1883 - 1983 The First Century

1883 - 1983 THE FIRST CENTURY 
A Centennial History of Ames Free Library of Easton, Inc. 1883-1983

"In a library, you deal with the stuff out of which eternity is made - the garnered best that mortals have thought and hoped, preserved in words of force and beauty."
-Mary Lavinia Lamprey upon the occassion of her fiftieth anniversary as Librarian at Ames Free Library, September 1941.



It was Saturday, March 10, 1883 - opening day at Ames Free Library of Easton, Inc.

The new library, a gift to the town by Oliver Ames, industrialist, railroad builder and leading citizen of North Easton, Massachusetts, rose from its hilltop location in the form of a small castle. Henry Hobson Richardson, the famous architect, had positioned it at the rise of the hill off Main Street. With the adjacent Oakes Ames Memorial Hall, which Richardson had built in 1881 in honor of Oliver Ames's older brother, it was the central point of North Easton. Old photographs show the two imposing buildings, as yet without the surrounding tall trees, as monuments of native granite, rising tall into the sky.

In 1883, Easton by the standards of the day was a busy, flourishing place with a population that had increased from 1,756 in 1830 to almost 4,000 fifty years later. The town consisted of four districts: North and South Easton, Easton Furnace and Eastondale. Each neighborhood had streets of neat cottages, homesteads and garden plots plus a variety of industries that gave the town more life and bustle than was usually found in a New England village. These included the Ames Shovel and Tool Company in North Easton; a gristmill, machine shops and a wheelwright's shop in South Easton; and foundries and a carriage factory in Easton Furnace.

The Ames Shovel Works in the 80 years since its founding in 1803 had become the largest firm of its kind in the world. Almost a part of American history, it had manufactured tools for such major events as the War of 1812, the Gold Rush of 1849, the movement of prairie schooners across the country, the building of the transcontinental railraod, and the Civil War, when swords as well as shovels were produced.

Opening day at Ames Free Library was like any other, without fanfare and ceremony. According to the Rules and Regulations of 1883, any resident of Easton "over fourteen years of age" could be a borrower, but only a single book could be taken out at a time, "unless the work is in more than one volume, in which case, two may be taken."

The first book of Ames Free Library Statistics gives a picture of what the library meant to the town from the very beginning. During opening month of March 1883, 1,643 books went into circulation - a very large figure for a town with a population of 4,000. In Victorian times, novels were considered frivolous; so the two largest categories read by the first borrowers were listed in the record book as "Juvenile Reading" and "Prose Fiction." Later generations would call them novels.

A quotation from the 1882 Annual Report of the School Committee of tire Town shows the appreciation that was felt for the gift of a public library: - "We desire to call attention to this library, soon to be opened, as an important auxiliary in the education of our children. Not only will teachers find therein a good collection of books that will assist them in perfecting themselves in the true theory and art of teaching but they will also be able to suggest good reading to the children and may do much, if they will, to cultivate in them a pure and rational literary taste."


Oliver Ames, donor of Ames Free Library, was a man of many facets. During his 70 years, he held a number of positions, first as a leading manufacturer, and, later, as a railroad builder and official, a financier and banker, and a statesman.

His father, "Old Oliver", having served an apprenticeship as iron- worker under his brother David, superintendent of the Springfield Arsenal, first worked in Plymouth as a blacksmith and then operated a shovel shop in Bridgewater. In 1803, needing more power and space for the works, he borrowed money from his brother and moved his shop from Bridgewater to North Easton, where water power was plentiful. Some 40 years later, around 1844, he reorganized his flourishing business as Oliver Ames & Sons and turned it over to his sons Oakes and Oliver.

The shovel shop continued to prosper under the two brothers, even- tually becoming the largest establishment of its kind. By the 1850's, Oliver Ames, the second son of "Old Oliver," now free to participate in politics, was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1852 and in 1857. With his brother Oakes, who had been requested to "take hold of the Union Pacific Railroad" by President Lincoln, he took a leading role in the building of the transcontinental railroad. He served as its acting president from 1866 to 1868 and as formal president from 1868 to 1871.

After the death of Oakes Ames on 1873, Oliver Ames, becames the head of the shovel works. A long-time resident of North Easton, he par- ticipated in many local and area affairs. He was vice-president of the Massachusetts Total Abstinence Society, trustee of Taunton Insane Asylum, and, although a Unitarian by belief, he gave a church to the Methodists of Easton. He was the donor of Unity Church in 1875, and with his brother Oakes, donated the site of the 1st Catholic church in North Easton in 1850.

