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THE PUBLIC LIBRARY IN OHIO.
BY J. A. SHAWAN.
"Educated, by Jove! Educated," was the gleeful shout of a graduate of a New England college, not many years ago, as he wa ved his much prized parchment over his head on commencement day. More noted for conviviality than for hard study, it is not strange that he failed to see the difference between graduation and education. The popular idea that graduation ends all must give place to the truer and more wholesome idea that it marks but the beginning of true intellectual life. School training is the foundation, and the stability and strength of the future structure will depend in no small degree upon the character of that foundation. How often it happens that on account of rotten stone, soft brick, freezing and thawing and general carelessness in the selection of material and in doing the work, it becomes necessary to tear away the foundation in part or wholly and to rebuild before further progress is possible; and after all of this has been done it is a patched up job and can never be anything more. On the other hand, how often it happens that a good foundation, built of excellent materials and under the most favorable circumstances, is allowed to stand until by the action of the wind and weather it is unfit to support the superstructure which belongs to it; and even if completed, the style of architecture is out of harmony with the age to which it belongs; in other words, many graduates outVan Winkle Van Winkle himself in the profoundness of the slumber that steals upon them when they think that they have been educated. Who has not seen many a college graduate who, far from advancing and growing after graduation, has absolutely retrograded in knowledge and mental power ?
The library is the legitimate supplement and complement of the work of the schools. How its influences may enter into the web and woof of the foundation, is familiar to those who have thought on the subject. How it has reached, and may continue to reach out and to touch the entire community, is in a large measure the object of this paper to show.
One of the principles of the ordinance of 1787 was that the means of education should be forever encouraged in the northwest territory. Recognizing the importance of this principle, the early settlers of this great territory began to lay their plans at a very early day to secure for themselves as well as their children the best educational facilities which they could afford. Even before the little log school house had been erected, the public library began its work. It was well that it did so for
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the love of knowledge which the parents themselves imbibed from the books which they read has been transmitted to their children and the school house and the college are but natural results. The history of some of these early libraries reads like romance and the noble men who brought these little foundations of knowledge over the mountains to those small settlements in the wilderness are to be classed with the Greek Heroes and the early settlers of Rome.
The first library of which we have any authentic history was the Putman Family Library, established at Belpre as early as 1795 by Colonel Israel Putman. It was afterwards known as the “Belpre Farmers' Library,” and still later as the “Belpre Library.” The organization was dissolved in 1815 or 1816. General Israel Putnam had a fine library, rich in history, travel and belles-lettres. At his death in 1790, this library was divided among his heirs, and his son brought a large part of it to Ohio, which formed the nucleus of the Putman Family Library. With the true spirit of fellowship, a stock company was formed and the library put into circulation for the benefit of all the settlers who were willing to share the burdens of its maintenance. Thus, in a large sense, it became a public library. The following was found September 2, 1801, in the records of the probate office of Washington county as an item in the inventory of the estate of Jonathan Stone:
MARIETTA, Ohio Oct. 26, 1796. "Received of Jonathan Stone, by hand of Benjamin Mills, Ten Dollars, for his share in the Putman Family Library.
W. P. PUTMAN, Cterk.
About twenty-three volumes which belong to this library are still in existence. Several of the books have the marks of the different libraries; e. g., one volume, the property of Captain Geo. Dana, entitled “John Locke's Essays on Human Understanding,” published in 1793, is No. 5 in the “Putnam Family Library” but was afterwards changed to No. 6, "Belpre Library." These volumes should be guarded with sacred care for they will become priceless relics in the centuries to come.
The second public library was put into operation at Cincinnati, on March 6, 1802, with L. Kerr as librarian. Thirty-four shares of $10.00 each were sold, Arthur St. Clair being among the subscribers. But for some reason it ceased to exist at an early day.
The celebrated "Coonskin Library," which was long supposed to be the first in the state, was not organized until 1804, in Ames township, Athens county. It was incorporated February 19, 1810, as the "Western Library Association." The Dayton Library Society was incorporated February 21, 1805. A library was established at Granville, which was then in Fairfield county, January 26, 1807, and another at Newton, Hamilton county, February 10, 1808.
Intellectual growth is so unobtrusive and subtle that it is not easy measure the degrees of advancement; but the good work done by these
pioneer libraries is amply attested by the pioneer thinkers of the Buckeye State. Says Amos Dunham, who built his log cabin in the woods ten miles south of Marietta, in 1802: “The long winter evenings were rather tedious, and in order to make them pass more smoothly, by great exertion I purchased a share in the Belpre Library, six miles distant. From this I promised myself much entertainment, but another obstacle presented
Reduced fac simile of title page of Minute Book of Western Library Association,
itself-I had no candles; however, the woods afforded me plenty of pine knots with these I made torches by which I could read, though I nearly -spoiled my eyes. Many a night have I passed in this manner till twelve for one o'clock reading to my wife, while she was hatchelling, carding or spinning.”
