Founding Legislation

The Boston Public Library was the first large free municipal library in the United States. It was created by legislation enacted by the Great and General Court of Massachusetts on March 18, 1848, authorizing the City of Boston to establish and maintain a public library. The Library was founded sixteen days later, on April 3, 1848, when Mayor Josiah Quincy signed an Act of the City of Boston's Board of Aldermen which established the Boston Public Library.

Authorization to Establish a Public Library

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives, in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

Section I. The City of Boston is hereby authorized to establish and maintain a public library, for the use of the inhabitants of the said city; and the city council of the said city may, from time to time, make such rules and regulations, for the care and maintenance thereof, as they may deem proper; provided, however, that no appropriation for the said library shall exceed the sum of five thousand dollars in any one year.

Section II. This act shall be null and void unless it shall be accepted by the city council of the said city of Boston, within sixty days of its passage.

March 18, 1848