Alexandria Library -- Special Collections

Document of the Month

January 2006

Alexandria Library Company, Membership Records, Subscription Book, 1794-1798

page 1 - Hartshorne, Dick pages 20-21 - Craik, Veitch, Taylor, Chigu

The Alexandria Library Company was established during the summer of 1794 by a group of 30 prominent citizens. Dr. James Muir, the minister of the Presbyterian Meeting House, was elected President; Edward Stabler, a druggist, was elected Secretary and Librarian. The subscriber's annual fee was about $4.00 A non-subscriber could 'hire a book' upon payment of 'one shilling per week for a folio, nine pence for a quatro, and six pence for octavos and duodecimos.' Subscribers living in the country could borrow books for 'double the time of town residents, except in the case of new publications.'"

Of the 136 names*** entered in this ledger, only one is female, Elizabeth Summers. Elizabeth was the daughter of Edward and Sarah (Hurst) Dulin of Fairfax County. She married John Summers in Fairfax County on February 12, 1778. He was a coach maker living in the 100 block of S. Pitt Street. In 1814, he purchased 312 Queen Street from Isabella Summers

In a related ledger Elizabeth's name appears on the same page as Isabella Summers. Isabella was the daughter of William Shaw. She married John Elton in Alexandria on May 27, 1785. He was a house carpenter/joiner who lived at 312 Queen Street. After Elton's death, his widow put three notices in the Gazette asking to have books returned that Elton had loaned "some time before his death." Isabella Shaw Elton married William Summers in Alexandria on November 1, 1787. He was a sheriff and clerk of the court. He died three years later; Isabella Summers died January 26, 1821 in Fairfax County.

***Page 1: William Hartshorne owned extensive real estate in Alexandria. Dr. Elisha Dick later sold furniture and slaves to honor his debt to the United States government.

Pages 20-21: James Craik was George Washington's personal physican and confidante. Richard Veitch and George Taylor were merchants on King Street. Paul A. Cherui (or Cherni) lived on Wolfe Street.

Pages 36-37: Job Green was a mariner who rented a warehouse at Prince and St. Asaph Street to Dr. Stephen Cooke. Robert B. Jamieson was a retail merchant who later filed bankruptcy. Charles Lee was a customs collector and attorney.

Pages 80-81: James Kennedy, a native of Scotland and physician/druggist, succeeded Stabler as librarian. Details of Elizabeth Summers's life are described above. Hugh Smith was an earthernware manufacturer/merchant at Ramsay's Wharf.

Research assistance by Rita Holtz and Ada Valaitis, January 2006

Related Resources
  • Alexandria Library Company Minutes: 1794-1947 (microfilm #00037)
  • Jeanne G. Plitt and Marjorie D. Tallichet. "A History of the Alexandria Library," The Fireside Sentinel, July 1988, vol 2, #7, p. 61
  • Robert C. Reed. "Literary Taste in 19th Century Alexandria, Virginia," The Alexandrian Chronicle, Winter 2001, vol 9, #4, p. 1
  • Frances E. Umfleet. "The Library Company of Alexandria," The Alexandrian Magazine, Summer 1978, vol 4, #4, p. 12
  • Manuscript Box #002A-002E: Alexandria Library Company -- Records, 1794-1990, Box 002 A-2E
  • VF: Alexandria Library

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