Library Bureau Card Catalog

In the twentieth century, millions of people used card catalogs like this one to find books in libraries. Books were first cataloged on loose cards at Harvard University in 1861, and the practice spread rapidly. As school and public libraries became common, card catalogs became a familiar part of community life. This oak cabinet has 60 oak drawers in six columns of 10 drawers each. The drawers have brass handles and steel rods, with steel inserts along the bottom, and contain 3" x 5" catalog cards. At the middle of the columns are 3 trays which may be pulled out to hold drawers in use. Hence more than one person could use the catalog at any time. This was important, as most libraries had only a single set of cards available to the public. This particular cabinet was used for the main card catalog at the library of the Union Theological Seminary of Virginia from 1925 until 1944.
Currently not on view
Object Name
card catalog cabinet
Date made
Library Bureau
Physical Description
oak (overall material)
brass (windows, handles material)
steel (rods material)
paper (cards, labels material)
overall: 152 cm x 109 cm x 47.2 cm; 59 13/16 in x 42 15/16 in x 18 9/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, The Library
Additional Media

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