Story of the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association

Mary A. Burbank

After a long period of business depression the Reciprocity Treaty, so much desired by this little Kingdom finally became an established fact in September, 1876.

Plantations which up to that time had had a precarious existence began to flourish, and new plantations sprang into being.

Engineers, mechanics, laborers, to fill the various needs of these new enterprises were coming into the country. Early in February, 1879, there came into the mind of Mr. William Johnson, a resident of Honolulu, the idea of a Temperance Reading-Room for mechanics, where they could spend an evening enjoyably away from the allurements of the Saloons, with books, periodicals, games and singing. Mr. Johnson, aided by three other men, (Dr. C.T. Rodgers, who had not long been a resident of Honolulu, and Dr. A. Marques and Mr. H. A. Parmelee, recent arrivals by the same steamer from San Francisco) circulated a paper setting forth Mr. Johnson's plan, and asking signatures of all in sympathy with it.

When seventy-eight names had been obtained a meeting of all signers for a Temperance Reading-Room was called for March 1st 7:30 P.M. at the Knights of Pythias Hall on Hotel Street where the Hub Clothing Store now is. Temporary Officers were elected. President, Mr. George Lucas, Vice-President, Mr. H. L. Sheldon, Secretary, Mr. T. G. Thrum. The prospectus of the Society was read with the Seventy-eight signatures. Several more signatures were added. Some remarks were made on the temperance feature. Mr. Johnson moved that Temperance be dropped, and make it Honolulu Reading-Room Association.

The Secretary trusted that the name and intent of the Society which had secured many signatures be retained, and hoped those present would take the same view. Mr. Black said that while not wholly supporting the views expressed he thought the intent was good, but that the Society would benefit by a change of name. Mr. Sheldon spoke in support of a change of name, but held to the principle of temperance guiding the Society, which he took to be the providing of a place for reading and recreation apart from the attraction of Saloons. Responding to an inquiry from Mr. Smithies as to a similar organization in San Francisco, Mr. Sheldon read of the forming of the Workingmen's Free Library in that city. After some discussion the name Honolulu Workingmen's Library Association was adopted by unanimous vote. Election of officers for a term of six months was as follows: President, Mr. George Lucas, Vice-President, Mr. H. L. Sheldon, Secretary, Mr. T. G. Thrum, Treasurer, Mr. J. M. Oat, Jr. The Chair appointed a Committee of five to draft a Constitution and By-laws, Messrs. H. L. Sheldon, J. H. Black, T. G. Thrum, J. S. Smithies, and J. Nott. A Committee of three was appointed to procure donations and secure suitable rooms. Messrs. W. Johnson, W. Babcock and H. R. Hollister. On motion of Mr. S. Nott the thanks of the Society was voted to Mr. Johnson for his fatherly care, labor and interest toward framing this Society, which was acknowledged by the recipient in a few brief remarks expressing his grateful surprise.

The meeting adjourned to meet the following Saturday. The President to have posters calling attention to same.

T. G. Thrum, Secretary.

Knights of Pythias Hall, March 8th, 1879, 7:30 P. M., President Lucas in chair.

Mr. Sheldon, Chairman of the Committee on Constitution and By-laws, read same. Motion to change name to Honolulu Library and Reading-Room Association carried.

Mr. Johnson, Chairman of Hall and Library Committee, reported on donations. Messrs. S. Nott and J. S. Smithies were added to the committee. 295 persons put their names on the roll as supporters of this organization.

The first two meetings were held in the Knights of Pythias Hall. The meeting of March 15th and all subsequent meetings in rooms over C. E. Williams' Furniture Store, which adjoined the Hollister Drug Co., on Fort Street, where the Library remained for five years until able to build on the corner of Hotel and Alakea Streets, where the Y. M. C. A. building now stands.

The meeting of March 15th was called to order 7:40 P. M. The Hall and Library Committee reported on procuring furniture and contributions of books and periodicals. Sunday School boys and James Fullen applied for positions of Librarian and Janitor.

A donation of magazines and $5.00 cash was received from Paymaster Carmody, U.S.N.

