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Morris Swett Library Digital Collections & Archives

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Morris Swett Library | Library History Collection

 

History of the Library

The library was established in 1911 when Capt. Dan T. Moore started the School of Fire at Fort Sill, Okla. 1st Lt. Ralph McT. Pennell was asked by his battery commander, Moore, to be the school’s secretary.“Capt Moore was the whole school and faculty. One of the first things he said to me was he wanted a library and I would have to run it!” Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Ralph McT. Pennell said in 1968. The collection was increased when the West Point Library sent their duplicates to the new library. The War Department donated the books on artillery, and the Library of Congress provided cataloging information. The collection stood at 500 books, all military texts and histories, in 1915. Due to the small number of students, circulation was about five books per day. As the school and library grew, Dr Eben Holden of the West Point Library transfered one of his library aides to the School of Fire at Ft Sill. Sgt Morris J. (Mike) Swett, assigned as a photographer to the US Military Academy, Detachment of Engineers, arrived at Fort Sill in 1915.

Swett's dedication to the library and school was legend. When funding was short during WWI, Swett hunted through basements, storerooms and attics to find books and papers and added 1,000 items to the collection. When the War Department dissolved activities at Camp Doniphan, a WWI training camp, Sgt Swett obtained 5,000 suitable books from that library. Swett safeguarded the library when the School of Fire was deactivated and most of Fort Sill's Soldiers were ordered to the Mexican border in 1916. The library moved with the school to different locations. In 1916, the library had its own building, the Quinette Traders Store. In 1924, fire struck and destroyed 5,000 of the collection of 18,000 items. The library moved to the newly constructed McNair Hall in the mid 1930s and remained there until its move to Snow Hall, room 16, in 1955. Swett stayed with the library past his retirement as a master sergeant in 1939. Three months later, Swett was placed back in charge of the library by an executive order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and remained in this position until his final retirement in 1954. In 1968 the library, then called the USA Artillery and Missile School Library, was renamed for Swett.

Swett was a photographer, historian, librarian and collector. He preserved records of both the school and Fort Sill. His donations of photos, documents, notes and artifacts laid the groundwork for the library’s archives and the collections of the Fort Sill Museum. His interest and relationships with the Native Americans on the Fort Sill reservation helped to preserve their history and landmarks.

“I can’t lay too much emphasis on the fact this library owes its existence to Capt Dan T. Moore, founder and prime mover of the School. He insisted on every item of artillery knowledge being recorded somewhere in the library. And Mr. Swett was responsible for building it.” (Maj. Gen. (Ret) Ralph McT. Pennell, 1968)

 

 

 

 

 

 
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