was the pioneer institution of the Norwegian Lutheran church.

At the time of his death by heart attack on October 29, 1936, Gjerset left behind one major uncompleted project, a Norwegian-American encyclopedia. Although he had created a list of 1,200 potential contributors with their assignments, ill health prevented him from completing the work. He said in a proposal in 1923, “I have had a very strong feeing of the necessity of the work we have undertaken if we want our descendants and our American neighbors to know what we have done in this land.” According to David T. Nelson’s profile of Gjerset, he was especially concerned that the younger generation of Norwegian-Americans needed to “become partakers in our cultural work.”

Gjerset was survived by his wife, Helen Baumgarten, whom he had married in 1894 in New Richland, Minnesota. They were the parents of three children, Maurice, Walter and Agnes. A private service was held for the Gjerset family in the family home followed by a public funeral in C.K. Preus Gymnasium. At the funeral, messages of sympathy were read from the Norwegian Legation in Washington, D.C., the Norwegian government, King Haakon of Norway and the president of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America.

During his lifetime Gjerset donated many books to the Luther College Library. While most of them focused on Norwegian cultural, historical and literary subjects, others represented his wider range of interests. These books can be found by searching on the title phrase “Knut Gjerset Collection” in WorldCat Discovery. Personal correspondence and research culminating in several of his books are located in the Luther College Archives.

Ref: Nelson, David T. Luther College: 1861-1961. Decorah, IA: Luther College Press, 1961; Luther College Through Sixty Years: 1861-1921. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1922; Christianson, John. “Knut Gjerset.” Norsk Biografisk Leksikon. Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget, 2005; Nelson, David T, “Knut Gjerset.” Norwegian American Studies 25 Northfield, MN: Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1972; Norlie, Olaf. History of the Norwegian People in America. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1925; Obituary, New York Times, October 30, 1936; Obituary, Decorah Public Opinion, November 5, 1936; Obituary, Chips, November 11, 1936; Chips, February 15, 1925; May 15, 1925; November 27, 1926; February 9, 1927, January 25, 1928; New York Times, April 12, 1925; Personal Papers, Luther College Archives, RG 15.

Haldor Hanson

Haldor Johan Hanson was born on June 24, 1856, in Fuse (near Bergen), Norway to Hans H Lammenaes and Herborg H. (Lønningdahl). He emigrated in 1865, at the age of nine, to Grand Mound, Iowa, where his parents farmed. Hanson enrolled at Luther College, graduating in 1883. He married Antonila Ytterboe in 1887 (died in 1912).

After graduation from Luther, Hanson studied at the Chicago Conservatory from 1883-1884. He then taught at Willmar Seminary (academy) in Willmar, Minnesota, 1885-1887, before returning to Luther College to teach music and mathematics from 1888-1890. When called upon, he also taught Latin and Norwegian. Hanson joined a small group of faculty to establish the Decorah School of Music in 1889 (he served as principal), which was incorporated into the College after one year. When Hanson left Luther in 1891, he again studied music but this time in Weimar, Germany, from 1891-1892. In 1892 he arranged a work called “Harpetoner” published by B. Anundsen in Decorah.

After returning to Luther College in 1894, he was appointed as the first professor of music in 1895. He continued to serve on the faculty until 1904 and was in charge of the band until that time. His own instrument of expertise was the violin. Hanson served as organizer and conductor of the Luther College choirs from 1882-1883. He greatly expanded the musical activities at the College, organizing the Decorah Choral Union in 1889 in which town and college musical forces collaborated. A result was that he directed the first oratorio performed at Luther College, Haydn’s “Creation,” in 1890.

In 1895 Hanson started the Luther College Musical Union which was an amalgamation of band, choir, orchestra and the glee club into one student organization. The purpose of the group was to “establish a closer relation between the different musical organizations, and thus, by joint effort, promote the interests of each organization composing it.” Several college histories comment that Hanson’s return to Luther marked the beginning of strong growth in the music program.

In October 1895, Hanson was placed in charge of the museum at Luther College where he served as Curator from 1896-1902. He immediately began gathering books, newspapers, and objects about the Norwegians in America for the museum. Former Norwegian-American Museum director Marion Nelson commented that Hanson, and his successor Knut Gjerset, “shared a comprehensive and democratic approach to building the museum collection.” After his resignation as Curator, Hanson devoted himself to teaching music at Luther.

Ultimately Hanson resigned his appointment at Luther in 1904 in part because of his disagreement with the narrow platform planned for the College by President Christian Keyser Preus. Preus wrote a position paper (in Norwegian) entitled “In What Direction and Toward What Goal Should Luther College Be Developed to Best Serve the Synod?” which Marion Nelson characterized as stressing theological preparation over liberal education.

After leaving Luther, Hanson moved to Chicago where he became a book and music dealer, publisher and author. He assumed the position of proprietor of the Northern Book and Music Company which published the monthly Norwegian-American magazine, Idun: Tidsskrift for Literatur, Musik, etc. Hanson served as its editor during the magazine’s run from 1908-1910. The magazine printed articles on the arts and also listed new and second-hand books on Scandinavia and Scandinavian subjects which the Northern Book & Music Company offered for sale. The company also sold musical scores and musical instruments and strings “at bottom prices.”

