The Door County Bookmobile was designed by the king of the bookmobile manufacturing industry, the Gerstenslager Company of Wooster, Ohio. Already a maker of fire trucks, mobile x-ray vans, television units and even the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, they were well-suited to occupy this new niche. Soon the company held a near monopoly on bookmobiles, enjoying 90% of the market.
Their success was due to quality, craftsmanship and a well-designed national advertising tour in 1949 to unveil their pioneer bookmobile model. Each Gerstenslager bookmobile was custom-built and painted according to the needs of the individual library. The first Door County Bookmobile was built in 1950, but it was worn-out by 1967. This model was its replacement. It was built by the Gerstenslager Company in 1964.
According to the Gerstenslager Company, the Door County Bookmobile model was classified as a Medium Bookmobile that could hold 1500-2500 volumes of books. It had an interior space 16 feet long and 7 feet in width; and an interior height of 6 feet 6 inches. The roof was an all-steel turret-type with two skylights to let in natural light. Two service doors on the right side of the vehicle allowed visitors to enter at the front and exit through the back. The cab compartment had two bucket seats, one for the driver and one for a helper, both seats were adjustable and reversible.
Inside the bookmobile, fluorescent fixtures provided lighting and the interior shelving was carefully designed using wood and steel shelving installed according to ALA standards. Each shelf was pitched at an angle and covered with rubber mats to keep books in place. The bookmobile included special sections with magazine racks, space for children’s books and oversize books, and a clothes closet in the left rear corner. A record cabinet, built beneath the rear window, had shelves to carry a supply of record albums. The top of the cabinet provided space for a record player. The appliance outlet at the rear of the vehicle provided an electrical connection for this purpose. And of course the necessary charge-out desk sits behind the driver’s seat and was covered with battleship linoleum to match the floor.
Page from the Gerstenslager Company Catalog
Interior of a "new" Bookmobile
In 2017 The Door County Bookmobile was Designated a Wisconsin Historical Object
THE BOOKMOBILE IS ON THE MAP! as an official object of Wisconsin history Our Bookmobile now has designation as a Wisconsin Historical Object in the statewide, collaborative public history project: WISCONSIN 101 Our History in Objects. A map on the Wisconsin 101 website features the places of origin for all the objects in the Wisconsin 101 online collection, each telling a set of interconnected stories about Wisconsin’s history, people, and places. The project now proudly includes Door County as a pin on the map and two Object History essays of the Door County Bookmobile. Explore the Project and Read the Bookmobile submissions here: WISCONSIN 101Our History in Objects.