Original Outreach Service
© by Paul Golaszewski
first book wagon in the United States went on the road
in Hagerstown, Maryland in 1904 as a service of the
Washington County Free Library. It was librarian Mary
Titcomb's vision to bring the magic of books to rural
were changed regularly at 30 rural deposit stations
by the library's janitor, Joshua Thomas, who drove a
horse-drawn Concord wagon. He later used a book wagon
that was a cross between a grocer's delivery wagon and
an undertaker's black hearse. It held 250 books and
often was called the "book contraption" or
"dead wagon." He covered 16 routes in a 500-square-mile
territory, taking four days to make the round trip.
book wagon was initially viewed as a radical departure
in library service by the largely conservative rural
population, but Thomas, an intelligent, likable man
and Civil War veteran, soon won over the populace and
created much goodwill for the library.
1910 the book wagon was destroyed by a freight train,
though Thomas and the horses escaped injury. Service
was suspended until 1912 when the library board's treasurer,
William Kealhofer, donated $2,500 for the purchase of
a motorized car with specially-equipped carriage --
the first true bookmobile.
Bookmobiles and Bookmobile Service by Eleanor Frances
Brown, The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 1967.