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As early as 1843 a small library was established by the Grand Rapids Lyceum Association, the nucleus of which was a chest of books discovered in the attic of some school house, and brought hither by a young lawyer. Some additions were made from time to time, chiefly by private gifts, until its catalogue showed two or three hundred volumes, mostly small and miscellaneous in character. About 1850, by a formal vote, the association turned them over to the Mechanics' Mutual Protection lode, and the latter added to the library somewhat both by purchase and from contributions. When the M. M. P. dissolved, in 1859, this library, with this other property, was distributed among the individual members. Many volumes of it are still preserved in private libraries.

In the early part of 1858, a movement looking toward the establishment of a public library was set on foot. February 24 a "large and enthusiastic" meeting was held in Luce's Hall "for the purpose of organization a Mercantile Library Association within the city of Grand Rapids." The Rev. F. H. Cuming presided. The following preamble and resolution were adopted:

Whereas, History and experience have conclusively demonstrated the truth that a Public Library is an indispensable necessity in every well-regulated community;

Resolved, That this meeting deem it expedient and necessary, both for the credit of that city and the proper improvement of society, that such an institution be speedily founded in our city.

Committees on constitution and by-laws, and for the solicitation of funds, were appointed at this meeting. Further initiatory steps were taken at subsequent meetings and the name was changed to the Grand Rapids Library Association. At a meeting held May 5, 1858, the organization was perfected by the election of the following officers: President, William J. Welles; First Vice-President, Henry Martin; Second Vice-President, Eben Smith, Jr.; Corresponding Secretary, Thomas C. Boughton; Treasurer, Norris T. Butler; Managers, S. B. McCray, William Hovey, F. B. Gilbert, P. J. G. Hodenpyl, Charles H. Taylor, George H. Hess, Harvey Gaylord. The association was an incorporated stock company, and began work with ninety-six members and fifty-one stockholders, a library of 771 volumes of selected works, and $769.14 in the treasury. Quarters in the Luce block were rented, and a librarian was hired at a salary of $150 a year. Thomas B. Church delivered a dedicatory address before the association in the evening of May 14. In November, 1858, the library was moved into room sin the then new eastern part of Lovett's block. After the first enthusiasm had subsided, the financial support began to fall off, and the annual reports of the executive committee of those days tell as story of a hard struggle. Lecture courses were instituted to retrieve the failing fortunes of the Association, but the receipts were far below expenditures, and year by year it fell behind financially, until in October 1861, it was obliged to mortgage its library and fixtures for the security of a debt of $250. November 1, 1861, in default of payment, and the Association being without resources, the managers Thomas D. Gilbert, N. L. Avery, P. R. L. Peirce, and S. O. Kingsbury, so adjusted the matter that the property was transferred to Eben Smith, Jr., as trustee, in satisfaction of the mortgage debt. Within a short time after this, the Association gave its library, numbering 855 volumes, to the Board of Education of District No. 1. It was then removed to the Central School building, and consolidated with the Public School Library.

A small library of less than one hundred volumes had been collected by the district at an early date, and was kept in the garret of the old stone school house. This library had received several considerable additions, among others the property of an organization known as the City Library­ and with this new acquisition numbered some 2,000 volumes. A room in the tower of the Central school house was occupied by the consolidated library. According to the terms of the consolidation, members of the Library Association were entitled to the use of its volumes free of charge. Pupils of the several schools of the district were required to pay fifteen cents each term as a registration fee, for the maintenance of the library. Residents of the city not members of the school were given the privilege of the library during the school year upon payment of a registration fee of thirty cents. Owing to the location of the library, however, the circulation of the books was not general among citizens.


