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History

First Free Library in Kansas

It was 1912. The simple white frame building that housed the public library had flourished since its conception in 1874, but was becoming too crowded for the growing town of Peabody, Kansas. Earning the title of the first free library in Kansas, it had brought maturity to the Peabody citizenry largely under the influence of Miss Emma Christ, librarian for nearly a quarter century.

Although some residents may have been reluctant to lose such a foundational monument, it was evident that a new building was needed. The Commercial Club appointed a committee to apply for a Carnegie grant. By the spring of 1913, the Carnegie Corporation had agreed to grant $10,000. The building plan agreed upon was patterned after the Carnegie library of Galena, Illinois.

Saturday, April 18, 1914 the doors were “thrown open to the public”*. Nearly 100 years later the library is still functioning as Peabody’s public library. Some changes have taken place, such as a copy machine, microfilm machine, computer workstations, printers and colorful glossy magazines, but the building still stands with its original beautiful woodwork, wooden tables and stained glass windows.

The original simple white frame building was rescued and restored in 1927 and later moved to its current position just to the east of the present Carnegie building in 1960. It now serves as the Peabody Historical Museum.

Information sources: -A History of the First Free Public Library in Kansas, located at Peabody, Kansas, A Master’s Paper Presented to the Faculty of the Department of Library Science, Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia, by Louise Saathoff Nettleton, August 1961.

-The Peabody Gazette Herald

*The Peabody Gazette Herald, Wednesday, April 16, 1914, page 1.


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