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MBLC Celebrates 125 Years


Jonathan Bourne Public Library in Bourne, Massachusetts

Jonathan Bourne Public Library, dedicated in 1897.
(Image from Digital Commonwealth collections)

TODAY: Only one town without library service.
In 1897: "It will be seen that there are now only ten towns in the State that are not fully entitled to the privileges and rights of a free public library. In four of these towns there are good association libraries that are not free, one of them is awaiting the maturing of the terms of a bequest made some years ago to establish a library, and the only obstacle in the other towns is the lack of any convenient centre for locating a library."1

Towns having no free public library privileges in 1897:
Cheshire, Clarksburg, Dracut, Gay Head, Hadley, Lakeville, Nantucket, New Marlborough, Norwell, Seekonk.1

Commissioners in 1897:

  • Samuel Swett Green, Worcester
  • Henry S. Nourse, Lancaster
  • E.P. Sohier, Secretary, Beverly
  • Anna Sears Amory, Boston
  • C.B. Tillinghast, Chairman, Boston1

New library buildings in 1897:

  • Bourne, dedicated June 17, 1897
  • East Bridgewater, no dedication date given
  • Sturbridge, dedicated July 22, 18971

New free public libraries in 1897:

  • Dennis
  • Dudley
  • Somerset
  • South Hadley
  • Wales1

What else happened in 1897?

  • April 19: The first Boston Marathon was held. Ten of the fifteen participants made it to the finish line.2
  • May 14: Oscar Wilde was released from prison.3
  • May 14-15: The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK) was founded in Berlin as the first LGBT campaigning organization.3
  • September 1: The first subway line in the United States opened under downtown Boston to ease congestion on the city's busy streets. Within a year, passengers were getting on and off at Boylston Street, Park Street, Scollay Square, Adams Square, and Haymarket. The route was later connected to the Boston Elevated Railway, creating the precursor to today's T.4
  • November 1: The Library of Congress building opened its doors to the public.5

At Park Street Station, a subway train takes a test ride in 1897

Boston's new subway makes a test run at Park Street Station.
(Image from Boston Public Library on Flickr)

1. Massachusetts Free Public Library Commission Reports, 1891-98.
2. [link].
3. 1897 - Wikipedia entry [link].
4. [link].
5. Library of Congress [link].