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William Eaton Foster Papers

Scope & content

Using this collection will help researchers understand the early history of the Providence Public Librarian and learn about the history of librarianship. The Foster papers contain William E. Foster’s personal papers during his tenure as librarian at the Providence Public Library. Included are the manuscripts for the many speeches and addresses given to various clubs and organizations on historical and literary matters, subjects Foster was especially interested in. There are also handwritten and typed manuscripts for books and articles written by Foster and some of his writings published in booklet form.

In addition, the collection contains personal and professional correspondence with Foster’s peers and professional associates with the bulk of letters being to Mr. Clarence Sherman, Associate Librarian at the Providence Public Library, while Foster was on vacation. Other correspondence concerns Foster’s publications and other literary works as well as Foster’s anniversaries, retirements, memorials and estate matters. Library historians may want to note that Foster was personally acquainted with the earliest members of the American Library Association and this collection includes personal letters written to Foster from R.R. Bowker.

Because Foster was librarian for over 50 years and dedicated to developing the library and librarianship, he received many acknowledgments and honors for his years of service. After Foster’s death, the library board corresponded with his wife about honoring Foster’s memory with several memorials, the plans for which are included here. The most unique item in the collection is a hand-drawn template for a book plate in Foster’s memory.

Foster enjoyed knowledge for knowledge’s sake and collected various miscellaneous materials that would benefit researchers, including his own newspaper articles and clippings about himself. Also included are items of note that Foster found interesting or useful.