Among Hanson’s other activities after leaving Luther, was his service on the editorial staff of the Norwegian-American newspaper, Skandinaven. In 1904 he compiled a 135 page index to Maanedstidende and Kirketidende, covering March 1855-December 1902. He wrote an article published in Symra in 1907 entitled “Nogle norske ord og udtryk I den nyere engelske literature.” The first edition of an English-Norwegian-Danish dictionary compiled by Hanson was published by the John Anderson Publishing Company in 1909 and reprinted in several subsequent editions. In 1916, he composed a “Cantata for Christmas-tide” and formulated the “Norsk-Amerikansk Julebog” in 1921. He also translated a poem by Ibsen called “Terje Vigen“which was published in 1929 by the Northern Book & Music Company.

After Hanson’s death on December 14, 1929, his library collection of approximately 3,000 items of Norwegian Americana was donated to the Luther College Library. Arrangements to secure the donation for Luther College had been made about five years prior to his death by Prof. Karl T. Jacobsen, head librarian, and J.C.M. Hanson, Luther alumnus and librarian at the University of Chicago. A handwritten alphabetical list of the books and periodicals is located in the Luther College Archives along with two boxes of catalog cards recording how the materials were cataloged.

A bookplate, specially designed by Eldred J. Nesset, ’36, which reads “Luther College Library Haldor Hanson Collection of Norwegian Americana,” was pasted inside the front cover of each book. It contains an image of Yggdrasil, the giant ash or yew tree at the center of the world in Norwegian mythology, which represents the tree of knowledge. It also includes an inscription in Old Norse from verse 19 of the Eddic poem, Voluspa (Prophesy of the Seeress), found in the Codex Regius manuscript, ca. 1270. In translation the inscription says, “Ash I know standing, named Yggdrasil, a lofty tree, laved with limpid water.”

According to college records, the collection was intended to be housed in a room in Koren Library dedicated to Norwegian Americana and cataloged as a special collection. Toward that end, it was cataloged according to an idiosyncratic classification system utilizing the letter “Y” (not used in the Library of Congress classification system) to distinguish the materials from other items in the library. The arrangement is summarized here: 

  • Y1 General periodicals
  • Y10 Church periodicals
  • Y20 Reports of church organizations and conventions
  • Y30 Reports and publications of other institutions and societies
  • Y40 Reports of individual Norwegian-American authors
  • Y90 Works in Norwegian, published in the United States

Materials with spine labels showing this “Y” classification are evident in the Rare Book Room and DEPO collections. The Hanson collection has now been interspersed throughout Preus Library shelved with the rest of the books and periodicals and cataloged according to the conventions of the Library of Congress classification system. Items in the collection can be found by searching on the title phrase “Halvor Hanson Collection” in WorldCat Discovery.

Ref: College Chips, December 17, 1929, January 15, 1930, April 23, 1930; Luther College Faculty, Luther College Through Sixty Years, 1861-1921. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1922; Nelson, David T., Luther College, 1861-1961. Decorah, IA: Luther college Press, 1961; Nelson, Marion J., Material Culture and People’s Art Among the Norwegians in America. Northfield, MN: The Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1994; Norlie, Olaf M., History of the Norwegian People in America. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1925; Haldor J. Hanson Personal Papers, Luther College Archives, RG 15.öluspá_III

J.C.M HansonJens Christian Meinich Hanson has arguably had the most significant and lasting impact on the library profession among Luther College alumni who have become professional librarians. As a Norwegian-American and Luther College alumnus of both the preparatory school and the college, his background closely reflects the heritage and traditions of the College. His professional life has been well documented in numerous sources.

Hanson was born March 13, 1864, the sixth of eight children to Eleonore Adamine and Gunnar Hansen in Sorheim, Nordre Aurdal, Valdres, Norway. Hanson’s first name was changed to “James” or “Jim” shortly after he arrived in America in 1873. In his autobiography he states, “Owing to difficulty with the name Jens, my early associates in Iowa gradually changed it to James or Jim, a change that to my sorrow I was stupid enough to accept.” He also eventually Americanized his surname of Hanson to be spelled with an “o” rather than an “e.”

In 1873, Rev. Ove Hjort from Paint Creek, Allamakee County, visited Hanson’s parents in Norway and offered the opportunity for one of their children to come to America and attend the preparatory school at Luther College. The child would board with a family named Roberg who were relatives of Hanson’s mother. Since Hanson was the child most eager to go to America, he elected to leave home at the age of nine, intending to stay three years before returning to Norway. Ultimately he returned to Norway 34 years later when only one brother and two sisters remained, never seeing his parents again.

At the time Hanson arrived in Decorah, the town had 3,000 inhabitants. President Laur. Larsen insisted Jens wait a year until 1874 before enrolling in the preparatory school during which time he studied with a tutor and learned English. J.C.M Hanson in baseball uniform

While a young student at Luther, he played baseball as his chief sport although he also played football. He sang in a chorus called Maaltrosten (song thrush) and developed a life-long love for choral music. Since he did not pass his final exams in “Quinta,” he was obliged to stay on in Decorah an additional year (1877-78). After this time, he decided to stay in America and finish the college course, saying later America had become “the real home.” He eventually received his BA degree from Luther College in 1882.

After graduation, Hanson planned to go west to the Dakotas but U.V. Koren persuaded him to attend Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, where he studied from 1882-1884. In his autobiography, Hanson said he learned German and enjoyed church history at Concordia but decided not to become ordained. His life changed direction when he became the principal at the parochial school which was part of Our Savior’s Church in Chicago from 1884-1888. While in this role, he also was klokker (deacon) and superintendent of the Sunday School.

