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Olivia Raney Library, Raleigh, N.C.

Olivia Raney Library_web

Raleigh’s long lost Olivia Raney Library is the subject of this week’s Flashback Friday postcard. The beautifully detailed building, which, to me, evoked the image of a grand ‘Italian palazzo,’ once stood prominently at the corner of Hillsboro and Salisbury Streets, opposite the State Capitol.

Olivia Raney Library_back_web

As was typical with many early 20th century postcard messages, the correspondent seldom ever referred to the image on the front of the card itself. Such was the case with ‘Arthur.’

Dear Gena,
As I wrote a letter to Dewey Friday, I shall not write a letter this time but only this post-card. I intended to mail it in Raleigh Thursday but did not have time to write it.
Another football victory yesterday against University of S.C.
Your bro.,

Unfortunately, the postmark is smudged, so I can’t tell where the card was sent from. I wonder where Arthur was on his way to, and if it had been NC A&M who beat USC in football.

Raleigh’s ‘Taj Mahal’

The Olivia Raney Library was once known as Raleigh’s ‘Taj Mahal’ because it was given to the city by a bereaved husband as a lasting memorial to his beloved wife, Olivia Raney, who had died early in her years in 1896. It was the city’s first public library.

We explored the history of the Olivia Raney Library in an earlier Flashback Friday post a couple years ago. It is a fascinating story and a good read. 

Below is a view of the Olivia Raney Library as seen from Capitol Square not long after it opened in 1901. The Raney mansion can be seen directly across Hillsboro St.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

Here is an interior view of the main reading room on the second floor as it appeared around 1910. The librarian lived onsite in an apartment on the first floor, and a public auditorium, or “music hall,” occupied the third.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

The photo below of the ‘music hall’ was taken in the 1920s.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

Sadly, Raleigh’s Taj Mahal was ultimately demolished by the state and replaced by a mundane addition to the Revenue Building next door. I took this photo in 1966 with my Kodak Instamatic camera one Saturday afternoon shortly after demo had begun.

Olivia Raney ca 1966_web

Although Raleigh’s Taj Mahal is now long lost, its legacy as the city’s first public library lives on as a facility of the Wake County Public Library System as the Olivia Raney Local History Library.


Our Flashback Friday ‘Litho-Chrome’ postcard this week was printed by the American News Co. of New York, NY.

American News Co.  1864-1957 
119 Nassau Street, New York, NY

Founded in 1864, this firm became a major distributor of books, magazines, newspapers, comic books and postcards exclusively through their national network of more than 300 affiliated news agencies. Most of their cards were printed in Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin, but they switched to American and French printers during WW I. Their closure in 1957 led to great difficulties in distribution, putting many small publishers out of business as well.

Litho-Chrome — A German made card printed in blue collotype over red and yellow lithographic spatter. (A collotype is a continuous tone image printed from a glass plate.) Their individual colors are sharp and tend to stand out. They are drawn more toward more solid tones than to texture. Blue often dominates the pallet as it is used instead of black. This hue is sometimes so heavy that it renders a scene highly unnatural. This was one of their earliest types of cards that were originally issued without prefixes.
Prefix A 10000-12200 beginning in 1907
Prefix B 10000-15000 continuing in 1907
There are also five digit numbered cards with a B prefix that were printed in halftone.
Prefix C 1-15000 continuing in 1907
Prefix D 1-12000 beginning in 1910
Prefix E 5000-7000 beginning in 1912

American News Co_Lithochrome


“Flashback Friday” is a weekly feature of Goodnight, Raleigh! in which we showcase vintage postcards depicting our historic capital city. We hope you enjoy this week end treat!





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