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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
Collage of Local Legacies
Winyah Indigo Society Hall in Georgetown
Winyah Indigo Society Hall, completed in 1857, was home to the Georgetown Library during the first half of the 20th century Photo courtesy of Georgetown county Public Library, Morgan Collection

Georgetown County Library

Celebrating 200 years of library service in 1999, the Georgetown County Library has seen radical changes in the ten generations from its founding. When the Georgetown Library Society began on January 31, 1799, the parish was South Carolina's major rice-producing and slave-holding district. It served an agricultural and mercantile group of 50 elite males, representing only 12% of the county's white population. No women, blacks, or poor whites were served. At the end of the 20th century, there existed no rice, no slaves, and no exclusionary library policy. By 1999, Georgetown County Library had library cards in the hands of two-thirds of the county's population.

The project report weaves a narrative tracing the major figures in Georgetown Library's history beginning with the era of the newly born nation just after the American Revolution. In 1816, the collection of books came from London, Edinburgh, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston, ranging in cost per volume from 75 cents to $22.50. The majority of the books (45%) were by British authors, only 20% by American authors. Among the original elite members of the Library Society was Francis Kinloch, born in England, educated at Eton, who fought on the patriots' side and served in the Continental Congress. The Library survived with difficulty during the Civil War, the Reconstructionist era, the Great Depression, and World War II.

The history of the modern era of the Library began in 1908 when Susan Allston started a subscription library of about 4,000 volumes. In 1936, it was taken over by the WPA, and when they departed town, only the skeleton of a public library remained. The Library limped along for the next decade. The city of Georgetown withdrew support in 1949, and although the county continued to fund operations, there was little money for books. Effie Thatcher, a dedicated librarian, organized teas, catered proms, sponsored card parties, and held rummage sales to raise money for books. The Georgetown Library survived, and actually flourished during the 1980s when a new headquarters library and two branches were built under the leadership of Patricia Davis Doyle, head of the Library Board. The narrative ends with a triumphant bicentennial celebration on January 23, 1999.

Extensive project documentation includes a 16-page narrative on the history of the Library; a two-page report on the role, mission, and accomplishments of the Library; and a CD-ROM disk containing annotated historic photos from the Morgan and Trenholm collections of the Library. Also included are a Library bicentennial poster print of Front Street, Georgetown, South Carolina, entitled "The Great White Way"; three reels of microfilm of primary historical documents from the Library's Rare Book Collection; and a master's thesis by Dwight McInvaill, currently Director of the Georgetown County Library System, entitled The Georgetown Library Society of South Carolina and the Book-Borrowing Habits of Ten of Its Antebellum Members. Additionally there are three videos: a Philip Vanderbilt Brady Lecture on the southern branch of the Vanderbilts given at Georgetown County Library, 11/21/99; "Southern History Series, Part I: Antebellum Culture," Georgetown County Library, 3/23/99; and "Recollections Along Georgetown Rivers at Wicklow Plantation, and Rice Mill, Kinloch Plantation," produced by the Colonial Dames of Georgetown.

Originally submitted by: Marshall "Mark" Sanford, Representative (1st District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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