Located in Historic New Lebanon


First Free Public Library

At the age of 17, Dr. Jesse Torrey founded the first free lending library in the United States. With a membership of 147 youths, it became the model for free libraries throughout America.


In 1804, a 17 year-old citizen named Jesse Torrey who lived on West Street started his free lending li- brary and on March 12, 1804, he wrote the constitution of “The New Lebanon Juvenile Society for the AcquisitionofKnowledge”. This Constitution was signed by 147 other New Lebanon youths when only 100 books were available. This was the basis and model for free lending libraries through out America. Jesse Torrey went on to become very successful and influential in life, which was proof of the fact that early education was essential to the youth of a young nation.

The building housing the library, his family home, no longer stands, but it is commemorated by a NY State historical marker. The drive to the marker along west Street affords rewarding views.  Torrey later achieved prominence in Philadelphia for educational reform and abolitionism.