Hanson at Cornell
When the school closed in 1888, Hanson enrolled as a graduate student at Cornell University where he majored in European history and minored in economics and political science. At Cornell he was first exposed to a large research library. Later in life he reminisced that it took him four to five months to find the card catalog. The library at Cornell used the Brunet cataloging system and since only half of the library was included in that system, books were difficult to find. Instead, students were sent to the library by professors and directed to look at certain titles. From this experience, Hanson learned that not all European history books were shelved together. While at Cornell, Hanson also took two years of French. He later added four years of Spanish and Italian while at the University of Wisconsin. (Ultimately Hanson acquired a working knowledge of sixteen languages.) Hanson also played baseball at Cornell and continued playing during the summer months to augment his income.

From 1890-93 Hanson assumed an apprentice position at the Newberry Library in Chicago. He noted in later years that he realized he did not want to teach saying, “Fluency of speech, so essential in a good teacher, seemed to be lacking in my case…” Hanson’s principal biographer, Edith Scott, noted in her dissertation that “…Hanson’s choice of librarianship was a result of a basic lack of security, as well as a lack of financial resources, which led in turn to a rationalization based on a lack of fluency in speaking, sometimes extended to an alleged slowness of thought attributed to east Norwegians generally.” Thus, Hanson decided to leave Cornell after two years and relinquished the goal of teaching.

Realizing how much he enjoyed library work, in 1893 Hanson accepted a position to join the staff of the library at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The library there needed reorganization of its 45,000-50,000 volume collection. He reported in his autobiography that, “The books were merely arranged roughly in alcoves without any numbering system.” The library then used Cutter’s Rules for a Dictionary Catalog by Charles A. Cutter which utilized the letters of the alphabet. This system influenced Hanson as he later helped develop the Library of Congress classification system.

Hanson worked at the reorganization of the University of Wisconsin Library until 1897 when he received an offer from the Library of Congress to be chief of the Catalog Division. The Library of Congress was preparing to move out of the Capitol into a new building, the largest structure built in America exclusively for library purposes. The classification scheme in use at the time was the one devised by Thomas Jefferson and thus was badly antiquated. The new classification system for the 800,000 books at the Library of Congress was chiefly prepared by Charles Martel but other collaborators contributed as well. Hanson was mostly concerned with codifying cataloging rules and was known for his meticulous attention to detail and appreciation for form and method. Instead of using a book catalog, the new catalog was created on 3” x 5” cards arranged in a dictionary format (author, title, and subject headings alphabetically arranged), an innovation which fundamentally changed the way American libraries were organized.J.C.M. Hanson - undated

In 1898, it was decided that 50 copies of each catalog card should be printed and distributed by the Library of Congress to American libraries to expedite cataloging for them. The cataloging would be contributed by numerous libraries besides the Library of Congress and shared via the printed LC cards. Hanson planned and formatted this project. In 1907 he visited Norway for the first time since leaving to come to America, with the trip sponsored by the Library of Congress. He was charged with visiting various European libraries to review their cataloging systems and also intended to visit family. Well equipped with knowledge gained from his trip, Hanson was made chair of the ALA committee in 1908 which created the Catalog Rules, Author and Title Entries, published jointly by the American Library Association and the British Library Association. Hanson was deeply involved in negotiating the Code with British librarians. During his time at the Library of Congress, he also dramatically increased the number of staff at the library.

Although Hanson and his family enjoyed their years in Washington D.C., they decided to make a change when an offer came to return to Chicago. Hanson recalled thinking that not only did they have family in the Chicago area, but the climate would be better, opportunities for educating his children would be superior, and it was “almost a duty to the capable and devoted assistants who had stood by me during those difficult years of organization and whose only chance for promotion depended on vacancies in the higher positions, to step out now that an opportunity offered, perhaps the only one likely to come my way.”

In 1910, Hanson became the Associate Director of the University of Chicago library. The position operated like an acting directorship since the Director was responsible for many duties at the university unrelated to library activities. Hanson argued for disbanding departmental libraries to centralize the library, thus saving funds on duplicate subscriptions and books and increasing efficiency. He began to classify a large collection of 200,000 volumes purchased from a dealer in Berlin which contained a considerable number of fifteenth century imprints (incunabula) and over 200 imprints of the period 1501-1599. However, his main task was the reorganization of the collection, developing a reference collection and building a cataloging and classification system for the library.

Nearing retirement in 1928, Hanson took on a different role by accepting a professorship at the new graduate library school at the University of Chicago to teach cataloging and classification. That same year, he was asked to go to Rome as a member of a bibliographical commission appointed and financed by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to “assist in a projected reorganization of the catalogs and classification of the Vatican Library.” Hanson was reluctant to ask for a leave of absence from the library school since he felt the work could better be done by younger, more energetic individuals, but was finally convinced that the pool was not extensive for people with his expertise. At that time, the Vatican would only accept men for this task and most men in the library profession had opted for administrative rather than cataloging and classification work. As a devout Lutheran, Hanson was prepared to be uncomfortable while working at the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. However, in his autobiography, he recounted the excellent experience he enjoyed there with officials who went out of their way to be hospitable, even recognizing his fondness for choral music by arranging choral concerts of old church music for him to attend.

At that time, the Vatican library had 600,000 volumes and 550,000 manuscripts which were listed in 12 different catalogs, some dating from the 17th century. No attempt had been made to bring together books on the same or related subjects. The pope at the time, Pius XI (1922-1939, formerly Cardinal Achille Ratti), had been the librarian of the Vatican when elected Pope and so was especially interested in having the library reorganized. According to an article in Chips, Hanson was in charge of a small party of American librarians who would spend three to four months studying the situation and if possible, “make some beginning on the actual work of recataloging and classification of the printed books.”

