The educational goals of Knox College and Galesburg's founders were far different from those of today's educators. Rev. George W. Gale wanted a college for young men ''called'' to the clergy. The manual labor experiment was short lived, but it demonstrated Gale's desire to create an opportunity for those without financial means to earn an education through work on the college's farm. A thorough education was evidenced by one's convictions and the ability to sway others more than a list of books that had been conquered. Gale was a Presbyterian with a mission, his beloved college, and he wanted to avoid influences that did not promote his beliefs. Alcohol and other religions were two of those of those influences.
Earnest Elmo Calkins made a point in his book, THEY BROKE THE PRAIRIE, that Rev. Gale's autobiography only mentioned books twice. The first mention was a short list of religious and classical books Gale read as a child. The second was a story of man, who by chance found a copy of Thomas Paine's AGE OF REASON, said he would destroy it, but instead read it and lost his faith!
Knox College's library was quite small in the nineteenth century and not easily accessible. Two rival literary societies formed on the Knox campus before 1850 and each had a private library, small and only open two hours per week. Jeff Douglas, Director of Seymour Library at Knox College, has written an excellent article on the libraries of Knox College, entitled ''Before Seymour'' and it may be read on the Knox College website at http://www.knox.edu/library/history3.html. In a recent conversation about this topic, Jeff Douglas added a comment about the early days at Knox, ''The concept of liberal arts education did not exist. There were no independent studies.'' Educators in those days directed scholars to read assigned textbooks and discussions were under close guidance. This explains the meagerness of the libraries in Galesburg during its infancy. We can easily imagine Rev. Gale's horror at the thought of a young person left alone in a large library to formulate ideas on his own. These literary societies were part of a national movement, created libraries, sponsored lectures and held debates. They could be logically viewed as the beginning of a movement in the direction of liberal arts education.
Rev. Gale's dream for a full-fledged theology school was never fulfilled. Substantial numbers of Knox College graduates preferred careers in education, law, politics and agriculture, though some entered the clergy.
Soon after the close of the first decade of the college and village's existence there was much serious discussion about obtaining a railroad in West-central Illinois. More enthusiasm for railroads was expressed, initially, at nearby Knoxville and Monmouth than in Galesburg. When Galesburg joined in, her people soon created a railroad plan that would provide opportunities for growth. The first tracks reached Galesburg in December 1854; the 400 inhabitants of the village were joined by an equal number of new neighbors and the population doubled immediately. The population growth accelerated and by 1856 Galesburg had 4,000 inhabitants, a sufficient number to apply for a city charter. In 1857 Galesburg was a bona fide city. The railroad created a demand for land still owned by Knox College, the sale of which provided financial benefits. Old Main and Whiting Hall remain as testimonials to the 1850's prosperity. The college had an assurance of its continued existence that was not there before.
With the rapid growth of the community the numbers of persons who played a role in founding the college became a smaller percentage of the population. Galesburg was practically a new community in 1857, compared with its former self. Religious and ethnic diversity did not exist previously. Galesburg received an Irish Catholic population, people whose labor built the railroad. The new Swedish population had many craftsmen who could build and repair railroad cars and engines; these people were predominately Lutheran and some Methodist, both religions that were absent at the founding.
In the 1850's Galesburg gained another college, first named Illinois Liberal Institute and renamed Lombard College found acceptance from only a few of the first generation founders but it was becoming popular among the second generation, children who grew up on the prairie, and many of the newcomers. Universalists, members of a sect that Rev. Gale did not believe properly Christian, sponsored the rival college. Lombard soon had literary societies, the Athenian and Autokeluthii merged to form the Erosophian. Lombard added a society for those interested in law, the Thesmonosian Court. The Lombard Society, later renamed Lombard Debating Society, also maintained a separate library. In 1863 Lombard women formed the Zetacalian Society, the first of these societies for females in Galesburg.
