Lettres, Ladies, and Libraries

 

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This past weekend Honest Aromas was a vendor at the Oil City Belles Lettres Club bazaar. It occurred to me that I didn’t know why the Belles Lettres started. I mean, I used to take my children to their building downtown to perform for the Jr. Schubert club, and my husband and I held formal youth group dinners there, but I was not sure what the ladies at the Belles Lettres actually did.

Well as it turns out, the founders of this club were amazing!

The Belles Lettres Club was formed for the purpose of studying literature and maintaining a library (the name Belles Lettres comes from a French phrase for fine writing, and is a general term for a type of well-crafted literature). An active member of Belles Lettres, Cora Hull Ramage, began corresponding with Andrew Carnegie of Pittsburgh. She requested that Mr. Carnegie donate money for a library. He agreed to donate $44,000 to build the library, provided that the citizens provide a site and guarantee $3,000 annually to maintain it.

Andrew Carnegie once said, “A library outranks any other thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.” Over his lifetime, Mr. Carnegie contributed an estimated 150 million dollars to nearly three thousand libraries in the United States and Great Britain. Oil City was fortunate to be one of the recipients, but the library hasn’t received any Carnegie money since.

CarnegieLibrary-300x199The women of the Belles Lettres Club went to work and raised over $11,000 to purchase the present site at the corner of Central Avenue and West Front Street.

On July 6, 1904, the Carnegie Library of Oil City opened its doors with five thousand books that were donated by the Belles Lettres Club.*

WOW! You go ladies!

 

*Information from http://www.oilcitylibrary.org/index.php/information/history/

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