1822 “Washington Library Company” Stock Certificate Signed By Reverend William Matthews, President
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January 1, 1822-Dated, Important “Washington Library Company” Partly-Printed Document, Copper Plate Engraved Stock Certificate, Printed on Vellum, Signed, “William Matthews Pres.”, Washington, D.C., Choice Very Fine.
This is an exceedingly rare original “Washington Library Company” Copper Plate Engraved (Possibly by Peter Force, who was a member) Stock Certificate measuring about 9” x 6”, printed in black in a script format. This is the only example we know of being unable to locate any others. There is some minor soiling, light folding and the original plate impression is clearly seen in outline within its full large margins. In 1811, the Reverend William Matthews co-founded the District of Columbia's first permanent public library called the Washington Library Association (preceding the District of Columbia Public Library), which secured its Congressional Charter as the Washington Library Company on April 18, 1814. It represents One Share in the Washington Library Company, one of the very earliest public libraries, located in Washington, D.C.. This Certificate is printed on Vellum, this Document reads, in full:
“No. 10. -- Be it known that John Boyle is proprietor of one Share in the Washington Library Company in perpetuity; transferable and inheritable, not subject to an annual payment. - Washington City January 1st 1822 - (Signed) William Matthews Pres.”
William Matthews (December 16, 1770 – April 30, 1854) was an American Roman Catholic Priest from Maryland who was briefly a member of the Society of Jesus. He was the first person born in British America to be ordained a Catholic Priest and was the Fifth Catholic Priest in the United States.
Matthew was elected the second president of the Library on April 18, 1821 by its board of directors, succeeding the Episcopalian minister, Dr. Joseph Laurie. The library prospered under his presidency, being utilized by employees of the federal government and private citizens. He successfully led a campaign to raise money by selling stock in the library and invested it in Washington's banks and real estate
Over the course of his life, Matthews served as the seventh President of Georgetown College in Washington, D.C. (which later became Georgetown University), pastor of St. Patrick's Church, Vicar General and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Philadelphia, President of Washington Seminary (which later became Gonzaga College High School), Co-founder and President of the Washington Library Company, Co-director and trustee of the District of Columbia Public Schools, Founder and President of St. Vincent's Female Orphan Asylum, and Co-founder and President of St. Joseph's Male Orphan Asylum. He also played a role in the founding of the parish that now includes the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle and the founding of Georgetown Visitation Convent. For his extensive contributions to both religious and civic life, William Matthews became known as the "Patriarch of Washington”. The Washington Library history:
In 1811, Matthews co-founded the District of Columbia's first permanent public library called the Washington Library Association (preceding the District of Columbia Public Library), which secured its Congressional Charter as the Washington Library Company on April 18, 1814. Along with two hundred others benefactors, Matthews contributed money by purchasing stock in the library, however his purchase was three times the required amount of $12. He served on several of the Library's committees, which were responsible for purchasing books for the library and drafting its rules.
Matthew was elected the second president of the Library on April 18, 1821 by its board of directors, succeeding the Episcopalian minister, Dr. Joseph Laurie. The library prospered under his presidency, being utilized by employees of the federal government and private citizens. He successfully led a campaign to raise money by selling stock in the library and invested it in Washington's banks and real estate.
In the spring of 1827, Matthews purchased a Masonic lodge on Eleventh Street to be used as the library's first permanent home (as it had frequently moved prior to that). Throughout his presidency, the collections of the library steadily increased in size, and included one acquisition of the 3,000 volumes of Peter Force's library on American history, which doubled the library's holdings. In order to acquire the collection, Matthews made a personal lone of $1,000 to the library. Matthews' presidency came to an end in April 1834, and he was succeeded by Samuel Harrison Smith and Peter Force.
This library was conceived with the spirit of understanding the success of the Franklin library as a powerful instrument, and which later was used by Congress for a period when the library of Congress was destroyed in the burning of the Capitol in the War of 1812.
The only libraries in Washington before 1811 were the Washington library formed in 1797, with Nicholas King, afterwards Surveyor of the city, as librarian, the circulating libraries established by Richard Dinmore and Hugh Somerville in 1801, and the private library of Joel Barlow, at Kalorama, said to have been the largest and most valuable private library then existing in America. None of these libraries lived to have a history, but the Washington library, established in 1811, remained for the larger part of the century the principal public library of Washington. The motives which actuated the founders of this first Washington library are set forth in the National Intelligencer, March 5 and September 28, 1811. They felt, so they said, that a library like the Philadelphia library founded by Franklin, established on a liberal and comprehensive plan, was a most powerful instrument in forming the morals, in promoting the respectability, and in administering to the instruction and amusement of a community.
They also recognized that with the united contributions of those who were sensible of the value of literature, a collection of books might be made in Washington, in a few years, which would embrace the most useful and interesting works in the English language, and cost subscribers hardly more each year than the price of a single volume.
But the point upon which the directors laid most emphasis was, that shares in library stock were bargains (the price of a share being twelve dollars, the number of shares two hundred, and the value of the library $7,000, it was evident enough, that the value of a share
was $35 or three times as much as its cost). More-over a member of the library for the sum of three dollars a year might obtain for himself and his family the perusal of the three or four hundred volumes added annually, in addition to the five thousand volumes already in the collection.
In 1814 the use of the library was offered to members of Congress, the library of Congress having been destroyed in the burning of the Capitol, on the 24th of August. And by the end of 1815, in spite of the apathy of many of the shareholders and of discouragements received from those who refused to subscribe, the library numbered 900 volumes. A fifteen page catalog of these classified by sizes, octavos, quartos, etc., and each size arranged alphabetically was issued.
Matthews died on April 30, 1854 and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. During the latter part of his lifetime and after his death, Matthews became styled as the "Patriarch of Washington", due to his contributions in both the religious and civic worlds