The library had been established at the end of the 4th century and reflected the fact that early Christians attached great importance to sacred books. The major difficulty was books given by donors who wanted the collections they donated preserved as a memorial. Hanson reported that efforts to change this were largely unsuccessful. Still after spending four months at the Vatican, he could point to important progress. He was very influential in preparing the Norme per il catalogo degli stampati (Rules for the Cataloging of Forms) published in Vatican City in 1931 which is a cataloging code for the Vatican Library that reconciled European and American cataloging practice. In order to expedite the reorganization efforts, the Library of Congress donated a complete set of their printed cards to the project; in return, the Vatican gave some significant books to the Library of Congress.

During that same year in 1928 Hanson received the Commander of the Order of St. Olav of the second class from King Haakon VII of Norway. As reported in Chips, he was given this award in recognition of his outstanding work in the library profession. On June 3, 1931, he received the honorary degree LL.D. (Doctor of Laws) from Luther College, also in recognition of his career accomplishments.

Finally in 1934, after six years of teaching at the library school at the University of Chicago, Hanson retired as a professor emeritus. To mark the occasion and in honor of his seventieth birthday, he was given a Festschrift of contributions by 30 men and women with whom he had worked (reprinted in the April 1934 issue of Library Quarterly). One contribution was written by Karl T. Jacobsen, then head librarian at Luther College, who also worked with Hanson at the Library of Congress as well as at the University of Chicago. Hanson and his wife, Sarah Nelson (whom he had married in 1892), retired to Sister Bay in Door County, Wisconsin, for the summer months and St. Petersburg, Florida, for the winter months. His wife died in 1936. In 1937, Hanson made his final and fourth trip to Norway. Hanson died at the age of 79 on November 8, 1943, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and is buried in the Lutheran cemetery at Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Hanson and his wife were the parents of five children: Karl, Thorfin, Valborg, Eleanore, and Harold.

An important publishing event occurred in 1939 when the University of Chicago Press published Hanson’s Comparative Study of Cataloging Rules Based on the Anglo-American Code of 1908, which summarized the points of agreement and disagreement between nineteen codes in nine languages. Along with this significant work, Hanson also was the author of other books as well as articles focusing on technical library matters or Norwegian-American issues. He also wrote numerous book reviews. He is especially remembered for the four reorganizations of libraries in which he played a leading role: the University of Wisconsin Library, 1893-1897; the Library of Congress, 1897-1910; the University of Chicago, 1910-1928; and the Vatican Library, 1928. His professional memberships included the American Library Association, the Bibliographical Society of America, Kappa Sigma, and the Norske, Quadrangle and University clubs.

Hanson’s connection with Luther College remained strong throughout his lifetime. He was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1920-1923. He also chaired the Building Committee for Koren Library, starting in 1912. Speaking at the 60th anniversary celebration for Luther College on October 14, 1921, which commenced with the dedication of the new Koren Library, Hanson said of the library, “The gradual acquisition through gift and purchase of some of the best works of Scandinavian writers, particularly in literature and history, has resulted in one of the best collections of books on the north of Europe to be found anywhere in America.” As one of the dignitaries who gave an address for the occasion, Hanson also discussed the technical aspects of the library and its possible future development.

Hanson’s relationship with the Luther College Library continued after his death since his will stipulated that, “The sum of $500 is to be given to the Luther College Library, Decorah, Iowa, to be devoted to purchase of the local history and literature of Valdris. The interest only to be so expended.” It also noted that all of his books relating to Valdres be turned over to the Luther College Library and that the library may also “select from my other books what is needed, particularly from the books on bibliography and library science.” These books can be found, in addition to the books he donated to the Luther College Library during his lifetime, by searching on the title phrase “J.C.M. Hanson Collection” in WorldCat Discovery. Many of Hanson’s personal papers, including the book manuscript of his autobiography, were designated in the will to be donated to the Luther College Archives.

In response to a request from the Library concerning expansion of the narrow parameters of the original $500 endowment, Hanson’s heirs determined in 1955 that the interest “could be used to purchase books about other parts of Norway.” Terms of this endowment have been followed since that time to purchase materials focusing on the history and culture of Norway or the Norwegian language.

Ref: Nelson, David T. Luther College: 1861-1921. Decorah, IA: Luther College Press, 1961; Luther College Through Sixty Years: 1861-1921. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1922; Hanson, J.C.M. What Became of Jens? Ed. Oivind M. Hovde. Decorah, IA: Luther College Press, 1974; Pioneering Leaders in Librarianship. Ed. Emily Miller Danton. Chicago: American Library Association, 1953; Ylvisaker, Erling. Eminent Pioneers: Norwegian-American Pioneer Sketches. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1934; Scott, Edith. J.C.M. Hanson and His Contribution to Twentieth-Century Cataloging. Thesis (Ph.D.), University of Chicago, 1970; Manning, Martin. “Hanson, James Christian Meinich,” American National Biography Online, 2000; Obituary, Library Journal, December 1, 1943; Obituary, Library Quarterly, January 1944; Obituary, New York Times, November 10, 1943; Chips, January 11, 1928; October 17, 1928; Festschrift reprinted in the April 1934 issue of Library Quarterly; Personal Papers, Luther College Archives, RG 15.

Dr. George S. Metcalf was a field archeologist, a historian of the Great Plains, and a supervisor of the processing laboratory of the department of anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution.

