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.

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Governor Doty's Public Library (WLA 125)

Posted by Larry Nix
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doty-72One of Wisconsin's earliest and most unusual libraries was that of Territorial Governor James Duane Doty (1799-1865). While serving as Territorial Governor (1841-1844) in Madison, Doty made his own personal library of about 500 volumes available for use by the general public. Colonel George W. Bird writing in the August 1907 issue of the Wisconsin Library Bulletin described the library. He noted that there were only two regulations for its use, and these were:
"1. Any white resident between the lakes, the Catfish and the westerly hills, his wife and children, may have the privileges of this library so long as they do not soil or injure the books, and properly return them.
2. Any such resident, his wife or children, may take from the library one book at a time and retain it not to exceed two weeks, and then return it, and on failue to return promptly, he or she shall be considered, and published as an outcast in the community."
Obviously the restriction to "any white resident" was considerably less than praiseworthy,but allowing access by children was noteworthy. The image of Governor Doty is image #2617 in the Wisconsin Historical Society's Digital Collections.
Originally posted on July 15, 2009


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