Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

1882 Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati Member’s Ticket (Circulation No. B. 69) Issued to J. H. Barker

1882 Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati Member’s Ticket (Circulation No. B. 69) Issued to J. H. Barker (front)
1882 Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati Member’s Ticket (Circulation No. B. 69) Issued to J. H. Barker (back)

Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

The Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati was established in April 1835 by Moses Ranney and 44 young men seeking to improve their skills within their mercantile trades.  Lacking useful resources to improve their skills, they banded together to open a library that would cater to the needs of the undereducated and those seeking self-improvement.  With seed money of $1800 and 700 volumes, the Library began operations in the Daniel Ames’ Building on Main Street, below Pearl, for $12.50 per month. Being a modest operation on a shoestring budget, there was no librarian, so all library duties were performed by the Directors. However, due to a steady increase in membership, the Library was able to elect their first librarian by the end of the first year.  By 1836, the Library had approximately 1200 volumes.

The Library held art exhibits, literary readings and lectures by noted clergy, businessmen, and literary figures such as William Makepeace Thackeray, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Horace Greeley.  The Library also encouraged the advancement of women by extending invitations to Harriet Beecher Stowe and Eliza Logan.  Periodicals and worldwide newspapers, such as the London Times were available, as well as foreign language books. The Library also offered classes in languages, mathematics, book-keeping and penmanship.

Early etching by unknown artist of the First Cincinnati College Building.  (No known copyright restrictions.  Used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 and the Doctrine of Fair Use)

In Spring of 1840, the Library began its association with Cincinnati College and moved into rented rooms in the Cincinnati College building located on Walnut Street.

The Fire of 1845

On January 19, 1845, the Cincinnati College was destroyed by fire.  Due to the heroic efforts of nearby members, many volumes were saved and transferred to rooms at the corner of Fourth and Sycamore Streets for temporary housing.  This calamity offered the Library a unique opportunity.  In consideration of the sum of $10,000 donated by the Library to go toward rebuilding, the Cincinnati College granted the Library ownership in perpetuity to a suite of rooms in the new building. Plans for a new 3-story building “exclusive of the attic” having “a modern edifice of Grecian Doric order” were announced in the Cincinnati Enquirer on March 3, 1846. The front area on the second floor would be designed for the accommodation of the Library. 

Moving Forward 

The Library remained active during this period of displacement.  In 1853, a block of native marble taken from the Ohio River bedrock was donated to the construction of the Washington Monument.

Engraving on native marble block donated to the building of the Washington Monument in 1853 (public domain)

In addition to continued civic activities and cultural events, membership grew to 2,500 (by 1855) and the number of volumes available to members increased through purchase and donation to over 15,000.  In 1859, women were permitted to join the Library.

The Fire of 1869

On October 20, 1869, a second fire destroyed the Cincinnati College building. Plans to build a new 4-story building were put into place by late 1869, and the Library temporarily moved to the A. E. Chamberlain & Co. building at 137-139 Race Street (between 3rd and 4th Streets).  By 1871, the new 4-story building was opened and the Library was back on Walnut Street.  

1890s photo by unknown photographer of Cincinnati College Bulidng on Walnut Street.  (No known copyright restrictions.  Used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 and the Doctrine of Fair Use)

In the early 1900s, the Cincinnati College Building was sold to local business interests and a new 12-story building was built on the Walnut Street site.  A 1905 city directory lists the Library address as 11th Floor Mercantile Library Building.  The Library continues to operate from the Mercantile Library Building.  It is one of the last subscription libraries in the United States.

Early 1900s photo by unknown photographer of Mercantile Library Building at 414 Walnut Street.  (No known copyright restrictions.  Used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 and the Doctrine of Fair Use)

Moses Ranney

Moses Ranney (1810-1853) was a local business man and a leading figure in the organization of the Young Men’s Mercantile Library Association of Cincinnati. He served as the Library’s first President from 1835-1840. Born in Middletown, Connecticut to Moses Ranney, Sr. and Elizabeth Gilchrist, his father, Moses, died shortly after his birth.  As a young man, he travelled to Cincinnati with his mother and established a business. In 1837, he married Catherine Maria Luckey (1818-1906), and together had six daughters, five of which pre-deceased Ranney.  

