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Within this Collection:

Photographs of the library

Historic items in the library

Boonsboro news in WCFL Annual Reports

Boonsboro Republican Club Minutes, 1900-1901

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Boonsboro Free Library history

The Boonsboro Free Library, the first permanent branch library established by Washington County Free Library, Maryland, evolved from two different sources. On July 21, 1900, Major Josiah Pierce Jr., son-in-law of Mrs. Dahlgren of South Mountain House, organized the Republican Club of Boonsboro. He felt that the town should have a club which, in addition to a political agenda, should have daily newspapers, periodicals and a library to add to the life of the community. The minutes report the meeting was held in Shafer's Hall. Major Pierce contributed the furniture and over 500 books to be used in the club room, and the Club bought book shelves. At the first meeting of the Club it was agreed that "the Ladies" could use the room between 9 a.m. and noon. Thus was born the first place in the town of Boonsboro where books and periodicals were made available for the townspeople to read at no cost. (A reading room opened on April 19, 1860, in the newspaper office, according to a report in the Boonsboro Odd Fellow, but it was a for a fee of $3 per year.)

The Washington County Free Library, chartered in 1898, opened in Hagerstown on August 27, 1901, and the first librarian, Mary Titcomb, was determined that it would truly be a “county" library. Therefore, she set up what were known as deposit stations, usually in general stores, post offices, or Sunday schools throughout the county. The books were delivered from Hagerstown in three-shelved wooden cases and loaned out to the citizens. They were exchanged on a regular basis, and the service was free. Boonsboro's first case, containing about 50 books, was deposited at the South Main Street store of Harvey S. Bomberger on November 20, 1901.

The Ladies,
Boonsboro Reading Room
Major Pierce died in August, 1902 and the Republican Club disbanded. His widow, Ulrica Dahlgren Pierce, agreed to donate the assets of the club so that a public library and reading room could be started. The Boonsboro Free Library and Reading Room was opened in 1902 in the room formerly used by the Republican Club. Susan Thomas in a 1955 Boonsboro News stated that the reading room was located on North Main Street, above Robert Shafer's bicycle store, possibly the "Shafer's Hall" from the Republican Club minutes. There is also mention of the library being opened in the "A" Room on Main Street above the Boonsboro Times office. (The Times office was located on the corner of Main and St. Paul on the 1910 Sanborn Map, and there was a hall shown on the second floor.)

It was not until 1904 that the Club and Washington County Free Library collections were joined. The Hagerstown Daily Mail in March, 1904 reported the organization of the Boonsboro Library Association. In her annual report of that year, Miss Titcomb stated that the people of Boonsboro had formed an association that spring in order to establish a permanent reading room. The central library sent a sufficient number of books to the branch at the time of opening to insure a good collection. Fresh deliveries were made two or three times a month. Mary Titcomb referred to the Boonsboro people as “the pioneers in this plan of permanent branches throughout the county." A charter was obtained in 1906 with a board of five trustees. Harvey Bomberger was the first president.

It is not known when the library was moved to the first floor of the building at 9 South Main Street, but a photograph in the Washington County Free Library Annual Report for 1908 shows it there. Later it was located in the basement of the present Town Hall at 21 North Main Street. In 1948 it was moved to the municipal building at 11 St. Paul Street. Then in 1974, the library moved into the former Boonsboro Bank building at 19 North Main Street and used the bank vault for storage. In 2008 it moved to a new building on Potomac Street.

However, it is unlikely that this small town library will lose its identity. The new library will continue to house the little old wooden bookcase with Washington County Free Library — Boonsboro Branch imprinted on its door. On a shelf next to it will be the old secretary's book containing the minutes of the Republican Club founded by Major Pierce.

This website includes photographs of the library and its various locations in Boonsboro, sections of the Annual Reports of the Washington County Free Library that refer to the development of the Boonsboro Library and Reading Room and the minutes of the Boonsboro Republican Club, 1900-1901.

Western Maryland Regional Library is grateful to Chris Hawkins of the Boonsboro Free Library for her help with this project.

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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