Saturday, May 2, 2015

Pratt Library:"shall be for all, rich and poor without distinction of race or color"

Like the Ferguson Library did last year, the Pratt Library in Baltimore has been staying open amidst the storms around it and acting as a safe community space for all these past days.
The name made me curious, so a quick Google brought me to Enoch Pratt. This is a good story, so I'll quote a bit:
 Many residents of the City in late 1881 speculated what was being planned for the excavations going on in the north side of West Mulberry Street, by Cathedral Street, near the old Baltimore Cathedral in the tomey Mount Vernon-Belvedere-Mount Royal neighborhood, north of the business district on Cathedral Hill. The mystery was explained when on January 21, 1882, in a letter addressed to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, Pratt offered a gift of a central library, four branch libraries (with two additional ones to be constructed shortly thereafter), and a financial endowment of (U.S.) $1,058,333. Further, he requested that to Mayor William Pinkney Whyte and the Council continue an annual appropriation to the new library system and support it in the years to come to supplement the interest and benefits accumulating from the principal of his bequest. His intention was to establish a library that "shall be for all, rich and poor without distinction of race or color, who, when properly accredited, can take out the books if they will handle them carefully and return them." 
emphasis added
Note that this was in 1882.

And guess who he inspired? Andrew Carnegie.

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