At what point did the Mercantile Library Company in Philadelphia come to a close?

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By Laurie Baratti

Mercantile Library Company in Philadelphia

The Mercantile Library Company in Philadelphia was a private library that was established in 1821. The library was formed by a group of Philadelphia merchants, who wanted to create a library that would cater to the needs of the business community. The Mercantile Library Company aimed to provide a collection of books and resources that would help businessmen in their trade and commercial activities.

Establishment of the Mercantile Library Company

The Mercantile Library Company was established in 1821, by a group of Philadelphia merchants. The library was initially located at the Philadelphia Exchange, where it occupied a single room. The library’s collection consisted of a few hundred books, and it was open to members of the Mercantile Library Company only. Membership was open to any person involved in trade, commerce, or finance.

Growth and Expansion of the Company

The Mercantile Library Company grew quickly in the early years, and by 1830, it had over 1,000 members. The library’s collection also grew rapidly, and by 1840, it had over 12,000 volumes. The library moved to a larger location in 1828, and again in 1842, when it occupied a building on 10th Street.

Financial Troubles in the Mid-1800s

In the mid-1800s, the Mercantile Library Company began to experience financial troubles. The library’s collections were expensive to maintain, and membership began to decline. The company was forced to borrow money to stay afloat, and by 1850, its debt had reached $12,000.

The Company’s Struggle to Survive

The Mercantile Library Company struggled to survive in the late 1800s. The library continued to lose members, and its financial situation deteriorated. The company was forced to sell some of its assets to pay off its debts. Despite these efforts, the Mercantile Library Company continued to struggle.

Merger with the Philadelphia Library Company

In 1890, the Mercantile Library Company merged with the Philadelphia Library Company. The merger was intended to help both libraries, as they were both facing financial difficulties. The Mercantile Library Company’s collections were moved to the Philadelphia Library Company’s building on Locust Street.

The Company’s Transition into the 20th Century

The Mercantile Library Company continued to operate as a separate division of the Philadelphia Library Company. The library’s collection was expanded to include more general-interest books, as well as books on business and economics. The library also began to offer more services, such as lectures and exhibitions.

Changes in Library Services and Collections

In the early 1900s, the Philadelphia Library Company began to modernize its services and collections. The library began to offer more popular books and magazines, and it also began to offer lending services to non-members. The library’s focus shifted from serving the business community to serving the general public.

Decline in Membership and Finances

Despite these changes, the Mercantile Library Company continued to struggle. Membership continued to decline, and the library’s finances remained precarious. The library was forced to reduce its hours and services, and it also had to lay off staff.

The Final Years of the Mercantile Library Company

In the 1960s, the Philadelphia Library Company decided to close the Mercantile Library Company. The library had become obsolete, and its collections were no longer relevant to the needs of the business community. The Mercantile Library Company’s collections were transferred to the Philadelphia Library Company’s main branch, and its building was sold.

Closing of the Company’s Doors

The Mercantile Library Company closed its doors in 1965, after over 140 years of operation. The library had served the business community of Philadelphia for many years, but its collections and services had become outdated. The library’s closure was a sad moment for its members and staff.

Legacy of the Mercantile Library Company in Philadelphia

Despite its closure, the Mercantile Library Company had a significant impact on the development of libraries and library services in Philadelphia. The library’s collections and services helped to create a culture of learning and knowledge-sharing in the city. The Mercantile Library Company also paved the way for the development of public libraries, which continue to serve the people of Philadelphia today.

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Laurie Baratti

Laurie Baratti, a renowned San Diego journalist, has contributed to respected publications like TravelAge West, SPACE, Modern Home + Living, Montage, and Sandals Life. She's a passionate travel writer, constantly exploring beyond California. Besides her writing, Laurie is an avid equestrian and dedicated pet owner. She's a strong advocate for the Oxford comma, appreciating the richness of language.

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