Dr. Rodgers suggested a public opening of the Library. A Committee of three was appointed to carry out details. Messrs. J. Nott, E. van Doorn and J. S. Smithies. His Majesty was elected an Honorary Member of the Association to be invited with the Queen to be present at the opening.

The meeting of March 29th was called to order by President Lucas.

A Board of Directors was chosen for the first term of six months. Messrs. A. J. Cartwright, A. S. Hartwell, Alexander Young, J. H. Black, L. Way, James Ashworth, Dr. C. T. Rodgers, Peter Dalton, Andrew Hepburn.

The President stated that his Majesty had ordered that he be put down for $25.00, Honolulu Iron Works $25.00 and Mr. Arundel $20.00.

The Secretary read the Constitution and By-laws for the information of new members present.

The President reported receipts for the evening $55.00. At the meeting of April 5th Judge Hartwell read a paper in the form of a Charter. Mr. Smithies moved and Mr. Dwight seconded the motion to apply for a charter - all of which, as well as Constitution and By-laws were discussed, and obtained in due time. September 6th the first term of six months was ended, and a new term of a year for the incoming officers began. President, Mr. T. G. Thrum, Vice-President, Rev. C. M. Hyde, Secretary, Mr. Ettinger, Treasurer Mr. A. L. Smith. The Treasurer served in this office until his death in 1891 - twelve years of faithful service.

The Trustees elected were Messrs. A. J. Cartwright, A. S. Hartwell, Dr. C. T. Rodgers, H. R. Hollister, J. H. Black, Walter Hill, James Ashworth, Andrew Hepburn, William Johnson.

December 6th Mr. Ettinger resigned as Secretary and Mr. H. A. Parmelee was elected in his place, which, with occasional absences, he filled during the remainder of his life. When absent his place was supplied by Messrs J. A. Magoon, C. T. Dillingham, G. W. Stewart and G. H. Barton.

The Constitution provided life membership on payment of $100 or its equivalent in books. Later, as few availed themselves of this opportunity, life membership was reduced to $50.

At the meeting of April 5th with President Lucas in the Chair, Mr. James Fullen was appointed Janitor.

At meeting of May 3rd the members listened to Bandmaster Berger's views of the desirableness of forming a Glee Club. The Honolulu Iron Works Club would be willing to form part.

A Debating Society was suggested by Mr. A. Clark.

At the meeting of June 7th, 1879, there were debates on Debating and Musical Societies within the Library. Dr. Marques, one of the original promoters of the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association, hoped there would be a musical department. Dr. Marques, Messrs H. Berger and T. R. Walker were appointed a Committee to organize a musical department.

Six years later it appears in the Library records that there had been, through Dr. Marques' instrumentality, and he reported, music donations from Ditson, Boston, Kohler & Chase, Mathias Gray of San Francisco, and just received by British Ship, "Racca" (?) a fine collection from Messrs. Schott & Co., London, and thought it well now to apply to people here for contributions. Dr. Marques' present day reminiscences add that he already had had dealings with Mr. Schott of the London firm, and had written to him asking for shopworn books on music and such other things as would be suitable for the Library. The result was that Mr. Schott dispatched a quantity of such books and music to Dr. Marques. Mr. Cleghorn was then Collector of Customs, and notified Dr. Marques, of whom he inquired the value of the consignment. Dr. Marques said he had no idea, as it was a donation to the Library. Mr. Cleghorn then pronounced them free of duty.

At the meeting of March 29th, 1879, Dr. Hutchinson suggested it would be better not to close the doors of the Library on women, that no respectable woman would object to association with mechanics. Dr. Rodgers thought it would be well to permit them to draw books from the Library. Finally after some discussion it was decided to admit women, as well as men, to the privileges of the Library.

While in the upper rooms on Fort Street the finances were never on a very secure footing. Concerts, lectures and fairs were resorted to as a means of providing funds in addition to the dues of members of the Association, which were $6 Annually, payable in quarterly installments, and the membership was seldom over two hundred.

April 3, 1880 was the first anniversary of the establishment of the Library. There were addresses by Judge Dole and Rev. Alexander Mackintosh after which Dr. Marques, Mr. J. E. Barnard and Miss Hopper provided music. Then Dr. Hutchinson and Dr. Hyde also spoke. A fair by the Ladies was recommended.

