Wisconsin Library Heritage Center

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation promoting understanding and appreciation of the history of libraries and librarianship in Wisconsin.

Subscribe to feed Viewing entries tagged Eratus Swift Wilcox

Origin of Wisconsin's Public Library Law (WLA 125)

Posted by Larry T. Nix
Larry T. Nix
Larry T. Nix has not set their biography yet
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, January 26, 2016
in WLA 125
erastus-swift-willcoxWisconsin's original public library law was introduced as Assembly Bill no. 87, 1872 on January 26, 1872 by Assemblyman Alexander Graham of Janesville, Wisconsin. It was approved by the Governor on March 22, 1872. The  Graham Bill was remarkably similar to a bill introduced in the Illinois Legislature on March 23, 1871 and signed into law on March 7, 1872.  So similar, in fact, that there is little doubt that Wisconsin's public library law was based on the one in Illinois.  A key provision is almost identical: "Every library and reading-room established under this act, shall be forever free to the use of the inhabitants of the city or village where located, always subject to such reasonable rules and regulations as the library board may find necessary to adopt and publish ...".
Erastus Swift Willcox (pictured above), while librarian of the Peoria Mercantile Library, a forerunner of the Peoria Public Library, conceived the public library law that was substantially enacted by both Illinois and Wisconsin in 1872 and which was a model for a number of other states. Although New Hampshire adopted a state public library law in 1849, a solid case has been made that Willcox's public library law was the first comprehensive state public library law. Willcox realized that the fees charged by mercantile libraries and other membership libraries were not only inadequate for funding library service but that they were significant barriers to library use by the general public. Little is known of Alexander Graham's motivation for introducing the Wisconsin law or the specifics of how he became aware of the Illinois bill. He was, however, a member of the Janesville Young Men's Association, a membership library which experienced some of the same challenges as those of the Peoria Mercantile Library. A major motivating factor in the passage of the Illinois law was the movement to create a public library for the City of Chicago. The City of Chicago passed an ordinance under the new act creating the Chicago Public Library on April 1, 1872. The Black River Falls Public Library was the first public library created under Wisconsin's public library law of 1872.
Originally posted on June 19, 2009


Popular Tags

Ruth Ann Montgomery caly film Wayne A. Wiegand Pinback buttons library exhibit DeForest Area Public Library Charles Bunge Library people WWI Library War Service Wisconsin Historical Society Zona Gale T. B. Scott Free Public Library People Tower Hill Wisconsin Postcards Irene W. Newman Orrilla Blackshear Lucy E. Smith Morris hall of 22 UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies Superior Carnegie Libraries I Love Libraries James Duane Doty Ripon Public Library 27 Wisconsin Library Trustees and Friends American Library Association 10 UW-Milwaukee Libraries anniversaries Wisconsin Library Association Nolan I. Neds Hall of Fame 2015 Frank Avery Hutchins Amer Lutie Stearns Increase A. Lapham Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Cooperative Children's Book Center 21 Inform Wisconsin Larry T. Nix James Huff Stout National Library Week Campaing for Wisconsin Libraries Hall of Fame 2017 Klaus Linderfelt Council on Library and Network Development Library e Ruby Roeder cam books-by-mail WLA 125 background Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians WLA 125 Edward Asahel Birge Uncategorized Eratus Swift Wilcox Wisconsin Rapids Anniversaries Events & Meetings State Law Library Marketing-Publicity Wisconsin Federation of Women's Clubs trav Hall of Fame 2018 COLAND Gerald A. Somers UW-Madison school of library and information studies William J. Wilson Gilbert H. Doane Postcards 11 Sandra Friedman Dolnick archives Special libraries Manitowoc Public Library Cam Events traveling libraries Wisconsin Library Heritage Center Matthew S. Dudgeon Wisconsin State Normal School-Milwaukee Hall of Fame 2015 Library Buildings library legislation Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Helen Adams Dorothea M. Krause Gertrude Thurow Hall of Fame 2012 Richard E. Krug Wisconsin Library Bulletin Evansville Wisconsin Milwaukee Art Museum Lowell W. Wilson Parcel post Hall of Fame 2019 bookworm campaign Sarah Janice Kee Lutie Eugenia Stearns caly film Academic Librarians bed and breakfast Wisconsin State Law Library Rusk County Community Library Library Buidlings Anniversaries Clarence Brown Lester Hall fo Fame 2012 Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Hall of Fame 2008 14 WAAL American Library Association Library War Service John Miller Chancellor Black River Falls Bob Bochfer Soughton Public Library Nancy Marshall Robert Bocher Wisconsin Literary Travel Guide Publications Hall of Fame 2016 ca World War I Wilbur Lyle Eberhart Ice Storm Exhibits J. D. Witter Milwaukee Public Library Hall of Fame 2011 membership libraries Library celebrations Buttons Madison Public Library Dick Sorensen John J. Jax School of Library and Information Studies state historical society Portage Public Library Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Campaign Hall of Fame 2010 Marjorie Sornson Malmberg Appleton Public Library presentations Wisconsin Free Library Commission Library Artifacts Campaign Meter mail slogans School libraries Hall of Fame 2009 Capitol Fire 1904 library memorabilia Public libraries Carl Spitzweg Bookmobiles campaign Events & Meetings Library Systems 24 Bernard Schwab McMillan Memorial Library Pewaukee Public Library Suring Area Public Library campaign Eager Free Public Library CCBC Peter G. Hamon Centennial Wisconsin Free Library Commission Elroy Public Library Hartford Public Library Katharine MacDonald Jones Hall of Fame 2018 Dick Sorensen 28 Beloit Public Library Brown Deer Public Library Beaver Dam Public Library Woman's Congress White House Conference on Library and Information Services Hall of Fame 2014 Library History Delia Ovitz Jerome P. Daniels Clinton Public Library Library Trustees Brown Deer Public Library Historical Register Digital Collections Hall of Fame 2015 Postcards S. Janice Kee Hall of Fame 2015 Oshkosh Public Library Library People Hall of Fame 2012 Louise S. Robbins Association of Library Trustees Advocates and Friends Academic Libraries Carnegie libraries National Bookmobile Day WLA 125 Cornelia Marving Pierce Public libraries Hall of Fame 2012 Milwaukee Public Library WLA 125 Campaign for Wisconsin Libraries Dianne McAfee Hopkins buil Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library Public library systems library education 20 Hall Hall of Fame 2013 Middleton Public Library Governor's Conference on Library and Information Services WHCLIS 23 caly film Black River Falls Public Library Richard J. Sorensen Hall of Fame 2015 campa Jane K. Billings Campaign Library people Postcards Brown County Library

Wisconsin Library Association Foundation Logo