ENTRY FIFTEEN: July 10, 1925

A letter to Mrs. Mabel Stevenson, Wagnalls Memorial’s first librarian from Mabel Wagnalls.

Doremi, July 10, 1925

My dear friend Mabel,

I trust all is going well with you.  Glad to hear the Memorial is going gangbusters.  What a wonderful time Richard and I had the weekend of the Dedication – a big THANK YOU for all your hard work to make it such a success.  And as an added bonus, my New York friends who attended no longer think me crazy for spending the family fortune on such a grand structure for only three hundred people.  They saw first-hand how thankful the town is to have its own library, theater and community center.  And they now realize the impact the building will have on the town.  My response to this is, “Mission accomplished!”

Big news:  Richard signed an agreement so Wagnalls Memorial can begin showing Paramount pictures in the theater.  Pictures will be shown every Saturday night, and the admission cost will be ten to twenty cents, depending on the cost of the picture.  We just want to cover the cost of the showing.  I’m enclosing a copy of New York City’s July 7, 1925 Morning Telegraph article that gives the details.

I wanted to make you aware that I am going to take a much-needed rest.  Of course, if you need anything feel free to contact Richard.  But I will be taking a break until the middle of October of this year.

Until then Godspeed,


 Please note that Mabel’s Musings will be on hiatus until mid October.   The author will then continue to share more of Mabel’s adventures with her kind readers.

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Mabel Wagnalls’ speech, given at the dedication of the Wagnalls Memorial

 Memorial Day, May 30, 1925 



There has been a great deal published and said about this building, including every possible description of it, besides what we have heard this afternoon from these “Three Wise Men from the East”.

But in all that has been said, there is one item missing; even my husband who knows everything, has failed to refer to it.

I do not ever supplement anything that he says.  There is seldom any need to, and I don’t get much chance anyway.  But this time he will have to stand it:  my own qualified announcement that he has omitted one very important fact.

You have not been told of my husband’s work on this building.  Let me frankly confess that there wouldn’t be any building here if there was no such person as Richard J. Jones.

I would never have known how to go about erecting a Memorial Building.  All I knew, or thought I knew, about putting up such a structure was that the first thing you do is dig a hole in the ground.  Well, I was mistaken even about this.  The first thing you do is consult a lawyer!

I had often heard my mother say she wished she might do something for Lithopolis – buy back the old home place perhaps, or rebuild it, but in those days there wasn’t enough money in our family to build anything but air castles.

And after she was gone, well, my father wasn’t a builder, excepting books and periodicals.  And neither was I.  Then along came this person from Pittsburgh and things began happening.

I soon noticed in reconstructing our Long Island home, there was nothing he more enjoyed, or did, with more efficiency than building and bossing.  (not me – but workmen).  His bossing, by the way, is of the high art sort, so that everybody he orders to do anything loves him.

I soon realized, too, these Pittsburgh steel men know a wonderful amount about materials.  They know the value of everything from a tin plate to a Tudor-Gothic tower.

But my husband knows a great deal more than this.  He knows the value and beauty of dreams long dwelt on.  He is a mighty dreamer himself.  I may say he dreamed this building into being.

Seldom a day or hour parted that he did not come to me with some new idea for it – some new color scheme, suggestion of symbolism or minutia of carving.

And in the matter of making contracts and attending to purchasing I know one salesman who confidentially told another, “Be careful what you say to Mr. Jones.  He is not the purchasing agent.  Oh no, he is seven of them!”

So in your eulogies of this building, its beauty and design, I beg of you – give all the credit to my husband and the architect.

Of course I do admit to signing my name on many little slips of paper.  But when you praise me for this I feel very humble for it was not I who made the money.  It was worked for and saved by my father and mother.

