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The Legacy of the Nineteenth Century Club

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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.

The Hamburg Free Library was moved into a Carnegie library on Center Street on November 8, 1915 where it remained until 1966 when the current library at 102 Buffalo Street was opened.

Members of the Nineteenth Century Club

Clara K. Van Duzee

Clara K. Van Duzee (1855-1940) served as librarian for the Nineteenth Century Club before the Hamburg Free Library was formed.

Harriet K. Van Duzee

Harriet K. Van Duzee (1855-1926) and her sisters, Clara and Marion K. (1869-1926) were charter members of the Nineteenth Century Club.

Lillian Eddy

Lillian Eddy(1865- 1918) was active in many women's organizations, including the Relief Corps, the S.P.C.A. and the W.C.T.U. and ran her church's Sunday School for decades. When she died, funds from her mother's will (Amy Cole Eddy) were used to build an addition for the Hamburg Free Library.

Amanda C. Michael

Amanda Michael (1866-1934) served as the first librarian from 1901 until 1922. In 1922, she married Buffalo businessman Joseph Dorland and retired from the library. In 1901, Miss Michael was paid $10 per month, but by 1922 her salary had grown to $50.

Thompson wedding photo

Eliza Abbott Thompson (1861-1916) married Hamburg's Methodist minister, Rev. Peter Thompson and became the stepmother of writer Dorothy Thompson. Dorothy is shown in the front row, 3rd from the right in this wedding photograph. Eliza is described in very unflattering terms in the book American Cassandra by Peter Kurth.

Hamburg Libraries

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.

B.M. Fish Building

The library was moved diagonally across the corner and relocated on the second floor of the B.M. Fish Building from 1907 until 1915.

Reading Room of first Hamburg Public Library

The Reading Room of the first Hamburg Public Library, c. 1910.

B.M. Fish Building on fire

The Fish Building was destroyed by fire on the night of February 19, 1917.

Hamburg Free Library on Center St.

Fortunately, the Hamburg Free Library had been moved to a new Carnegie Library building on Center Street on November 8, 1915. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie donated $5,000 for the construction of the building. The Hamburg Free Library was one of 1,688 Carnegie Libraries built across the United States.

Cinderella, a fixture at the Center St. Library

Two frequent visitors of the Center Street library were St. Bernard dogs Juno and Cinderella who often lay on the library steps. Juno is pictured here with Bobbette Beatty.

William C. Kronenberg in front of Fish & Kronenberg

Hamburg businessman, William C. Kronenberg donated the land on Center Street for the library. Mr. Kronenberg is standing on the right in the doorway of his store.

Library Events

50th anniversary of Hamburg Public Library

In 1947, the Hamburg Free Library celebrated its 50th Anniversary. A reception was held to honor four of the original charter members of the Nineteenth Century Club. Left to right: Clara Wheelock Titus, Anna Froehley, Lovinia Robbins and Albert C. Knack. Absent is Emma Woodruff Paul (1862-1949) the widow of Charles Constantine, then married to John C. Paul.

A. Knack presents card number 1 to Lovinia Robbins

Lovinia M. Robbins (1872-1961) became a second grade teacher in 1890 and served as Hamburg Grade School Principal from 1927 to 1940, living next-door to the school. When the Hamburg Free Library joined the Erie County Library System, Albert C. Knack, president of the Hamburg Free Library Board presented her with library card Number 1 as librarian, Anne Frank Hammersley, looked on.

Hamburg Librarians

Elizabeth Rae Seelbach

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.

Anne Frank Hammersley

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.