Edwin Hatfield Anderson [W1883] 

The Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh – carved into stone over the door, “Free to the Public.” 

While doing some research in an old issue of The Bachelor, I came across a mention of the Wabash man who was the head librarian at the main New York City Public Library, Edwin Hatfield Anderson [W1883]. Fascinated with this little nugget , I set out to see what more I could learn about this fellow. Here is what I found.

Edwin H. Anderson [W1883] in his senior picture. 

Edwin Hatfield Anderson was a member of the class of 1883 and brother to Albert B. Anderson, Wabash class of 1879, the brothers hailed from Zionsville. Both were legacies as their father, Philander, was also a Wabash man and a member of the class of 1849. As was typical of that era, the brothers Anderson started their Wabash careers as two-year prep students here. This was so that each student could handle their Latin and Greek when they entered the collegiate program.  

While at Wabash Edwin H. Anderson was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and of the Lyceum Literary Society. Essentially the only two types of organized clubs on campus – a fraternity and a literary society. Edwin was a gifted speaker, winning several prizes, including the Baldwin Prize before graduating in 1883 in the Classical program.  

There is a five-year gap in his self-reported record, from 1883-1889, about which I have no information. Then, in 1890 he entered the New York State Library School, finishing in 1891. From there he started his journey upward in the big world of libraries. His first position in a library was as an assistant in the Newberry Library in Chicago. From that high point to his next was quite a leap!  

He was appointed Librarian of the first Carnegie Library, in Pennsylvania, for Mr. Carnegie himself. Most folks will have a connection with a Carnegie Library, as they were built all over America and funded by Andrew Carnegie. Not only did Anderson work for Carnegie, he also advised him on his philanthropy, most especially regarding funding for library schools across the nation. This snippet from the Wabash Magazine of October, 1898 adds more to the connection,  

“Edwin Anderson, Librarian of Carnegie Library at Pittsburg, Pa., together with his wife made a trip through England, Scotland and Switzerland this summer. In Scotland they were entertained by Andrew Carnegie at his splendid Scotch residence.”  

Edwin H. Anderson [W1883] as Director of the New York City Library.   

Anderson left Carnegie’s employ to head the New York State Library at Albany. His next position was as an assistant to the Director of the New York City Public Library, rising to Director. Here is another write-up from the Wabash Magazine of December 1913. 

“Mr. Edwin Anderson now holds the position of highest honor among librarians in the United States. His title is ‘Director of the Consolidated Libraries of New York City,’ and he is now the head of the whole library system of that city.  

“Mr. Anderson graduated from Wabash in 1883 with a fine record for scholarship and oratory. He has been engaged in library work most of the time since his graduation, for many years being connected with the Carnegie Library at Pittsburg, and going from there to Albany, NY, to become State Librarian. For three or four years he served as assistant to Dr. Billings in the New York City Libraries and when Dr. Billings died last April, Mr. Anderson succeeded him. By his ability and his devotion to his chosen work, Mr. Anderson has achieved real distinction.”

This is an article from The New Yorker of December 12, 1921.
Anderson’s obituary as printed in the New York Times of Thursday, May 1, 1937.

Anderson’s contribution to the field of librarianship can not be overstated. He was there, right at the forefront of the field in America. It is a pleasure to highlight his story.

All best,

Beth Swift


Wabash College