With the organization of a ladies' club in 1869-70, begins the story of an important phase in the history of the Public School Library. A Ladies' Reading Club (the germ of the Ladies' Literary Club) had been organized during that winter, under the inspiration of a series of historical lectures delivered by Mrs. L. H. Stone, of Kalamazoo, and this club felt the need of books. The school library was practically inaccessible, and the ladies resolved to have a library of their own. Mrs. L. D. Putnam, Mrs. S. L. Withey, Mrs. S. L. Fuller, Mrs. A. J. Daniels, Mrs. O. A. Ball, Mrs. H. J. Hollister, and many other prominent ladies, set about the work of raising funds, and in a comparatively short time $1,200 was obtained. With this sum a room was fitted up and Miss Frances E. Holcomb was placed in charge of the library of 1,000 volumes. The membership dues were an initiation fee of $2 and an annual fee of $1, none but members being allowed the use of the library. The first year this City Library Association, as it was called, had 300 members, and it continued to prosper until its library contained 1,200 volumes of history, biography, travels, miscellany and fiction. After the experience of a year and a half the ladies came to the conclusion that the interests of all concerned would be better served by uniting their library with the school library and a small library of 50 books belonging to the Y.M.C.A.  Accordingly committees were appointed, composed of A. L. Chubb and James H. McKee, on the part of the Board of Education; Mrs. S. L. Withey, Mrs. L. D. Putnam, Mrs. W. A. Howard, and Mrs. L. H. Randall, on the part of the City Library Association, and Harvey J. Hollister, C. G. Swensberg and Edwin Hoyt, Jr. on the part of the Young Men's Christian Association, who agreed on the basis of union involving substantially the following points:

The first joint committee selected in accordance with this agreement, consisted of the following ladies and gentleman: Moreau S. Crosby, C. G. Brinsmaid, James H. McKee, A. L. Chubb, Mrs. S. L. Fuller, Mrs. W. A. Howard, Mrs. L. H. Randall, Mrs. L. D. Putnam.

The new organization went into effect, and the library opened Dec. 21, 1871, in rooms on the second floor, north side and hear the foot of Monroe Street. Miss Frances E. Holcomb, the librarian of the Ladies' Library, was continued in office under the new regime. This union brought together 4,045 volumes, derived from the following sources: Library of School District No. 1, 2,564 volumes; the West Side School Library (formerly kept in the Union School and open to the public), 200 volumes, the Ladies' Library Association, 1,231; the Y.M.C.A. Library, 50 volumes. The consummation of this union, and the removal of the books to an accessible central location, were event which made the library a power in the community. Previously its usefulness had been restricted to the schools, and to the comparatively small membership of the Ladies' City Library Association. Now the library was open to the whole public, the people generally were interested in its welfare, and the institution began at once to expand. Volumes were added by donation and purchase, and the circulation increased rapidly. During the first year 3,000 people availed themselves of the privilege of drawing books. Each year the number of books added to the library increased, until measures for their removal to more commodious quarters became necessary. This was effected in 1875, when the library was reopened to the public with enlarged facilities in the second story of the Ledyard Block. Even these rooms became cramped by the expansion of the institution, making a considerable enlargement necessary before the removal to its present location in the City Hall, in October 1888. There it occupies commodious quarters, where it can live and grow until the city, appreciating its work, shall give it a fire-proof home of its own, perhaps in conjunction with the Kent Scientific Institute Museum.

In December, 1876, Miss Holcomb, having become Mrs. C. R. Bacon, wished to retire from the office of Librarian, and the joint committee from the Board of Education and the City Library Association, were unable to agree in naming her successor; the ladies recommending Miss H. S. Nash for the office, the gentlemen nominating Mrs. Alfred Putnam. The gentlemen triumphed and in January Mrs. Putnam was installed as the librarian for the year 1877. At the close of the year there was another disagreement, the ladies and two gentlemen of the committee recommending Mrs. George Lee and a minority reporting in favor of the continuance of Mrs. Putnam. Mrs. Putnam was re-elected. These disagreements resulted in the dissolution of the union between the Ladies' Library and the Public Library in 1878. The ladies upon retiring took with them the 1,200 books originally belonging to the association, which eventually came into the possession of the Ladies' Literary Club, and now, with additions, constitute the library of that organization. It is in order to say here that the ladies during their connection with the Public Library were untiring in their efforts to promote its welfare. In many of the library committees' reports to the Board of Education, acknowledgements of the services of the ladies are made in terms of the highest praise.