Rev. Jonathan Blanchard, Knox College's president during the time of Galesburg's rapid growth, enjoyed acclaim as the capable administrator who freed Knox College from its financial uncertainty. Ironically, the railroad that brought financial benefits to the college also brought social changes to the community that displeased Blanchard. Blanchard, from Rev. Gale's perspective, did not limit his activities to ones which benefitted the college but engaged in politically reckless ones which caused divisiveness among the supporters of Knox. Rev. Gale was traditional but the survival of his beloved institution was the highest priority and for that change was acceptable. W. Selden Gale, son of Rev. Gale, took the lead; while not always popular, he was unwavering in his devotion to the growth of the college and the community. Blanchard, from both Gales' perspective, had become a negative influence. Blanchard, briefly hailed as a champion, rapidly became a relic; he was driving a wedge among supporters of the college and between the college and the community. The college needed the goodwill of the community and Blanchard placed it in jeopardy. A clever, though devious, scheme to successfully obtain Blanchard's resignation was carried out by Selden Gale. Blanchard's resignation allowed the possibility for healing and leadership that guided change rather than resisted it.
The City of Galesburg's new charter was thought by some to allow a legal framework for a free public library supported by tax dollars, though not all agreed. The city government officials did not see fit to have a public library, though it is not clear what objections were raised. The proponents did the next best thing, and they founded a literary association for the community. This group became ''The Young Men's Literary and Library Association,'' organized March 25, 1858. The fact this was a man's organization might be a clue to the objections; perhaps Galesburg's leaders were not yet ready to have women indulging themselves freely in reading material.
It could be said, arguably, that the three R's of early Galesburg were religion, railroads and reading. Clearly they came, chronologically, in that order. Not all persons agreed on how they should be placed in order of importance by the 1850's, differences which contributed to the colorful, dynamic and increasingly interesting community that was emerging.
The Young Men's Literary and Library Association grew rapidly during the first two years. A complete list of all the members does not appear to exist. If it existed, reprinting it here would be beyond the scope of this article. The recorded names of those who were influential in its organization and held offices during the first few years follow: Milo D. Cooke, James A. Boyd, James Knapp, John Q. Adams, James F. Dunn, John V. Morris, Seward Smith Thomas Harrison, Newton Briggs, George G. Briggs, A. B. Campbell, E. L. Chapman, Meritt M. Clark, Francis Colton, E. R. Adams, J. W. Baker, Arthur A. Smith, Henry Beardsley, A. T. McChesney, J. C. Hurlburt, G. H. Kingsbury, George Davis, Fred R. Bartlett, Clark E. Carr, George Davis and Knox College's Albert Hurd.
The membership library was a proving ground, or prototype for a free public library. Those who participated in the association were hopeful that a tax-supported library, free and open to the public would evolve from their efforts. It is significant that they called their group an ''association.'' The word ''society'' has the sound of exclusivity. It is not clear whether they advocated women's participation, in the future, in conjunction with the free and public concept. Information is rather scant, and fragments come from county histories, newspaper articles, a brief sketch by Albert Hurd and city directories. Members paid an initiation fee of $1.00 and dues of 50 cents per quarter. There is also mention that an applicant must meet with the approval of the association which suggests that a ''black ball'' could have been possible, though no mention of any has been found. The hall was open to members from 2 P. M. to 5 P.M. on Wednesday and 7 P.M. to 10 P.M. on Saturdays. The first books came as donations from members.
Lectures were delivered and admission charged as a means of fund raising for the library. Lectures by local people were called ''home'' lectures and the admission was 15 cents per person and 25 cents per couple. All other lectures required an admission fee of 25 cents per person, no discounts for couples. The out-of-town lecturers were not so difficult to contact. Mention was made of the list of more than 150 lecturers that appeared in Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, who were prepared to accept invitations, presumably all of whom could be contacted through Greeley's paper.
Harvey Curtis was the first lecturer for the association. He was the new president at Knox College, Blanchard's replacement. Curtis's going into the community and participating in this new venture was significant; he demonstrated moral reform through lectures or talks that were not sermons; intended to provide intellectual stimulation. This set him apart from his predecessor. His topic was ''The Movement of the Ages; is it Progress?''. He took the affirmative and proclaimed we were on the verge of much greater advancement in the future than in the past. Curtis gets little recognition, perhaps because the college's financial figures did not improve and enrollment understandably declined in the early 1860's. He handled the rift in the college and worked to bridge the gap with the community quite commendably. Curtis even participated in rival Lombard College's commencement, among many clergymen who offered prayers.
