As promised last week, it’s time for a closer look at Ben Franklin’s Library Company and the PA State Library. Both play an important part in our nation’s history. Today’s post focuses on the Library Company, and tomorrow’s will look at the PA State Library.
November 14 celebrated the anniversary of the Library Company in Philadelphia opening its doors to the public; this happened in 1732. The Library Company was formed on July 1, 1731, when Ben Franklin and other members of a philosophical association known as the “Junto” donated their books to form a library. The “Junto” invested money to continue to purchase new books for the Library Company, and members also paid dues. Other cities followed suite and created their own libraries in the 1740s.
Most early books in the Library Company’s collection were religious or educational in nature; however there were also books on business, philosophy, and politics. In addition to books, the library housed a collection of coins, fossils, scientific instruments, and geological specimens.
The Library Company continued to expand and, in 1789, its owners bought land near the corner of Fifth and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia. A building was designed and built, and the Library Company opened in its new location on January 1, 1791. The Library Company later moved again. Today it is located at 1314 Locust Street in Philadelphia.
Because books were rare in expensive in the 1730s, the general American population didn’t have access to them. The creation of the Library Company allowed the general public more widespread access to books; thus it is an important part of literary history that’s located just an hour and a half away from us.
For more information about the Library Company of Philadelphia, click here.