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Library History

Samuel Stryker, born in 1790 in the vicinity of Pittstown, NJ, came to Lambertville with his younger brother James in 1826. They prospered here, opening first a general merchandise store and later a lumber business. Samuel was the first president of the Lambertville National Bank until his death in 1863.

By 1882 the Stryker Library Association had secured a location for the library, and had furnished it with books and fixtures. An impressive catalog was printed as a pamphlet by Grant, Faires & Rodgers of Philadelphia and the library was opened on June 21st, 1882 in a room over Cochran's Drug Store at the corner of Union and Coryell Streets. The following year the library moved to rooms in the Masonic Hall at 19 Bridge Street, where it remained until moving to City Hall in the early 1950s.

The library's collections amounted to over 1300 volumes, by the estimate of the Beacon, which reported on the opening and noted that, aside from works of Literature, " The farmer will find such works on Agriculture as Waring's 'Draining for Profit', Downing's 'Fruit and Fruit Trees', Randall's 'Sheep Husbandry', and Harris' 'Insects Injurious to Vegetation' (a work copiously illustrated and interesting not only to the agriculturist to the general reader)".

Not a lot is known at this point about the operations of the library from 1882 to 1888, because the only records we have of the library's operations in that period are in the form of a ledger maintained by various treasurers of the Association, beginning in 1888. From this ledger we can identify book and periodicals purchases, payments for gas, rent, insurance, salaries and the like, payments for library programs, income from library operations, book rentals and subscriptions. In many cases, the entries include the names of the payees, or the titles of the materials purchased, and from whom.
For example, in 1888 we can see from the records of Joseph Smith (treasurer), that the Association bought two shares of Lehigh Valley Railroad stock ($100), a stove ($12.28), coal from A. B. Holcombe ($14.65), paid for three months of gas ($6.53), three months of rent on the rooms ($25), and three months of the Librarian's salary ($31.25).

Miss Susie B. Hunt was the first librarian, and remained so at the salary of $31.25 per quarter until April of 1894, when she was succeeded by Miss Harriet Holcombe who presided as librarian until March, 1916.
Bessie M. Dilts took over in March, 1916 at the rate of $18.75 per month. By then, the rent on the rooms, payable to the Amwell Lodge, was $65 quarterly.
In July, 1919, A. C. Holcombe became the librarian, and continued as such until the City of Lambertville (after a municipal referendum in November, 1925) took over the library in May of 1926.

The portrait of Samuel Davis Stryker which hangs in the first floor reading room of the library has been displayed in the library for most of its one-hundred and twenty-five year history. But over the years, the staff seems to have lost the connection between his portrait and his name, so that in February 1968 an photograph of the painting was published in the Lambertville Beacon with a query for information on the subject and the artist. Five months later the portrait had been re-identified as that of Samuel Stryker, done by William Bonnell.