Before the establishment of Ames Free Library, Oliver Ames, was a member of several of the social or subscription libraries that were organized in town as forerunners of the town's public library. In 1823 he joined the second Library Association in Easton that offered such reading fare as Bacon's Essays and Plutarch's Lives. He was a shareholder and a member of the standing committee of the Methodist Social Library from 1831 until its demise in 1837. Then in the 1860's he was president of the Agricultural Library, which contained a collection of 135 volumes on the various branches of agriculture, particularly horse and cattle breeding.

After his death on March 9, 1877, Oliver Ames left generous bequests to Easton that included a fund for the schools of Easton, thus insuring a better education for generations of young people to come, as well as a fund for the improvement of local roads. Both funds are still in force and continue to make important contributions to the town's well-being.

Most important of all, Oliver Ames left, as his will states, "a sum of fifty thousand dollars for the construction of a library building and the support of a library for the benefit of the inhabitants of the town of Easton."

The building was to be relocated “in school district No. 7” in Easton and directions for financing were explicit. "Not more than twenty-five thousand dollars of the above sum of fifty thousand dollars shall be expended on the purchase of the land and in erecting the library building, and ten thousand dollars only shall be in the first place expended for books, maps, and furniture of the library; and the remaining fifteen thousand dollars shall constitute a permanent fund to be invested in stock of the Old Colony Railroad Company, the income of which shall be devoted to increasing the library and keeping the building and its appurtenances and contents in repair."

Thus the Ames Free Library Came into being.


In the autumn of 1877, Frederick Lothrop Ames and Helen Angier Ames began to carry out their father's bequest of building a library that would be a "private institution not owned by the town, but held in trust for the public."

Their choice of an architect was Henry Hobson Richardson, a relatively young man of thirty - nine just rising to the top of his profession, who had won the competition for Trinity Church in Boston. Both Frederick Lothrop Ames and Richardson were Harvard graduates, in the classes of 1855 and 1859 respectively, and the two soon became close friends, with Ames acting as the architect's patron on a number of occasions. Greatly involved with horticulture, he was impressed by Richardson's association with Frederick Law Olmsted, America's leading landscape designer. He was also influenced by the tact that Richardson was working on another memorial library in Woburn at the time. So the commission to build Ames Free Library was given to Richardson in September of 1877.

Henry Hobson Richardson, considered by critics to be the greatest American architect of his generation, studied at Harvard in the class of 1859 and later at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Returning to the United States in 1865, he received his first commission, the building of Unity Church in Springfield, that same year. By the early 1870's, with the design of Trinity Church in Boston, Richardson had developed his own characteristic style of architecture, based on the massive stone structures of the Romanesque period in 10th and llth century France and Spain, when many of the great|castles and cathedrals were built.

Ames free Library, constructed by the firm of Norcross and Company of Worcester, is one of the very fine examples of Richardson’s art. The robust stone building of light brown Milford granite with trim of reddish sandstone gives the illusion of massiveness without being overly large and is in gracious proportion to its setting of lawns and shrubbery. Earth colors prevail in the exterior, with a roof of red-orange tile for contrast, and as in other Richardson buildings, there is an entrance arch, positioned to one side rather than in the center. Indications of the architect's whimsical humor are shown by the use of decorative motifs that include birds, fish, flowers, corner gargoyles and hoop-snakes on the drain pipes.

The interior of the library has a charming intimacy that is in direct contrast to the rough-hewn outer walls. Polished butternut wood gleams in the stack area to the left of the entrance room, and the richness of black walnut gives the reading room an air of quiet elegance.

Originally, the book stack room was separated from the rest of the library by a beautifully carved wooden screen and a desk for the librarian, both constituting a barrier to the public, since it was the accepted practice in those days to deny library users access to the book stacks. The ground floor beyond the screen consisted of study alcoves with tables placed down the center aisle, though this arrangement would also be changed in later years. A balcony extends around all four sides, and, soaring above the stacks, is a rare, barrel-type ceiling with apple-wood strappings. The beautiful and delicate wood carvings throughout the building, including the typical spindle-design of the balcony posts, are worthy of note.

The reading room with its panels of dark walnut, located on the opposite side of the entrance area, is dominated by a large brownstone fireplace on the north wall, which is the work of Stanford White. In its center is a bas relief of Oliver Ames, the donor, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Several pieces of unconventional furniture in this room were designed by Richardson and provide interesting conversation pieces. They include a huge easy chair with squat legs and three large tables with substantial, carved underpinnings, all of them having the look of giants' furniture. Perhaps this is not strange, as Richardson was a giant of a man.

