Adda Bradford Manker

Adda Bradford (pictured in the 1950's) was born May 15, 1874 in Marengo, Iowa.   She was one of six children in her family.  Adda came to Ontario in 1884 with her family when she was 8 years old.  Her father, Martin Van Buren Bradford, sold his farm in Iowa in order to come to California. Her mother’s name was Ella Keyes.  Manker remembers the train ride to California from Iowa where each family had to cook their own meals on a stove in one of the train cars.  She remembers “sucking a lemon to keep from getting sick” (Black, 1967).  As a young girl growing up in the midst of a booming citrus economy, Adda cut apricots for 10 cents a day.  Her father found work as a “zanjero,” a ditch rider for the San Antonio Water Company who ensured that citrus growers got their irrigation water on time.  Adda finished school with an eighth grade education.

Adda moved to Upland in October 1894 when she married Fletcher Hugh Manker (right).  She was 18 at the time.  They were married by Rev. A. Irwood and married at her father’s house.  They made their home at 603 2nd Avenue in Upland.  Fletcher was employed by the Upland Fire Department, as was Chief for many years.  Sometimes Fletcher brought home as little as $1.25 for a day’s worth of work (Black, 1967). 

The couple had five children: F. Bradford (1896), Viola Manker Benson (1897), Hubert L. (1901), C. William (1903) and Robert (1905).  These children spurred Manker to seek employment so that they may go to college, something she was never able to do because there were so many children in her family.  The principal of Chaffey High School (where both Ontario and Upland students attended), Dr. Merton E. Hill, suggested that she apply for the position of librarian at the Upland library..  She applied and, in order to prepare herself, attended library school (perhaps Riverside Library School in Riverside, CA) for two months and worked two hours a day in the Chaffey College library.  She began serving the public as librarian in June, 1914 in the Upland Carnegie Library.  She was paid $50 a month.

Under Adda’s direction the library would grow in leaps and bounds as the years passed.  Circulation figures would sky rocket as registration increased and more and more people came to use the library.  In 1913 the average circulation was 41 (Upland Staff, 1967).  By August 1914, materials numbered 1,329 and attendance was listed at 1,384.  (Monthly Reports, 1914).   By all accounts, Mrs. Manker was a work in progress.  Her own education ended at 8th grade, but the monthly reports demonstrate how her confidence grew not only in her job and responsibilities, but also in representing the library.  The early reports (pre 1920’s) are very dutiful with to-the-cent accounting of stamps (.25 cents), blotter (.5 cents), postage (.10 cents) and mending tape (1.00).   As the years went on her voice in these short reports to the Library Board developed a familial and amusing tone.  By the 1940’s she was joking about taking vacation and praying that her budget would see her through the fiscal year. 

Her passion for the library world also grew throughout the years.  Although she started in the position in order to put her own five children through college she wound up inspiring thirty years of children to read.  Louise Franke, Director from 1960 – 1973, said “she [Adda] personally took care of nearly every child who entered Carnegie Library.” (City Librarian, 1973).   A note in the June 1915 Monthly Report noted the addition of story times, beginning at 4pm every Thursday.  They would be run by Ms. Edith Harson.  This is the start of Children’s Services in the Upland Public Library.  In 1918 Manker started the San Antonio Library Association and she pushed Upland towards becoming part of the San Bernardino County Free Library which would help bring books to the new library.  In 1920, “23,733 books were circulated, more than double the circulation of the previous year” (Upland Library, 1920).  In 1926, realizing that the library was now holding its own, Manker went to the board to ask to be released from the Free Library contract.  Her feeling was that the cost of the membership was no longer yielding the same results.  “Upland Public Library seems to be large and strong enough to stand on its own feet” (Upland Library, 1926). 

As early as the 1940’s Manker was vocal about the necessity of a new and larger library.  In a letter dated July 1944 to the City Planning Committee Manker speaks of “a possible location for a new library building.”  Manker has become well versed in city politics by this point and trusts that “this will receive due consideration.”  She suggests, at the behest of the Library Board, that a parcel of land be set aside for future building possibilities.  Manker further expressed her desire for a new building in a 1944 letter to the California State Library requesting help (ie. funds) in petitioning for a new library.  She requests 1500 sq feet more for the library building and says further “personally, I would be glad to have anything from the State Commission that may be of help to us here.”  It seems that Manker was hoping to secure post-war grants and bills in order to help the city with the building costs.  Unfortunately, that did not happen until the late 1960’s.   Adda’s tenure as librarian lasted 32 years until 1945.  Louise Franke, director from 1960 – 1973, cites Manker as her reason for becoming a librarian.