From the Cambridge Public Library Annual Report, 1908.

The photograph of Caroline Frances Orne, the CPL’s first librarian, is a real treasurer.  It’s the only one we have!  Click on the image to enlarge.


The image above comes from the 1908 Cambridge Public Library Board of Trustees report.  The chart shows how dramatically circulation at the Cambridge public library increased once the library became “free and open to the public.”  Although it is important to note that the chart is a little misleading.

Between 1858 and 1979, the public library was free to all Cambridge citizens – not a subscription library as noted above.   During this time, it was called the Dana Library in honor of Edmund Dana, who led a group of citizens to establish the Cambridge Athenaeum, the membership fee based predecessor to the Dana Library.  The Dana Library was free to all but only open limited hours.  In 1848, it was open Saturdays from 4 to 8 and the following year Wednesdays were added to the schedule - most likely accounting for low circulation rates.

Not realizing that the library was free, many citizens stayed away thinking it was privately owned by Edmund Dana.  In 1879, the Library Trustees remedied the problem by officially changing the name to the Cambridge Public Library.  And by now, the library was open 6 days a week.

Either way, this chart illustrates how important it is to make information free and accessible.  If it is free -  people will use it!

To get a full view of the chart, Click on the image to enlarge.


The Cambridge Public Library:  Free and Confidential Since 1858

Exhibition Location: Entrance and 2nd Floor, Glass Building

The Cambridge Public Library became “free and open to all” during the first great wave of American public libraries. Since then, the CPL has championed a free and open exchange of knowledge.

Cambridge’s first public librarians welcomed all visitors, answered questions, and made books and resources as accessible as possible, paving the way for the CPL to be known as the “People’s University.”   This notion of free and open to all – radical at the time, but the norm today – has been the cornerstone of the CPL for over 155 years.

In honor of National Library Week, the CPL wishes to remind everyone that the protection of privacy is a fundamental right of every library patron. Free access to information without bias, censorship, cost, or fear of repercussion is the very reason for which the library exists.


A few weeks ago, we posted this incredibly difficult photo to identify.  The image comes from the 1928 Cambridge Annual Reports (p. 298) with the caption, “Taking Cuttings from Scion of Washington Elm.”  The man pictured is J. F. Donnelly, Cambridge’s General Superintendent of Parks, taking a cutting of the Washington Elm scion, which was on the estate of Mrs. Cora Giles of 74 Corey Road, Brookline.

The scion was cultivated by Jackson Dawson, who was affiliated with the Arnold Arboretum.  Dawson cultivated six trees from the original Washington Elm.  The tree on the Giles’ estate was originally given to Patrick Collins, former Mayor of Boston.  In addition to the one he gave to Mayor Collins, Dawson donated one to the City of Boston who planted it in a playground in Charlestown.  The others are presumably at the Arnold Arboretum.

old blanchet NC photo

Our friends at Growing Up in North Cambridge sent us this photo in hopes that someone out there can help identify the location.  The photograph comes from the Blanchett Family of North Cambridge but we can’t figure out where the picture was taken.  There have been a few suggestions – just over the Somerville line in North Cambridge or Arlington Heights.  But we can’t confirm.

Does the background scenery look familiar to anyone?

Photograph by Acme Newspictures, Inc., Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections, Boston Herald Photographs (008).

Harvard’s Football Candidates Report for Training, May 4, 1926
Assistant Coach Mal Greenough and ex-Captain of the Harvard football eleven pictured giving the squad a calisthenic lesson at Cambridge recently during the initial Spring training.

Running Shoes

Our Marathon:  Share Your Story

Event Location:  Entrance
Dates:  Wednesday March 26, 5-8:30PM

Our Marathon is a crowd-sourced, digital archive of pictures, videos, stories and social media related to the Boston Marathon, created by Northeastern University. Join us  Wednesday March 26, 5-8:30PM and share own stories and help us create an archive of your images, emotions and experiences.

Stop by the Library and view memorabilia left at the Marathon Memorial.

Messages from the Marathon Memorial

Exhibition Location:  Entrance and 2nd Floor, Glass Building
Dates:  March 3 to March 31, 2014

For ten weeks after April 15th, 2013, a makeshift memorial took shape at the site of the marathon bombings on Boylston Street. On June 25th, city officials, archivists, and volunteers took down the memorial and sent the memorabilia to the City of Boston Archives to be preserved. This exhibition features select pieces from the Marathon Memorial, courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.


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