Since the separation of the government of the library has rested entirely in the hands of the Board of Education. Mrs. Putnam continued to serve as Library until January, 1884, when she was succeeded by Mrs. Frances C. Wood, who worthily performed the increasingly arduous duties of that office until February 1886, when she was relieved by the present incumbent, H. J. Carr.

In October, 1888, Mr. Carr accomplished an arduous task in the rearranging of the library, made necessary by its removal to the new City Hall library rooms. Much remained to be done in the way of cataloguing before the library could be completely reduced to system. Appreciating this fact, the Board of Education, at its regular meeting in January 1889, employed Miss Grace Denio, of New York, an expert cataloguer, for this especially work. The rapid growth of the library may be better comprehended upon a study of the following statistics from the Librarian's report to the Board of Education for the year ending September, 1888:

The whole number of volumes in the library at the beginning of September, 1887, was 17,243; in September, 1888, it contained 21,500 volumes, an increase during the year greater than the total number of volumes in the library at the time of the consolidation in 1871. The number of volumes at present is twice as great as the total in 1880 ­ the institution thus growing more rapidly than the city, which, according to the United States censuses of 1870 and 1880, requires about ten years to double its population. Of the present library, 16,649 volumes are in the circulating department, 535 are general works kept in the reference library, together with 1,305 magazines and periodicals in the same department; and 811 are "reserved stock" or books which are unclassified and no used either for reference or circulation. Classified according to languages, there are in the library 20,465 books printed in English, 516 in German, 457 in the Holland, and 47 in other tongues. During the past year the library was open for the drawing of books 308 days and 98,059 volumes were issued for home use to the holders of 6,158 library cards. The largest issue in a single day was on St. Patrick's Day, 1888 ­ 734 volumes.


In her public school library Grand Rapids has an institution of which cities of twice her size might justly be proud.  The library, although under the control of the Board of Education as a part of the public school system, since 1871 has been free to every resident of Grand Rapids. Special reference libraries are provided in nearly all of the schools for the exclusive use of pupils. Funds for the running expenses are provided by the appropriations from the Board of Education. These appropriations, amounting to from $3,000 to $4,000 yearly, are absorbed mainly into the payment of salaries; the Librarian receiving $1,200 per annum and his four assistants receiving $400 each. The funds derived from the application of criminal fines as provided by State laws, varying from $1,500 to $2,000 are usually sufficient for the purpose of new books and reading matter. Between $200 and $300 is also collected annually from fines charge for overdue books, the sale of catalogues and other items. Miss Lizzie Steinman, Miss Lucy Ball, Miss Emma C. Boxheimer and Miss Lizzie C. Lee, constitute the Librarian's efficient corps of assistants for the year 1880-89.


Besides the Public Library, the only other important public collection of books in the city is the Grand Rapids Law Library. The Law Library was organized by prominent members of the bar December 15, 1886, and incorporated under the laws of the State, with a capital stock of $20,000. The association was, by the Hon. Julius Houseman, tendered the lease of a suite of rooms for ten years, rent free, in the fourth story of his new block on Lyon Street, to be occupied by the Association's Library and offices. This offer was accepted, and the library was opened for use September 1, 1887, with 3,600 volumes on its shelves, covering a wide range of legal knowledge. The following were the original officers of the association: President: T. J. O'Brien; Treasurer, Mark Norris; Clerk and Librarian, Lincoln B. Livingston; Directors, Jacob Kleinhans, George P. Wanty, Edwin F. Sweet; T. J. O'Brien and Mark Norris. To obtain the privileges of this library, it is necessary to present a written application to the clerk, stating full name, residence and business of the applicant, and, if a lawyer, the number of years since admission to the bar. If the applicant is not a stockholder to the amount of $100, he must give bonds to that amount. The dues assessed upon members of the Kent County bar are $25 per annum for lawyer, and half that sum for students and clerks. This library has already proved a valuable assistance to the bar of the city, and is constantly growing in usefulness as the number of volumes is increased.


