Santa Cruz County History - Libraries & Schools

The History of the Santa Cruz Public Library System: Part 1-- 1868-1881
by Margaret Souza

The Library Association, 1868-1881

The Santa Cruz City and County Public Library System had its origins early in 1868 when interested citizens resolved to provide books and magazines to participating members. A key personality of this group was Frank Cooper, who, on June 6, 1868, drafted the following proclamation:

"The undersigned agree to form a Library Association in Santa Cruz under "An Act in reference to Library Associations" Approved April 27, 1863, and to attend a preliminary meeting, when twenty signatures are procured to take the necessary steps to commence and perfect the Incorporation." [1]

Thirty men signed it: Paul Pioda, Geo. T. Hoff, O. T. Hecox, Benj. P. Kooser, Duncan McPherson, A. S. Cooper, Oroville Root, F. A. Hihn, Edward L. Williams, F. W. Wright, J. H. Logan, Albert Hagan, Frank Cooper, Wm. P. McDermott, C. L. Anderson, J. C. Willson, Joseph Boston, W. F. Peabody, Ferdinand J. McCann, Alfred Baldwin, S. H. Bailey, C. F. Loop, Louis Glass., S. A. Bartlett,, Albert Brown, Albert Heath, Walter Frear, H. E. Makinney, Lucien Heath, and James J. Dyer. The Library Association which was thus formed was to be known as the "Santa Cruz Library."

"The organization in 1868 followed seven years of discussion and effort. The first move for a library had been made in 1861, when Tom Beck, the carpenter and builder, had presided over a meeting in Temperance Hall. T. T. Tidball, who acted as secretary, was a young man from Soquel then filling a deputy's job in the court house but soon to leave as captain of the cavalry company Santa Cruz raised for the Civil War."

Although the 1861 meeting voted to draw up a constitution and establish a reading room, the effort was probably allowed to lapse because of the war, to be resumed again in 1868." [2]

The Association held its first meeting on June 15, 1868, and although not all members were present there were enough to form a quorum. C. L. Anderson was elected the Association's Chairman and Frank Cooper was elected its Secretary. The Association then proclaimed that there would be seven trustees for the Santa Cruz Library; the first ones elected to this position were: C. L. Anderson, F. J. McCann, Lucien Heath, Albert Hagan, Paul Pioda, Walter Frear, and Joseph Boston.

Before this meeting adjourned, Frank Cooper was instructed to communicate with Hon. Cornelias Cole, U.S. Senator, about obtaining a "large and substantial supply"[3] of Public Documents. Mr. Cole had lived in Santa Cruz before he was elected to the Senate in 1865.

The Association meeting adjourned, and immediately afterwards the First Board of Trustees assembled. The Board elected the following officers: President, C. L. Anderson; Vice President, Lucien Heath; Treasurer, Paul Pioda; Corresponding Secretary, Walter Frear; and Recording Secretary, Albert Hagan. Frank Cooper was appointed the first Librarian; however, he had no room, no salary, and no books.

The Public Documents sent by Senator Cole soon arrived, and the members of the Association donated books. In November, 1869, a committee was appointed to solicit membership and to collect funds and books. Dr. J. Sims, a Physiognomical Character Delineator,[4] delivered several lectures in Santa Cruz, and $100.00 in proceeds went to the Library for the purchase of reference books.

The library, located in Frank Cooper's store, was opened to member use on April 1, 1870, nearly two years after the Library Association was formed. In July, 1870, John Brozer, a "college bred" [5] man, bought out C. W. Williams and started a bookstore in the Rhodes Building (Lower Plaza near the Williamson and Garrett building, near the grocery store of McHugh and Bianchi in 1964). Brazer provided space for the library in his bookstore and thereafter he was appointed Librarian. He held that position until January 4, 1871, when he resigned to become the Postmaster.

Edwin Shepard was elected Librarian on January 4, 1871, and the library was moved to two upstairs rooms in the Anthony Block, corner of Mission and Water Streets. (Samuel Leask, Jr., said the library was located in Joel Shepard's drugstore.) He received ten percent of the dues and fines collected for his services. A year later, Mrs. Shepard was appointed Librarian with Edwin as her assistant. Her compensation equaled ten percent of the dues and fines plus five dollars for rent and care of the rooms.