In 1970, he was awarded an honorary Sc.D. by Luther College. After his death in November, 1975, his widow, Mildred Metcalf, worked with their daughter to donate his book collection to the Luther College Library. Margaret Metcalf Howie, a professional librarian and cataloger at Stephens College in Missouri, helped make the donation.

More than 90 books were added to the Luther College Library collection in memory of Metcalf. These books centered around Metcalf’s interest in the Plains Indians. An additional number of manuscripts were added to the Luther College Archives and are contained in the Clark Mallam collection.

About Dr. George S. Metcalf

George Stephen Metcalf was born in a sod house in Wauneta, Nebraska, in 1900. Although his formal education ended in the eighth grade, he became a professional archeologist, working as a field archeologist, historian of the Great Plains, and finally a supervisor of the processing laboratory of the department of anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution.

Metcalf was described by a colleague as an “omnivorous reader with an unusually retentive memory and a lively curiosity about what went on around him….” This same colleague considered him an excellent writer who brought perceptiveness and all the relevant available evidence he could uncover to his subjects. He authored numerous published articles, reports and bulletins in the course of his career.

Metcalf began collecting artifacts during his boyhood along the Frenchman River and its tributaries in southwest Nebraska. During his life he had first-hand experience with occupations such as farming, trapping and being a cowhand.

He began an association with the WPA during the 1930s working with A.T. Hill and the Nebraska Archeological Society in field archeology. He learned techniques of pithouse excavation from Hill and others. He was known for his sense of responsibility and for his ability to work with large crews of men. He was a meticulous worker, maintaining detailed and accurate records.

He worked in several factories during World War II, then returned to Nebraska (1947-1953) working on the Missouri River Basin surveys. From these surveys he transferred to the Smithsonian in 1953 working as a Museum Aid. During the next seventeen years, he served as an assistant on numerous field expeditions to the plains.

In 1970, he was awarded an honorary Sc.D. by Luther College. That same year, Metcalf was sent by the Smithsonian as its representative to help catalog the Gavin Sampson collection of artifacts at Luther College. He spent many weeks working with former Anthropology Department faculty member Clark Mallam and a crew of students processing this collection. During his time at Luther, Metcalf developed cataloging procedures and helped train students in basic laboratory techniques.

Over 6,000 artifacts were cataloged during his time on campus. The remainder of the collection of 15,000 artifacts was completed later that year. In 1971, Metcalf returned to Luther to assist in the cataloging of the ethnographic materials returned by the Norwegian-American Museum to the College.

  • Ref: Mallam, Clark, “George Metcalf” Citation for the Degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa, May 24, 1970; “Metcalf Library Given to Luther.” Luther Magazine (14) July 1977, 17-20; Wedel, Waldo. “George Metcalf: An Appreciation” The Central Plains Tradition: Internal Development and External Relationships. Report No. 11, Office of the State Archeologist, The University of Iowa, 1978, 4-5.

Elbert HubbardThe Roycroft Collection at Luther College consists of twelve books which were written by Elbert Hubbard and/or designed and published by the Roycrofters Press at the Roycroft Shops in the village of East Aurora, New York. This handicraft community was founded in 1895 under the guidance and leadership of Elbert Hubbard, a writer and entrepreneur. The community was part of the Arts and Crafts movement whose goal was to create a self-contained and self-supporting community of people who produced artistic products. The Roycroft Shops had its heyday before 1915 with over 400 Roycrofters living and working in the community before finally closing in 1938.

Elbert Hubbard, born in Bloomington, Illinois, June 19, 1856, started his adult life selling soap for the Chicago firm of Larkin and Weller. When Larkin established his own business in Buffalo, New York, Hubbard joined him to supervise sales and advertising. Although the business became phenomenally successful, Hubbard resigned in 1893 in order to study writing at Harvard. While still working for the Larkin Company, he had already written two books published in 1891 and 1892. At this same time, Hubbard’s personal life became complicated when his affair with Alice Moore, a school teacher, became public. Eventually he divorced his wife, Bertha, in 1903 and married Alice in 1904. Both wives were working partners with Hubbard in the enterprise that became the Roycroft Shops.

Hubbard abandoned his Harvard plans but remained convinced he should become a writer. Inspired by a visit to William Morris’s Kelmscott Press in England in 1894 and armed with a settlement of $65,000 received when he left the Larkin Company, he established the Roycrofters Press with a partner in 1895. (The Roycrofters Press is also known as “The Roycrofters” or “The Roycroft Shops.”) The first item published was the periodical, The Philistine, which ran until 1915. In addition, Hubbard began to have his own books published through other publishers in 1894, starting his series of successful “little journey” works profiling the homes of famous people. The first book published by the Roycrofters Press was The Song of Songs in 1896.

Little Journeys Title Page

Hubbard supposedly named the press and developed its orb-and-cross logo although his associate, Harry P. Taber, may have been the actual creator. Hubbard attracted talented printers and graphic artists to work at the community, of which the best-known was the designer Dard Hunter. They began to turn out limited editions of books printed on expensive papers or even genuine animal vellum. Bindings were available in a variety of formats including suede over cardboard and leather which was stamped, modeled or tooled. Hubbard also used color for hand-decorated initials and illuminations.

Of particular interest to Hubbard was the design of title pages which were created in a variety of heterogeneous styles by the artists who worked for the Press. The Roycrofters Press prices were broad ranging from $2.00 to over $100.00 for a single book. The Press also published a magazine called The Fra and after Hubbard’s death, continued with several magazines entitled Roycroft and Roycrofter. Ephemeral material such as booklists, catalogs, mottoes suitable for framing, and pamphlets were also published by the Roycrofters Press.