There is however one utilitarian phase to this Memorial I do claim a share in.  Lithopolis needed a theater, we all knew this, and we knew too that a library would be welcomed – but there was something besides these that I have felt all my life Lithopolis must have – and this was a place in which to hold chicken suppers!  Ever since I can remember I have seen the ladies of Lithopolis trailing from their homes with buckets and plates and platters and chairs to the Methodist or Presbyterian or Lutheran church lawns to serve chicken suppers to raise needed money.  They were good suppers – I always enjoyed them.  But how I pitied them, to see those hard-working, smiling ladies standing for hours around oil-stoves and coffee-pots on hot afternoons, and toting the utensils and plates back again afterwards.

In planning this Memorial, there was at first some talk of combining the auditorium and social room.  But I held out against this.  If there couldn’t be a distinct, separate and satisfactory place for chicken and ice cream I wasn’t going to play.  We finally split the difference by letting me have my own way.

So again let me say to my Lithopolis friends.  When you are admiring this building and enjoying the library and auditorium, praise my husband and Mr. Sims.  But when you’re downstairs carousing in the social hall, please remember me!

Now, this is our deed and I hand it over with no admonishments at all because I know you will guard our building and use it wisely.  My only hope is in using it, you will find as much joy as I have found in giving it.wagnalls building






This photograph was taken on the day of the dedication ceremony.  Please notice the speaker in the tower room window.  Because there were two thousand people at the Memorial that day, there was not enough room in the theater for everyone to hear the speeches given at the ceremony.  A speaker was put in the window and those who could not get a seat in the auditorium listened to the speeches on the front lawn.




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ENTRY THIRTEEN: May 20, 1924 letter to Mrs. Stevenson, Wagnalls Memorial’s first librarian, from Richard Jones about the upcoming dedication weekend.

Letter for Mabel blog Newspaper article for Mabel blog

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For this week’s blog, we will learn about the building of the Memorial and about Mabel Wagnalls through the eyes of the Memorial’s architect, Ray Sims.  The words written below are Mr. Sims’ words, taken from an interview by Lulu Harshfield on April 17, 1957.  This interview was part of her thesis, The Wagnalls Memorial, which she submitted in June 1957 in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Library Science for the School of Library Science, Western Reserve University.

It was a rare privilege for a young architect to work with Mabel Wagnalls Jones.  She was so human and so understanding.  The approach of the Wagnalls family was unique.  The logical thing to have done would have been to employ an established architect – probably a New York firm since they lived in New York – but Mabel didn’t want it done that way.  She wanted a young architect, one that would be helped professionally.

When Mabel, Dick Jones and I first talked over the plans, I thought that something in the Georgian or Colonial style would have been good for a rural setting.  I soon discovered that wasn’t what Mrs. Jones wanted.  You see she had studied and traveled in Europe and had seen a lot of this style of architecture, Tudor-Gothic.

Near the library was an old stone quarry.  The quarrymen had made flag stones for walks, mill stones, and bridge abutments, but concrete had come in and put the quarry out of business.  Mabel Wagnalls bought the quarry.  They wanted the library of native stones, and then they wanted to help the Lithopolis people.  And I was to use as much native stone as possible.

The quarrymen were good workmen but they were critical of me.  We wanted a rubble effect.  They had always made blocks of specific dimensions.  When I told them we wanted different sizes, they thought I was crazy.  The only way we could get the different sizes was by going to them every morning and saying, “Today, we’ll make 6×18’s” – or whatever size we needed.  I knew they wondered if I would ever make up my mind!

Did you notice the four owls in the library?  When they began to quarry the stone, they had to cut down a big tree, a sycamore, I believe.  There was a nest of owls in it.  They thought it would be a good idea to have the owls represented.

The townspeople were always skeptical.  They never said anything directly to me, but I could feel the undertone.  They thought the slate roof was so heavy that the trusses could not hold it, and some of them were afraid to go in.

A lot of amusing things happened.  One day Mabel was in the building – seeing how things were going along.  A car load of women drove up.  One got out and came in.  She found Mabel who introduced herself.  Evidently excited about meeting Mabel, she called to her friends, “Funk and Wagnalls’ daughter’s in there.”  Mabel roared.