September 4, 1880 President for the coming year, Judge Hartwell, Vice-President, Dr. C. M. Hyde, Secretary, H. A. Parmelee, Treasurer, A. L. Smith. Directors, Messrs. A. J. Cartwright, Judge Dole, Dr. C.T. Rodgers, Judge Bickerton, Wm. Johnson, T. G. Thrum, H. R. Hollister, Walter Hill, James Ashworth.

The following year the officers were practically the same.

In September of 1881 the Library

directors began to discuss plans for a new building and appointed a Committee to obtain all necessary information in regard to it. Later several plans of Libraries in the U. S. A. were examined. A Committee was appointed to set before the Legislative Assembly the claims of the Library Association, and to obtain such aid as may be practicable and that Committee be requested to use their further endeavors to secure the lot that was granted us by the Government. The Committee, consisting of Messrs. Alexander J. Cartwright, Judge A. S. Hartwell and Judge R. F. Bickerton, reported at the next meeting. It was voted that the Committee have power to use their own judgement in the matter. It was also suggested that the Committee endeavor to consider the best means of raising funds. At a later meeting Judge Hartwell reported the Royal Grant of land for the Association, also reported having considered feasibility of building.

At a later meeting the Treasurer reported receiving from Mr. A. J. Cartwright (who in his great interest in the Library took upon himself the care of its finances) $1,080.00, being the amount, with interest, of our Building Fund which he had deposited in the Bank of Bishop & Co. President Dole authorized him to invest $1,100 as a nucleus for a permanent Building Fund. Finally after raising money by various means and receiving several generous donations, the brick building was completed and occupied in September, 1884.

Thursday, May 20th, 1880. From the "Spirit of the Fair" Vol. 1, No. 1, Fair for the Library-Executive Committee, Mrs. A. J. Cartwright and wives of other Trustees. Mrs. Comly and Miss Susie Comly, wife and daughter of the American Minister Resident, were among those taking part in the fair. Lists of all taking tables are given, very few of whom, now, forty-eight years after, are still living, only the flower-stand with young girls in attendance has an unbroken number.

This fair netted $2,400. It was held in the Library rooms on Fort Street.

January 7, 1882 a Loan Exhibition was held in Beaver Block through the kindness of Mr. James Campbell. The Committee to arrange for the Exhibition was Judge S. B. Dole, Messrs. A. J. Cartwright, Dr. C. M. Hyde, F. W. Damon, Dr. C. T. Rodgers. It was for the benefit of the Building Fund, and was open from May 8th to 16th, 1882. This netted $1,570.88.

"The Spirit of the Library Fair." Vol. II, No. 1, Thursday, May 8th, 1884.

This paper contains an article on "Books and Libraries" by A. Marques and "A Record of the Library" by C. M. Hyde. At this time Judge Dole was President of the Association. There was also an article on "The Honolulu Library Library and Its Fairs," by Dr. Rodgers. This fair was held at the suggestion of Dr. Marques. Queen Emma, Queen Kapiolani, Mrs. C. R. Bishop and many other ladies prominent in Society were heads of Committees. This was a fair by day. In the evening there was a musical and Dramatic entertainment.

This Fair netted $3,059,70.

In the previous year a Concert at the Music Hall brought $127 to the funds of the Association. A little later a lecture by Mr. Hoffnung brought $18.00.

$300 was realized from a Bannerman and Beaudet benefit, $100 of which was spent for books.

The first 813 books were donated to the Library. The first recorded in the Accession Book, a set of Bancroft's "United States", presented by Rev. S. Dwight. Captain W. Babcock and Mr. A. J. Cartwright filled out the first 200. Mr. Cartwright was always until his death, a generous donor to the library, which he hoped to see become a Public Library.

The first books purchased for the Library were nineteen works of Fiction from Mr. T. G. Thrum's Book Store. The source of supply was from donations and an occasional good opportunity at Auction until 1882. From that time on the majority of accessions were purchased of Bancroft & Co., San Francisco - until later, probably with the advent of a new Book Committee, when other firms in San Francisco, and occasionally Quaritch of London received orders from our Library.