Scholars have pointed out that Hubbard was a promoter who sold his books as handmade when, in fact, many were bound by a nearby Buffalo printer especially during the early years of the press. Several have remarked that the inks were occasionally out of register and that some of the signed editions had actually been signed by his assistants. The limited editions routinely exceeded the number Hubbard claimed. However, consistency and quality improved in the later years as more artists and printer specialists were attracted to the Roycrofters Press.

Hubbard and his wife died on May 7, 1915, when they were passengers on the Lusitania which was torpedoed by a German submarine during World War I. After their deaths Hubbard’s son, Elbert II (Bert), sought to continue the Roycrofters Press. Although he was able to keep it alive until 1938, scholars feel the old designs and decorations were recycled “too often.” The innovations of the original press were not seen again. Jean-Francois Vilain’s essay on “The Roycroft Printing Shop” in the exhibit catalog Head, Heart and Hand (1994) concluded, ”Some Roycroft books can be charitably forgotten, many more are outstanding examples of bookmaking, but all contributed to the awakening of the American public to the value of a book as art object, and to the spreading of the tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement.”

In addition to establishing a printing press and doing bookbinding at the Roycroft Shops, Hubbard build a fourteen-building complex which housed workers and visitors as well as provided space for artistic endeavors. Artists worked in studios which produced pottery, furniture, metal-work, stained glass and leather-goods. Painters, sculptors and photographers also found their way to the Roycroft Shops. Hubbard established lectures, concerts and presentations by creative intellectuals who provided musical events, dances, exhibitions, and lectures for the community. To finance the community, Hubbard wrote ad copy for national advertisers and lectured widely, often on vaudeville stages, about his philosophies of work and living. He was famous enough that his death was reported in the New York Times along with those of other well-known passengers who drowned after the Lusitania sank. The Roycroft Inn, built to house the many visitors to East Aurora, is now a National Historic Landmark while the Roycroft campus is a tourist destination, hosting many events including Elderhostels.

Several Roycroft books in the Luther College Special Collections should be noted. As mentioned above, the collection contains a number of the “little journey” books written by Hubbard. The Book of the Roycrofters (1907) includes a utopian description of the Roycroft community in East Aurora, New York, by Francis and Abigail Farrar. In An American Bible, edited by Alice Hubbard in 1911, quotations by famous Americans such as Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson are included along with those of Elbert Hubbard. An essay by Alice Hubbard profiling her husband as, “the most positive human force of his time, a man of genius in business, in art, in literature, in philosophy” is part of the book. A memorial edition of Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great, published in 1916 after Hubbard’s death, includes a short autobiography in which Hubbard explains his philosophy for the Roycroft Shop. All of these books can be found by searching on the title phrase “Roycroft Collection” in WorldCat Discovery.

Ref: (“The Webpage of the Roycrofters”); “Elbert Hubbard,” Dictionary of Literary Biography, American Magazine Journalists, 1900-1960. Vol. 91. Detroit: The Gale Group, 1990; Head, Heart and Hand: Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters. eds. Maria Via and Marjorie Searl. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1994; “Many New Yorkers Sailed on Lusitania.” New York Times, May 8, 1915, p. 5.

William (Bill) A. Heintz was born May 31, 1924, in Chicago, IL, the son of Peter F. and Lucille (Russell) Heintz. He graduated from Carleton College, interrupting his education to serve as an interpreter in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He went on to receive his law degree from Northwestern University.

After working for McGraw-Hill Publishing Co. and traveling internationally for the Richard D. Irwin Publishing Co., Bill resided in New Hampton, IA. There he served as Chickasaw County Attorney. He was later employed by the Department of Labor until his retirement. Heintz died July 24, 1997.

Heintz received several honors during his lifetime. He was invited to join the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity in 1948 and admitted to the Iowa bar in 1951. Luther College awarded him, along with his mother Lu Heintz, the Pioneer Memorial Award in 1996. This award recognizes individuals whose vision has moved them to provide for Luther’s long-range needs through planned gifts. The William A. Heintz Scholarship at Luther College was established on March 28, 1996.

Heintz was an enthusiastic supporter of Luther College and regularly attended cultural events on campus. Upon his death, his extensive collections representing his many interests were bequeathed to Luther College. Numerous objects were accessioned into the five College collections (Fine Arts, Ethnographic/Archeological, Natural History, Archives and Geology). The Fine Arts Collection in particular benefited from his generosity with the acquisition of 64 art works including paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and fiber art. His meticulous documentation of these works greatly assisted in cataloging and providing context for them. Over 600 books, records, and CD’s were added to the Luther College Library from his estate. These works form a virtual collection which can be searched with the keywords “Heintz Collection” in WorldCat Discovery, the online catalog.

Ref: William A. Heintz Personal Papers, Luther College Archives, RG 15.

Ernest Marvin Espelie was born June 22, 1908, in Stoughton, WI. After graduating from high school, he came to Luther College where he received his BA in 1931, majoring in Engish and History. At Luther, Espelie was involved with track and field events. He was also named editor of Chips in March 1930 after being a news and features writer for 2 1/2 years. Before assuming that position, Espelie had been editor-in-chief of “Yahara,” an annual publication compiled at Stoughton High School. During his tenure as editor, Chips received an All-American Honor Rating in 1930 and a First Class Honor Rating in 1931, both given by the National Scholastic Press Association of Minneapolis. The Pioneer of 1932 said, “Much credit is due Charles Norby and Ernest Espelie, respective editors of Chips, during these two successful years, for bringing Chips into the ranks of leading college papers.”

