||According to the London Public Library website, the concept of mechanical institutes emerged in Scotland in the early 1820s. They were conceived as collaborative, voluntary associations of men seeking to further their education. Services offered typically included ; reading rooms, lending libraries, lectures, performances and exhibitions. One of the earliest Mechanics' Institutes on the Canadian continent was established in Montreal in 1828. The Thomas Murray Collection contains several bookplates from this institution. A number of Mechanics' Institutes were founded in Canada throughout the 19th century in locations including, Saint John's, Newfoundland, Toronto, Kingston and London, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia. As their institutional popularity declined, however, many mechanics' institutes were closed or integrated into the public library system. The London Mechanics' Institute opened in 1835 at its original location in Court House Square. By 1855, the institute had moved to Talbot Street. This location subsequently became known as the "old Mechanics' Institute." A new building was erected at 231 Dundas Street when the institute outgrew its previous location. The new institute officially opened in 1877. By the turn of the century, the Free Public Libraries Act, prompted the opening of London's first public library in 1895. This act led to the dissolution of the Mechanics' Institute and the transfer of its lending library collections to the new public library. The London Public Library now has sixteen branches throughout the city. The central branch is housed at 251 Dundas Street, near the former site of its historic predecessor. The London Mechanics Institute was utilized for a variety of purposes throughout the mid-1800s, as cited in The History of the county of Middlesex, Canada: From the earliest time to the present ; containing an authentic account of many important matters relating to the settlement, progress and general history of the county ; and including a department devoted to the preservation of personal and private records, etc., published anonymously in Toronto in 1889 by Goodspeed. The history reports that the Mechanics' Institute building contained art studios which were used by London Art School students. The space was also reportedly used for grammar school classes in the early 1850s, and according to the history, the old Mechanics' Institute on Talbot street was used for a time to hold Presbyterian services, until the St. James's Presbyterian Church opened its doors in 1861. In a later section on local fires, the author writes, that the old Mechanics' Institute building on Talbot street, across from Queen's avenue was gutted by fire on July 22, 1888. Although the date of this ex-libris is unknown, because it cites both the Mechanics' Institute and the Public Library, it seems likely that it was produced in the late 1800s, during the transition period to the public library system. Plate appears to be printed utilizing the letterpress halftone technique.
1) 'Design Exchange | History of Design in Canada.' Accessed on March 15, 2010 at http://www.dx.org/index.cfm?id=6573
2) London Mechanics' Institute (Ont.). (1976). Minutes of the London Mechanics' Institute (1841-1895). London, Ontario: London Public Libraries, Galleries, Museums Retrieved July 23, 2009 from: http://openlibrary.org/b/OL3134965M/Minutes-of-the-London-Mechanics%27-Institute-(1841-1895)
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5) 'Mechanics Institute: Historical Overview of the Atwater Library.' Montreal History: Writings About the History of Montreal, Québec and Canada. Published January 23, 2010. Accessed on March 15, 2010 at http://montrealhistory.org/tag/mechanics-institute/
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