A melodramatic article on the vices of drinking published in the February 1, 1855  Lancaster Gazette indicated Ranney’s life took a downward spiral and that he lost everything due to alcoholism.  Perhaps a kernel of truth due to the trauma of loss of multiple children took its toll.

From the Lancaster Gazette, February 1, 1855

Moses Ranney died on August 20, 1852, in New Orleans, Louisiana of Yellow Fever.  He was buried in the Cypress Grove Cemetery.

From the Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), August 22, 1852
From the Richmond Weekly Palladium (Richmond, Indiana), September 23, 1853

H. B. Morehead

Harry “Henry” Blackburn Morehead (1847-1899), son of  Kentucky Governor James T. Morehead, was a stockbroker and principal owner of H. B. Morehead & Co., a stocks and bonds brokerage.  In 1891, being a majority stock holder, he  assumed control and management of the Commercial Gazette Company.    He succumbed to tuberculosis in 1899. He is buried in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

From The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), March 28, 1899

J. H. Barker

Joseph H. Barker (1854-1902), son of Capt. Jonathan H. Barker (1814-1900), steamboat captain for the Cincinnati to Louisville Daily Packet Line, was a supervisor for the New Water Company.  He succumbed to liver disease and is buried in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati,

Los Angeles Public Library System, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, Los Angeles, California

Pre-1944 Los Angeles Public Library System, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, Library Card No. 4H 3669 issued to Mrs. Clara M. Cota

Pre-1944 Los Angeles Public Library System, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, Library Card No. 4H 3669 issued to Mrs. Clara M. Cota (front)
Pre-1944 Los Angeles Public Library System, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, Library Card No. 4H 3669 issued to Mrs. Clara M. Cota (back)

Los Angeles Public Library, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch

In the mid 1920s, community growth began to strain the existing Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library System.  Accordingly, the Helen Hunt Jackson Branch opened to the public on November 1, 1925 at Naomi Avenue and 25th Street in Los Angeles.  Named after the 19th Century American writer, Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), who penned the classic novel, Ramona, which told the story of a romance between Ramona, a Scottish-Native American orphan girl and Alessandro, a Native American sheep herder, set during the days of the California missions. The novel had significant positive impact on the cultural image of Southern California. The Spanish Colonial Revival building was designed by C. E. Noerenberg and boasted a 25’ x 26’ main reading room, a separate 22’ x 23’ children’s reading room, and a community room and kitchen. 

In 1940, the Helen Hunt Jackson Branch ceased operations as a fully staffed branch library and was converted to a station with a shortened, weekly 21-hour operating schedule.  Eventually, the Helen Hunt Jackson Branch ceased operating as a library and was eventually converted into a church building (Rock of Salvation Church).

In 1987, the Helen Hunt Jackson Branch and several other branch libraries in Los Angeles were added to the National Register of Historic Places.  

1925 photo of Los Angeles Public Library System, Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, at Naomi Avenue and 25th Street in Los Angeles, California (Photo from the SPNB Collection – Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection and used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 and the Doctrine of Fair Use)

Miriam Matthews

Miriam Matthews (1905-2002) was the first African American Librarian for the Los Angeles Public Library System, and the state of California.  Called the “Dean of California Black History,” Matthews was instrumental in the creation of Black History Month.  During her tenure at the Helen Hunt Jackson Branch, Matthews found a small cache of books devoted to black history in California.  She then began researching and preserving the contributions of African Americans to California history and created the Los Angeles Public Library System’s first research collection on Black History.  