Immediately after Curtis's lecture, in January 1859, the association announced they had secured a location, the hall belonging to E. R. Adam's, adjoining Hill's Fine Art Gallery. Mr. Hill was actually a daguerreotypist and ''fine art'' referred to his images. This would have been on the north side of Main Street, adjoining the Public Square. The hall, it was announced in the local press, was fitted in the finest style for a library and reading room. The facilities were not large enough for the lectures, mostly held at Dunn's Hall, an auditorium room in the upper level of J. F. Dunn's bank building on the southeast quadrant of the Public Square.
John Lyle King, the second lecturer, was a Whig leader who had just become City Attorney for Chicago the preceding year. He gave an engaging talk, and the local press reprinted nearly every word of it, about ''Fashion''; he contended that imitation seems an instinct, fashion is arbitrary and imperious and that religion and intellectual development are as affected by fashion as clothing. King allowed that fashion will be with us and we should choose wisely. With respect to clothing, he applauded Mrs. Bloomer's short coats and trousers as a step in the right direction, away from foreign domination. He added that we were not yet ready to completely discard Parisian fashion. This lecturer was later the successful plaintiff's counsel in the famous Wilkinson libel suit against the Chicago Tribune and went on to write a book on trout fishing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Frederick Douglass, the former slave and internationally known lecturer, gave three talks. The first was well attended. Douglass remarked of Stephen A. Douglas, ''The rascal, I wish he had a different last name.'' The speech, judging from the local press, was well received. Editor Faxon of the Galesburg Democrat, which was in fact a Republican newspaper, commented that Fred Douglass was a better orator than the white Douglas. In his second lecture, Douglass made some remarks which criticized white Christians for their role in slavery and apparently did not show sufficient differentiation with respect to the white Christians of Galesburg. The third lecture, ''The self-made Man'' was poorly attended; Douglass remarked that the crowd was ''rather thin and select.''
Albert Hurd, Knox College's first professor of natural sciences, joined the faculty in 1851. A scientist, he had great interest in the latest developments in knowledge. He was an admired leader, both in the college and the community. He was involved in the library association from the outset and served as its first librarian, as well as president. Along with Professors Comstock and Churchill, he was hailed as one of the Knox triumvirate. His lecture's topic was, ''The Plant - its Organic Structure, Chemical Constitution, Food and Uses.''
George D. Prentice, editor of the New England Weekly Review, had previously been the editor of the Louisville Daily Journal and turned it into the leading Whig paper in the West and South. He wrote a campaign biography of Henry Clay in which he enlisted the help of John Greenleaf Whittier. Whittier, then the editor of The New England Weekly Review chose Prentice as his replacement. Prentice spoke on the topic of ''Patriotism.''
The new library hall was not adequate for the lectures but in March 1859 a debate was sponsored by the association and held at their location. The topic was the contention that public schools should be free and open for all. O.S. Pitcher, Esq. and Dr. M. K. Taylor spoke for the affirmative and the negative was taken by Professor Wilcox and George C. Lanphere, Esq.
Horace Mann, the famous educator and promoter of educational reforms spoke to the association in late March 1859; his topic concerned the role of women in society. Among other contentions given in his talk that women should be compensated fairly for their work and there should not be one standard for men and another for women. His talk concluded the first series.
In late 1859 great hopes for an even better lecture series existed. A lecture was delivered in December 1859 by Professor Edward Livingston Youmans . A scientist plagued by vision problems, Youmans developed the first chemistry chart. This, a forerunner of the period table was an aid to visually impaired people and provided for ready access of data for all. He authored a corresponding book, CLASSIC BOOK OF CHEMISTRY. His correspondence with Herbert Spencer began soon after his reading Spencer's Psychology; the correspondences resulted in the first American publication of Spencer's works.
At about the time Rev. J. Blanchard was leaving Galesburg he spoke to the literary and library association on January 5, 1860. Newspaper editor Faxon, who seemed unimpressed with Blanchard, wrote the following, ''Rev J. Blanchard gave a 'talk,' as he called it, to the young men of the Lit. & Lib. Association last evening, on, 'Principle and Success,' endeavoring to stir up his hearers to the importance of acting from principle instead of time-serving expediency. '' Faxon's placement of quotes around the word ''talk''suggests he considered it a sermon rather than what he expected of a lecture. It appears that Blanchard had the last word, at least no record of more lectures that winter can be found.