Until January, 1872, the members of the Library Association paid six dollars a year for the use of the books; it was then reduced to four dollars per year.

A. J. Hinds was appointed Librarian on April 16, 1872, and the library was moved to his bookstore. He received no salary but he was allowed five dollars per month for rent. Later the library was moved to the Sentinel building and for a time, there was very little growth.

In November, 1874, Santa Cruz ladies organized a Reading Room in the Anthony Block. Periodicals were subscribed for and the Reading Room was maintained by monthly subscription. "The rooms and papers were free to all."[6] The Library and Reading Room had become one by January, 1876. Mr. Elihu Anthony donated the rent for the rooms used by the Library and Reading Room for the month of January, 1876.

The Library Board of Trustees authorized the purchase of books and subscriptions to some papers. In February, 1876, Mr. Dexter was appointed Librarian at a salary of twenty dollars per month.

The Library and Reading Room were moved to the two upstairs rooms of the Whidden building in March, 1876; the rent was ten dollars per month.

Mr. Lawson was the Librarian for a time, then in March, 1878, Mrs. E. A. De Wolfe was appointed to the position at twenty-five dollars per month (rent for rooms and salary).

At the Regular Quarterly Meeting held on January 6, 1879, a committee was appointed to solicit subscriptions and to report to the trustees on the advisability of keeping the Library and Reading Room in the present location (Whidden building).

"On the 2nd of October, 1879, after the Library had been presented to the City and accepted as a gift from the Library Association, agreeing to take care of it, and Trustees of Unity Church, owning a lot and building just opposite our present Post Office, offered to donate that property to the city of Santa Cruz, provided the City would assume an indebtedness of about $1,800, which was resting on said property. The offer was refused and the opportunity lost." [7]

The Church building cost five thousand dollars and the lot was valued between twenty-five hundred and three thousand dollars. But according to the Library Board Records the library and Reading Room were not transferred to the City's care until December 15, 1881.

In January, 1881, the library was packed in boxes and stored in the top floor of the Mission Hill School opposite Temperance Hall. There had been no new books for two years.

In December, 1881, the Library Association's library was presented to the City of Santa Cruz:

"Resolved, That the trustees of Santa Cruz free library be and are hereby instructed and authorized to make all necessary arrangements with the municipal authorities of the city of Santa Cruz by which the Santa Cruz library shall be transferred to the said city, to be managed, owned and protected for the public use in accordance with an act to establish free public libraries and reading rooms, passed by the legislature of the State of California and approved April 26, 1880."[8]

>>Continue with Part 2: 1881-1904


  1. Minutes of the meetings of the Santa Cruz Library Association. Signature agreements are loose in front of first book of minutes.
  2. Leon Rowland, "Circuit Rider: Civil War Halted Library Plans," Santa Cruz Sentinel-News, March 16, 1952, p.15.
  3. An Old Settler, "History of the Santa Cruz Free Library," Santa Cruz Evening Sentinel, Dec. 14, 1899, pp. 3 and 4.
  4. Ibid.
  5. "Looking Backward over Library Life in Santa Cruz," Santa Cruz Surf, Sept. 28, 1903.
  6. Dr. C.L. Anderson, "Semi-Centennial of the Public Library-Sketch of the Early Days of the Insitution-Written by Dr. C.L. Anderson in '99," Santa Cruz Surf, June 6, 1918, p.2.
  7. "Looking Backward over Library Life in Santa Cruz," Santa Cruz Surf, Sept. 28, 1903.
  8. Meeting of the Santa Cruz Library Association, Dec.15, 1881. "Semi-Centennial of the Public Library," Santa Cruz Surf, June 6, 1918, p. 2.

Copyright 1970 Margaret Ann Souza. Reproduced with the permission of the author. This article is a chapter from an unpublished Master's thesis, The History of the Santa Cruz Public Library System, San Jose State College, August 1970.

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