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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Census + Librarians = Nuggets

Recently, I was searching for a boarding house in the 1860 U.S. Census. When I found it, I had a nice surprise. I managed to translate the census taker's looped scrawl into "librarian." That's right--in 1860, the Mississippi State Librarian was living at the Dixon House in Jackson, the very place I was trying to find:

1860 U.S. Federal Census - T.W. Johns
"Wouldn't it be even nicer," thought I, "if I could find a little nugget about this T.W. Johns, Librarian State, to share with our readers?" I snuck into Tracy's office and borrowed her copy of A History of Mississippi Libraries. (Thanks, Tracy!) As I scanned the list of former State Librarians, two facts grabbed my attention. One was that good old T.W. only lasted one year. (That's OK, T.W. Librarying isn't for everyone.) The second? The first female State Librarian, Mary Morancy, appeared in 1876. I managed to find her census record, too:

1880 U.S. Federal Census - Mary Morancy
Let me amend that. The list of State Librarians actually looks like this:
J.B. Harris for Mrs. Mary Morancy, 1876-1880
F.M. Shelton for Mrs. Mary Morancy, 1880-1884
Frank Johnston for Mrs. Mary Morancy, 1884-1892
T.J. Buchanan for Miss Rose Lee Tucker, 1892-1896
I found an explanation when I flipped the page:
Ladies have held the job since 1876, but from 1876 to 1896 it was the custom for a man to run for the post, then appoint a lady to serve.
I am flabbergasted at this system! I wonder if the men who campaigned for the library job they wouldn't perform advertised who they planned to appoint. I imagine this campaign slogan:
Vote for Tippecanoe--I'll get you Marian Paroo!
Aren't we lucky that they decided to move to a system where librarians were hired based on their accomplishments in their own right? If you would like to know a bit more about the Mississippi State Librarian, simply click the link!

www.ancestry.com
Howell, J.B. and Margarete Peebles, eds. A History of Mississippi Libraries. Montgomery, AL: Paragon Press, 1975. Print.

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