She had a deep sense of humor.  She was so human.  One would think that with the kind of education she had she might be aloof, but she wasn’t.  She never did attend public school as most of us had, but was tutored.  Her travels had, I suppose, given her an understanding of all kinds of people.

I remember one evening down at Mr. and Mrs. Weiser’s home.  Whenever Mabel and Dick came to Lithopolis, they made the Weisers’ their headquarters.  Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, Mabel and Dick, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Bussey, my wife and I were there.  Mrs. Edwards had brought a copy of Ohio Sales’ “The Specialist”.  She read it aloud.  The piece was funny, but it was more fun to watch the reactions of the crowd.  Mr. and Mrs. Weiser, good religious people, hardly knew whether to laugh or not.  Mabel Wagnalls thoroughly enjoyed it and laughed heartily.  I’m telling you this just to show you how human she was.

An architect learns a lot about the people for whom he works.  Their likes and dislikes reveal their personalities.  Sometimes I think we know people better than they know themselves.  Mr. and Mrs. Jones and I did not always agree, but there was always a meeting of minds.  Mabel was so human, Dick so dynamic.  They made a fine pair.

One time Mrs. Jones had dinner in our home.  She didn’t eat a bite.  She fascinated our eight-year-old son because of her interest in his hobby which at that time was collecting signatures.

To the Wagnalls family I shall be eternally grateful, for they gave me my first important chance to amount to something. They trusted me, a young and unknown architect; they trusted the local craftsmen.

At the end of the interview, Lulu Harshfield noted that “as a last service to Mabel Wagnalls Jones, Mr. Sims designed the Memorial plot in the Lithopolis Cemetery.  At first a mausoleum was considered.  A difference of opinion resulted in the selection of sarcophagi.  In the shadow of a Celtic cross rest Mabel Wagnalls, Richard Jones, Anna Willis, Adam Wagnalls and a maternal ancestor.”

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Mabel Wagnalls Jones’ Journal

April 14, 1925

Onward, Onward!  Now that the building is almost completed, it’s time to plan the Dedication Ceremony which will be held Memorial Day.

God is indeed good.  I heard back from Mr. Vizetelly today – he is healing and is excited to speak at the ceremony.  I had already determined that Richard would be the Master of Ceremonies, and family friends, John Dunsmore and Edwin Markham would speak.  I thought it important that Mr. Dunsmore and Mr. Markham share their thoughts since both of their works will be displayed in the two tower rooms.  I think the townspeople will value their work more if they meet these gentlemen.  But, Father, I also wanted someone to represent your company.  Since Frank Vizetelly is not only the editor of the Funk & Wagnalls’ dictionaries and encyclopedia, but also a family friend, I am very pleased that he will be able to speak at the dedication.

As the townspeople enter the auditorium for the speeches on that day my own piano recording of Chopin’s Polonaise in D Minor will be playing on the Welte-Mignon reproducing piano.  I only hope they enjoy my playing!

I have been told the townspeople have been collecting money and will be providing Richard and me and our guests with a banquet dinner that evening.  With over forty people this will be quite an event! Their thoughtfulness touches my heart.

After dinner, the moving picture Revelation will be shown in the theater.  I love the idea that the moving picture that was taken from my book, A Rosebush of a Thousand Years will be the first movie shown in the Wagnalls Memorial auditorium.  What a fireworks finish to a grand day that will be!

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Mabel Wagnalls Jones’ Journal

March 5, 1925

In building the Memorial, my idea was that I was building a monument to my mother and father.  A place that would memorialize them, so that they would not be forgotten.  I am now thinking that not only my mother and father will be remembered because of this building – but also the workmen who constructed the building.  And to think that most of them are from the Lithopolis area.  I couldn’t be more pleased!

When Richard was asked how he managed to supervise the building without always being on site his response was, “That is really one of the wonderful parts of the whole story of Lithopolis.  As nearly as possible we used local men and materials in construction.  Every workman in Lithopolis worked for the love of the thing he was creating.  Possibly not since the days of the Guilds has so much genuine interest gone into the erection of a building.”