According to Mariana Van Rensselaer, Richardson's early biographer, the library building was completed in 1879 but it did not open until 1883 – 4 years later. Possible overruns in costs have been suggested as a reason for the delay, since final expenses are estimated to have risen to $80,000, Sarah Lothrop Ames, Oliver Ames' widow, made a contribution of $40,000 to the permanent library fund, and Ames Free Library opened its doors on March 10, 1883.


The first step toward opening the new library was taken on February 17, 1883, when the Unitarian Society of North Easton held a meeting to carry out the condition laid down in Oliver Ames' will that this organization appoint the Board Members of the Ames Free Library. A Board of five directors was named, the appointees including: Frederick Lothrop Ames, William L. Chaffin, Lincoln S. Drake, Cyrus Lothrop and George W. Kennedy.

Prior to their first meeting, the library directors took steps to have an Act of Incorporation passed by the Massachusetts Legislature that would make Ames Free Library one of the few incorporated libraries in the state. House Bill No. 157 was reported from the House of Representatives on March 8, 1883. The terms of the Act, quoted here in part, are as follows: "Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows: 1. Section 1. Frederick L. Ames, Cyrus Lothrop, William L. Chaffin, George W. Kennedy and Lincoln S. Drake, trustees under the will of Oliver Ames, deceased, and holding property, real and personal, under said will, for the purpose of maintaining a free public library in the town of Easton, and their successors in said trust, are hereby made a corporation, under the name of the Ames Free Library of Easton ..."

On Tuesday, February 20, 1883, at 4 p.m., the Board of Directors held their organization meeting at the library, electing Frederick Lothrop Ames, president, William Chaffin, secretary and George W. Kennedy, treasurer. According to the bylaws they set up, they would meet the second Monday of each month at 4 p.m. and have their annual meeting in June, though these dates would be subject to change in later years. Selection of a librarian being the first order of business, the Board voted to have the president "consult with C. R. Ballard concerning the terms under which he would become librarian."

Three days later, on February 23, 1883, the Board met again and, according to the minutes of that meeting, voted "to offer Mr. Ballard a salary of $900 and rent of the apartment in the building, with the understanding that he should take charge of all the work of librarian and janitor, except only the gardening work of the grounds." At another meeting five days later, on February 28, Mr. Ames reported Ballard's acceptance and the Board voted to appoint him to the position of librarian. They also voted that "while Miss Harriet H. Ames remains here, the librarian shall act under her direction," Miss Ames being a sister of the donor.

Born in Tinmouth, Vermont, in 1827, Charles R. Ballard was 56 years old when he became librarian. No longer a young man, he had had many years of experience as an educator, having received his training at Castleton Seminary, Vermont, and at the University of Vermont in Burlington. He had served as principal of several academies, normal and high schools, for the most part, in his native Vermont. In 1871, he left Woodstock High School, also in that state, to accept the position of principal at Easton High School. Continuing in this post for six years, he resigned from the public school system in 1877 and instructed private pupils.

Although Ballard received a formal appointment as Ames Free Librarian on February 28, 1883, Chaffin, in his History of The Town of Easton, Massachusetts, writes that he began work on March 15, 1880. Since the Board did not consider any other candidates, it is quite possible that Ballard was hired on an informal basis on the earlier date so that he could purchase the 10,000 new books that were on the shelves on opening day, catalog them, and prepare for the library's opening in many other ways.

The first schedule of 36 opening hours a week was most liberal for those times. The library was open every day from 2 to 6 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m., Sundays and holidays excepted.

Book arrangement in those years before modern classification systems, was by subject, with 19 "departments" shelved in 14 alcoves. Some of the categories, such as Description and Travel, Biography and History, would be familiar to present-day users, but such classes as Public Documents and the odd combination of Philosophy, Sociology & Law seem most peculiar. In those days, black covers were put on the books to protect them, and, at the end of each month, the librarian kept a record of "the number of books covered."

The concept of a card catalog had not yet been devised, but the library was fortunate in having the latest thing in a book catalogue (with the old- fashioned spelling, it will be noted). The Catalogue of Ames Free Library, North Easton, Massachusetts, compiled by Miss Harriet H. Ames, and printed in 1883 by the Franklin Press in Boston, consisted of four handsome volumes bound in scarlet leather. Kept to date by bound Bulletins 1-3, to January 1, 1892, this Catalogue was much in demand. The Minutes of the Ames Free Library Board meeting on November 13, 1883, record the fact that the "Watertown, Nantucket libraries, the Dyer Library of Saco, Maine, were permitted to have catalogues sent to them," as requested. At the meeting on May 10, the Board voted to send a copy to Gloucester, also by request.

