History of San Diego, 1542-1908

PART SIX: CHAPTER 5: The Public Library

Between the fine library of today, in its rich Carnegie housing, and the earliest organized aspiration of the people for such an institu­tion lay a score of years, marked by numer­ous vicissitudes. The humble beginnings of the free public library date back to January 24, 1870, when the first organization was formed at a meeting in the Baptist Church. It was soon incorporated under the name of the Horton Library Association and was founded on the promise of Mr. Horton to donate 600 volumes which he had acquired from H. H. Ban­croft in exchange for lots. Unfortunately, there was a dis­agreement with the donor, which ended in the withdrawal of the offer and the filing of new articles of incorporation under the name of the San Diego Library Association.

Says one of the members: “The only book the old Library Association ever owned was a pamphlet containing an address before the Bunker Hill Association, by George Warren, presi­dent of that society. This pamphlet was donated by Rev. Charles Russell Clark, of this city.” In April, 1870, Mrs. E. W. Morse gave the association Lot 1, Block 18, Horton’s Addi­tion (now occupied by Unity Hall), which afterward became the property of the Society of Natural History. It was not until several years later, however, that efforts to put the asso­ciation upon a working basis proved successful.

The San Diego Free Reading Room Association was organ­ized March 1, 1872, and maintained until the library was opened to the public, in 1882. It was a movement by a number of the same citizens who had organized the Library Association, to provide a free reading room where periodicals could be found, until such time as the library could be put upon a working basis. The first officers were: Charles S. Hamilton, president; George W. Marston, vice-president; R. C. Grierson, secretary; E. W. Morse, treasurer; W. A. Begole, Bryant Howard, and S. G. Reynolds, trustees. Mr. Cleveland was active in the work of the organization. The reading room was situated on Fifth Street, next door to the post office, and was open from 10 A.M. to 10 P.M. In March, 1873, a concert given in its aid produced $100, and Mr. Horton gave it the books which had been the bone of contention with the first association. These were afterward turned over to the new public library. In October, 1879, interest had flagged, the association was in debt, and the Union made urgent appeals for its support. There was some talk of a tax for its support in 1881, but the views of those who held that the time had come for the establishment of the public library prevailed.


The first officers of the San Diego Library Association in 1870 were: G. W. B. McDonald, president; A. Pauly, vice ­president; E. W. Morse, treasurer; C. Dunham, recording sec­retary; Daniel Cleveland, corresponding secretary; G. W. B. McDonald, G. A. Jones, J. Allen, C. Dunham, J. W. Gale, D. Cleveland, A. W. Oliver, A. Pauly, and J. M. Pierce, trustees. These men and their successors kept the spark alive until May 19, 1882, when the first board of trustees of the San Diego Free Public Library was organized. This first official board consisted of Bryant Howard, E. W. Hendrick, George N. Hitchcock, George W. Marston, and R. M. Powers. Howard was made pres­ident; Hendrick, secretary; and Hitchcock, treasurer. The Commercial Bank offered the use of a suite of five rooms in its building free for six months, and the offer was accepted. Many citizens made donations of books, and others gave money. Among these early friends of the institution appear the names of Bryant Howard, E. W. Hendrick, A. E. Horton, Judge Alfred Cowles, Judge M. A. Luce, J. C. Frisbie, Rev. Mr. Cronyn, Dr. Remondino, Charles Treanor, George N. Hitchcock, Joseph Faivre, Mrs. Harriet Marston, and others. Generous givers in later years include Charles Nordhoff, Daniel Cleveland, George W. Marston, and others. On July 15, 1882, the library was for­mally opened to the public, with Archibald Hooker as librarian. The loaning out of books did not begin until early in Septem­ber, 1883. August 6, 1884, Augustus Wooster became librarian and continued to act until September 6, 1887, when Miss Lou Younkin was appointed librarian and Miss Mary E. Walker became her assistant.

When first opened, the library seems to have depended largely upon donations of books; but the raising of funds by taxation soon provided means for the purchase of new books upon a more liberal scale. The amount raised for the library by taxation in 1881 was $648.19. This grew to over $2,000 in 1886, then took a jump to $11,557.48 in the inflated days of 1887, but dropped to less than $6,000 the next year. The number of volumes in 1887 was 1,800; a year later it was 5,500, and in another year was 7,000.

