Tuesday Club Credited for Start of Library in Valley City
The history of the Valley City Public Library is unique. At the turn of the century, Valley was a little town of 4, 000 population on the high plains and prairies of North Dakota. Cultural advantages were few. One of them was the Reading Circle movement. From this movement developed the Tuesday Club of Valley City, the oldest women’s club in Valley City and the second oldest in the state.
I It was on January 8, 1895, that 20 women became charter members of the Tuesday Club. They expressed their purpose in the constitution, which stated they organized “for mutual development of the members in literature, art, history, science and the vital issues of the day.”
The first president of the Tuesday Club, in 1895, was Mrs. Adolph Sternberg. Her husband was the owner of the Sternberg Store, which was purchased in 1910 by the Straus Clothing Company.
Mrs. Sternberg was a woman of brilliant mentality and artist in her own right. Her driving force got the Tuesday Club off to an excellent start. The 20 ladies met fortnightly on Tuesdays at each other’s homes. The programs were literary in style, centered in the fields of literature, art, science, history and the vital issues of the day. They had difficulty finding materials for their programs. No libraries were available. Few books and magazines could be found. Out of that need came to these good women the idea of getting a public library for Valley City.
The Tuesday Club set to work determinedly on that project. When their delegates to the state convention returned with $.10 remaining from their expense account, the Tuesday Club voted that this amount be used to start a “public library fund”.
When they went to work to increase that fund, staging bazaars, exhibits, lectures, concerts and publishing of a cook book. The fun soon reached $700. George Young, whose brilliant wife was a member of the club, gave them an old house which they sold for $300.
They began to write letters, to the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and others. All replies were noncommittal. But the Carnegie reply contained only one ray of hope. It stated that the population of Valley City (4,000) did not seem to justify a public library at that time. The women of the Tuesday Club renewed their efforts. They drew some men into their plans—Frank White, soon governor of the state; George M. Young, state senator, and Herman Winterer, whose wife conducted much of this correspondence.
Correspondence continued. There was much of it. In the office of Herman Winterer was a young lawyer just fresh out of law school at Ann Arbor, Michigan. He became interested in the project and prepared most of the correspondence. This young lawyer was D. S. Ritchie.
At length, a letter came from the Carnegie Corporation stating it would grant $15,000 for construction of a public library at Valley City provided the site was furnished debt free, and providing that city council would guarantee to maintain and operate the library in perpetuity.
The Tuesday Club purchased the site. They approached the city council. The council favored the 1 mill tax levy, but wanted public reaction. The public voted for the tax levy.
Then it became apparent that the income from the 1 percent mill levy permitted by state law would not sufficient to maintain and operate the public library. These indomitable women then persuaded State Senator George M. White to introduce in the Legislature a new bill permitted a 4 mill tax levy for the public. The bill passed in the House and Senate, and was signed by Governor Frank White, and became a law. Now they were ready for the Carnegie grant which came at once and the library was constructed in 1902-03.
The building was soundly constructed in the beginning and has been taken care of in excellent fashion these past years. At first it had its own heating plant from which a small fire started on one occasion. Smoke from the fire darkened the furniture and the interior of the building. The furniture was first painted green and then dark mission. During WPA days labor and material were made available for renovation of the library. Mr. Karl J Olsen, then a member of both the Board of Education and the Library Board, assumed supervision of the project. All the mission paint and veneer were removed and the beautiful original quartered oak finish restored.