In 1855 a society was formed under the name of "Grand Rapids Lyceum of Natural History." Its principal active members were A. O. Currier, John Ball, James H. McKee, Charles Shepard, Franklin Everett, Joel C. Parker, W. L. Coffinberry, Wm. G. Henry and Wm. H. DeCamp. Its meetings were held with a good degree of regularity until the breaking out of the War in 1861, when the organization was suffered to die out. The original intention was to establish with it a museum and library. Prof. Everett had a cabinet of minerals, geological specimens and fossils, which he used in his academy, and Mr. Currier and Mr. DeCamp also had fine collections. These were placed in the room of the society, as loans for its use. Of these the owners resumed possession after its apparent decease. During its active existence, the discussion of the Lyceum, on natural history and cognate scientific subjects, were entertaining and highly instructive.

In 1865, George Wickwire Smith, a lad whose genius outran his years, gathered about him a number of youths in the Union School, and organized a club which he named the Kent Institute. He was a young man of rare promise; thought modest and diffident, he had the irresistible ardor of enthusiasm as a student of Nature which kindled a like spirit in his associates. Simple, child-like and loving, he won the confidence and warm affection of all who came in contact with him. But consumption had laid its wasting touch upon him, and he sank under it, dying March 31, 1869, when but 21 years of age, in Florida, saying to his weeping father: "Bury me where there are the most butterflies." In 1867, young Smith, desiring to put, before his death, his Kent Institute on a permanent footing, proposed to those who had been members of the Lyceum of Natural History, that the two societies be combined. This he accomplished -- the articles of association bearing date Jan. 2, 1868, under the name, suggested by him, of Kent Scientific Institute.

This Institute grew and prospered from the very start. Its first officers, elected Jan. 11, 1868, were: President, John ball; Vice President, A. L. Chubb; Recording Secretary, W. H. McKee; Corresponding Secretary, George Wickwire Smith; Treasurer and Librarian, C. H. Winchester. The objects of the Institute were stated to be: "The increase and diffusion of scientific knowledge by a museum, library, lectures, the reading of original papers, and other suitable means." The names of John Ball, A. O. Currier, A. L. Chubb, James H. McKee, G. Wickwire Smith, C. H. Winchester, Theo. B. Willson, Frank W. Ball and John Mathison are affixed to the Articles of Association.

January 12, 1869, an alliance was formed between the Board of Education and the Kent Scientific Institute, by the terms of which the latter has since had the use of certain rooms in the Central School Building for its museum and for its business and public meetings, and also of the scientific apparatus of the school; and on the other hand the students and teachers of the school have the privilege of using the scientific specimens and the library of the Institute. When this contract was made two new officers were provided for -- a Director and Curator -- to be nominated by the Institute and confirmed by the Board of Education. Under this arrangement the organization has a vigorous existence, holding meetings twice a month for discussions and the transaction of general business.


When the reorganization took place under the name of Kent Scientific Institute, those who had formerly contributed by loans of exhibits to the Lyceum of Natural History, presented them to the new society. From that small nucleus its museum has grown to be among the finest scientific collections in the West. In 1874, Prof. E. H. Crane's collection of Indian relics was purchased. The museum also has valuable archaeological relics that are largely the product of W. L. Coffinberry's researches in the Indian mounds hereabout. The mineral collection is large, and from almost all parts of the world; and the department of fossil material is well filled. Of mollusca the Institute owns some 2,000 specimens, and, through the enterprise and generosity of Mrs. Cordelia T. Briggs, has in its keeping the Currier collection, comprising a much larger exhibit of shells. A. O. Currier was an enthusiastic conchologist, of national repute, and the discoverer of several new species. Dr. W. H. DeCamp has also been a large contributor to the museum. It contains over 600 specimens of North American birds, comprising nearly a complete exhibit of Michigan birds, and 21 representative species from South America. In 1887 the Institute contracted with Prof. E. L. Moseley, who was about to go to the Philippine Islands, to supply the birds and mammals of that region. He brought those and more, including a large fruit-eating bat. The collection also contains a great variety of specimens of the lower orders, such as reptilia, lepidoptera, crustacea, beetles, fishes, and other marine animals. The herbarium has some 725 species of plants, collected by N. Coleman, a former member of the Institute. The collection has grown so large that more room is needed for its display and proper care -- a suitable museum building.

