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Local History Department - Photo of the Month

Job Male Library Building, ca. early 1900s

Things sure have changed!

The Plainfield Public Library (and Reading Room) was incorporated in 1881, following a March 7th resolution by the Plainfield Common Council. On October 3, 1881, Mayor Lewis V. F. Randolph selected nine gentlemen to serve as the Library’s first Board of Directors. They were: Colonel Mason Tyler (who helped get the Library Act of 1879 to pass through the NJ Legislature), Craig A. Marsh and Walter L. Hetfield (both prominent Plainfield attorneys), John B. Dumont, Henry P. Talmadge, Jared K. Myers, Henry E. Daboll (all New York bankers), George H. Babcock (inventor and manufacturer), and John H. Evans (a New York chemical manufacturer).

The first library was created in rented rooms, formerly occupied by the Y.M.C.A., in which the librarian began to build a collection of books and periodicals. The first public librarian was J. Oakly Nodyne (see below for a list of past library directors), a local justice-of-the-peace who was paid a salary of $150 annually. By mid-1885, the Library offered a small book collection of only 178 volumes. The Library Board then solicited members of the community with fabulous response and within a year the collection grew to nearly 2,000 books.

In 1884, Job Male, a Plainfield philanthropist and the first Mayor of Plainfield, joined the Library Board. He soon offered to donate the land and a library building on the condition that others donate money and art works. The building was completed in 1886 by Job Male and donated to the Library Board of Trustees. In gratitude they named it "The Job Male Public Library, Art Gallery and Museum." The art gallery featured newly donated paintings plus temporary exhibits of other contemporary artists. The museum gallery featured natural history collections of insects, birds, and coin collections. At this time, Arthur W. Tyler, a trained librarian, was hired to organize, catalog, and maintain the collection.

In 1893, Library leader George Babcock passed away and bequeathed the sum of $10,000, as well as some local houses, to the Library for the purchase of “industrial, mechanical, and scientific books” to be designated for the creation of the “Babcock Scientific Library.” This new collection grew to such an extent that the Board, wishing to abide by Babcock’s will, planned an addition to the existing building to be erected. The addition was completed in 1900, and extended the lot up to College Place.

Click here to learn more about the Library's history.

Postcard ID C-337, part of the Chase Postcard Collection

Past Photos

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