Saint Helena, CA

Library Book Returned Only 96 Years Late in California.

Matthew C. Woodruff
Image of Book Returned 96 years late.Photo byPublic Use

A History of the United States, by the American historian Benson Lossing, is thought to have been published in 1881. It was checked out of the St. Helena Public Library in California sometime in early 1927.

In 2019 the library did away with late fees on book loans so no money was owed on the extremely over-date book return. However, following the library’s old policy of a nickel-a-day fining system, the book would have accrued $1,756.00 worth of fines.

The book still contains the library's original note pertinently, saying: "This book may be kept for two weeks" and "injuries to books, and to books lost, must be paid for".

There were only about 540 titles available to patrons when the library first opened in 1892, including this one.

The St. Helena Public Library posted the story on its Instagram page. The book, which has tattered pages and a bruised front cover, is displayed in a glass case to prevent further damage.

Library staff told the St Helena Star newspaper: "It would be cool to put it on display someday but we haven't figured out how to do that."

The book was returned anonymously and without comment, though the library does hope the gentleman will return and tell the story of the book as he knows it.

The first public library in the United States was opened in 1833.

The first free public library supported by taxation in the world was the Peterborough, New Hampshire Town Library which was founded at town meeting on April 9, 1833. Many sources claim to have been the first, such as Boston's Public Library, which was the second, established in 1852 and opened on March 20, 1854.

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Matthew is an independent journalist, an internationally award-winning author best known for Dark Humor/Lite Horror/Supernatural short stories, as well as an ordained minister who served as a domestic missionary. He is a lover of the unusual, travel, cats and the spark that makes people tick. Matthew is based in Florida, USA.

Gainesville, FL

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