Because of the magic they’ve created with this Memorial, Richard has suggested we put up a stone plaque to memorialize the key individuals who put their hearts and souls into this project.  I think this is a grand idea.

Above the list of names will be the following statement:  “A tribute of love to the memory of those who put labor and love into the construction of this building.”  And under the list of names Richard would like to add:  “They labored for you.  Remember them in tenderness and love.”

In addition to the first Board Officers’ and Directors’ names will be these names:  Ray Sims – Architect, Don Hussey – Engineer, A.E. Stevenson – Superintendent.  And then all the lead workmen:  Frank Rothfuss, Louis Rothfuss, William S. Bowen, E.C. Bowman, Daniel C. Macklin, Claude Nothstine, Richard H. Bohl, H.F. Mollenauer, L.J. Fissel, Joseph Smith and Charles Storts.

Which reminds me – Richard gave me some photographs of the laborers that I need to put in my scrapbook.

Workmen building WagnallsWorkmen building Wagnalls quarry

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Mabel Wagnalls Jones’ Journal

February 4, 1925

There were times I thought I’d never be able to say this, BUT so many of the projects I’ve been working on are about ready to see the light of day! I’ve just completed the book Opera and its Stars.  Although it’s not yet available to the public, I’ve been sending it to friends and critics.  The response so far has been very good.

I’m also almost done writing your biography, Mother.  Yes, I’ve been working on your story – which of course centers around “our little triangle”:  you, Father and me.  The title will be The Light in the Valley.  For that’s what you were to us – a beacon of light!

And never mind there’s that whopper of a project:  THE CONSTRUCTION OF WAGNALLS MEMORIAL!  But the end is in sight!  We will be dedicating the building on Memorial Day, which is May 30th, this year.  May will really be quite a month for you, Mother – a book and a library!

I’ve been keeping up with my piano playing because I do so want to get back to performing my “Imagery and Music” concerts.  That I can share my two loves of playing classical piano and writing stories (at the same time even!) – it gives me such joy.  Well, once this whirlwind of activity slows down to a fast trot – my gift to myself will be to start performing again.  Speaking of which, I have a newspaper article about “Imagery in Music” I need to place in my scrapbook.


newspaper clipping march 11th

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Mabel Wagnalls Jones’ Journal

October 1, 1924

Father passed away a little less than a month ago, September 3.  I have not been able to write until now – my grief being too raw.  Words cannot express my sense of loss, my sadness.  To think that of “our little triangle” only I am left.

Father, to see your obituary in your beloved magazine, The Literary Digest, the most important periodical for Funk & Wagnalls – it seemed surreal.

You were a great man, Father.  I am so incredibly proud of all of your accomplishments.  But you were so much more than that.  You were compassionate, gracious and kind.

You were given a wonderful send-off in our special town, Lithopolis.  Continuing the building process on the Memorial has become that much more important to me, for I can think of no better way to honor you and Mother.  I am so glad you knew that the Memorial was being built.  While I was in Lithopolis for your funeral I was given a copy of a recent article from The Columbus Dispatch.  I think you would have enjoyed reading it.

That you were living with Richard and me here at DoReMi Manor.  That we had that time together and we know that when you passed you were surrounded by those who loved you.  That will always mean the world to me.

But Father, what gives me the most peace is knowing you are reunited with Mother now.

adam wagnallsnewspaper clipping mabel

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Mabel Wagnalls Jones’ Journal

May 25, 1924

To think it’s been a year since we broke ground on the Memorial, Mother. So much progress – but we have oh, so much more to do! We all thought it would have been completed by now. But not to worry, it is going to be such a tribute you and Father.