In 1926, Miriam Matthews earned a Bachelor’s degree, followed by a Certificate in Librarianship in 1927 from UC Berkeley.  After graduating, Matthews passed California’s civil service exam despite attempts by civil service administrators to sabotage her efforts.  In July 1927, Matthews began working  as a Substitute Librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library System’s Robert Louis Stevenson Branch, and within three months, became a full-time Librarian.  Matthews remained a branch librarian until taking a leave of absence to earn a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Chicago in 1945.  After returning to Los Angeles, she was promoted to regional librarian and supervised a dozen branch libraries.  Matthews worked with the Los Angeles Public Library System from 1927 until her retirement in 1960. 

Girard Free Library, Girard, Ohio

Girard Free Library Card No. Y 1708 issued to Sallie Miles

Girard Free Library, Library Card No. Y 1708 (expiration Nov. 1964) (front)
Girard Free Library, Library Card No. Y 1708 (expiration Nov. 1964) (back)
Girard Free Library, Library Card No. Y 1708 (member number type plate)

Girard Free Library

The Girard Free Library opened in 1921 and was housed in the 1861 Italianate-style building formerly called the Union School, Girard’s first school house.  Prior to  the opening of the library, the Union School was converted to the Village Hall, and subsequently, upon a large population surge and city incorporation, the Village Hall was converted to the City Building and became the home of the first public library in 1921. The Girard Public Library was located in the City Building until 1973 after which a new contemporary building was constructed on East Prospect Street, where the library can be found today.

Girard Town Hall (formerly the Union School) (pre 1923 postcard in the public domain)

Sallie Miles

Sallie I. Miles (1947-2011) was a 25+ year employee of RMI Titanium Co. in Niles, Ohio.  She attended Capitol University in Columbus with an emphasis in music and later attended Youngstown State University’s Engineering Department.

Manchester Free Libraries, Campfield Lending Branch, Manchester, England

Borrower’s Card No. 9199 (2nd Series) issued to Henry Thomas Manners on May 16, 1865

1865 Manchester Free Libraries Borrower’s Card (front)
1865 Manchester Free Libraries Borrower’s Card (back)

Manchester Free Libraries – Campfield Lending Branch

The Manchester Free Library at Campfield was the first lending library in England.   

Mirroring the Museums Act of 1845, which would “[empower] boroughs with a population of 10,000 or more to raise a ½d for the establishment of museums,” the Public Libraries Act (also known as the Free Library Act) was instituted in England.  While establishing the Act was not without argument, most notably the imposition of taxes, the voting body (the burgess-role) adopted the Act and became law with Royal Assent on August 14, 1850.

Soon after the Public Libraries Act was established, the Mayor of Manchester, John Potter (1815-1858), began a two-year effort to raise funds to house and stock the future library, and with the support of wealthy benefactors, the library finally opened with much fanfare on September 5, 1852.  Attendance at the opening ceremonies was over 1,000 persons, and included addresses from notable writers, Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray and Sir Edward Bulwark Lytton.

During the first weekend, nearly 10,000 people passed through the doors of the new library.

Etching by unknown artist of Manchester Free Libraries – Campfield Lending Branch, Manchester, England (Source:  “Manchester Public Free Libraries: a History and Description, and Guide to Their Contents and Use,” by William Robert, 1899) (Usage: no known copyright restrictions)

Edward Edwards (1809-1882) – First Librarian of the Manchester Free Libraries (1852-1857)

Edward Edwards was one of the three proponents of the  Public Library Act of 1850, and subsequently appointed the first librarian of the Manchester Public Library.  While being granted an £80 pension, his “passion for the spread of knowledge led to personal poverty.”  His books and papers being his only assets at his death, he died penniless at the age of 73.

Andrea Crestadoro (1808-1879) – Chief Librarian, Manchester Free Libraries (1864-1879)

Andrea Crestadoro was Chief Librarian of the Manchester Free Libraries from 1864 to 1879.  He is credited with the development and implementation of the Keyword in Context Indexing catalog system used at the Manchester Free Libraries.

Henry Thomas Manners (abt. 1819-1895)

Henry Thomas Manners was an English merchant for Fabric manufacturer, Ashton & Company of Manchester, England.