Vintage: Early Bookmobiles

Vintage: Early Bookmobiles


An early bookmobile in the United States was created in 1904 by the People’s Free Library of Chester County, South Carolina, which served rural areas with a mule-drawn wagon carrying wooden boxes of books.

Another early American bookmobile was developed by Mary Lemist Titcomb (1857–1932). As a librarian at the Washington County, Maryland Free Library, Titcomb was concerned that the library was not reaching all the people it could. The annual report for 1902 lists “23 branches”, i.e., collections of 50 books in a case placed in stores and post offices around the county. Realizing this still failed to reach all of the county’s rural residents, in 1905 the Washington County Free Library provided one of the first American book wagons to residents by taking the books directly to their homes in remote parts of the county.

Sarah Byrd Askew, a pioneering public librarian, was also an early developer of the bookmobile, driving her Ford Model T outfitted with a book collection to rural areas in New Jersey, beginning in 1920.

A very old library bookmobile of America, ca. 1900s

A very old library bookmobile of America, ca. 1900s

This automobile to deliver books to rural readers, Washington County, Md., 1912

This automobile to deliver books to rural readers, Washington County, Md., 1912

The library's first bookmobile, 1927

The library’s first bookmobile, 1927

The library's bookmobile in Cincinnati, Ohio, ca. 1920s

The library’s bookmobile in Cincinnati, Ohio, ca. 1920s

Missouri State library bookmobile, ca. 1940s

Missouri State library bookmobile, ca. 1940s

Jefferson County bookmobile, the first bookmobile in Texas

Jefferson County bookmobile, the first bookmobile in Texas

Children led astray by the Bronx Traveling Library, Westchester Square branch, New York, ca. 1930s

Children led astray by the Bronx Traveling Library, Westchester Square branch, New York, ca. 1930s

Bronx Bookmobile, 1938

Bronx Bookmobile, 1938

Library bookmobiles in front of Union Terminal, 1940

Library bookmobiles in front of Union Terminal, 1940

One of the library bookmobiles in Cincinnati, 1948

One of the library bookmobiles in Cincinnati, 1948

Taking the kids to the bookmobile in Columbia Park, 1940

Taking the kids to the bookmobile in Columbia Park, 1940

The Library's bookmobile in Sharonville, 1938

The Library’s bookmobile in Sharonville, 1938

Bookmobile of the Los Angeles public library, 1960

Bookmobile of the Los Angeles public library, 1960

The New York Public Library, ca. 1950s

The New York Public Library, ca. 1950s

Framingham Public Library Bookmobile, Mass., 1956

Framingham Public Library Bookmobile, Mass., 1956

Boston Public Library Bookmobile, 1963

Boston Public Library Bookmobile, 1963


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