William Frederick Poole

William Frederick Poole was born on December 24, 1821, in
that part of old Salem, Massachusetts, that is now the town of
Peabody. He received his secondary education in both public and
private schools and entered Yale in 1842, Because of financial con-
siderations that required him to leave college to teach for three
years, he did not graduate until 1849.

While at Yale, Poole published a periodical index for the library
of one of Yale's literary societies. This was the forerunner of Poole's
Index to Periodical Literature,
which eventually became the index
that all of us are familiar with today. In 1851 he became an assis-
tant in the library of the Boston Athenaeum and was later the li-
brarian of the Boston Mercantile Association. He returned to the
Boston Athenaeum in 1856, where he was head librarian for thir-
teen years, and made it into one of the largest libraries in the na-
tion. From 1871 to 1872, he was librarian of the public library of
Cincinnati, and there became a member of the Cincinnati Liter-
ary Club.

Poole came to Chicago on January 1, 1874, as the first librarian
of the city's new public library, which soon ranked as the largest
circulating library in the country. In 1887, he was invited to orga-
nize a new reference library provided for under the will of Walter

Newberry and held the position of librarian at the newly formed
Newberry Library until his death seven years later.

In all of his assignments, Poole was an innovator in library
methods and administration, and his many contributions in the
field were adopted in libraries throughout the country and abroad.
He was also a respected speaker and writer on American history,
particularly the Colonial period and the history of the early West,
and in 1888 was elected president of the American Historical As-

Poole was a member of the Chicago Literary Club from 1874
until his death, in Evanston, on March 1, 1894. He served as pres-
ident of the Club in 1879-80 and presented ten papers. Accord-
ing to Frederick Gookin, Poole brought with him to Chicago the
constitution and by-laws of the Cincinnati Literary Club and may
justly be regarded as the "father" of our own organization.

Read before the Club:  May 10, 1999