Espelie was a member for three years of the Irving Literary Society (founded in 1884) and a member of the debating squad. He was student body secretary and president of his class. In addition, he was a member of the Koren Library student library staff, re-cataloging books and pamphlets and assisting at the reference desk.

Espelie received his BA in 1932 and his MALS degree in 1935, both from the University of Michigan. After graduation, he worked as a librarian at the University of Michigan from 1935-1937. This was followed by one year of work as a librarian at Concordia College, Moorhead, from 1937-1938. In 1938, he assumed a position as a librarian at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT, where he remained until 1958 when he retired with the rank of Commander.

In 1958, Espelie became a librarian at Augustana College, in Rock Island, IL, staying until his retirement as Professor Emeritus and Librarian in 1974. During his time at Augustana he saw considerable renovation of library space including the addition of underground space and an area provided for archives and special collections on the top floor of the library. He began to microfilm copies of the Swedish-American newspapers in the collection and also microfilmed records of the Swedish-American churches and fraternal societies. From these projects, the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center was established in 1981.

Espelie and his wife, Mary Belle, also a trained librarian, continued to work in Special Collections after he retired. Mary Belle had worked for many years in the Special Collections department at Augustana. In 1994, the Ernest and Mary Belle Espelie Special Collections Room was named after them at the Augustana library and a plaque recognizing the couple’s service to the college was installed. The couple established The Ernest and Mary Belle Espelie Special Collections Fund at the College. Espelie died August 6, 1994, in Aurora, Colorado. He and his wife had three children: Dr. M. Solveig Espelie (LC 1962); Mary Kvamme; and, Dr. Karl Espelie.

Espelie compiled a bibliography of the writings of Dr. Congrad Bergendoff, 1918-1963, which was included in the book edited by J. Iverne Dowie and Ernest M. Espelie, The Swedish Immigrant Community in Transition. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Historical Society, 1963. He also wrote several papers which he delivered to organizations such as Fine Books in a College Library: A Paper Read Before The Contemporary Club, February 24, 1969 about the beginning of printing and a description of the “Americana” in the Augustana library. Before that same club, he also delivered a paper entitled A New Athens, on November 27, 1973, which was a history of Davenport, IA, as a cultural, intellectual, and literary center during the first decade of the twentieth century. He edited publications for the Augustana Historical Society and the Augustana Chapter of the American-Scandinavian Foundation. He also wrote an article, “Children’s Books at Augustana,” which was published in the September 1959 issue of Illinois Libraries.

Espelie received several awards during his life. He was given the Alumni Distinguished Service Award by Luther College in 1963 and made a Knight of the Royal Order of Vasa by the King of Sweden, April 25, 1975. At that time he was “recognized for his many years of valued collection, editing, and publishing of important historical material bearing on the story of Swedish immigrants in America.” Espelie also served as a member of the board of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. He belonged to cultural and professional associations including the Trollheim Lodge of the Sons of Norway and the American Scandinavian Foundation.

Espelie gave numerous books to the Luther College Library. Reflecting his special interest in children’s books, he donated several Caldecott and Newbery books, many of which are autographed first editions. His correspondence with the authors is included in some of the books. Some of his other gifts reflect his interest in his Norwegian heritage. He and his wife also donated two books about birds in honor of Luther’s former head librarian, Oivind Hovde, an ornithology enthusiast. Items in the collection can be found by searching on the title phrase “Ernest M. Espelie Collection” in WorldCat Discovery.

Ref: Nelson, David T. Luther College, 1861-1961. Decorah, IA: Luther College Press, 1961; Luther College Directory of Graduates, 1977 ed.; Pioneer, 1929 and 1932; “Ernest Espelie is Named New Chief of College Chips,” Chips, March 26, 1930; Bergendoff, Conrad. A History of the Augustana Library, 1860-1990: An International Treasure. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Historical Society, 1990; “Ernest Espelie, Retired Augustana Librarian, Dies,” The Argus, August 19, 1994; Walton, Clyde C. Illinois Lives. Hopkinsville, KY: Historical Record Association, 1969; Special Collections, Augustana College, Thomas Tredway Library; Luther College Archives, RG 15.

Elias Molee was born in Muskego, Wisconsin, in 1845, the son of John Evenson Molie and Anne Jacobson Einong (the family name was originally Molie). His father emigrated from Tinn in Telemark in 1839 and was an early farmer in Muskego. Although Elias Molee worked at various occupations during his lifetime, his principal reputation focused on his linguistic work. In this capacity he created a “planned language” (or “universal language”) called Alteutonic which was a mixture of Germanic languages, included a system of shorthand and used only lower case letters (for example, he used “e” in place of “the”).

Elias MoleeAt the age of 18, Molee came to “e lutheran college” staying for one year, 1863-1864, but used the surname “Velo” at the time according to Luther College Through Sixty Years. In Molee’s autobiography written in 1919, molee’s wandering, he describes the start of his year at Luther saying, “i had to wander away over 300 miles to e state of iowa, west of e great mississippi river, a grand state divider.” He continues by summarizing his study at Luther as being “e happiest time i have ever enjoyed in my wandering life in this wide wild n wonderful world.” The few pages he uses to reminisce about Luther College are especially significant since he was one of the earliest students to study at the College. Molee demonstrates his early interest in languages pointing out that “i did not love latin n greek. i hated them to e bottom of my heart. … why not spend our valuable young lives in learning e living german, french, spanish, russian, chinese, japanese or alteutonik? latin and greek are dead languages.”