While the Library occupied its first upper rooms on Fort Street the books were placed in numerical order on the shelves, as they were numbered on receiving in the Accession Book. On moving into the more permanent Library they were classified, the first seven letters of the alphabet each representing a class, Ethics, Religion, etc., and R. for reference books.

A card catalogue was made of all books. As Prof. Scott and Dr. Marques were to be in San Francisco for the Summer of 1884, they were commissioned to purchase books for the Library to the value of $250. At that time there were but 2,967 volumes. Not quite 3,000- a year later in October 1885, 1,024 more had been acquired, principally by donations.

In October 1886-1,230 more. By that time a printed catalogue of the 4,730 books had been printed and was offered for sale at $1.00 each. It was hoped that the subscribers to the Library would purchase the 300 copies and add to the Library Fund, but that hope was groundless, very few were sold, even when the price was reduced to fifty cents. In 1886 the Legislative Assembly inserted an item of $1,200 in their Appropriations for purchase of books for this Association, being the first direct grant of Public money and establishing a valuable precedent. The Government gave land on hotel and Alakea Streets for the Library site, freed us from taxes, charged no water rates, and later when electric lights came into use gave us free use of the electricity from the government dynamo which lighted the streets. In recognition of this liberality the Library gave the children of the government schools the privilege of taking books from the Library, when their teachers considered them worthy of it, and receiving cards from their teachers to present at the Library. In one of the reports of that early period it is stated that "the pupils availed themselves of that privilege to a considerable extent." There were applications from those interested in private schools for similar privileges, but it can easily be seen that with only one attendant at the desk, and a limited number of books, it would have been impossible to care for all the children in town in that way, and the subscribers as well.

In 1891 a new Librarian took the position who had no information of the existence of the children's privilege, and only discovered it by accident after quite a time. At that time only three children took books. They were children of one of the Trustees of the library, also a teacher in one of the Public Schools. It appeared to be a special privilege. On finding that it was the right of children in general whose conduct in school merited it, and having talked over the subject with two teachers who deserve honorable mention for their keen interest and appreciation of the subject, Miss Harriet Needham and Miss Lilian Brown, each of whom made a list of the books she wished her pupils to read, the Librarian on Monday and Friday afternoons set on two long tables back of the desk all of the best of the books written especially for children, omitting the more trashy ones, - interesting books of travel and adventure, such of the standard novels as were suitable for them, and when on those days they came from school they could take from those tables whatever they desired. If they wished for anything they did not see, if suitable the Librarian would give it to them. They were not permitted to go in the alcoves. Anyone familiar with library work can imagine the confusion that would ensue were that small army let loose there. At first they felt themselves much restricted. It was desired that under the circumstances only the pupils of the Grammar and High School grades, and of the Normal School should have this privilege. Then, as it always has been, is now, and ever will be, unless human nature experiences an enormous change, anything done for the public benefit is subject to criticism, and, as has already been said, with limited attendants (one, the most limited), books and means, it seemed the only way. It is a far cry from that humble beginning to the beautiful and commodious quarters the children of all ages have in the Library of Hawaii.

In 1892 Chaplain R. R. Hoes of the U.S. Ship "Pensacola" suggested the forming of a Hawaiian Historical Society with books mainly from the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association, many of which had come from the Government Library and were already placed in a room by themselves as too valuable for general circulation, and used by those desiring to look up Historical matters, principally Pacific Voyages. After interviewing the officers of the Library, some of whom were very enthusiastic over the idea, the Hawaiian Historical Society was formed, the condition being that if it should ever be disbanded the books should be the property of the Library Association. Chaplain Hoes ransacked the attics of old residents for old pamphlets, and put in a great deal of time in going over them, and in arranging the books, which he did admirably. In the midst of his labors came an unfortunate disaster-a torrential storm came. The building had a firewall which formed an angle with the roof; the gutter was the lower part of the angle; a beautiful great wind acacia had shed its leaves and pods on the roof and choked the gutter, so that the water stood and came in under the slates in a deluge. All the books on one side of the room were drenched. The same thing happened in a lesser degree to the reference books in the Reading Room. The Library force, Mr. Hoes, the Librarian, and the janitor, had difficulty in finding places to put the books to dry. Mr. Hoes took a large number to a furnace in town on the top of which they soon dried. Those which were not taken there had small chance-for it rained every day for a month. We scarcely ever saw the sun's face. All this might have been averted if the plumber's man who had been engaged to inspect the gutters once a month had done his duty. The beautiful tree was cut down.

