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Dexheimer, Florence Chambers, 1866-1925 / Sketches of Wisconsin pioneer women
([1924?] )

West, Georgia A.
Mary Ann Olcott,   pp. 11-13 PDF (617.2 KB)

Page 12

    In 1870 and 1871 Miss Olcott assisted her sister in
managing a library which had been started by a stock
company two years previously. It had run out of funds
and the books had been moved to a room in the office of
Judge Cleveland which he had offered free of rent. How
to keep the library open without funds was a problem
but in 1872 Miss Olcott took entire charge of the library
and in various ways she kept it going raising a little
money through monthly fees and book rentals till in 1875
it was burned with the whole business section of Oshkosh.
Everyone was lamenting the library when it was found
Miss Olcott through her wonderful foresightedness had
insured the books for $1300 the previous year.
    Miss Olcott invested the whole sum in books and
opened the library at her home. She maintained it there
for three months, then moved it first to one store build-
ing then another, till she was finally allowed to place it
in a room in the post office building. Here it remained
till 1891 during which period Miss Olcott paid the rent
from revenues received from book rentals, bought coal,
wood, and gas and was her own janitor. Miss Olcott
mothered the library as she would a child, it seemed her
one ambition to keep the library open and to keep im-
proving it. She served the public faithfully, was sup-
posed to receive a monthly salary of $10 but for four
years of that time she did not receive anything. When
she was obliged to move from the post office building
Miss Olcott packed the books and stored them for five
years. In 1896 she was given a space in the City Hall
and opened a free library which she maintained till 1900.
Miss Olcott was the sole librarian from 1872 till 1900,
twenty-eight years. Then as the result of her efforts a
library building was built. She had persuaded Mr. and
Mrs. Harris, well-to-do people of Oshkosh, to bequeath
their property to the city for a library. This they were
willing to do as their daughter who had recently died
had taken so much pleasure in Miss Olcott's library. The
$75,000 which they left was to be increased by an equal

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