Old Cap Tour - Territorial and State Library
Panoramic Close Up of Quill, Pen, and Lamp

Territorial and State Library: A Place for All Iowans


Education has always been a top priority for Iowa leaders, and establishing a state library was one of the first goals for early legislators.

This library was planned for use by all Iowans-not just government officials-to provide the public with a place to learn from state-owned books, pamphlets, and other resources.

Theodore S. Parvin, named the first territorial librarian in 1839, immediately set out to collect Iowa's first library books on a variety of subjects: medicine, poetry, history, science, religion, travel, and education. The collection also included treaties, regulatory codes, and maps.

When Iowa became a state, Lemuel Patterson served as the first State Librarian from 1846-1851, followed by former state treasurers Israel Kister and Martin Morris. All three lobbied for more funding. In the 1850s, the library budget increased, allowing for the purchase of more books by American and women authors. When the library moved to Des Moines in late 1857, the collection had tripled in size.

Because books were both rare and expensive in the 1800s, Iowans read them in the library and could not take them home. Legislators passed a law requiring each book to be marked "Iowa State Library" at the bottom of page 30.

Bookcase is disasembled for moving

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