Library users who wanted a book shelved in the alcoves had to write an application on a "Hall Slip," and the librarian would then get it. This formal procedure was necessary because of the unbreakable library rule that said: "No person, except the librarian, assistant, or a trustee shall enter an alcove or take any book from the shelves without special permission." Since all libraries operated this way, borrowers accepted the restriction as a matter of course.

Charles R. Ballard proved to be an able librarian according to the standards of his day, but he did not have a long stay at the library. Only eight years later, on September 30, 1891, he submitted his resignation to the Board, to be effective November 1, 1891. The Library Minutes do not give the reason for his going, but, in a speech made many years later, in 1941, Mrs. Mary Ames Frothingham, then President of the Board, said that increasing deafness had forced him to resign.

At the same meeting of September 30, when Ballard submitted his resignation, the Board voted "to appoint Miss Mary L. Lamprey as librarian with a salary of $900, it being understood that she was entitled to the use of the tenement and that her father would perform or supervise the needed janitor work."


Born in Knoxville, Iowa on April 29, 1870, Mary Lavinia Lamprey came to North Easton at the age of seven. The daughter of Maitland C. Lamprey, who was the principal of Easton High School, she was in her third year at Boston University when the Board of Directors offered her the librarianship at Ames Free Library on the recommendation of Frederick Lothrop Ames. She accepted the position, and, although her only training was a month's instruction from Mr. Ballard, she carried out her duties capably from the beginning.

In 1893, upon the death of Frederick Lothrop Ames, his son Oliver was appointed to the Board and, later, elected to its presidency. Several changes were then made at the library, the first, in 1894, being the enlargement of the shelving areas, as book accessions had increased to the point of overcrowding. The firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge was asked to submit plans and the solution of the problem was to build shelves against the south end of the book room. If crowded conditions still prevailed, it was suggested that book stacks be placed along its center. At this time, some of the reference books were removed to the reading room and constituted the nucleus of the reference collection as we know it today.

The next change on the Board came in 1900, when Miss Mary S. Ames, later to be Mrs. Louis A. Frothingham, replaced Lincoln S. Drake, who had resigned. She proved to be a most progressive trustee, serving as President from 1929 to 1955. When the subject of a card catalog, a very recent development in the library world that would replace the cumbersome book catalogue, came up, Miss Ames volunteered to buv one for the library, and her offer was gratefully accepted by the Board.

Among the gifts provided through Miss Ames' generosity in the next few years were shrubbery and other adornment of the library grounds, the addition of fire extinguishers and a fire escape, screens for the balcony and the sets of stereoscopic views of Russia and the United States that were so popular at the time.

On July 13, 1903, the Board started the practice of sending book deposits to the schools, voting that "a number of books, not exceeding 20 each, be allowed to teachers of the public schools." Special wooden carriers with handles were obtained to hold the books, and, in these days before the school libraries, Ames Free Library books proved to be valuable supplements to school texts. On January 12, 1910, Miss Lamprey reported that 1,020 books had circulated in the schools, and the Library Minutes record that these were "especially welcome and useful in the outlying districts."

Innovations and changes continued. At the Board meeting on April 25, 1905, a report on typewriters, written by Miss Lamprey, was read by the Board and Secretary William L. Chaffin was authorized to purchase one. Thus the era of hand-written cards, for which librarians were trained to use a special library script which conserved space, came to an end, and Ames Free Library was one step nearer to the modern age. A few years later, in 1907, the first electric wiring was introduced when the trustees voted "to employ Master Winthrop Jones to provide electric lights for the library stairway."

In this same year with the increase of the Swedish population, it was decided to add 20 books in that language and to subscribe to a Swedish newspaper, all of which were greatly appreciated.

There was one area where the trustees were not so progressive in their outlook. When the subject of having a telephone installed was brought up at the meeting on October 19, 1908, they came to the conclusion that "it was not essential." Nine years later, the matter coming up again on April 7, 1917, the Board decided that they saw "no real need of a telephone for library use, but they do not object to the librarian's putting one into the building at her own expense for her private use — in which case, they should be informed of it, as they would order how and where the wires should run." On January 21, 1930, Edward M. Carr, who had followed William L. Chaffin as secretary, was finally given the go-ahead "to look into the question of a telephone."

In World War I, libraries took on the task of providing books for the use of soldiers in military camps. When the call came, the trustees voted to give $25 (then a substantial sum) to these soldiers' libraries, and Miss Lamprey reported to them on the success of the book campaign at Ames Free Library.