Many names appeared on the association's list of intended speakers, including Horace Greeley, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Doesticks, Rev. E. H. Chapin, and Rev. Thomas Starr King. A thorough search of each issue of the newspaper that reported closely on the development of this group does not indicate they spoke to the association. Greeley was here and lectured for the Adelphi at Knox College. Most of the officers and directors of the association were the young men, active in the relatively new Republican Party and the newspaper reveals they were quite busy, politically, during the year of 1860. There were many free speeches, of the political type, that year and there would have been little time for an extended lecture series.
At the close of the lecture series in 1860 there were 400 volumes, 300 members and $100 worth of furniture in the society's hall. Accounts mention many statistics about the association during the 1850s, 60s and 70s but rarely the exact location of the hall. By 1865 the library had moved to the south side of East Main in the first block, adjacent to the square, the address was then 18 East Main Street and it was upstairs, above the commercial establishments. This is the block now occupied by Associated Bank. The library remained on this block most of the years prior to building at its present location.
An oversight was noticed in late 1859 when it became apparent that the association did not exist! This was only a legal technicality. The proper documents had not been filed. In early 1860 necessary papers were filed at the Circuit Clerk's office in Knoxville and the Secretary of State's in Springfield. Those who signed the charter were Sidney Myers, Josiah Tilden, Arthur A. Smith, James H. Knapp, J. C. Wolf, George H. Kingsbury, Milo D. Cook and Clark E. Carr. A new constitution was adopted, and the preamble contained what we would now call a mission statement. The underlined words, capitalized letters and grammar are the originals. ''Whereas the diffusion of sound Knowledge among our Citizens through the medium of Books, and the cultivation of a literary and scientific taste by Lectures, and Debates, and other literary exercises, are objects of great importance in relation to the present and future welfare of our City, We, whose names are subscribed to this instrument, do organize ourselves into a society for the purpose of accomplishing these desirable results in creating and adopting the following Constitution . . . '' The main purpose was further clarified, '': to insure success, we declare the primary and leading object of our organization to be the collection and formation of a Public Library, while at the same time we desire to encourage literary exercises as subordinate and auxiliary to our main purpose.'' The Public Library, free and open to all, was the chief goal.
The properties of the first, legally nonexistent, association were transferred to the new, incorporated, one. On June 15, 1860, the directors of the literary society invited the public to attend the reopening and announced that the library would be open every Friday evening for those wishing to check out books. According to Hurd, the 150 members were ''hopeful, vigorous, and fully resolved to work on, patiently and persistently, until the City is ready, in some way, to assume the support of the enterprise.'' There was never a moment when compromise on the eventual establishment of a public library issue was entertained.
In what seems ironic, a City Library existed in 1860. It was located in the High School Building. The 1861 city directory refers to it as Illinois School-District Library, ''open to all,'' established 1858, with 500 volumes. It was open 3 to 5 P. M. on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 A.M. to Noon. This was at a time when most people worked during daylight hours, 5 _ or 6 days per week, thus the words ''open to all'' were hollow. In a conversation with Jeff Douglas, Director of Knox College's Seymour Library, he pointed out that one of the drawbacks to libraries' adoption of extended hours was the problem with artificial illumination, which involved combustion, gave off fumes, provided poor quality light and caused concern for the increased fire hazard. In 1863, Newton Briggs was appointed a committee of one by the association to confer with the Directors of the City Library, located at the school, about the consolidation of the two libraries for the benefit of the public. No report of the results can be found and it is obvious there were none, of a positive sort, as no consolidation resulted and the first publicly funded library was transferred to the Galesburg Board of Education in June 1861.
In 1865 there was a private circulating library, according to the city directory issued that year, known as Galesburg Circulating Library, located in the post office building, Martin and Gilman proprietors. They possessed but 500 volumes but were open from 7 A.M. to 9 P. M. daily. In comparison, the same year the Young Men's Literary and Library Association held 2,400 books but was only open Tuesday and Friday evenings from 7 to 9 P.M.
