Libraries from the End of the
Revolutionary Period through 1875
The libraries that existed during the colonial and revolutionary periods made up only a small fraction of all of those identified for this study as having been in existence before 1876. Even in the areas that had the most libraries before 1786, this condition held true: in New England, only 4.6 percent first appeared in the available records before that year; in the Middle Atlantic states, 5.1 percent; and in the South Atlantic states, 12.4. Of course, a few libraries founded before 1786 continued to exist during part or all of the later years: sixty-four libraries in New England, thirty-six in the Middle-Atlantic states, seven in the South Atlantic, and four in the Pacific.
In the areas that had few or no libraries before 1786 (that is, almost everywhere except the eastern seaboard) the differences in the number of libraries established in the various regions before 1876 indicate areas that were settled first usually had the most libraries (in Table 1.1). Americans from the Northeast and the old South first settled the Middle West, and people from the old South moved into the South Central states; then, toward the end of the period in this study, Americans from the East, the South, and the Central West were beginning to join the small number of Mexicans who were already in the Far West. Events that affected the general pattern for the distribution of libraries—the panic of 1837, the gold rush, the Mormon settlement in Utah, and the Civil War, to name a few—will be mentioned later in this chapter.
Chapter 2 mentioned the difficulties in establishing the founding dates of some libraries. In chapter 3 the decisions given in chapter 2 will be followed: For each library, the year date given by what seems to be the most reliable source will be used. Table 3.1 and Figure 3.1 omit any libraries for which sources do not give year dates or are vague about them: [in the early 1820s] or [a few years before the Civil War.]