The Names on the Carnegie
What's in a Name?
Names make news, it is said. The men whose names appear in the following lists most certainly made news in their time. Their names again made news in 1895, when the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was dedicated for, according to a souvenir booklet,
Along the walls and under the windows, tablets bearing the names of the principal writers of the world serve as a useful and instructive form of decoration, placed where all may read. In the same spirit the names of the masters of art and science are carried as a noble record around the frieze of the building.Use of the famous names as decorations was adapted and continued when the Carnegie Institute and Foyer of Music Hall were added to the original building in 1907, and it may be anticipated that, before too many years and some $3,000,000 away, when the exterior is cleaned, they will again be "news" for all to read who pass this way.
Selection of the names was evidently given a great deal of thought, for the record shows that in 1894 Andrew Carnegie wrote thus to W. N. Frew, then chairman of The Library Commission, and later to become first president of the Institute:
I cannot approve the list of names published in the Dispatch of the 10th instant as those selected for the cornice decorations. Some of the names have no business to be on the list. Imagine Dickens in and Burns out. Among Painters Perugino out and Rubens in, the latter only a painter of fat vulgar women; while a study of the pictures of Raphael will show any one that he was really only a copyist of Perugino, whose pupil he was. Imagine Science and Franklin not there. The list for Music seems satisfactory. Palestrina rightly comes first. Have been entranced by his works, which we have heard in Rome.It will be of interest to friends of the Institute and Library to see the list of the great names of the past that decorate the cornice, and accordingly they are here printed, although a stroll around the building would also recall them to mind.
From Carnegie Magazine (January 1955): 29-30.