Turn On the Lights

It all started with a question….Cole Suttle is pursuing a Master of Arts in Design and Innovation and was working on a project about the Dallas Shakespeare Club. He asked “Where are the lamps that were donated by the Shakespeare Club on Campus?”

This was easily answered, but I went outside to double check. Most people on campus have walked by them, but no one really notices these lamps.

Shakespeare lamps. Photo taken by Cole Suttle.

The two bronze lamps in front of Fondren Library are even older than SMU. The Dallas Shakespeare Club donated these lamps to the first downtown Public Library in 1907, only a few years after the library opened. The 10 foot columns are Corinthian style. The women in the Club wanted to give Dallas Public Library something that was permanent, beautiful, and useful.

When Fondren was first opened in 1940, the Shakespeare lamps weren’t here.

Fondren Library in the late 1940s.

The lamps arrived at SMU between September 1959 and May 1962. The 1960 Rotunda photo of Fondren Library showed the front of the library with no lamps. The 1962 Rotunda had this photo of Fondren showing the lamps.

In research, one question often turns into a quest, and Cole was ready to explore. He asked, “where are the Shakespeare lamps?” His actual research goal was “how has the Shakespeare Club of Dallas managed to stay active for more than 100 years?”

The Dallas Shakespeare Club was founded in January 1886 as a way for Dallas women to gather, read, perform, and analyze the Bard’s work. Along the way, they helped to raise funds (along with the Dallas Federation of Women’s Clubs and other organizations) to open Dallas’ first Public Library. For the Club’s hundredth birthday, the Club donated one of Shakespeare’s first Folios to Dallas Public Library. It’s on permanent exhibit on the seventh floor of the downtown library.

Cole Suttle with Centennial history of the Dallas Shakespeare Club.  Photo by Joan Gosnell

During his journey, Cole discovered the book written for the Club’s centennial anniversary, interviewed at least one current club member, went to the Dallas Historical Society in Fair Park to use its archival records, and viewed the First Folio at Dallas Public Library.

He did much more than my just leaving the building to look at the lamps. Libraries may light the way for discovery, but our patrons are the ones who do the hard work and find the source of the light.


Fondren Library, taken after 1962, but before the 1970s


By Joan Gosnell