Benjamin Franklin began the first circulating
library, The Library Company of Philadelphia.
In those days books were more expensive than
most people could afford. So Franklin invited
50 intellectual friends to share the expense by
pooling their funds. Each contributed 4o shillings
to help buy books and 10 more in yearly dues.
Donated books were also gratefully accepted.
In exchange, members could borrow what they
wanted to read. From the Revolution to 1800
while Philadelphia was the capital of the US
it served as the Library of Congress. Until 1850
it was the largest library in the country.
Today, The Library Company of Philadelphia
continues as an historical research library
(right down the street from here) of the
17th -19th centuries. The original books in
Ben Franklin's library are still in the collection.
The first library on wheels was begun
in 1905 by Mary L. Titcomb, head of the
Hagerstown, MD Public Library.
Like Franklin, Mary Titcomb wanted to make
books available to people who could not
afford them. Mostly rural families who
lived far from towns with libraries.
At first she placed circulating books in general
stores and churches.
Then she designed a horse drawn wagon that could
carry hundreds of books around the countryside.
I am posting several of my illustrations from
Nancy Smiler Levinson's, Clara & The Bookwagon.
A fictional account of the very real Ms. Titicomb
and her brilliant idea.
My "model" for Ms. Titicom's wagon, was an actual
delivery wagon that the old and now sadly closed,
Strawbridge & Clothier department store used to
have on display in the food hall on the first floor.