While at Luther, Molee became friends with Rasmus B. Anderson, the renowned Norwegian scholar, who was a fellow student. Molee followed Anderson to Albion Academy where he received his “ph.b” (philosophae bachalauris) in 1868, the credential he customarily used behind his name in all his publications. He later enrolled at the University of Wisconsin where he briefly studied under Anderson who was the founder of the Scandinavian Studies Department.

After his formal education concluded, Molee began a series of jobs in various locations. He served as county treasurer of Houston County, Minnesota, homesteaded in South Dakota, taught school, and owned a newspaper. He also was a land speculator. Toward the end of his life he lived and worked in Washington State where he promoted the southeastern area of the state as an attractive alternative for Norwegian settlers. In 1903, he left the area moving to Tacoma where he lived until his death. He died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in Tacoma in 1928. Molee had been briefly married to Maren Myra Velo in 1869 but was divorced in 1880. Although Rasmus Anderson mentioned a second marriage for Molee in his autobiography, it has never been verified.

Molee dedicated much of his effort during his adult life to promoting his planned language. The planned language he created is considered an “a posteriori language” since the language possesses a grammar and vocabulary derived from natural language. As an aside, it is should be noted that another person associated with Luther College, W. John Weilgart, Professor of Psychology (1964-1978), also created a planned language. Known as aUI, it is considered an “a priori language” since its grammar and vocabulary were created from scratch. Both languages are representative of the dozens of planned languages proposed over the last century and a half, according to Mark L. Louden, Co-Director of the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Esperanto, created in 1887, is perhaps the best known and most successful of the planned languages.

Molee’s language, first called “Tutonish” and later renamed “Alteutonish” was a mixture of English, German, Dutch, and Scandinavian languages. In his autobiography, he related playing with children as he was growing up whom, while speaking in Norwegian, German and English, began to mix the languages with perfect comprehension. From these origins, he began to create his planned language in a series of books, many self-published. In an early book written in 1888 titled Plea for an American Language he stated that his goal was “the forming of the ultimate homogeneous American People.” He continued by arguing that “a gradual simplification of our language in the lines here proposed will facilitate the outer unification and strengthen the consciousness of inner relationship between the representatives of the Teutonic race, of which our population in the main consists.”

As his thinking progressed, he wrote Tutonish: a Teutonic International Language in 1904 which outlined his philosophy behind the planned language and explained the grammatical structure. He argued for adoption of Tutonish among the Teutons saying, “The other races are too different and uninteresting for a language union with us. Let them unite themselves, if they will and can.” Later he expanded on his theories in the books Nu Teutonish and Altutonish. In the latter, he added 800 fundamental vocabulary words used in daily life. The simplification of grammar and spelling rules as well as his plan for only using lower case letters were part of his theory. In addition, Molee created a form of sign language symbols, many of which were included in an appendix in his autobiography.

A few clues help to clarify the view of others toward Molee’s linguistic work. Some of his early books were reviewed in the New York Times, in 1903 and 1904 and mention of his linguistic work is also made in that source in 1907. He managed to have an audience with King Haakon VII of Norway about his planned language in 1909 reporting in his autobiography that “e king ws very friendly t me.” Rasmus Anderson wrote about Molee in his 1915 autobiography, saying “He has reflected great credit on Albion academy and earned an honorable position among its most distinguished sons. He has made the name elias molee immortal.” He also pointed out that one of Molee’s books was published by “the great Trubner publishing house of London” which was proof of “distinguished attention.” H. L. Mencken, in his classic work The American Language, first published in 1919, speaks of Molee’s efforts but dismisses them as “difficult of acquirement.” Marvin Slind points out that Molee’s 1928 obituary in Minneapolis Tidende described him as “the notable Norwegian-American language researcher.” Finally, it should be observed that in more recent years, Plea for an American Language was reprinted by Routledge in 2003 and again by Kessinger Publishing in 2007. According to Amazon the book is a scarce antiquarian book included in a special Legacy Reprint Series. The same book was part of an eight-volume work entitled American English, 1781-1921 also published by Routledge in 2003.

All the books by Molee in the Luther College Special Collections were donated to the College by the author. In 1911, he inscribed his Altutonish with the inscription “to e nor. ev. Lutherish kolleg mio dier ‘alma mater’ mit frendli grietinga fon elias molee.” They are shelved in the Alumni, Faculty/Staff, Luther College Press Collection. Archival collections of material about Molee are contained in the Norwegian-American Historical Association Archives in Northfield, MN, and at the South Dakota Historical Society.

  • Ref: Slind, Marvin. “elias molee and “auteutonic”: A Norwegian-American’s “Universal Language.” Accepted for publication in Norwegian-American Studies, edited by the Norwegian-American Historical Association; Louden, Mark L. “Elias Molee and the Dream of an International Language.” Max Kade Institute Friends Newsletter. 13:4 (Winter 2004), 4-6; Anderson, Rasmus B. Life Story of Rasmus B. Anderson. Madison, WI: s.n., 1915; Mencken, H.S. The American Language. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1923.
  • Photograph courtesy of Marvin Slind.

Preus Library Special Collections

Using materials from Special Collections

Efforts continue to identify and recognize the common attributes of special items in Preus Library. Persons with questions about materials in these collections, or desiring access to them; or with gifts to donate should contact:

Andi Beckendorf, Research & Instruction Librarian
Preus Library 207D


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