Wayne Library history, Lyceum Hall

28_image01Last week’s brief resume, in this column, of the founding of the Memorial Library of Radnor Township, took the story back to 1882. In that year two enterprising women, Miss Anna Markley and Miss Anna Matlack, started a small, free, lending library in the quaint old building on East Lancaster avenue, then known as Wayne Hall.

More than ten years previously a group called the Wayne Library and Literary Association had held meetings in the Lyceum building, in quarters especially provided for it, when that building was erected in 1870-71. Considerable research on the part of this columnist in the past leads her to the conclusion that its work was part of the general Lyceum program rather than that of a public library offering such facilities.

However, an extensive study of old records of Radnor township, recently made by Mrs. Marie Good Hunt, present librarian of the Memorial Library, shows that “the Township of Radnor, Delaware County, has had a library almost continuously since 1809.” This interesting statement is based on Mrs. Hunt’s study of the minutes of the Radnor Library Company. The quaint wording of records, now almost 150 years old, state that “on the 21st day of the 1st month, 1809, a meeting of the subscribers and others friendly to the establishment of a library in the township of Radnor convened agreeably to public notice at Radnor School House.”

The minutes then continue, “we whose names are hereunto annexed, being desirous of promoting the dissemination of useful knowledge amongst the inhabitants of Radnor and part adjacent; and, considering the establishment of public libraries as a cheap and efficacious means of spreading useful information, have associated for the purpose of establishing a library in the vicinity of Radnor Meeting House.” (Note: This is the present meeting house, erection of which was begun in 1717 and completed about 1722.)

Officers of the association, elected at the meeting, were Joseph Hoskins, president; Mordecai Morgan, secretary: John Randolph, treasurer; John Siter, librarian and Charles Jones, Samuel Morgan and David Davis, directors. These names are interesting as the names themselves are the rules that these men formulated for the library which they were establishing. Mrs. Hunt found that “fines were to be paid before any other books were allowed to circulate,” and “damaged books were to be paid for and no books were to be put aside for the favored few.”

Her summary of those old records continues, “the first meeting of the now organized Radnor Library Company was held February 2, 1809, at the Radnor School House. The building was situated on the grounds, with the Meeting House, on Conestoga road at Ithan. The list ot 17 selected books to be purchased show that the organization comprised a group of serious readers, as the material was either of biographical or of historical interest. The meetings continued to be held at the Radnor School House from 1809 to 1857, with the exception of 1811-1813, when Widow Elliott’s Tavern was used, and again in 1855-56 when the organization met at the houses of John Evans and John Mather.” Mrs. Hunt’s interesting record continues: “It is noted that the librarian, although elected to his office, was merely the caretaker of the 500 books which constituted the library.

However, in 1814, a motion was carried to give him the privilege of reading the books for taking care of the library. The purchasing of all material was done by two appointed directors. During these years of the library’s existence Davis Brooke, Samuel Brooke, John Staker, Mifflin Moore, Ethan Wilson and John Mather served as librarian.”

Mrs. Hunt’s research shows that there are now no records of a library between 1858 and and 1870. Later records do tell, however, of “an association called the Wayne Library and Literary Association which met every Tuesday at 7:30 o’clock at the Wayne Lyceum Hall,” references to which have previously been made in this column.

In 1871, the year in which the Lyceum was dedicated, officers of the association were Charles A. Dillon, M.W. Rossiter, George W. Murray, William Siter and L.T. Brooke. Acting as librarian were Nettie M. Marsh and Seba Bittle. But since an entirely different group of names appeared in the records of 1872, Mrs. Hunt concludes that office was held for only one year. At that time R.H. McCormick, Dr. G.P. Sargant, William Lawrence and Emma Childs were elected to the Board of Managers and James Lynch was librarian.

For the years between 1872 and 1882, Mrs. Hunt has found no records to date. As already noted it was in this latter year that Miss Matlack and Miss Markley started the small lending library in old Wayne Hall, which expanded year by year without interruption, and finally became the Memorial Library of Radnor Township we know today, with its 6,000 members and a book circulation of over 100,000 for the year past.

(to be continued)