Ladies Library Association revives Seattle's library in 1888.

  • By Staff
  • Posted 1/01/1999
  • Essay 1940
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In 1888, Seattle women organize the Ladies Library Association and revive the Seattle Public Library, which had apparently fallen inactive. The Association is organized at the home of Babette (Schwabacher) Gatzert (wife of Bailey Gatzert) at 3rd Avenue and Cherry Street. Seattle Post-Intelligencer owner L. S. J. Hunt and his wife give considerable assistance. Henry Yesler (1810-1892) donates a lot for the library, perhaps in memory of Seattle's first librarian, his recently deceased wife Sarah Yesler (1822-1887).

Another activist in the library's revival was its recording secretary, Mrs. Adelaide Heilbron. Her father W. H. Piper had owned Boston's famous W. H. Piper Bookstore, where the mainguard of nineteenth century American literature mingled -- Whittier, Lowell, Holmes, Longfellow, and Hawthorne. Young Adelaide grew up at their side absorbing their wit and erudition.

With Mrs. J. T. Haines, the principal arbiter of Seattle's increasingly urbane late-century fashions, and others, Adelaide Heilbron raised thousands of dollars for the association with all-night balls, cruises to Victoria, and direct solicitations.

The city's Great Fire of 1889 delayed the opening of the Association's library until April 1891, when a reading room was engaged on the fifth floor of the flat-iron Occidental Block facing Pioneer Square. The circulation department started later that year. In 1893, the library printed its first catalogue of books.


Paul Dorpat with Chris Goodman, "Times and Tomes Past: A Pictorial History of the Seattle Public Library," in Magic Lantern, Galleries Library (

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