Pennsylvania Railroad Employe’s Circulating Library, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1882 Pennsylvania Railroad Employe’s Circulating Library Card No. 456

1882 Pennsylvania Railroad Employe’s Circulating Library Card No. 456 (front)

Pennsylvania Railroad Employe’s Circulating Library

As a means of extending library services to thousands of company employees often residing in remote areas along the railroad lines, American railroad companies, including the Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR), established reading rooms and circulating libraries at train stations and depots. At its peak in the 1920s, the PRR system had over 11,500 miles of track that serviced 13 states, reaching as far as west as St. Louis, Missouri, and north to Detroit, Michigan. In the 1904 edition of the Bulletin of the International Railway Congress, it was noted that the PRR circulating library system had “31 branches, and 72,973 volumes (of which 35,000 were at the Mechanics’ Library at Altoona, PA).” The branch libraries provided technical trade publications, as well as recreational and reference reading materials.

One such reading room was located on the “upper story” of PRR’s Broad Street Station located at Broad and Market Streets in Philadelphia (now John F. Kennedy Blvd. and W. 15th Street). Opened on December 5, 1881, it was the primary passenger terminal for the PRR from 1881 to the 1950s.

Wilson Brothers & Company, architects James R. Osgood & Company from The American Architect and Building News, volume 18, number 509 (September 26, 1885), p. 157. (Public Domain)
“A Timely Present,” The Daily Gazette, July 16; 1883, Page 1
Broad Street Station expansion by Frank Furness, architect. When completed in 1893, the expanded station was the largest passenger
terminal in the world. The original 1881 section is at the right.
(Photographer: William Rau) (Public Domain)

The last train departed the Broad Street Station on April 27, 1952. The station was demolished in October 1952.

“Broad St. Station Closes April 27,” The Commercial Appeal, April 28, 1952, Page 21 (Memphis, Tennessee)

The M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library

1902 M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library Membership Ticket issued to Dr. G. W. Brown

1902 M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library Membership Ticket (front)
1902 M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library Membership Ticket (back)

The M. Steinert & Sons Company Music Circulating Library

Illustration of the Steinert Building by Charles H. Overly (1908-1970) (No known copyright restrictions)

The advent of the pneumatic player piano, invented in 1895 by Edwin S. Votey, made piano and organ music accessible to everyone regardless of musical ability. The Pianola and Aeolian pianos were gaining popularity, and M. Steinert & Sons Music Company sold them alongside traditional instruments such as the Steinway and their own Steinert brand pianos. Steinert’s offered patrons a circulating library of Aeolian and Pianola music rolls for a subscription fee of $10 (three months), $15 (six months), or $20 (one year). Subscribers living within 75 miles from Boston were entitled to borrow for up to two weeks up to twelve rolls at a time. Subscribers living more than 75 miles from Boston were allowed to borrow for up to four weeks up to 24 rolls at one time.

The M. Steinert & Sons Music Company operated on “Piano Row” in the Steinert Building at 162 Boylston Street in Boston from 1896 to 2015. At the same address, four stories below street level, is Steinert Hall, a concert auditorium, considered by early-1900s Bostonians to be the “headquarters for the musical and artistic world of cultured Boston.” Steinert Hall was closed to the public in 1942 due to fire code restrictions. M. Steinert & Sons continues to be a top destination for quality pianos and instruments.

The Aeolian Music Company Piano Roll (no known copyright restrictions)
Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, Massachusetts), Saturday, January 6, 1900, Page 22
Advertisement from The New England Magazine, Vol. 18, Page 264, 1896 (No known copyright restrictions)