In 1895 it was decided to change the classification of the books to one more flexible. The Librarian asked advice from Mr. Foster of the Providence Public Library, who recommended the Dewy system of Decimal Classification. It took some months to complete the work, which was done by Mr. J. B. Lightfoot who was then a teacher in the High School. In October and November of the same year the Book Room was enlarged, and windows put in on the street side, as it had been to dark to see at all without an electric light. The whole building was made mosquito proof to the great satisfaction of every visitor to the Reading Room.

The moving of so many books on account of the deluge and the enlargement of the Book Room necessitated an immense amount of work, especially in the latter case, when every book on the shelves had to be taken down and placed temporarily to be again moved to its proper place on the new shelves, which was done uncomplainingly by our excellent janitor, Maruyama.

In 1910 the Honolulu Library moved to the Alexander Young Hotel Building and was in the rooms now occupied by Wall & Dougherty until 1912, when the books were moved to the Carnegie Library Building on King and Punchbowl Streets, the corner-stone of which was laid October 21, 1911, with Dr. David Starr Jordan delivering the address. The Library opening was on February 1, 1913, when at last the Public Library had arrived in Honolulu.

The Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association still exists, with its officers holding regular meetings.

Although all the books were turned over to the Library of Hawaii when it was opened, the income from the old Library funds goes for books for the new Library. Thus the two combine.

It may be of interest to know that in January, 1903, a letter had been received by Prof. Scott from Andrew Carnegie's secretary in regard to a Library in Honolulu. On further correspondence it was found that the Association was unable to meet Mr. Carnegie's terms. But in 1909, when further correspondence was held, circumstances were favorable.

In the beginning each one interested in the forming of a Library gave as he was able; Mr. Johnson of his ideas and services, also books. Many gave liberally of their books and of assistance in such entertainments as were given to raise funds.

Mr. Cartwright's name led the list of the first Board of Directors in 1879 and remained on the Board as long as he lived, giving most generously of books, the number and value of which was not equalled, although there were others who gave many. He gave continually, being a constant reader of interesting books as they were published, and frequently turning them into the Library when he had read them. He gave a valuable collection of 200 books on Hawaii. He aided also with his business experience in caring for the finances of the infant institution, always holding to the hope that it would become a Public Library. His death after a brief illness, in June, 1892, was a great loss to the Library and the community. Messrs. W. F. Allen and J. H. Fisher, men of integrity and business experience, were appointed a Finance Committee, and continued the satisfactory stewardship.

Judge A. S. Hartwell of the original Board of Directors, placed his legal knowledge at the service of the Library.

During the two years that he was President of the Association there were many demands upon it, especially in securing the building site from the Government. The charter, constitution, and whatever else required it, had the benefit of his advice and assistance.

Dr. C. M. Hyde was an enthusiastic and energetic worker for the Library in its early stages.

Prof. W. D. Alexander's name appears later in the records. His interest was no less, and his advice most valuable.

Hon. C. R. Bishop, although not a resident of Honolulu for many years, remembered our needs and contributed largely to our support.

Prof. M. M. Scott, a reader himself and trainer of the young, looked to having the library enlarged and free.

The Castle family ready to further every good cause, were generous with gifts of books and funds, in recognition of which they were all made Life Members of the Library Association.

Dr. C. T. Rodgers, who was also on the first Board of Directors, was for years the actual center of the Library work. With zeal for the cause, and love for the work, for the first twelve years of its existence he gave unpaid, time and labor to the Library, classifying and cataloguing every book purchased or presented, and keeping a general oversight of all that concerned the different departments, and when the Association had its own building, of all that had to do with the building and grounds.

