Monday, March 5, 2012

Philanthropy Delivers the Dream

On January 9, 1913, the Carnegie Corporation formally offered the Mooresville Public Library Board of Trustees a $10,000 grant to construct the town's new library building.  This offer was acknowledged on January 17, 1913, when Dr. C. L. Hallam, Secretary of the Library Board, sent the following letter, of which we have a photocopy.  (As always, please click the images to enlarge.)

Letter of Acknowledgement of $10,000 Carnegie Grant Offer
From Dr. C. L. Hallam, Library Board Secretary (Later President)
January 17, 1913

Legally speaking, Dr. Hallam's request for a $12,500 grant amount (rather than $10,000) would be construed as a counteroffer.  The Carnegie Corporation must have been disinclined to increase the sum, as the Library formally accepted the original $10,000 offer on May 4 & 6, 1915.

Library Board Formally Accepts $10,000 Carnegie Grant Offer
by Resolution (enacted May 4 & 6, 1915).

Why the two-year delay?  The Library Board minutes remain silent on this point, but one may make some reasonable inferences, based upon an understanding of how local Hoosier governmental spending was driven at the turn of the 20th century.  As part of the grant application process, the Library (and the Town of Mooresville, Indiana) were required to furnish statistics as to how much revenue the library tax levy, which was authorized in May, 1912, would generate for an "annual income" to the library. To make this determination, the town (and Brown Township) government needed to actually collect tax dollars and determine the sustainability of an annual budget from the town (and township) coffers. That meant at least two taxing years (1913-1914) were needed to accurately gauge, or trend, incoming tax revenues.  Once this data was compiled, construction began in earnest during 1915, following formal acceptance of Carnegie's offer.

While awaiting the tax revenue reports, the Library Board considered multiple construction bids and proposed contracts for furnishings, supplies, and other resources.  Considerable effort was expended to maximize the purchasing value of the $10,000 grant.  

Construction began in 1915 and proceeded rapidly.  By December 20, 1915, the work was nearly completed.  Library Board Secretary D. B. Johnson applied to the Carnegie Treasurer to secure the final $2,000 installment of the $10,000 grant.  The Library was formally dedicated a month later.

Consider that $10,000 in 1915 dollars built an entire library for the citizens of Mooresville and Brown Township.  Roughly speaking, how much would that sum purchase in today's dollars for our library?  Find out by clicking here.  [Thanks, Indiana State Library, for furnishing our Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA) grant to make that purchase for the MPL Indiana Room.]

In our next installment, we'll attend the library dedication ceremony.  Well, sort of.

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