Allentown Public Library

Originally published in the Allentown Messenger dated February 25, 1904, the following is a history of the Library’s organization in the 1870’s and a glimpse of that period’s social life.   


The Allentown public library project first came up in 1873. For some time prior to this some of the young men had been in favor of having a club room or a reading room where they could have the benefit of a regular supply of reading room where they could have the benefit of a regular supply of reading material through the magazines and newspapers which would be subscribed for. They had finally concluded, however, that on the whole a public library would be the most useful thing, as it would benefit the whole community. In the autumn of that year some of the ladies and gentlemen who were most interested in the matter had several discussions as to the best method for raising funds for the purpose. It was finally decided to give some entertainments during the winter in Captain Rogers’ Hall. During the previous winter there had been some given in the same place for the benefit of the M. E. Church, which had proved very popular.


Upon speaking to the former members of the company regarding the library project, they kindly volunteered their services again for that purpose. The company was composed of twenty-four ladies and gentlemen and an orchestra of four pieces. The entertainments consisted of charades, tableaux, recitations and music, and several where given during the winters of ’73, ’74, and ’75. The company also went to Hightstown and Bordentown, giving two evenings at each place.


George H. Vanderbeek always went along with the players on their trips, and was a faithful doorkeeper at all times.


The nature of these entertainments will be better understood from the program that has been preserved, and is here reproduced:



Thursday Evening, December 19, 1872.





“Mr. Clayton,” David Compton. “Mr. Smythe,” John Long. “Grandmother,” Mrs. Eliza Robbins. “Mary Miller,” Miss Ella Newell. “Ida Miller,” Miss Lydia Cafferty. “Belle Davenport,” Miss Alice Rogers.

TABLEAU—“Drunkard’s Home.”

TABLEAU—“Dancing Lesson.”

TABLEAU—“Fortune Teller.”

CHARADE—“Hob & Nob

“Hob,” David Compton. “Nob,” Dr. Armitage. “Mrs. Bouncer,” Miss Ella Newell.

TABLEAU—“Hiawatha’s Wooing.” in three scenes.



TABLEAU—“Morning and Evening.”

TABLEAU—“Angel of Mercy.”

TABLEAU—“Dying Brigand.”


“Marcus Tiptop,” John Long. “Mr. Stepup,” Dr. Armitage. “Mr. Peasley,” James Bunting. “Mr. Ulman, David Compton. “Mr. Gardner,” Benj. Robbins. “Pete,” Willie Savidge. “Judy Jonquil,” Miss Mary Robbins. “Mrs. Tiptop,” Miss Ella Newell. “Elanora,” Miss Lydia Cafferty. “Anna Hoffman,” Miss Alice Rogers. “Mrs. Stetup,” Mrs. Mary Newell. “Mrs. Peasley,” Mrs. Eliza Robbins. “Miss Poplin,” Miss Maggie Conover. “Miss Gardner,” Miss Clara Newell.

TABLEAU—“Gambler’s Warning.”

TABLEAU—“Better be an old Man’s Darling than a Young Man’s Slave.”

TABLEAU—“Marriage of Pocahontas.”


“Parlor entertainment” is rather a misleading caption, as these entertainments were all given in Captain Rogers’ Hall, and were larger affairs than would appear from such a heading. The entrance to this hall took in the entire second floor of the stores now occupied by Charles Spaulding, Mrs. Bergen and Mrs. Jones.


The above entertainment was for the benefit of the Methodist Church. The program bears the imprint of G. T. Stockdale, printer 117 South Second street, Philadelphia.


Now we come to one given to help along the library project. Stockdale is also the printer of this program, which is a creditable piece of work:



Thursday Evening, March 5, 1874.





“Mr. Stanley,” Benj. Robbins. “Pete Stanley,” Master Willie Savidge. “Mrs. Stanley,” Miss Julia Hankins. “Araminta Stanley,” Miss Lydia Cafferty. “Emma Joy,” Miss Clara Newell. “Mary Makepeace,” Miss Ella Newell. “Mrs. Leum,” Miss Alice Rogers.

TABLEAU—“Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning.” (2 scenes)

TABLEAU—“The Defence.” (2 scenes)

CHARADE—“Advertising for a Wife”

“Peter Mulroony,” Wm. Beatty. “Biddy and Judy,” Miss Ella Newell. “Norah,” Miss Lydia Cafferty. “Madge,” Mrs. Eliza Robbins.

TABLEAU—“The Pinch of Snuff.”

TABLEAU—“Marriage of Pocahontas.”




TABLEAU—“The Gambler’s Warning.”

TABLEAU—“The Dance on the Green.”

TABLEAU—“The Angels appearing to Joan of Arc.”

TABLEAU—“The Discovery of the Refugees.” (2 scenes)


Augustus,” Benj. Robbins. “Alphonso,” John Long. “Seraphins,” Miss Alice Rogers. “Betsy,” Ella Newell. “Mrs. Green,” Mrs. Eliza Robbins.

TABLEAU—“Hiawatha’s Wooing.” (3 scenes)

TABLEAU—“Cinderella trying on the Slipper.” (2 scenes)

TABLEAU—“The Fairie’s Grotto.”