Abraham Lincoln and the Dedication of the Central Library

Originally produced February 2017. Research and writeup by Young Phong.

February 12 is an important date in American history because it’s on this date in 1809 that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was born. California and a few other states have made Lincoln’s birthday a legal holiday, and for many grateful students and government employees, it’s a day to relax or to participate in any festivities celebrating Lincoln’s life and presidency. For the Pasadena Public Library and the City of Pasadena, February 12 is also important for another reason. It’s on this date in 1927 that the Central Library was dedicated and opened its doors to the people of Pasadena, who had supported its construction and who were “so broad of mind and so public-spirited as to visualize this library building” (“All hail stately, new public library,” 1927).

This photo appears to show the Central Library near completion (note the numerous surveying stakes[?] throughout the front lawn), and it is possible it was taken in late 1926 or very early 1927. (PPL Photo Archives and PDHC)

The Central Library as it looked after it opened. 1927-1928. (PPL Photo Archives and PDHC)

Opening the new library on the anniversary of Lincoln’s birthday was only fitting for a public institution that stands for the ideas and values that Lincoln supported and in many ways embodied. An avid reader throughout his life, Lincoln believed in the transformative power of reading and valued books for how they can empower the individual with knowledge. The dedication of the Central Library on February 12 was in essence a tribute to a great man who loved and valued books and all that they represent, and in some ways the association of Lincoln to this special occasion on this propitious date was in kind a symbolic tribute to the Central Library. Yet the building itself was above all a tribute to the community, a monument to the spirit of the citizens of Pasadena and to the City’s public spirit. Franklin B. Cole, who was chairman of the Board of City Directors and ex-officio member of the Library Advisory Board at the time, expressed this sentiment eloquently when he spoke of Lincoln and the new library:

Books transformed a humble rail-splitter into the recipient of the highest honors in the power of the citizens of the country to bestow, an occupant of the White House whose name is emblazoned on the pages of history in letters which will never be effaced. It is therefore eminently fitting that Pasadena’s treasure house of these great magicians of literature should be opened, not only to the citizens of Pasadena, but to the world, on the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

Pasadena Public Library’s new building and setting is a tribute to the community and proof of the fact that the city is a literary city. The browsing which accomplished so much for the great Lincoln, will undoubtedly accomplish an equal amount, in a different way, for many people who will throng the building from this time forth.

I rejoice, particularly, in the completion of the first of the Civic Center buildings, which is a monument to Pasadena’s progressive public spirit. (“Views day as propitious for event,” 1927)

image of newspaper article
Pasadena Star News, February 11, 1927, p. 13

So as we observe Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, let us—as patrons and custodians of this great library—also celebrate the anniversary of the Pasadena Public Library’s Central Library, which ninety years ago opened its doors not only to Pasadenans but to all people near and far.



All hail stately, new public library. (1927, February 11). Pasadena Star News. Retrieved from https://www.pasadenadigitalhistory.com/Documents/Detail/all-hail-stately-new-public-library/73220

Views day as propitious for event. (1927, February 11). Pasadena Star News, p. 13.


Additional reading

Library key to be given to Pasadena. (1927, February 11). Pasadena Evening Post, p. 1. https://www.pasadenadigitalhistory.com/Documents/Detail/library-key-to-be-given-to-pasadena/73429?item=73969