In 1889 the fourth floor of the Consolidated Bank Building was leased for four years, at a rental of $150 per month. The first catalogue was issued early in this year. At the expiration of this lease, the library was removed to the St. James building, corner Seventh and F Streets, over the post office. Some 1,200 volumes were added in 1892, and in 1894 the total was 11,000 volumes. Early in 1895, the second catalogue was issued, con­forming to the Dewey classification, which is still in use. Miss Younkin was succeeded by Miss Mary E. Walker, as librarian, in December, 1895, and she by Mrs. Hannah P. Davison in May, 1903. The latter is the present incumbent.

In April, 1898, the upper floor of the Keating building, on the northwest corner of Fifth and F Streets, was leased and the library moved thither, where it remained until the construction of the present library building.

In June, 1899, Mrs. A. E. Horton wrote Andrew Carnegie concerning the need of a library building in San Diego, appeal­ing to the philanthropist for aid. She received the following reply:

JULY 7, 1899.


Mrs. A. E. Horton, San Diego Public Library, 
If the city were to pledge itself to maintain a free public library from the taxes, say to the extent of the amount you name, of between five and six thousand dollars a year, and provide a suitable site, I shall be glad to give you $50,000 to erect a suitable library building.


Very truly yours,

The trustees immediately accepted the offer and took steps to enable the city to meet its conditions. After several months’ consideration a half-block was purchased on E Street, between Eighth and Ninth, for $17,000. Plans were submitted by archi­tects all over the country and those of Ackerman & Ross of New York were accepted. The cornerstone was laid on March 19, 1901, with Masonic ceremonies. Mrs. Horton read an historical review and Judge M. A. Luce delivered an oration. The build­ing is not only a great ornament to the city, but provides ample accommodation for the various departments of the institution.

A list of the trustees, from the earliest down to date, follows:



January, 1870. G. W. B. McDonald, President.
G. A. Jones. J. Allen.
C. Dunham, Recording Secretary.
J. W. Gale.
D. Cleveland, Corresponding Secretary.
A. W. Oliver.
A. Pauly, Vice-President.
A. E. Horton.
E. W. Morse, Treasurer.
G. W. B. McDonald, President.
A. Pauly, Vice-President.
E. W. Morse, Treasurer.
C. Dunham, Recording Secretary.
Daniel Cleveland, Corresponding Secretary.
A. Pauly, J. M. Pierce, G. A. Jones, J. Allen, C. Dunham, J. W. Gale, Daniel Cleveland, A. W. Oliver, G. W. B. McDonald, Trustees.
May 23, 1873. E. W. Morse, President.
William S. Gregg, Vice-President.
D. Cleveland, Treasurer.
C. Dunham, Recording Secretary.
J. W. Gale.
A. W. Oliver.
Jacob Allen.
W. A. Begole.
Charles S. Hamilton, Corresponding Secretary.
Served from March 8, 1872 to 1882. E. W. Morse, President.
Charles S. Hamilton, President.
George W. Marston, Vice-President.
R. C. Grierson, Secretary.
E. W. Morse, Treasurer.
W. A. Begole, Bryant Howard, S. G. Reynolds, Trustees.
First Board, May 22, 1882.
Bryant Howard, President.
E. W. Hendrick, Secretary.
Geo. N. Hitchcock, Treasurer.
G. W. Marston.
R. M. Powers.
Second Board, June 7, 1887.
D. Cave, President
E. W. Hendrick.
John Ginty.
E. T. Blackmer.
G. N. Hitchcock.
Third Board, June, 1889.
D. Cave, President.
E. W. Hendrick.
John Ginty.
George, N. Hitchcock, Secretary.
E. T. Blackmer.
Fourth Board, May, 1893, the same members having held office from June, 1887 to May, 1893.
D. Cave, President.
Philip Morse.
Charles S. Hamilton.
E. W. Hendrick.
H. M. Kutchin, Secretary.
Fifth Board, May, 1895.
D. Cave, President.
E. W. Hendrick.
George W. Marston.
Philip Morse.
Harriet W. Phillips, Secretary.
Sixth Board, May, 1897.
D. Cave, President.
E. W. Hendrick.
George W. Marston.
Philip Morse.
Lydia M. Horton, Secretary.
In August, 1897, D. Cave sent in his resignation as member of the Board—accepted Dec. 14, 1897, and Dr. Fred Baker appointed in his place.
Seventh Board, May, 1899.
Philip Morse.
Frederick W. Stearns.
E. W. Hendrick.
James W. Somers.
Lydia M. Horton.
Eighth Board, May, 1901.
Philip Morse.
Frederick W. Stearns.
Ernest E. White.
A. Will Angier.
Lydia M. Horton.
Ninth Board, May, 1903.
Leroy A. Wright, President.
Lydia M. Horton, Secretary.
Frederick W. Stearns.
J. C. Hearne.
C. F. Francisco.
October, 1903, Mrs. Horton resigned, and August, 1904, the vacancy was filled by the appointment of Julius Wangenheim.
Tenth Board, May, 1905, as appointed by Mayor Frank P. Frary.
Leroy A. Wright, 3 years.
Frederick W. Stearns, President, 2 years.
Julius Wangenheim, 4 years.
H. P. Davison, Secretary.
January 5, 1906, a new board was appointed by Mayor Sehon as follows:
Sam Ferry Smith, President, 2 years.
Rev. Clarence T. Brown, 3 years.
Col. Fred Jewell, 4 years.