The association's library had 200 members in 1865 and allowed nonmember to use the library at a cost of 75 cents per quarter, 25 cents more than the members paid. The size of membership fluctuated during the early years. The outbreak of the Civil War no doubt accounted for the reduction of membership by nearly half between 1860 and late 1861. The meager gain of only 24 members between 1861 and 1865 can be explained by the war. It was not until 1867 that prewar number of 300 members could be reestablished. The size of the collection continued to increase through these years in anticipation of the day the war would be over and the men would return. Many of the names of the organizers and first officers of the association appear on the lists of those who enlisted or were commissioned and served the Union cause.
In 1866 Albert Hurd became the first salaried librarian; he received $100 per annum. He held the position one year but was too busy with Knox College activities and Junius B. Roberts, Galesburg's Superintendent of Public Schools held the position from 1867 to 1871. In 1871, Mary Everest became the first woman to be hired as librarian.
By 1869 the library held 3,527 volumes and Professor George Churchill of Knox College was elected president of the association. The next few years the library continued to increase its holdings by roughly 10% per year.
In 1870 the ''literature'' was dropped from the association's name and it became, ''Young Men's Library Association.'' This was more in keeping with its purpose; the lectures and debates of earlier years had been discontinued.
An act of the Illinois legislature in 1872 empowered municipalities to levy taxes for public libraries and leaders of the Young Men's Library Association wasted no time in petitioning the city council to have their facilities taken over by the city. The council took no action that year or the next. No record of objections can be located that would explain the inaction.
The library association drafted an ordinance and presented it, as citizens, to the city council. This ordinance, if adopted would make the library of Y. M..L..A. a free public library. On March 12, 1874, the vote was taken. Yea votes were cast by Sanderson, Merrill, Gale, Dickson, Boyd and Clary. The only dissenting vote was cast by a Mr.Arnold. March 26,1874, Ordinance No. 57 was signed, ''An Ordinance for a Free Public Library and Reading Room.''
In the 1870's Galesburg enjoyed the rewards of efforts put forth in earlier times. The success of Knox College was well secured and the community enjoyed the growth and prosperity that resulted directly and indirectly from the railroad. Rev. George Washington Gale led the group that formed the village and died in 1861. Rev. Gale's son, W. Selden Gale, a farmer-lawyer-politician, played a key role in building that village into a City, in many ways a more difficult task. Selden Gale did all that was within his power to make Galesburg the most important city in Western Illinois. The Gales, both father and son, were unlikely leaders, lacking in human warmth, preoccupied with concepts and institutions but men of ability who delivered on their promises. It was Selden Gale who was the great strategist, arguably a ruthless one. He used his ability in every major struggle to benefit his city, whether it was for the college, the railroad or his personal coup, the removal of the county seat from Knoxville to Galesburg. The Galesburg Public Library was created soon after Galesburg had become the county seat. The appropriation for building a new courthouse required a dozen years of effort, even for the clever Selden Gale. The energies required for the courthouse project no doubt detracted from serious thought of a library building.
The Galesburg City Council had passed the ordinance to create a free public library, March 12, 1874. The next steps toward the realization of that intention were the appointment of a library board and the appropriation of funds. Before the end of March, both were done. O. T. Johnson, banker, retail merchant and Mayor of Galesburg, nominated and secured council confirmation for the first nine directors: Alfred Kitchell, H. M. Hale, T. J. Hale, J. B. Roberts, E. C. Stone, George W. Foote, Joseph Stafford, N. A. Johnson and J. W. Dietrich. The motion came from alderman, W. Selden Gale that the City Treasurer be authorized to pay to the orders of the Galesburg Public Library Board of Directors an amount not to exceed $1,500 during the next nine months; his motion passed. All these actions occurred during March 1874, sufficient direction from the council to get through the balance of the calendar year. The Young Men's Library Association gave roughly 4,500 books to the new public library. Only shortly before turning everything over to the public library, the association had added a reading room to the library, an immediate success. The location remained in the same vicinity, at addresses of 18 East Main, 14 East Main and 10 East Main for roughly another quarter century. These addresses were all upstairs, above retail establishments; the street numbering system was not standardized until 1895, it is unclear whether these address changes indicated a physical m.ove or a renumbering to accommodate the city's growth. In 1878 the annual rent paid was $200 for the library and reading room.