"The war campaign," she wrote, "was carried on vigorously in the library by the large gifts of two of your (the Board's) number and generous gifts by many other people so that we were able to more than double our quota, sending in $535 instead of the $250 called for. We also collected 200 very presentable books and six large boxes of magazines, half of which were sent to Camp Devens and half to the Boston Public Library, thence to be distributed to other camps and training ships.

The Library Minutes give an interesting picture of the aftermath of the war in Easton. It is recorded under January 11, 1919 that: "The librarian reported a decline in circulation for the year, the main cause of which was that, whereas the library is usually open 290 days, it was open last year only 264 days on account of the severe cold weather, the influenza, etc. The various Red Cross activities decreased the reading of the women."

With the return of peace. Miss Lamprey turned her attention to regular library matters once more. By 1923, the old system of book arrangement having proved inadequate, she suggested that the books be re-numbered according to the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme, which most public libraries were now using. This was an enormous task, since numbers on all the books and on all book records had to be changed. The Board, however, realizing the advantages of the change-over, gave their permission, and Miss Lamprey carried out the project with the help of more than 70 grade-school children, who gave their time gratuitously.

The recataloging completed successfully, Ames Free Library was now a modern library, operating under standard methods.

At their meeting on January 26, 1931, the Board of Library Directors received a pleasant surprise in the form of a letter from Mrs, William Hadwen Ames, Board Member. It read:

"...I desire to present to the Trustees an addition to the library building in accordance with the sketch and plans of Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch & Abbot submitted herewith and to furnish and equip it for the use of children.

"...Such addition shall always be known as the William Hadwen Ames Memorial Room and shall be for the use and benefit of the children."

On that same day, the Board sent a reply, informing Mrs. Ames that thev had voted "to accept with deep gratitude your very generous offer to build a children's room as an addition to Ames Free Library, this room always to be called the 'William Hadwen Ames Memorial Room'."

Mrs. Fanny Holt Ames, is the widow of William Hadwen Ames, son of Governor Oliver and Mrs. Anna Coffin Ames. Appointed to the Library Board in 1929, she was elected secretary on October 20, 1949. The memorial room for her husband opened to the public November 10, 1931.

It was a Tuesday afternoon, and townspeople of all ages came to visit the new William Hadwen Ames Memorial Room. A harmonious addition to H.H. Richardson's main building, it was constructed by the architectural firm formed by the members of the famous architect's office after his death in 1886. Proportions of the room are spacious, with tall windows along its two sides and a beautiful floor-to-ceiling window at its end that overlooks the library grounds. Alcoves along the sides contain circular, glass-top tables with chairs around them and, nearby, there are window seats upholstered in red leather - "most delightful places to read", according to an article in The Easton Bulletin of Thursday, January 7, 1932. Above the entrance to the room is a tablet of English oak, more than 500 years old, carrying the inscription, "The William Hadwen Ames Memorial Room".

Delighted with the new facility for young readers, Librarian Mary L. Lamprey soon put it to good use by holding a series of story hours Saturday afternoons at four o'clock in front of the big bay window. Her first, based on the theme of Children the World Over, featured travel tales that would be of interest to children up to grade 7. Later programs included stories about Abraham Lincoln on February 12th and, a little later, North American Indian legends.

On November 10, 1981, Mrs. William Hadwen Ames celebrated the 50th anniversary of the children's room by inviting young library users to a birth- day party to commemorate the occasion. Sixty children came to enjoy a magic show and refreshments of ice-cream served by the hostess. Afterwards, the young guests wrote thank-you letters to the gracious lady who had given the town the great gift of a children's room. They were collected into an album and presented to the benefactress.

After her resignation from the Board of Directors in January 1969, Mrs. Ames, having served on the Board for 40 years as a director, 20 years as secretary, was made an honorary trustee for life. Although she no longer resides in her beautiful home at Spring Hill, North Easton, she still visits the children's room, and, each year, she makes generous contributions for its upkeep as well as for new juvenile books.


The addition of a children's room seemed to serve as impetus for other innovations at Ames Free Library, Mrs. Frothingham, concerned as always, with the preservation and upkeep of the building, had an estimate made by the firm of Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch & Abbot for re-decorating the reading and the stack rooms. The trustees agreed to have the work done, asking Mrs. John S. Ames, Sr. to look into the matter of purchasing a new circulation desk. At the meeting on July 11, 1932, Mrs. Kate L. Porter, who was now secretary, reported that a desk was being made by the Library Bureau Company.

