A History of the Hamburg Public Library
by John R. Edson
On November 29, 1824, a meeting was held in Abbott's Corners, present day Armor, at the home of early settler, Seth Abbott. A vote was taken and 28 people agreed to establish a library with the sum of $102. Trustees included Thomas T. White and Amasa Smith, whose names would be recorded when the village of Hamburg was known as "White's Corners" and "Smithville" in the early 19th century. Nothing is known about this pioneer library, but the action is recorded in the Erie County Clerk's Liber of Miscellaneous Records.
The present Hamburg Public Library was established in 1897 by the Nineteenth Century Club, a group of civic minded women from the village of Hamburg who banded together to enrich their community by starting a permanent free public library. When club members heard a Hamburg mother say that she'd have to move to Buffalo because her village had no library to help her children with school work, they were determined to establish a library in Hamburg. The Nineteenth Century Club limited membership to 19 women. This group was typical of many women's clubs throughout the country at the turn of the last century.
The original 19 members of the club were: Eliza M. Abbott, Helen Colvin, Lorinda A. Colvin, Elizabeth Cook, Lillian Eddy, Anna A. Froehley, Jennie Fraser, Della A. Jones, Edith R. Ketchum, Amanda C. Michael, Lovinia A. Robbins, Clara K. Van Duzee, Harriet N. Van Duzee, Marion L. Van Duzee, Katherine L. Van Name, Clara J. Wheelock and Clara Yaw.
From 1897 until 1901, the Hamburg Free Library was located in several rented buildings in the vicinity of Main and Lake Streets near where most club members lived.
Members of the Nineteenth Century Club
In 1901, the men of the Hamburg Business Men's Club took over management of the library and formed the Library Association. The New York State Education Department chartered the library in 1902.
The library was moved to the busy corner of Main and Buffalo Streets, situated in the Bunting Block, from 1902 until 1907.
When first librarian Amanda Michael retired in 1922, Elizabeth Rae Seelbach (1883-1975) accepted the job and served for the next 21 years. She left Hamburg to serve as Dean of Women at Drexel Institute in Philadelphia.
Hamburg's third librarian was Anne Frank Hammersley (1892-1983). Mrs. Hammersley took the job as librarian on a temporary basis, but kept it for 17 years until 1960. She was a strong supporter of the County Library System.
The Hamburg Public Library presented The Legacy of the Nineteenth Century Club in Hamburg on October 24, 2001 at the Hamburg Public Library, 102 Buffalo Street, Hamburg, NY in fulfillment of a Library of America Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. Librarian John R. Edson researched, wrote and presented the program.
The program focused on the women of the Nineteenth Century Club and their place in the women's club movement as well as the accomplishments, relationships and contributions to the literary and cultural life of the Town of Hamburg in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
This is an abridgement of the original program and print version published in 2002 by the Hamburg Public Library. Click here to find print copies of the The Legacy of the Nineteenth Century Club in Hamburg through the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library online catalog.