January 7, 2018

Arizona's First Carnegie Library

One cannot tell the story of Arizona's first Carnegie library without telling of the organization that birthed it. It was a group of Prescott pioneer women who became known as The Monday Club.

Throughout its history, The Monday Club has strived to make Prescott a better, more civilized place to live. However, the creation of Prescott's public library must be their crowned jewel.

"The Women's Club of Prescott was founded by a group of progressive pioneer women in 1895. Some of its members had also been active in the Prescott History Club and the Prescott Chautauqua Circle.

The first meeting was held in the home of Miss Florence Gould, who managed a rooming house in Prescott. Thirty women were present." Mrs. Tritle was elected President and Miss Gould Secretary.

Mrs. Tritle was the wife of Arizona's 5th Territorial Governor. "She was a charming, gracious woman and so well liked that she was re-elected four times, serving 5 one-year terms from 1895-1899 and again in 1901.

"After a very short time there was much dissatisfaction with the name 'Women's Club', fearing they might be classed as suffragettes. So by a majority vote the name was changed to "The Monday Club".

The true story of the first chautauqua ever held in Prescott, AZ in June, 1912. Also included is a brief description of the chautauqua movement.

At once the Club became an important influence in the community. These first members "were well-educated; some college graduates, from cultural backgrounds in established eastern cities--now transplanted to a western frontier town with muddy, unpaved streets, cowboys, Indians, rural schools and a primitive lifestyle.

One of their first successes was to persuade the city to pass an ordinance prohibiting spitting on sidewalks "in the interest of sanitation and cleanliness." However, bringing Prescott a library would be far more involved.

Membership grew and the first to donate books to the cause were the 79 club members themselves; each "donating one or more books from private collections."

The next step was to perform a live "entertainment, inviting the public with admission being one or more books. 400 books were donated" that evening.

That was enough to open a library in the basement of The Bank of Arizona building. "This small library was supported by membership dues, donations, and other contributions." A library board was established to handle logistics.

All went well until the Great Fire of 1900, when the housing bank building was one of the many downtown casualties. Fortunately, the Monday Club was foresighted enough to have fire insurance "and collected $1800 for their lost books."

The complete story of the lost and forgotten history of the Yavapai County Courthouse and its construction in Prescott, AZ.

The club took the loss as an opportunity to create a new, better, stand-alone facility. "In 1899, Julia Goldwater...wrote to Andrew Carnegie, requesting funds to open a free public library. The Carnegie Foundation pledged $4,000 and stipulated that the remaining funds be donated by the community."

This was no small task. Back then, this was 2000 times higher than an average daily working wage. One Monday member wrote: "To earn this amount of money, by this small group, in this small frontier community was a real challenge!"

The undaunted women stormed ahead with great vigor. Money was raised "with teas, entertainments, lectures and dances." Husbands were drafted into the service; shaking-down Whiskey Row patrons for donations. This went on for three years until, finally, a total of $6000 was raised locally giving the library a sizable $10,000 budget.

"Built in the Classical Revival style of brick and stone, the library was located in the heart of downtown Prescott, at the corner of Gurley and Marina Streets.

On November 24, 1903 the new library was opened. It served as the Prescott Public Library until 1974," but now houses business offices. The old Carnegie Library building was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

It's a lasting reminder of how a group of cultured, pioneer women gave birth to Prescott's library.

Tourist Tips:

The current Prescott Public Library is located in the downtown area at 215 E. Goodwin St. and offers many programs and events.
CLICK HERE for The Prescott Public Library Website and click on the "Calendar" Tab to check on events there during your visit!


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Monday Club History 1895-1990 by Opal Gipson. Self Published (A bound manuscript). Available at the Prescott Public Library. Pages 1-3.

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