In 1891 he became much absorbed in politics. The new Librarian taking the position at that time found a few new books awaiting cataloguing before they could be put in circulation, and asked for the simple little typewriter used for the card catalogue, and from that time on, for the next twelve years, attended personally to the ordering, classifying and cataloguing, being also a member, ex-officio, of the Book Committee which selected books to be ordered. On the death of the Treasurer, Mr. A. L. Smith, the Librarian was made his successor and the salary increased from $300 to $400 a year. As the work become greater and the funds less limited there was further increase in salary. In 1898 an assistant was required to catalogue the books from the Government Library which had been brought to the Library several years previously, but their position in regard to ownership seemed rather vague. A number of unskilled assistants, one after another were employed until, in 1901, a lady from the Seattle Library was glad to have employment here for a while, and the work was finally accomplished.

In 1885 Queen Emma bequeathed about 600 volumes to the Library. With them came a little bust of her made in Paris. It stood on the catalogue cabinet in the Book Room, . Mrs Hasslocher, a kamaaina, who had been living in Europe for many years, seeing it, said that she was with Queen Emma in 1865 when that was made; that the room was lined with mirrors so that the sculptor could see his model from all sides without moving. As a number of those books were presented to Queen Emma and had a personal interest, they were allowed to be taken as a loan to the Queen Emma Home in Nuuanu.

In 1888 the Hon. C. R. Bishop presented the Fornander Collection of 250 valuable books with valuable pamphlets and publications in paper covers.

The Boys' Reading Room gave 255 volumes, for which the boys were made members of the Library Association for four years.

September 20, 1900, a Labor Day Committee offered $200 for the purchase of Industrial Books to be used as reference books in the Library. The Library Trustees recommended that it be turned in to the Treasury, and that the Treasurer request the donors to appoint a committee from the various trades to select the books, which was done.

For more than twelve years the Librarian's salary was $25 per month, while that of the Janitor was $40. Mr. Fullen, who held the position for at least eight years, was evening and Sunday attendant as well, and apparently collected the members' dues. He was not a young man. His long, lanky figure shuffling through the rooms with the kerosene lamps dripping was a feature of the place not quite pleasing to some of the librarians.

In regard to the portraits belonging to the Library, I would say, in 1899, a number of prominent and wealthy citizens purchased from Mr. Cogswell, an artist, his portraits of Lincoln, Grant, McKinley and Dole, which had been hanging for some time on the walls of the Reading Room, and presented them to the Library Association.

Mr Cartwright's portrait, which he had presented to the Library, also hung there. Lincoln's and that of Judge Lee hung at the end of the Book Room facing the Reading Room.

Subscribers to the purchase of Cogswell's portraits were C. M. Cooke, J. B. Atherton, B. F. Dillingham, J. B. Castle, G. P. Castle, S. M. Damon, W. G. Irwin, S. T. Alexander, H. A. Baldwin and Mrs. Afong.

Miss Jessie Kaufmann, a visitor in Honolulu, appears to have been instrumental in bringing about this purchase.



Alexander Joy Cartwright


Born April 17, 1820 in New York City was one of the founders and the Benefactor of the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association.


Said to be the "Father of Baseball", he was one of the first to take a serious interest in the game. He revised many of the earlier rules of baseball such as tagging a runner out rather than hitting the player with a thrown ball, paving the way for hard ball. In 1842 he founded the Knickerbocker Baseball Club which was the first baseball team to have uniforms and the first to play an organized game. Cartwright designed and introduced the 9 man team, nine inning game and the 90 foot baseline. These rules were adopted in September 1845 and he was inducted into the hall of fame in 1939.

Cartwright settled in Hawaii were he popularized baseball. He became the first Board of Director of the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association in 1879 and remained on the Board giving freely of his time and books until his death on July 12, 1892. Reproduction: The Hawaiian Historical Society.


Story of the Honolulu Library and Reading Room Association, by Mary A. Burbank appeared in Hawaiian Historical Society Annual Report No. 36 for the year 1927. The editor would like to acknowledge Ms. Barbara Dunn, Director of the Hawaiian Historical Socieity for her assistance in securing the photographs used in this article. The Hawaiian Historical Society is located at 560 Kawaiahao Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813