In 1875 $2,500 was appropriated for the entire year's library budget, an annual amount that remained the same for two decades. In 1894 this was increased to $4,000. The next three years the budget was $5,000 and raised to $6,000 in 1898.
The accomplishments of the new, free public library suggest that the funding was adequate. The number of books grew to 8,219 during the first six years, roughly adding 600 volumes per year, more than double the rate at which the association library had increased its holdings. By 1887 the holdings had increased to 12,524 and at that time 70 newspapers and periodicals were received. By June 1900, two years before the Carnegie library was dedicated, the number of volumes had grown to 23,822.
Hurd's manuscript history mentions interesting numbers. By implication, it seems each person who entered the library was counted and 49,399 visitors used the facility in 1880. By 1887 the number had increased to 75,271 or 241 each day. The number of visitors had increased to 90,712, an average of 290 per day, by 1900.
In 1882, T. J. Hale urged that steps be taken to procure a site for a library building. The patronage grew and the present facility was crowded. The council declined taking a position and a referendum was held, 111votes for a library building, 654 against.
The Standard Library and Social Club of Galesburg was organized in the fall of 1885. It had 115 members within a year. W. F. Stanton and Max J. Mack were respectively president and vice-president. The activities of the organization are not chronicled in detail but it was located on Boon Avenue (later called Boone's Avenue), had a reading room, reception room and a billiards room with three tables; somewhere in all this was a ''fine upright piano.'' From this scant information it seems a group more inclined toward sociability than serious study and not an attempt to compete with the public library.
Within a few years after building a new Knox County Courthouse in 1886, more attention was given to the aspiration of an adequate library building. Ironically, Knoxville obtained a building, the former Knox County Hall of Records, which served as its public library for many years.
The location of Galesburg Public Library remained in the first block of East Main Street on the south side until about 1895. The Republican-Register office and print shop moved to Simmons Street, current location of WGIL at about that time and vacated 217-223 East Main. Soon after, the library removed to 217 East Main, the location it occupied until the completion of the Simmons Street building. At 217 East Main, in 1896, Walter Adams Johnson commenced publication of an ornithological journal, Osprey, in a room of the building occupied by the library. The Young Men's Literary and Library Association had its first library in a room of E. R. Adam's commercial building; Adams was Johnson's grandfather.
In July 1891, newspaper publisher and Library Board President, Z. Beatty, reported to Mayor Forrest F. Cooke and City Council concerning the current and future needs of the library and suggested that a recently enacted law would allow the city to levy a tax for a library building. On February 5, 1894, Galesburg's City Council adopted the following resolution, ''Therefore, be it resolved by the City Council of the City of Galesburg that we suggest to the Directors of the Public Library the making of such plans and the adoption of such measures as are required by law for the erection of a public library building in the city of Galesburg and that the same be presented to the City Council as soon as possible for its consideration.''
The first plans for a library were drawn by local architect, William Wolf. The lot on the northwest corner of Prairie and Ferris Streets was purchased for the prospective library building in November 1895. During each year from 1895 to 1898 the city levied $12,500 for the building fund. It was decided that this lot and the planned building were inadequate. Additional land in this area could not be obtained and the first plan abandoned. The intended building was described as slate roofed, walls built of Pompeiian brick with terra cotta ornament.
A different site was selected and in early 1900 the lots on the southeast corner of Broad and Simmons, the Sanderson residence where Lincoln was entertained in 1858. An additional lot was purchased from Knox College, total price of land, $13,500. This was all the land on Simmons Street east of Broad and West of the Federal Building, which housed the Post Office, located on the southwest corner of Simmons and Cherry. A different architect was selected; reasons for the change could not be located. The firm of Gottschalk and Beadle was hired. Bids for construction were solicited and on October 2, 1900 the contracting firm of Bartlett and Kling of Keokuk, Iowa was awarded the contract. The contractors pledged themselves to use union labor and adhere to a nine-hour work day. In early 1901 the City of Galesburg mandated an eight-hour work day in all city construction projects; the library was likely ''grandfathered.'' The low cost of construction is difficult to equate in today's dollars; the tile roof furnished by Caladon Roofing of Chicago was at a price of $1,285.
