Monday, March 12, 2018

State Authorizes Precursor to Idaho State Historical Society [otd 03/12]

On March 12, 1907, Idaho's government authorized the "Historical Society of Idaho Pioneers" to become a state-supported entity called the "Historical Society of the State of Idaho." The enabling act included a $3,500 appropriation for expenses, and provision of space in the capitol building. The "Pioneers" organization had been created in 1881 to preserve memories of how the Territory was formed. That organization was largely dormant for many years, except for a revival in 1896 under Governor William J. McConnell [blog, September 18.]
Hon. John Hailey.
Hailey, History of Idaho photo.

A couple months after the authorization, administrators appointed John Hailey to be the head librarian, a position he held for the rest of his life. Hailey had been among the first pioneers in 1862, built a considerable stagecoach enterprise, served in the Territorial Council, and acted as delegate to the U.S. Congress [blog, Aug 29].

The creation Act also directed the governor to appoint a Board of Trustees for the Society. Governor Frank Gooding appointed the first, which included: James A. Pinney (progressive former mayor of Boise, blog Sept 29), Dr. Henry L. Talkington (history professor at the Lewiston State Normal School), and Mrs. Leona (Hailey) Cartee. The only daughter of John Hailey, Leona had pushed for formation of the Society, and would later help foster the Boise Public Library.

Three years after the appointment, Hailey published a History of Idaho in part, he wrote, to correct "the many misstatements published about Idaho in early days, and particularly concerning the character and conduct of the good people of those days."

The Idaho Statesman quoted (January 8, 1917) from Hailey’s fifth biennial report: Hailey noted that their historical exhibit had had to move three times and “now occupy five rooms in the old capitol building.” He also said, “We now have these five rooms pretty well filled up and will soon need more room.”

When Hailey died in 1921, Ella Cartee Reed – Leona Cartee's sister-in-law – carried on as Secretary and Librarian. At the time of that transition, former Idaho Governor James H. Hawley [blog, Jan 17] was President of the Board of Trustees.

In his letter of transmittal for the required 1923-1924 biennial report, Hawley argued that the Librarian and her Assistant "should be given a salary commensurate with the importance of their positions and the character of their duties." Hawley held the Board presidency until his death in 1929. To the end, he continued to ask, in vain, for an improvement in those salaries.
Idaho History Center.
Wikipedia photo contributed by Amy Vecchione.

Reed retired in 1931. From then until 1947, perhaps because the position was an underpaid "labor of love," the position changed each time a new Governor took office. In 1939, the title became "state historian."

Also in 1939, the legislature authorized new quarters for the Society's collections, but construction did not start until 1941 … and was then suspended due to World War II. Operations limped along with limited staff until about 1947, when the Society became the custodian of the Idaho State Archives. In 1949-1950, new construction initiatives finally gave the Society desperately needed new space.

After about 1956, the Society began to offer paid memberships to the general public. Up until then, the organization had been funded entirely by legislative appropriation. Today, the ISHS operates programs at eight different locations in Boise and four historical sites around the state. Visitors will find exhibits and the Society's Public Archives and Research Library at the Idaho History Center, in Boise.
Reference: [Hawley] 
"Directors and Secretaries of the Idaho State Historical Society History," Reference Series No. 882, Idaho State Historical Society (1989).
John Hailey, History of Idaho, Syms-York Company, Boise, Idaho (1910).
"Idaho State Historical Society History," Reference Series No. 848, Idaho State Historical Society (1986).
James H. Hawley, Eighth Biennial Report of the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society of Idaho, Boise (1922).

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