The H. L. Mencken Room: Contents and History
The Mencken Room was opened on April 17, 1956, under the curatorship of Betty Adler. She was the Mencken bibliographer and the founding editor of the quarterly Menckeniana, which was first published by the library in 1962. All who have written about Mencken are very much in her debt.
The Mencken Room houses the most important Mencken collection in the world. Among its many treasures are the books in Mencken's personal library. There are presentation copies from such notables as Theodore Dreiser and F.Scott Fitzgerald. The collection contains typescripts of many of Mencken's newspaper columns and magazine articles as well as proofs of some books. It houses all of the volumes that he wrote and copies of the magazines that he edited or co-edited. Mencken began to subscribe to a clipping service in 1903. Early on he suspected, correctly as it turned out, that he would be famous and the collection has bound volumes of these clippings continuing up to the present time. These volumes are an invaluable resource for researchers. The Mencken Room also holds books by members of the Mencken family other than Henry Louis. Mencken's brother August, for example, edited a book about hangings with the macabre but memorable title of By the Neck. The Mencken Room contains various Mencken artifacts such as photographs, portraits, and his press badge. There is also a sizable collection of his correspondence with Marylanders.
The new Mencken Room, located on the first floor of the Enoch Pratt Free Library's new Annex, was dedicated on November 8, 2003. This new area offers a climate-controlled environment that will help immensely with matters of preservation. It provides individual study areas, comfortable chairs for reading and a state-of-the-art security system. Unlike its predecessor, the new Mencken Room has a window that creates an airy and attractive ambiance without exposing the books and artifacts to sunlight.
The Mencken Room is open to the public each year on Mencken Day, which is held on the Saturday closest to his birthday on September 12. The Mencken Society, which has done a good deal to preserve Mencken's flame, always meets on this day, and Mencken aficionados come from all across America and abroad to attend the festivities. For the rest of the year, the collection's vast resources are used by a variety of researchers, scholars, and professional writers.