Mercantile Library Association (Boston, Massachusetts)

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The Mercantile Library Association (1820-1952) of Boston was an organization dedicated to operating a subscription library, reading room and lecture series. Members included James T. Fields and Edwin Percy Whipple.[1] Although the association had a relatively long history, its heyday occurred in the mid-19th century, particularly the 1840s and 1850s.[2]

History[edit]

1852 directory listing, Bromfield St. and Province St., Boston

The association was organized in 1820, "to establish a library and reading room for the use of young men engaged in mercantile pursuits ...the first association of the kind in the United States." Founders included Theodore Lyman, J.G. Gibson, Samuel A. Otis, N.A. Barrett, Thomas Gorham, James T. Blanchard, Lynde M. Walter, Charles J. Johnson, Edward Codman, Henry A. David and Samuel W. Pomeroy.[3] Initially the library operated from rooms in Merchants' Hall, Congress Street, and later moved to Harding's buildings on School Street (1836-1841), then to Amory Hall on Washington Street.

1859 Washington's Birthday celebration at the Boston Music Hall

The association underwent highs and lows through the years. After a decade of minimal growth, the association engaged in a successful fundraising effort in 1835, expanding its revenue and membership. Major benefactors included Abbott Lawrence.[4] In 1836 "a severe calamity was experienced in the destruction, by fire, of the cabinet of curiosities, and several valuable paintings. Many of the books were also very much injured by water."[5] Thereafter membership and activities were re-energized. In 1842 "the Boston Marine Society deposited with the Association their extensive cabinet of curiosities, containing about two thousand rare and valuable specimens.""[6] The association was officially incorporated in 1845.

In 1840 Edward Everett spoke to the association on "Accumulation, Property, Capital, Credit."[7] In 1844 Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a lecture entitled "The Young American."[8] In 1847 Charles Sumner spoke on "White Slavery in the Barbary States."[9] Other speakers included Horace Mann; Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.;[10] poet Park Benjamin, Sr.; George S. Boutwell; Thomas Greaves Cary; Rufus Choate; Caleb Cushing; George Stillman Hillard; William F. Sturgis; and Robert Charles Winthrop.[11]

By 1849, some 1,145 members belonged to the library. Library collections included 5,819 volumes.[12][13] Around 1851, the library occupied quarters on Province Street, at the corner of Bromfield Street.[14] By 1861 until at least 1868, the library had moved to Summer Street.[15][16]

In 1877 the association gave its collection of 18,000 books to the South End branch of the Boston Public Library, located in the basement of the association's building on Tremont Street and Newton Street. According to one historian, after 1881 "the Association, deprived of its library, entered upon a steadily less successful career as a social club that came to a dusty and inglorious end in 1952."[17][18]

Lecturers and performers[edit]

See also[edit]

1861 lecture series

References[edit]

  1. ^ Edwin Monroe Bacon. Literary Pilgrimages in New England to the Homes of Famous Makers of American Literature and Among Their Haunts and the Scenes of Their Writings. Silver, Burdett & Company, 1902.
  2. ^ For context, see: List of libraries in 19th-century Boston, Massachusetts
  3. ^ A catalogue of books of the Mercantile Library Association of Boston, together with the act of incorporation, and the by-laws and regulations adopted December 1, 1850. Printed for the Association by Damrell & Moore, 1850; p.3.
  4. ^ Shera. Foundations of the public library. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1949; p.232.
  5. ^ A catalogue of books of the Mercantile Library Association. 1850; p.4.
  6. ^ A catalogue of books of the Mercantile Library Association. 1850; p.5.
  7. ^ Edward Everett. Importance of practical education and useful knowledge: being a selection from his orations and other discourses. Marsh, Capen, Lyon, and Webb, 1840; p.307+
  8. ^ Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nature, and other miscellanies. Milford, 1922; p.254+.
  9. ^ The works of Charles Sumner, Volume 1. Lee and Shepard, 1870; p.383+
  10. ^ Celebration of the 124th anniversary of the birthday of Washington. February 22, 1856. Boston: Watson's Press, 1856.
  11. ^ Robert Charles Winthrop. Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions. Little, Brown, and Company, 1867.
  12. ^ Merchants' magazine, Volume 21. 1849; p.135.
  13. ^ Edward Edwards. A Statistical View of the Principal Public Libraries in Europe and the United States of North America. Journal of the Statistical Society of London, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Aug., 1848)
  14. ^ Boston Directory. 1851.
  15. ^ Boston Directory. 1861.
  16. ^ Boston Directory. 1868.
  17. ^ Walter Muir Whitehill. Boston Public Library: a centennial history. Harvard Univ. Press, 1956. p.124-125.
  18. ^ Horace G. Wadlin. The Public Library of the city of Boston: a history. Boston, 1911; p.113, 160.
  19. ^ Edward Everett. An address, delivered before the Mercantile Library Association, at the Odeon in Boston, September 13, 1838. Boston, W. D. Ticknor, 1838.
  20. ^ J.T. Fields. Anniversary poem, delivered before the Mercantile library Association of Boston, September 13, 1838. Boston, W.D. Ticknor, 1838.
  21. ^ Park Benjamin. Infatuation: a poem, spoken before the Mercantile Library Association of Boston, October 9, 1844. W. D. Ticknor and company, 1844.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l 30th Annual Report [for 1849] of the Mercantile Library Association of Boston. 1850
  23. ^ Thomas Greaves Cary. The dependence of the fine arts for encouragement, in a republic, on the security of property: with an enquiry into the causes of frequent failure among men of business : an address delivered before the Boston Mercantile Library Association, November 13, 1844. C.C. Little & J. Brown, 1845.
  24. ^ Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nature, and other miscellanies. Milford, 1922; p.254+.
  25. ^ Edward Everett. Importance of practical education and useful knowledge: being a selection from his orations and other discourses. Marsh, Capen, Lyon, and Webb, 1840; p.307+
  26. ^ George Lunt. Culture: a poem delivered before the Mercantile Library Association, at the Odeon, in Boston, October 3, 1843. Boston, W. D. Ticknor & company, 1843.
  27. ^ Horace Mann. A few thoughts for a young man: a lecture, delivered before the Boston Mercantile Library Association, on its 29th anniversary [1849]. Horace B. Fuller, 1871.
  28. ^ William Sturgis. The Oregon question: substance of a lecture before the Mercantile Library Association, delivered January 22, 1845. Boston: Jordan, Swift & Wiley, 1845.
  29. ^ Charles Sumner. White slavery in the Barbary states; A lecture delivered before the Boston Mercantile Library Association, Feb. 17, 1847. Boston, J. P. Jewett and company; 1853.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m 31st Annual Report [for 1850] of the Mercantile Library Association of Boston. 1851
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j American Broadsides and Ephemera, Series 1
  32. ^ Frank P. Blair, Jr. The destiny of the races of this continent; An address delivered before the Mercantile library association of Boston, Massachusetts. On the 26th of January, 1859. Washington, D.C. : Buell & Blanchard, printers, 1859.
  33. ^ George Stillman Hillard. The dangers and duties of the mercantile profession: An address delivered before the Mercantile library association, at its thirtieth anniversary, Nov. 13, 1850. Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1850.
  34. ^ Celebration of the 124th anniversary of the birthday of Washington. February 22, 1856. Boston: Watson's Press, 1856.
  35. ^ Mr. Boutwell in Boston; Lecture before the Mercantile Library Association--The "Transition Period of the United States." New York Times, December 30, 1869; p.1.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]