Martha Kinney Cooper and the Ohioana Library

Martha Kinney Cooper reading a book in the Governor's Residence, ca. 1930. Via Ohio Memory.
Martha Kinney Cooper reading a book in the Governor’s Residence, ca. 1930. Via Ohio Memory.

Located in Columbus and housed in the same building as the State Library of Ohio, the Ohioana Library “is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and promoting the written work of Ohio’s writers, artists, and musicians.” Its holdings include approximately 75,000 items — books, sheet music, and biographical files — all of which are available to view in the reading room of its Italian Village location.

Early Ohioana Book Award, first given in 1943, from the 1940 Ohioana Publicity Scrapbook.
Early Ohioana Book Award, first given in 1943, from the 1940 Ohioana Publicity Scrapbook.

The Ohioana Library was established in 1929 by Martha Kinney Cooper who, at the time, was First Lady of Ohio. Mrs. Cooper was born in Cincinnati in 1874 and spent her youth and early years of married life playing music. When her husband was elected governor of Ohio in 1929, she decided to create a library to solely house the works of Ohioans. She solicited donations of books from authors who were from the state of Ohio, initially housing them in the governor’s mansion. In 1935, the library’s holdings were moved to the State Library of Ohio. Martha Kinney Cooper remained active in the library’s operation until her death in 1964 at the age of 90.

Cover of the 1952 Ohioana Publicity Scrapbook. available in the Ohioana Library Collection on Ohio Memory.
1952 Ohioana Publicity Scrapbook, available in the Ohioana Library Collection on Ohio Memory.

Recently, with the help of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, and with support from the Ohio History Connection and the State Library of Ohio, Ohioana has shared digitized copies of seven unique scrapbooks with the public via Ohio Memory. According to the collection home page, these scrapbooks “document the Library’s founding, activities, and accomplishments from 1929 through the 1970s. The majority of these scrapbooks focus on the 1940s and early 1950s, when the Library sponsored teas, public speaking engagements, day trips, and an annual banquet where authors, artists, and musicians such as Louis Bromfield, Florence Allen, James Thurber, Robert McCloskey and Lois Lenski were honored for their accomplishments.” Filled with wonderful stories and pictures of an important period in Ohioana’s history, the scrapbooks are a joy to explore.

As Mrs. Cooper once said, “As long as we have authors, poets and musicians, I trust that we shall be able to supply a suitable home for their splendid works, providing also a means to give them the publicity and thanks they so justly deserve.” We at Ohio Memory are thrilled that the Ohioana Library continues in this tradition and are proud to take part in sharing Mrs. Cooper’s vision.


Portions of this post were taken from the pages of Ohio History Central and the Ohioana Library, and we are grateful for their contributions!

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