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Main Page
Author’s Foreword
Introduction: The Historical Pre-Eminence of San Diego

PART ONE:   Period of Discovery and Mission Rule

  1. The Spanish Explorers
  2. Beginning of the Mission Epoch
  3. The Taming of the Indian
  4. The Day of Mission Greatness
  5. The End of Franciscan Rule
    Priests of San Diego Mission

PART TWO:   When Old Town Was San Diego

  1. Life on Presidio Hill Under the Spanish Flag
    List of Spanish and Mexican commandants
  2. Beginnings of Agriculture and Commerce
    List of Ranchos in San Diego County
  3. Political Life in Mexican Days
  4. Early Homes, Visitors and Families
  5. Pleasant Memories of Social Life
  6. Prominent Spanish Families
  7. The Indians’ Relations With the Settlers
    List of Mission Indian Lands
  8. San Diego in the Mexican War
  9. Public Affairs After the War
  10. Accounts of Early Visitors and Settlers
  11. Annals of the Close of Old San Diego
  12. American Families of the Early Time
  13. The Journalism of Old San Diego
  14. Abortive Attempt to Establish New San Diego

PART THREE:   The Horton Period

  1. The Founder of the Modern City
  2. Horton’s Own Story
  3. Early Railroad Efforts, Including the Texas and Pacific
  4. San Diego’s First Boom
  5. Some Aspects of Social Life

PART FOUR:   Period of “The Great Boom”

  1. Coming of the Santa Fe
  2. Phenomena of the The Great Boom
  3. Growth of Public Utilities
  4. Water Development

PART FIVE:   The Last Two Decades

  1. Local Annals, After the Boom
  2. Political Affairs and Municipal Campaigns
  3. Later Journalism and Literature [new material in second edition]
  4. The Disaster to the Bennington
  5. The Twentieth Century Days
  6. John D. Spreckels Solves the Railroad Problem

PART SIX:   Institutions of Civic Life

  1. Churches and Religious Life
  2. Schools and Education
  3. Records of the Bench and Bar
  4. Growth of the Medical Profession
  5. The Public Library
  6. Story of the City Parks
  7. The Chamber of Commerce
  8. Banks and Banking
  9. Secret, Fraternal and Other Societies
  10. Account of the Fire Department

PART SEVEN:   Miscellaneous Topics

  1. History of the San Diego Climate
  2. San Diego Bay, Harbor and River
  3. Governmental Activities
  4. The Suburbs of San Diego

Political Roster, City of San Diego
Political Roster, San Diego County