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History of Musser Public Library

Early in the life of the community of Muscatine, leaders expressed an interest in starting a library. Sometime in the late 1860’s or early 1870’s a library of 500 plus volumes was established in the office of the county recorder. This was a public library and all books were probably donated. There is no record of how it originated, how it was supported or what happened to it.

In December of 1896, Professor E. E. Sparks, of the University of Chicago, came to set up a series of lectures. He told a gathering of 85 persons at a preliminary meeting that a collection of reference books would be helpful.
At the second lecture meeting on January 21, 1897, The Muscatine Library Association was formed to establish a free public library in a basement room of the high school. It was to be open one afternoon a week. A board of 15 trustees was appointed to administer the affairs of the library. Later, Mr. P. M. Musser was elected to this board to succeed one of three members who retired

On June 4, 1900, P. M. Musser announced, through the president of the board, that he would provide the community with it’s first library building, if Muscatine citizens would designate funds for its continuing support. Plans were prepared for a two story portage red sandstone exterior and tile roof. Citizens voted 1,285 to 11 for a proposed one-mill tax levy to support and establish the library.

The original Musser gift was to be $25,000 to $30,000. However, with the donation of the land and building expenses, the gift probably totaled closer to $50,000. The cornerstone of the building was set May 6, 1901. On February 19, 1902 the new P. M. Musser Public Library was opened. The first book taken out was Elizabeth and her German Garden.

The original Muscatine Library Association was dissolved when the new library opened, and the P. M. Musser Public Library Board of Trustees was formed. During the first year of the library’s existence a circulation of 42, 969 volumes showed the community’s support for the time, effort and financial support given by those involved in the library movement.

P. M. Musser’s son, Clifton R. Musser, was an original trustee of the board in 1901 and served in that capacity for 56 years. C. R. Musser died in 1956. In his will, he provided a $500,000 trust for the benefit of various Muscatine institutions and a $50,000 bequest to the P. M. Musser Public Library. This gift made possible the first addition to and renovation of the original building in 1965.

In 1970 the library board again appealed to the Musser family, this time to P. M. Musser’s grandchildren, John Musser and Marion Musser Lloyd, to help build a new library in place of the 1901 building. They contributed $500,000 or 2/3 of the cost of the present library structure in memory of their mother Margaret Kulp Musser. The new addition was dedicated on August 5, 1972.


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