Patron Saint of Libraries
One of America’s foremost industrialists and philanthropists, Andrew Carnegie plied his ambition and unquenchable thirst for knowledge to attain success as few men have. During the 1870s and 1880s, he built an empire in the steel industry. With his fortune he began several philanthropic initiatives, one of the largest and most noble being the funding and establishment of public libraries.
Between 1886 and 1919, Carnegie funded 2,509 public libraries throughout the United States and Great Britain. For this extraordinary effort he has often been called the patron saint of libraries. Carnegie gave more than $40 million to fund new public libraries in America. Communities pledging to contribute an annual maintenance fee of at least 10 percent of the initial building cost could then be candidates for having their very own public libraries built free of charge. In 1911, the Wichita City Council agreed to appropriate $7,500 annually for operations and accept Carnegie’s offer to fund the building’s estimated $75,000 cost.
Elizabeth Stubblefield Navas
Assistant to Mrs. Murdock, Artist, Designer of Sunflower Windows
Elizabeth Stubblefield Navas was a business associate and good friend of Louise Caldwell Murdock. Not only did she assist Mrs. Murdock in the interior design and decoration of the Wichita Carnegie Library, she also contributed her own art to the project. She designed a series of Kansas inspired stained glass windows, each featuring a large, central sunflower surrounded by a blue field sky. The artisan commissioned to create the windows questioned the deep blue color selection. Mrs. Stubblefield Navas' reply: “Come to Kansas and see our skies.”
After Mrs. Murdock passed away in 1915, Mrs. Stubblefield Navas continued to assist her friend. She was entrusted to carry out Mrs. Murdock’s directive to use funds from the Murdock estate to acquire and assemble a collection of American art that would be gifted to the City of Wichita. From 1939 to 1962, Mrs. Stubblefield Navas negotiated the purchase of 167 paintings and sculptures for the Roland P. Murdock Collection. This led to the establishment of the Wichita Art Museum, constructed in 1935 in order to provide a suitable home for the collection.