At an annual meeting of the Kent Scientific Institute, Jan. 4, 1889, the following officers were elected: President, Dr. E. S. Holmes; Vice-President, Prof. W. A. Greeson; Secretary, Prof. C. W. Carman; Librarian and Curator of the Museum, Prof. E. L. Moseley; Director for six years, C. S. Whitemore. There are forty-five active members of the Institute.


At a meeting of former pupils and graduates of the High School, June 14, 1869, steps were taken to organize "The Society of the Alumni of Grand Rapids High School." July 2, 1869, the organization was perfected, with the following officers: President Moreau S. Crosby; Secretary, Wilder D. Stevens; Treasurer, Cyrus E. Perkins. The association held several reunions, but as its members grew older, their interests in it waned -- sixty and sixty did not consort well socially, and as the members of the later classes did not join, it gradually wasted away. Yet, in the city directory, at least, it was maintained until 1884, when the officers reported were; President, E. A. Strong; Vice-President, Cyrus E. Perkins; Secretary, Miss Jennie D'Ooge; Treasurer, F. Emery Tuttle; Orator, Theodore B. Willson;  Poet, Miss Nellie Withey; Marshal, Reynold J. Kirkland. The present High School Alumni Association, organized in 1887, designed to include the class of 1885, and all thereafter, has the following officers: President, Edward C. Haak; Vice-President, Stanley A. Emery; Secretary, Fred E. Matter; Treasurer, Manning A. Birge. Its reunions, so far, have been basket picnics at Reeds Lake, without formal programme.


During the winter of 1884-85, the juniors and seniors in the High School organized a club, with the inscrutable (or possibly medical) name of M. D. This shortly developed into a secret fraternity, with ritual and initiation ceremony. The M. D.'s have since admitted into their fraternal circle, members of other classes in the High School, have adopted a badge of golden design, and the order seems to be flourishing, financially and otherwise. It is indigenous to the locality, and has founded no cognate chapters.

The Delta Sigma Delta, was organized as a local school society in the early part of 1885. About a year later it became a branch or chapter of the Gamma Delta Psi, a fraternity organized some years previously in the schools of New Haven, Connecticut, which, besides this at Grand Rapids, has four other chapters, in Connecticut, Maryland and New York. The badge of fraternity is a golden crescent, enclosing the Greek letters of its name. In 1887-88 it published as its organ a neatly printed magazine called The Deltan. Though a warm rivalry exists between the M. Ds. And the Gamma Deltas, these societies give promise of permanence.


The earliest lyceum or debating club of record here, was the Grand Rapids Lyceum, which existed from 1837 to 1844, and held its regular meetings in the school house on Prospect Hill. John W. Peirce was the Secretary. A Young Men's Association held meetings for debate at the same school house from 1841 to 1844. Among the disputants or debaters in those days were: George Martin, Simeon M. Johnson, Charles H. Taylor, Sylvester Granger, Aaron B. Turner, Solomon L. Withey, Wilder D. Foster, James Ballard, John Ball, Thomas B. Church, William G. Henry and John T. Holmes. Their discussions took a wide range, including most of the leading political and social questions of the time. In the fall of 1847, a debating society called The Students' Lyceum was organized, and had weekly discussions during the winter months. Its original members were: Albert Baxter, Milo Blair, Zimri W. Burnham, Henry Naysmith, J. L. Bosworth, Edgar L. Gray, E. Konkle, Corydon E. Fuller, Cyrus C. Bemis, Augustus Hanchet and C. M. Hopkins. Henry Naysmith was Secretary, and Milo Blair, President. In the following year the society adopted the name of Union Lyceum -- President, Henry Naysmith; Secretary, Albert Baxter. It had twenty-one members. This society held its meetings at first in the Court House at the Public Square, and afterward at Everett's Academy rooms. Abel T. and Aaron B. Page, James Blair, Byron Morton, Isaac H. Nichols and James N. Davis were among its members.