Then something unprecedented in the history of the library happened during the summer of 1932. It closed to the public from June 20 to July 28, and, during that period, "the cage" (Miss Lamprey's high desk) was removed. Also removed was the grill between the charge room and the stack area. The high desk and grill gone, the library moved into the era of the open stack, and readers could go directly to the shelves to pick out their own books instead of filling out "Hall Slips." The balcony was still off-limits and would be, until Mrs. Irene Smith, Miss Lamprey's successor, opened it in 1944.

Many other improvements were introduced in 1932, including: the addition of an electric clock, the gift of Mrs. John S. Ames, Sr.; modification of the fireplace and renovation of the reading room in other ways, modern lighting throughout the building and refinishing the card catalog. All these changes, according to Secretary Kate L. Porter, made "a harmonious whole" of the library.

The greatest change at Ames Free Library occurred in 1944, when after 53 years ot service Mary L. Lamprey retired from the position of librarian.

Three years before, on September 30, 1941, which marked her 50th anniversary at the library. Miss Lamprey was honored by the trustees at a dinner held in the children's room. The long table was beautifully decorated by Mrs. William A. Parker, wife of William A., who served on the Board from 1929 to 1978. The list of guests included library dignitaries, local and state officials. The Board of Directors presented Miss Lamprey with a purse of $1,000 and a set of Resolutions bound in red leather. Afterwards, the group adjourned to the Frothingham Memorial where a general reception was held for the townspeople.

Mrs. Frothingham, who gave the keynote address, praised Miss Lamprey for her many achievements, saying that, during her 50 years of service, she had increased the number of library books from 13,000 to 27,500. She had given dedicated service to the schools, having taught generations of high school students how to use the library and had conducted reading clubs and study groups in foreign affairs for adults. After Mrs. William Hadwen Ames' gift of a children's room, she organized story hours, history and travel contests and classes in art and nature study for children and presented little plays with casts of youngsters.

She also organized the Garden Club of Easton and served as its first president. Librarians in other communities held her in respect, and Mrs. Frothingham entertained one hundred members of the American Library Association for her at a tea in the famous Frothingham rose gardens on June 23,1941.

The townspeople also loved and admired Miss Lamprey, although many of them felt somewhat in awe of her. A leading woman club member of Easton looking back to the library under Miss Lamprey, remarked upon how high her standards were and how hard she had worked to measure up to them. A successful North Easton man still counts it among the principal honors of his life that she allowed him to go beyond the grill and pick out books in the alcoves many years before they were opened to the public. Still others remember coming into the library as mischievous, little boys and being sent peremptorily down to Queset River to wash their hands before they handled the books.

We like best to remember Mary L. Lamprey by her definition of a library given on the occasion of her 50th anniversary celebration.

She said: "In a library you deal with the stuff out of which eternity is made - the garnered best that mortals have thought and hoped, preserved in words of force and beauty."


Mrs. Mary Frothingham, widow of Congressman Louis A. Frothingham, who died in 1928, was appointed to the Board of Directors in 1900 and served as its President from 1929 to 1955. Full of zeal and enthusiasm, she not only instituted many changes throughout the building but often paid for them out of her own pocket.

She and Mrs. William H, Ames, were given the responsibility to selecting Miss Lamprey's successor - not an easy task. Their choice was Mrs. Irene Smith, who would begin her duties on September 1, 1944. A popular and able librarian, Mrs. Smith had received her training at the City Library Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. Before coming to Easton, she was Reference Librarian at the Public Library in Hartford, Connecticut.

The decade of the forties brought World War II with its many shortages. Finding it difficult to get supplies of fuel oil, the Board decided to convert the furnace to coal. In 1943, a year before Mrs. Smith's arrival, Mrs. Frothingham informed the Board that she had purchased a boiler and a Winkler stoker. The Board proposed these "to be placed alongside the present boiler so that both be available in the future". A little later, she volunteered to assume the expense of the new boiler and stoker, and, until their installation, she loaned one of her own stoves to the library to be used for heating the reading room. In 1951, eight years later, a new oil burner was installed, the alternate coal system being retained for emergencies.

In the final year of the war, Mr. Edward Carr, the treasurer, reported that "the war damage insurance coverage was in force up to July 20, 1945. Fortunately, it was never necessary to renew it.

After the war, David Ames, Mrs. Frothingham's nephew, returning from service in the Pacific, took an interest in the library. At the request of his aunt, he contributed his services, working on the grounds and mowing the lawns. On March 26, 1946, he became her assistant "in charge of maintenance and repairs of library buildings and grounds," and was for- mallv appointed to the Board in 1949.