This becomes more and more a labor of love as Richard and I keep thinking of more details to add to the library. Details that will tell our family’s story. The library room, in particular, will be a testament to our family. The front bay window will be leaded glass, and it will contain several stained glass motifs. In the center will be a large “W” for your maiden name, Willis, and for Wagnalls. (I love how Father took “Willis” as his middle name when you were married.) There will also be stained glass windows depicting the lamp of knowledge (a nod to our family’s love of learning), the printing press (for father’s publishing company), a log cabin (since both you and father were born in one), the seal of Ohio and the US Presidential seal. Mr. Dunsmore’s portraits of you and father will hang in the library room, as will the four paintings he did for my book, The Palace of Danger.

I’m also excited to share some of my book treasures in that room. The book Letters of Helen and Warren was written by my close friend, Mabel Herbert Urner, and many of the incidents she wrote about were taken from adventures in Richard’s and my life. Sailing Alone Around the World was written by another close friend of mine, Joshua Slocum. The book describes his historic trip of 1895, making him the first person ever to circumvent the globe solo in a sailboat. He actually dedicated that book to me! The third book is the first book I authored, Miserere. I had given this book to Mr. Slocum just before he left for his solo trip since he would have so much time on his hand (his trip took him 3 years to complete). Upon his return I travelled to Newport, RI, where he first docked. When he handed me back my book I saw that he had written in it all about the adventures my book had experienced.  I was touched.  But then, as I continued to look through the book, I couldn’t help but notice that Mr. Slocum had taken it upon himself to edit my writing! He definitely had a lot of time on his hands!

Mother, I also want to display the original letters my dear friend, O. Henry, sent me the summer of 1903 when you and I were on our annual visit to grandmother’s house in Lithopolis. Do you remember what fun we had reading his missives that summer? And those remarkable drawings! To think that an author living in New York City (besides someone in our own family!) could become obsessed with the happenings in Lithopolis! Of course when we were first writing to each other, he was an unknown. Some months before, when in New York I had read a story that greatly impressed me; it was Roads to Destiny. Not only was I impressed by the originality of the idea and style, but also by the originality of the author’s name. Just “Henry” with an “O.” before it. What superb indifference to fame! And then of course, I had a great grandmother named Henry. Were we related? Well, I searched in Who’s Who and asked literary friends, but I could not find anything about this person. So I scribbled a few lines to his publisher, and I begged to know whether O. Henry was a man, woman or wraith. By the time I heard back from him you and I were in Lithopolis. Well, one thing led to another and when it was all said and done, I had a treasure trove of letters from him – peppered with questions about, and references to, Lithopolis. I’m glad to say, Mother, I kept those letters and drawings and they became the book, Letters to Lithopolis, published a couple years back. Well, I can think of no better place to house those letters than in the town itself!

Somewhere in that room I also want to have four shields that depict what our family so valued: education, hard work, faith and patriotism.

The owls also need to be somehow incorporated in the fiction room. I’ll never forget the day the workers were cutting down trees and when one of those trees fell to the ground they realized there were four baby owls and their mother in it. They ran to Richard and me to tell us of their distress. My reply was, “Don’t worry, the owls will be remembered.”

tree picture


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ENTRY SIX:  JUNE 4, 1923

Mabel Wagnalls Jones’ Journal

June 4, 1923

Oh, Mother, your wish for the town of your nativity is actually happening!  Ground was broken a couple weeks ago in Lithopolis for the Memorial, and Richard, who was there (and is still there) was kind enough to send me the article from The Columbus Dispatch.  I received it in today’s post.

Poor Ray.  I saw where the paper spelled his name wrong – it’s Sims, not Simms.  The paper also said the building will be completed this summer.  Horsefeathers!  Next summer is more like it.  It also said that the stone was being donated by Eureka Marble Company.  The stone IS being donated, but since I’m the one who owns the quarry, I’m the one doing the donating!

One does get used to the papers not getting all the facts straight though.  And it is a rather long article, so I’m pleased with that.  I think Father will enjoy reading it.

Richard tells me all is going quite well.  He is over the moon with this project.  But then of course he’s enjoying himself – he’s doing two of the things he loves most and is best at:  building and bossing!

I’ll be boarding the train next week to join Richard in Lithopolis.  Am looking forward to seeing all the progress!

Ground Breaking Newspaper

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