During the public library's construction Dr. Thomas McClelland came to Galesburg to assume the presidency of Knox College. He perceived an opportunity which he believed should be pursued immediately. Andrew Carnegie was awarding gifts to communities like Galesburg for the purpose of building libraries. Albert J. Perry and George A. Lawrence had corresponded with Carnegie in 1899 with no results. President McClelland and Albert J. Perry, Knox College treasurer, trustee and Library Board President went to New York in an effort to solicit a donation for the public library but were unable to meet with Mr. Carnegie. On December 17 a special meeting of the library board passed the following resolution: ''Resolved, By the board of directors of the Galesburg Public Library of the City of Galesburg, that Dr. Thomas McClelland, president of Knox College of this city, is hereby authorized and requested to use his best endeavor to interest the Hon. Andrew Carnegie in the erection of a library building for the Free Public Library of the City of, Galesburg, and we further hereby pledge to Dr. McClelland our earnest support in relation to the said matter.'' McClelland went to Carnegie's residence on December 26, 1900 with the resolution and letters from three prominent Knox College trustees from Chicago, Robert Mather, E. A. Bancroft and J. H. Eckels. McClelland left the meeting uncertain of the outcome.
Three days after being inaugurated as Knox College's president, McClelland received Carnegie's Valentine's Day letter on February 18, 1901. Though directed to McClelland, it was a wonderful Valentine's Day message from Carnegie to all people in Galesburg. It read as follows:
''Andrew Carnegie, 5 West Fifty-first Street, New York. Feb. 14, 1901. -
Dr. Thomas McClelland, 624 North Cherry Street, Galesburg, Ill.
Dear Sir: - If the City of Galesburg would agree to maintain a free public
library at a cost of not less than $5,000 a year and give a proper site, I should
be glad to provide $50,000 for a library building.
Very Truly Yours,
This wording of this letter from Carnegie gives rise to a question whether was made aware that a library was already under construction. Albert Hurd's undated manuscript is clear that upon acceptance of the construction bid of Bartlett and Kling on October 2, 1900''. work was immediately commenced and has been rapidly carried forward, and will in all probability be completed by the close of the year 1901.'' An Evening Mail account of the library board meeting on February 1, 1902 stated that the cornerstone was now in Galesburg and would be laid very soon: a decision was made not to have a cornerstone laying ceremony.
The Evening Mail reported that Dr. McClelland had called upon his old friend and college classmate, James B. Dill for guidance concerning Carnegie's methods of giving and the best methods to approach him. Dill was the attorney who worked for Carnegie in diplomatically settling the Carnegie-Frick dispute. McClelland systematically arranged his materials for best appeal to Carnegie based upon Dill's advice. One point that was especially emphasized was that in Galesburg was a large and intelligent class of railroad people who are constant users of the library. It was thought this appealed to Carnegie most; Carnegie wished his libraries to offer advantages to working people.
News of the gift was announced at Knox College during morning chapel on February 18. Albert J. Perry read the letter written by Carnegie and sent to McClelland. The students responded by ''tumultuous applause,'' according to the Evening Mail. McClelland spoke to the assembly. This was shortly before McClelland was inaugurated president.
Perry delivered the news at Galesburg High School's morning exercises where ''students applauded it long and heartily,''
Dr. Isaac Parker of Lombard University, a library board member, announced this simultaneously at Lombard. Hurd stated in his manuscript history, ''Soon the matter was known throughout the city and everywhere elicited unbounded enthusiasm.''
The city council took immediate steps to meet Carnegie's conditions. Councilman and finance chairman, Max J. Mack presented the following on February 18, ''Whereas, through the earnest efforts of Dr. Thomas McClelland, President of Knox College, and others, an offer has been received from Andre Carnegie to the city of Galesburg of $50,000 for a library, and whereas, all the condition required to secure the said sum have been provided for except the agreement to provide, $5,000 per annum for its maintainance[sic], therefore be it Resolved by the City Council of the City of Galesburg that in behalf of the city we accept with thanks the generous offer of Mr. Carnegie and agree for the city that a sum of at least $5,000 shall be annually appropriated by the City for the maintainance[sic] of the library.''
Hurd's manuscript closed with the following words about Carnegie's gift: ''This opportune gift will enable the Directors of our Public Library to largely increase the number and value of its books, and to render it far more useful to all classes of our citizens.''