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Pillsbury Free Library
Serving Warner, NH since 1892
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Pillsbury Free Library » Pillsbury Free Library’s Opening Day, Feb. 6,1892

Pillsbury Free Library’s Opening Day, Feb. 6,1892

Pillsbury Free Library Celebrates 120 years of Service

In 2012 the Pillsbury Free Library is celebrating its 120th year of service to the Town of Warner. The dedication of the historic Library building took place on Friday, October 2nd 1891 at the Warner Town Hall. However, it was not until February 1892 that the library was ready to open for business.

During February 2012 there will be several activities at the library in honor of the anniversary, and a special display including the first library card issued, and the original catalogues.  We invite you to come get a card or renew your card if it has expired, on Saturday, Feb. 4th, or on the actual 120th anniversary day Monday Feb. 6th (or any other day!) and partake of refreshments in honor of the anniversary.

On Saturday, Feb. 25th during the Downtown Warner Cabin Fever Reliever event, there will be a story time at 10 am and a skit at 11 am by local students re-enacting the first library card issued, comparing 1892 with 2012. There will also be a “trivia treasure hunt” about the architectural features and history. A brochure detailing the special features of the Library building is available. The day’s fun will also include indoor and outdoor activities around Town, and a hot buffet meal at the Church by Warner Time Bank.

The following section is extracted and adapted from the wonderfully detailed book, “19th Century Libraries of Warner, N.H.” by Larry Sullivan. The book is available for $15.95 from the Warner Historical Society or at the Library.

The Opening Day of the Pillsbury Free Library:

February 6, 1892 was a very exciting day in Warner. The long-awaited opening of the Pillsbury Free Library was scheduled for 2:00 in the afternoon.  Miss Mary Harris, the Librarian had all of the 4,142 new books neatly arranged on the shelves, and every family in town had received a catalogue listing the books by book-number and shelf-number.  To receive library privileges, patrons had to be at least 12 years old and acknowledge that they would abide by the rules.  To take out a book, patrons would simply provide the book and shelf number of their preferred book to the Librarian and she would retrieve the book for them.  Browsing in the stacks was not permitted.

One of those special Saturdays when the bright winter sun glistened on the snow that fell overnight, villagers walked and rural residents rode their sleighs into town for the opening of the new Pillsbury Free Library, the “munificent gift” of Mr. George A. Pillsbury and his wife Margaret and their sons.  It was a “red-letter day” for Warner.  Citizens came to see the beautiful new “gem” on Main Street, carrying their family catalogues listing over four thousand brand new books that were on the shelves.  The new Library was beautiful.  The selection of books was astounding, especially for a small town like Warner.  And, best of all, citizens could borrow these books, in a formalized program of sharing them with their neighbors, at no cost.

Librarian at the time, Miss Mary Harris, described the day as follows:

The Pillsbury Free Library and Reading Room were opened for the first time on Saturday, February 6.  Although the hour named was two o’clock, people began to assemble soon after one; and there was no time until the hour of closing at five o’clock, when there was not a large amount present. There was an equally large attendance in the evening.  The day was fine and the sleighing was good, and many from distant parts of the town availed themselves of the opportunity for seeing the Library, although all did not take cards. 131 cards were made out. 126 books were delivered.

The Reading Room was well patronized; all the seats were occupied both in the afternoon and evening, by men, women, and children who seemed to find much enjoyment in looking over books, periodicals and newspapers.  In addition to the books taken home, fourteen were used in the Reading Room. 

The first person to apply for a book was Lloyd H. Cogswell, who has just attained his twelfth year.  He made a good selection – “Drake’s Indian History for Young Folks.” 

 The First Pillsbury Free Library Patron:

Perhaps the most excited visitor was Lloyd H. Cogswell, who had turned 12 years old in December.  His father, Dr. John R. Cogswell was a new Library Trustee and the Cogswell family arrived carrying the family’s Library catalogue.  Lloyd signed his name acknowledging that he was at least twelve years old and would abide by the rules and Miss Mary Harris issued card “number one” to him.  He then showed her in the catalogue that he would like to take out book-number 31 on shelf-number 815 as shown on page 91.  Miss Harris brought his book and marked his card, and Lloyd Cogswell, patron “number one”, left the Library with his prize – Indian History For Young Folks by Francis S. Drake.  Like all of the books in the Library, it was brand new.  He would be the first person in town to read it.

Later in his life, Lloyd Hildreth Cogswell graduated from Simonds High School and Bellevue Medical College and became a doctor, just like his father.  Doctor Lloyd and his wife Annie lived their lives in Warner and they both served their community in many ways, including several terms each as Trustees of the Pillsbury Free Library.  Through the years, their descendents have been among the most ardent supporters of the Library and the Warner Historical Society.  For the remainder of his life, Doctor Lloyd Cogswell was “patron number one” at the Pillsbury Free Library, an honor that he richly deserved.

Library Director’s note:

Lloyd and Annie Cogswell remain connected to the Library through a fund established in their names that is a part of the Library’s funding today. A photograph of Dr. Cogswell’s car (one of the first in Warner) and a print of a painting that included it, are part of the Library’s collection.

More about the History of the library

Buy the book by Larry Sullivan, “19th Century Libraries of Warner, New Hampshire”

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