In 1866 the Grand Rapids Debating Club, of which Birney Hoyt was President, held meetings in the Circuit Court Room.

A modern successor to the Young Men's Association, organized in 1860, in 1885 had as President Andrew J. Reeves, and as Secretary, Edwin Avery.

With the consolidation of the schools in 1871, beings the history of literary clubs and debating societies in the High School. Their membership varied with the personnel of the school but usually included the brighter minds and the better orators. The High School Lyceum of 1876-77 became divided into two parties -- Liberals and Conservatives, giving rise to many contests in debate. In such contests, also, the Grammar School Debating Club took part. In 1885 the young ladies had organized a lyceum of their own, from whose session males were excluded. The lyceum of 1886-87 whose first officers were: Adnah C. Newell, President, and Manning A. Birge, Secretary, distinguished itself by publishing ten numbers of the High School Journal, a creditable monthly paper. Its editors in succession were: Carroll R. Godfrey, Harry L. Creswell, W. H. Wood, J. C. Farwell and F. J. Whitfield. The officers of the High School Lyceum, January 1889, are: President, Roy Barnhart; Secretary, Henry Kalmbach; Treasurer, W. Perkins.


This was organized in the spring of 1883. Its first President was Willis Field. Without an instructor, and with no regular hours for exercise, it has done very little systematic work. It is popularly known as the Gymnasium Association. At its election, January 22, 1889, the following students were chosen as officers for the next six months: President William Huighouse; Secretary, Elliot Norton; Treasurer, Arthur Leonard.


The present Ladies' Literary Club of Grand Rapids, of over four hundred members, is the outgrowth of a small history class organized in 1869, under the leadership of Mrs. L. H. Stone, of Kalamazoo. The mental and social enjoyment of the members increased to such an extent that in 1872 they organized themselves into a literary club for the study of history, art, science and literature -- President, Mrs. L. D. Putnam; Vice Presidents, Mrs. Z. E. Bliss, Mrs. S. L. Fuller, Mrs. S. L. Withey; Treasurer, Mrs. M. S. Crosby; Secretary, Mrs. A. C. Torrey. In April 1882, the club was incorporated. As it grew in numbers the difficulty of finding a room of sufficient size for its use increased. Hence, in December 1886, a committee was appointed to solicit funds to the amount of $6,000 for the erection of a building for club purposes. Mrs. George C. Fitch, Mrs. D. M. Benjamin, Mrs. Cyrus E. Perkins, Mrs. J. C. FitzGerald, and Mrs. H. J. Hollister, composed the committee, and quickly accomplished their mission. The club purchased a lot on Sheldon street for $3,500, paying $500 down. The Board of Directors appointed Mrs. H. J. Hollister, Mrs. L. D. Putnam and Mrs. Henry S. Smith a building committee. Plans and specifications drawn by W. G. Robinson were adopted, and building commenced immediately. The corner-stone was laid with appropriate ceremonies, July 30, 1887. The structure was completed and occupied by the club December 31, 1887, and on the evening of January 2, 1888, a reception was given there at which the members welcomed hundreds of their friends.