The early patrons of the “Coonskin Library” were of the same intelligent class, ever hungering after knowledge and getting it, too, regardless of difficulties that might stand in their way. So scarce was money, that Judge A. G. Brown declares that he cannot remember ever having seen a piece of coin until he was a well grown boy. But true to their Yankee instincts, these early settlers were not long in devising a medium of exchange that answered for all purposes, barring the slight inconvenience of handling and carrying it about in the vest pocket. Those were the days of John Jacob Astor. They were, also, the days when wolves, bears, coons and other fur-bearing animals abounded. Thus the means were not wanting. Samuel Brown, going to Boston on a business trip, was loaded down with skins to be converted into books for a Western Librarya journey quite as remarkable as Jason's Quest of the Golden Fleece. Thomas Ewing threw into the enterprise all his accumulated wealth, which consisted of "ten coon skins.” On the 17th of December, 1804, fifty-one books thus purchased were accepted, Ephraim Cutler elected librarian and the Western Library Association began its work. What a boon for the young pioneers who were thirsting for knowledge. Says Thomas Ewing of this early library: "It was well selected; the library of the Vatican was nothing to it, and there never was a library better read.”
Is it any wonder that we have a great state and have furnished great men to the nation and to the world, when the elements which entered into its early citizenship are taken into account? Burning with unquenchable thirst to drink from the fountain of knowledege and an unsatisfiable hungering for intellectual food, they were elements of which heroes are made. We may justly feel as proud of the early settlers of Ohio as of those who first cast their lot on the "wild New England shore." New England had its own peculiar notions of government—the outgrowth of its own history and conditions. The cavalier settlers of Virginia had different ideas of government, the reflection of their habits of life and the institution of slavery. These two streams of western civilization flowed together in this new state of the northwest. The problem of Ohio was to unify the Plymouth and Jamestown ideals and cause them to blend as one. It was no easy task. Discussions were numerous and spirited but the little library often came in as the great arbiter and served to modify the ideas of each and bring them into a closer bond of fellowship. The early settlers were Americans and believed in open and free discussion, hence the silent influence which went out from these library - centers can never be ly estimated. That the early Ohio statesman
saw the good in both sections is well known and that he was trusted by north and south is a matter of history. Thought, whether gathered from the printed page or the reflex influence of the contact of mind with mind, is the sunlight which nourishes intellectual and moral growth. Plant the church, the school house, the library, for they are the harbingers of civilization and humanity, but the enemies of barbarism and inhumanity. Andrew Carnegie has struck the key-note in the "Gospel of Wealth” "He who dies rich dies disgraced.” Truly a broad and noble thought beautifully applied in the number of public libraries which the noted millionaire has established in many parts of the country. He says that when he was a working boy in Pittsburg that Col. Anderson of Allegheny threw open his library of four hundred volumes to boys. He held this in such grateful remembrance that he resolved that should he ever become wealthy he would establish free libraries that other poor boys might enjoy their benefits. How well he has kept his vow, the whole world knows. What greater blessing can young people enjoy than the companionship of good books? If all poor boys who have received similar benefits were to express their gratitude in the same way, the world would soon be full of free libraries.
From these early beginnings, small though they seem, the work has grown to its magnificent proportions of the present day. The work moved slowly but steadily forward until 1854, when a general revival set in by the establishment of the Ohio School Library prepared for every school district in the state. The law which distributed this magnificent collection of books marks the beginning of a more liberal policy in the management of public libraries. Subscription gave place to taxation and the shelves were thrown open to all. Up to that date, according to reports sent in to the Commissioner of Education for the United States, there were in this state forty-four libraries. Of these only two, the libraries of Cincinnati and Dayton, were strictly public libraries. Only three of the public school libraries in existence at that time have maintained a continued organization to the present — The Hughes and Woodward High School Libraries of Cincinnati and the Public School Library of Troy. The Boys' Industrial School Library at Lancaster was established under the provisions of the Ohio School Library in 1854.
The library of the Ohio Institution for the Deaf and Dumb was established at Columbus in 1851, and now contains between 3,000 and 4,000 volumes, but its circulation was very properly limited to those attending the institution. The number of College, Seminary, and Law School libraries organized up to 1854 was twenty-six. The oldest of these was the Ohio University Library, antedating any other college library by at least twenty years. It may be interesting to note that the libraries of the Cincinnai Law School and Lane Theological Seminary were established in 1836, just two generations ago. These did their work in furnishing intellectual food for the leaders of thought in church and