In 1950, Mrs. Frothingham attained her 50th year of service on the Board, and, on April 11th, Mrs. William Hadwen Ames, the secretary, read a letter signed by 1700-1800 people addressed to her in honor of the occasion. It ran: "The fiftieth anniversary of your becoming a trustee of the Ames Free Library offers to us, your fellow townspeople and users of the library, the opportunity to express our appreciation of the benefits derived from your good citizenship by all of us in our beloved community."

After Mrs. Frothingham's death in 1955, Mrs. John S. Ames, Sr., presented her portrait painted by Lazlo to the library. It now hangs in the reading room and depicts a handsome and aristocratic lady who directed library policies efficiently and wisely for half a century.


On June 6, 1955, David Ames was unanimously elected to the presidency of the Board left vacant by Mrs. Frothingham's death. In the six years since 1949, when he became a Board member, he had introduced many innovations throughout the building. Its care and upkeep continues to be one of his priorities.

The most important action taken at this time was the complete replacement of the roof of the main building with tiles that were especially made to duplicate the originals. In 1955, the basement room was renovated, new steel racks for shelving books were added and, later, a dehumidifier was introduced to preserve volumes of permanent value. A modern system of fluorescent lighting was put into the entrance room, the reading room, the vestibule to the children's room as well. Special fluorescent fixtures were devised for the stack area with its high-vaulted ceiling.

There were several changes of librarians in the following decades. After twelve years at Ames Free Library, Mrs. Irene Smith submitted her resignation in 1956, having accepted the position of librarian at Nantucket Atheneum, the Board appointed Miss Irene Poirier, who had served as librarian at the Lenox Library Association, also a privately endowed institution, as Mrs. Smith's successor. A capable librarian serving the interests of the library and community with dedication. Miss Poirier upheld high library standards. Active in her profession, she served as president of the Old Colony Library Club and was a member of a number of Massachusetts Library Association committees.

After Miss Poirier left in 1968, the library was fortunate in obtaining the services of Mrs. Minnie B. Figmic, who had extensive experience in the Duxbury Library. Despire her physical limitations, she rendered excellent and dependable service. A new and more accurate book charging system was installed at the library under Mrs. Figmic's direction, wherein library books were charged to borrowers' card numbers instead of to their names.

In 1976, the library was again fortunate in obtaining the services of Miss Margaret M. Meade as librarian. Miss Meade received her training at Bridgewater State College and her library degree from the University of Rhode Island. She had served in the Brockton Public Library for 36 years, holding the positions of Head Cataloger and Assistant to the Head Librarian. Her contributions to the library have been the reorganization of the book collection with the addition of new shelving in the basement, carrying out an efficient policy of book discards, standardization of cataloging methods and writing newspaper columns that have contributed to good public relations. She was invaluable in compiling and researching this history.

Until 1972, financial support of the library was provided entirely by private funds, but in that year, the Board of Directors decided to apply for state aid, feeling that the town should benefit by the state's largesse. In order to qualify for state aid, the town voted an annual appropriation of $1,000 to the library.

In 1977, the town increased its appropriation so that summer hours could be increased from 14 to 28, and in 1979, winter hours were lengthened from 40 to 44. By 1982, the population of Easton having risen to 16,623, the library complied with state standards and implemented a 50-hour a week opening, as required.

As of 1982, the financial report showed $82,000 from endowment, $10,000 fron the town of Easton, and $8,300 from the state of Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, several changes in library government had been made. In 1977, Ames Free Library reorganized as a corporation rather than as a charitable trust as it had been operating since 1883 under the terms of Oliver Ames' will. The trustees, no longer elected by the Unitarian Society of Easton, were designated as directors, and the chairman of the Easton Board of Selectmen was included as a Board member ex-officio.

With the onset of the energy crisis in 1979, the Board of Directors put a number of measures for conservation into operation. At the meeting of November 11, 1979, mention was made of an anticipated increase in the fuel bill for the following year, and it was voted to maintain a temperature of 65 degrees during the winter months, as required by law. Certain radiators in the downstairs work-room and stack areas were to be turned off. The large picture windows in the children's room presented a problem until Mrs. William H. Ames made a generous contribution of custom-made storm windows plus screens to be installed in this area. The minutes note that the new windows, which "kept the room warm and comfortable all winter" and lowered the fuel consumption as well, were greatly appreciated by the Board, the staff, and the library patrons.

