Charles Wendell David
Penn Libraries Home
The Campaign for the Penn Libraries

Scholar - Teacher - Librarian
First Full Time Director of the University of Pennsylvania Library


Charles W. David (1885-1984), author of several works in medieval history and a leader in academic research libraries, played a major role in the revitalization and expansion of the University of Pennsylvania libraries.

Dr. David earned a B.A. from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in 1911 and a doctorate from Harvard in 1918. He taught history at the University of Washington for three years and at Bryn Mawr College from 1918 to 1940. During the 1930s, he joined with historian Conyers Read to become one of the principal architects of the Union Library Catalog of Pennsylvania.

In 1940, Dr. David became Professor of History and the first full-time Director of Libraries at the University of Pennsylvania. For the next fifteen years, until he retired in 1955, he worked to achieve a remarkable renaissance of the University's neglected libraries. The David years set the stage for a five-year term as Executive Secretary of the Association of Research Libraries and played a major role in the Farmington Plan and rebuilding the war-ravaged libraries of Europe.

After his retirement from Penn at the age of 70, Dr. David went on to distinguish himself in three other major assignments during the next ten years. He planned and established the Eleutherian Mills Historical Library, a major research collection for American business and industrial history, at Longwood near Wilmington, Delaware. Then he established the Maritime Library at the Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. During these "retirement" years, he also served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of West Chester State Teachers College and guided it through a difficult transition.

Many of the strengths of the University of Pennsylvania Library can be traced directly to Dr. David's vision, leadership, and hard work.

Read about Endowing Library Chairs