The Literary Club House is two stories high at the front, with a  lofty single story in the rear for the auditorium or main hall. It is of the Italian order of architecture, built of Amherst, Ohio, blue stone and Grand Rapids pressed brick, with terra cotta trimmings, slate roof and windows of stained and French plate glass. It has a large reception hall, a fine banquet room and a commodious toilet room. Its library room is 23 1/2 by 24 1/2 feet, with woodwork and furnishings of oak. The handsome side-wall decorations were the work of A. H. Fowle ­ his gift to the club. The library and hall open into the auditorium, and by means of doors sliding upward the library and auditorium is for four hundred persons, and it has a stage and two dressing rooms attached. The ceiling is dome shaped, with center skylight, and is finely frescoed by Thomas Nash as a contribution to the club. Its handsome woodwork, mantel, mirror and other furnishings, including valuable articles of ornament and utility presented by friends, render the interior of the house both beautiful and home-like.

Organized for "literary and scientific purposes," the society is non-sectarian in character. While allowing individual expression on religious, social, philanthropic and political matters, collectively it is not connected with any other institution. Working for the advancement of women mentally, it takes no position upon the question of universal suffrage. As a club it is simply interested in the promoting the mental culture of its members, and in adding to a library for the advancement of that interest. Officers elected in October, 1888: President, Mrs. J. Morgan Smith; Vice President, Mrs. Henry S. Smith; Recording Secretary, Mrs. C. R. Bacon, Secretary, Mrs. Edward Watson; Treasurer, Miss Amelia Blackman; Directors for two years, Mrs. James Rogers, Mrs. George C. Fitch and Mrs. M. S. Crosby. There are six Directors, those holding over being Mrs. L. P. Rowland, Mrs. F. Immen and Mrs. A. J. Daniels. The office of Librarian is held by Miss H. S. Nash.


April 3, 1875, fourteen ladies responded to a call made by Mrs. A. J. Rose and Mrs. Wellington Hibbard, for the purpose of forming a club for mutual improvement. They met at the home of Mrs. Rose, and organized the West Side Ladies' Literary Club. President, Mrs. P. M. Goodrich; Vice-Presidents, Mrs. E. H. Ketcham and Mrs. A. J. Rose;  Secretary, Mrs. E. B. Escott; Corresponding Secretary, Miss H. A. Lathrop; Treasurer, Mrs. J. Widdicomb. Committees were appointed, course of study outlined, and details for work planned. At first they met in private houses, but the growth of the club soon enabled them to rent rooms in the Martin Block. June 19 of that year the block was destroyed by fire, which occurred when the club was in session, and the ladies by an effort saved their property. They then for a time met in the parlors of the Presbyterian and Methodist churches, meantime securing rooms in the new Scribner Block, then building, which they occupied in December with a membership of seventy-five, easily paying the rent of $100 per year, and adding much to articles for use and comfort in their new quarters. Private donations of books and other things also aided them much. For several years the society kept up its membership to nearly its maximum, but as the novelty wore off many dropped out, leaving only those who were earnest workers and still clung to the original idea of self-culture. Its growth has not been so much in numbers as in educational progress. Financially it has been able to sustain its place of meeting, and every year meet its necessary expenses, and its real work has been steadily carried forward to the satisfaction of all those who did not desert the ship. Works of history, of art, science, English, French and American literature, and educational and religious themes (avoiding doctrinal and sectarian controversies), have been the subjects of their studious attention and discussion. In its social aspects, the friendly feeling engendered, and in its recreations, the experience of the members of the club has been valuable to them. Presidents of the society have been, successively: Mrs. P. M. Goodrich, Mrs. E. H. Ketcham, Mrs. H. J. Felkner, Mrs. I. M. Turner, and Mrs. H. A. Lathrop -- with one exception none occupying the chair less than two years. Officers, 1888: President, Miss H. A. Lathrop; Vice-President, Mrs. H. A. Felker; Secretary and Treasurer, Miss Lizzie Robinson; Corresponding Secretary, Miss Sila Hubbard. Place of meeting, No. 40 West Bridge street.

Document Source: Baxter, Albert, History of the City of Grand Rapids, New York and Grand Rapids: Munsell & Company, Publishers, 1891. (Name Index)
Location of Original: Various.
Transcriber: JKG
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/baxter1891/28libraries.html
Created: 26 August 2001[an error occurred while processing this directive]