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Trenton Free Public Library

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The Trenton Free Public Library is one of the oldest libraries in New Jersey . Originating in 1750 as a subscription library by Thomas Cadwalader, Benjamin Franklin purchased its first fifty books. The library is the second oldest FREE public library in the United States after Franklin 's own Philadelphia Free Public Library. The library organization as it is known today became incorporated in 1900 with Ferdinand W Roebling serving as its first Board President.

Dr. Thomas Cadwalader, the first chief burgess (similar function to mayor), gave 50 pounds for the establishment of the Trenton Library Company, as it was originally known. This library was almost entirely destroyed by the British and Hessian troops in December of 1776 during their occupation of the city. However, the library reemerged approximately five years later, after the surviving shareholders ran a notice in the Philadelphia newspapers on Jan 31, 1781asking people to return any books that they might have belonging to the library. To date, three of these original books survive and are located in the special collections of Trentoniana.

As the country entered the tumultuous times of the Civil War, the library experienced began a time of transition. The Trenton Library Company lasted until 1855 when the subscribers disbanded and transferred ownership of the collection to a new organization call the Trenton Library Association. This Association dissolved in 1860 and transferred the collection to the care of the Trenton chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association. In 1879 the YMCA library collection was transferred to the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Four years later in 1883, the WCTA created the Union Library Company. Still based on the subscription model, the ULC charged rates that were affordable for many working class families. By 1885, the library had raised enough money to build a brownstone downtown to house the collection.

The subscription Union Library Company struggled for the next five years. In 1900, with closure imminent, Mayor Frank Briggs placed on the ballot the issue of the creation of a public, free, tax-supported but autonomous library for all citizens of Trenton . The referendum passed overwhelmingly and the Trenton Free Public Library, as it exists today, was born. Using an appropriation from the city budget, the first Board of Trustees purchased the Union Library Company's collection, leased its building, and hired a librarian, Adam Strohm from Chicago, a cataloger and two assistants.

The Trenton Free Public Library formally opened at 120 Academy Street on Monday, June 9, 1902 . By the end of its first year the library had 9,477 library card holders and a collection of 25,562 books.

Over the following decades, the Trenton Library expanded into four additional branches. The first branch, Briggs, was established in 1910 and was an immediate success, with 125 books borrowed in less than two hours. The Briggs Branch, named after Frank O. Briggs, the mayor when the modern library was first organized, moved to its current location in 1972. The East Trenton Branch, one of New Jersey's designated Historical Places, occupies the 18th century Dickinson mansion, a location initially turned into a library in 1926, and then restored by the Civil Works Administration in 1934. The Skelton Branch was established in 1917 at the Franklin School building, and moved to the corner of Malone and South Broad in 1929, in a beautiful building with high arched windows, an elegant staircase, and locally crafted tilework surrounding the children's room fireplace. The Cadwalader Branch was opened in 1927, and relocated in 1968 to the old Strand Theater on North Hermitage Avenue . Like all of the branches, the Cadwalader Branch serves as a vibrant community center for its neighborhoo

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Details and Specs

Hours of Operation:
Mon9:00 AM8:00 PM
Tue9:00 AM8:00 PM
Wed9:00 AM8:00 PM
Thr9:00 AM8:00 PM
Fri9:00 AM5:00 PM
Sat9:00 AM5:00 PM
Notes: None Listed


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