As H. H. Richardson's reputation increased over the years, Ames Free Library attracted wide attention as an example of his architecture. Each year, students of architecture from many colleges and universities come to study it, and it is included in the itineraries of tour groups. Visitors signing the guest book come from all parts of the United States as well as from abroad. In spite of its prominence in the world of architecture, the building is a public library in function and intent, not a museum. It continues to carry out the original purpose of its donor of bringing the world of books to the people of Easton.

Circulation statistics measure how successful the library has been in reaching the people of Fasten. In 1883, the opening year, 17,366 books went into circulation, 4,401 of them "Juvenile reading." The most recent count taken June 30, 1983 shows that 66,338 books were borrowed during 1982-83, 35,942 from the adult section and 30,396 from the William Hadwen Ames Memorial Room (or juvenile section). From the beginning, a comprehensive collection of reading materials was available to library users. The earliest statement of holdings, taken in 1884, showed a total of 10,646 volumes, while the current total has increased to 48,527.

The library history would be incomplete without mention of the indispensible services of the staff, whose support, ability and cooperation across one hundred years has made possible the services of the library to the community.

People are the greatest resource of any public library, and Ames Free Library has been more than fortunate in this respect. Generations of children have grown up at the library, and adults from all walks of life have come through the wide front doors in search of entertainment and knowledge. Over the years there has been an unending line of dedicated board members, some of them giving almost a lifetime of service.

The following achieved longevity records:

34 years - David Ames, Board member (1949- ), President (1955- ) 39 years - Rev. William L. Chaffin, Board member (1883-1922) and Secretary (1883-1922) 40 years - Mrs. William Hadwen Ames, Board member (1929-1969) and Secretary (1949-1969) 45 years - Edward Carr, Board member (1922-1967) and Treasurer (1929-1967) 49 years - William A. Parker, Board member (1929-1978) 53 years - Mary L. Lamprey, Librarian (1891-1944) 55 years - Mary Ames Frothingham, Board member (1900-1955) and President (1929-1955)

Board members in office during the centennial year are as follows: David Ames, President; Douglas D. Porter, Treasurer; Elizabeth M. Ames, Clerk; Esther C. Anderson; William M. Ames; and Leo R. Harlow, member ex- officio and Chairman of the Easton Board of Selectmen.

At the close of this first century in the continuing history of Ames Free Library of Easton, Inc., its dedicated trustees look forward to a future of even greater use of the library and even closer ties with the community.

PRESIDENTS Frederick L. Ames 1883-1893 Cyrus Lothrop 1893-1912 Oliver Ames 1912-1929 Mary Ames Frothingham 1929-1955 David Ames 1955-

SECRETARIES Rev. William L. Chaffin 1883-1922 (April) Rev. Fred R. Lewis 1922-June & July Edward M. Carr 1923-1929 Mrs. Robert B. Porter 1929-1937 Gilman H. Campbell 1937-1949 Mrs. William H. Ames 1949-1969 Mrs. John S. Ames 111 1969-1976 Mrs. David Ames 1976-

TREASURERS George W. Kennedy 1883-1910 George C. Barrows 1910-1929 Edward M. Carr 1929-1967 Douglas D. Porter 1967 -

DIRECTORS Frederick L, Ames1883-1893 Oliver Ames1893-1929 William A. Parker1929-1978 William M. Ames1978- Rev. William L. Chaffin1883-1922 Edward M. Carr1922-1967 Douglas D. Porter1967- Cyrus Lothrop1883-1912 Frederick Porter1912-1919 Rev. Fred R. Lewis1919-1925 Mrs. Robert Porter1925-1937 Gilman H. Campbell1937-1949 David Ames1949- Lincoln S. Drake1883-1900 Mary S. Ames (Mrs. Louis A. Frothingham)1900-1955 Mrs. John S. Ames, Jr.1956-1958 Mrs. David Ames1958- GeorgeW. Kennedy1883-1910 George C. Barrows1910-1929 Mrs. William H. Ames1929-1969 Mrs. JohnS. Ames III1969-1976 Miss Esther C. Andersen1977-

LIBRARIANS Charles R. Ballard1883-1891 Miss Mary L. Lamprey1891-1944 Mrs. Irene Smith1944-195(, Miss Irene M. Poirier1956-1968 Mrs. Minnie B. Figmic1968-1973 Charles Huelsbeck1973-1974 Miss M. Joyce Davidson1974-1976 Miss Margaret M. Meade1976-

Serving Ex-efficio on the Board of Directors during term of officeas Chairman of Board of Selectmen.

Donald E. Andersen 1977-1980 Richard Martin 1981-1982 Lawrence M. Douglas 1982-1983 Leo R. Harlow1983-

Staff of 1983 (Publication of Book)