Photos from the Vault

From bandits to presidents, libraries preserve the history of SLO County

SLO County librarian Lois Crumb shows off a scrapbook on Upton Sinclair that was donated in 1969.
SLO County librarian Lois Crumb shows off a scrapbook on Upton Sinclair that was donated in 1969. Telegram-Tribune

Knowledge is power.

Libraries terrify despots and vandals, who see them as one of the first things to destroy.

A good librarian can find things Google never indexed and provide experience, context and judgment far beyond the limits of an algorithm.

Civilization arrives on the frontier when a library is built.

In San Luis Obispo, it arrived in 1894 when a group of citizens organized a subscription library. It was the first step to a free public library a few years later.

The shared history and knowledge of a community is preserved in libraries and museums.

And libraries are part of a strong democracy. Citizens make better decision when fully informed.

We often don’t know what information we will need until the need strikes. Until then, libraries patiently preserve the information.

Because shelf space is not unlimited, libraries and museums have become more focused in their collecting over the years.

They also have offered new services. In 1969 the library installed a copier that could be used by the public.

1969 county Library 72438
Howard Schornagle, right, demonstrates the county library’s copying service while Jack Mitchell checks map reproduced by machine circa 1969 Telegram-Tribune file Telegram-Tribune

Today, libraries have expanded their role from keepers of books to community centers and digital information hubs.

Dave Verbon wrote this story for the Telegram-Tribune Sept 4, 1969. This transcription corrects the spelling of Pio Linares.

Library appeal finds treasure

How would you like to see a picture of Pio Linares, a bandit who once hid out in San Luis Obispo?

Or how about a Benjamin Harrison campaign ribbon?

Or maybe your taste runs more to newspapers dating back to the Civil War period.

You’ll be able to see all this, and more, thanks to the generosity of many county residents and a few from other parts of the state.

The articles mentioned above are some of the many artifacts donated to the County Library after an appeal by library officials in the Telegram-Tribune more than a year ago.

There were two reasons why the library made the appeal, according to Mrs. Lois Crumb, head librarian.

“First, the library is 50 years old this year,” she said, “but in addition to that, the library has a responsibility to preserve its local history.

“We try to stick mainly to things concerned with local history, but we also have many contributions from around the state.”

After the appeal was made, the first contribution came from Jim Wilkinson of San Luis Obispo. He contributed the picture of Linares, who hid out in the adobe which is now Wilkinson’s home, and another old picture of the adobe itself. The building is now the oldest continuously lived-in adobe in the state, Mrs. Crumb pointed out.

Robert Brown of 2103 Johnson Ave. donated a picture of Teddy Roosevelt planting the original tree at the Riverside Inn. Mrs. Crumb investigated the picture further and found that when the tree died it was sliced up and the slivers were given as souvenirs.

The Benjamin Harrison campaign ribbon was found in one of many old books given by Murial Petterson. Mrs. Crumb said she did not know the value of the ribbon, but thought it probably would be more valuable with a collection of other such ribbons.

E.C. Nevins of Pleasant Hill found out about the library’s appeal. He donated a collection of snapshots of the Avila Beach area taken while he worked there in 1918 and 1919.

Included in the pictures are several of the biplane that made a historic San Diego-to-San Francisco seaplane flight in 1919.

One of the most valuable items contributed to the collection was a scrapbook of newspaper articles and campaign leaflets on Upton Sinclair, one-time California gubernatorial candidate and political progressive.

The scrapbook was donated by Mrs. Ester Howe. She also donated many valuable old newspapers, including one from Vermont that was published in 1864. It contains articles on the hardships during the Civil War period.

Mrs. Lillian Fridl contributed a collection of post cards from the 1920s and ’30s from around the nation and Canada.

Mrs. Rose Curlee contributed publications from the World War I period, including copies of Torch, an Army publication.

Mrs. Crumb said that anyone wishing to add to the collection may donate items either at the library or at any of its branches.

She requests that donors leave their names and addresses so that contributors can be thanked and their names filed in the library records.

David Middlecamp is a photographer for The Tribune. 805-781-7942,, @DavidMiddlecamp

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