On November 9, 1921, Miss Margaret Ringier, head librarian at Quincy Public Library confronted her tobacco-chewing patrons. She posted signs around the library declaring: “Warning—No Spitting! Fine $2 to $ 20.” Tobacco-chewers reading in the library found themselves without a place to spit, choosing to either expel their juices on the floor or behind the radiator. While there were few main culprits, their habit was a disturbance to other patrons and detrimental to the conditions of the facility. She gave her patrons the options of abstaining from chewing tobacco while in the building, abstaining from spitting inside the library if they did chew, or to be hauled into court and penalized for committing a nuisance in a public place. Miss Ringier had been working at the Library for almost 30 years at this point and her name was closely linked with the excellent reputation and success of the library, this story is just one example of her commitment to a comfortable and clean space.
Margaret Ringier was born on February 21, 1866 in Quincy, Illinois to her Swedish father Oscar Ringier and her German mother, Wilhelmina. Her family grew up in a house on the South side of Quincy, with Margaret receiving her early education in the Quincy public schools and private tutoring in literature and languages. Miss Ringier went on to complete library training at the Universities of Illinois and Minnesota. She was reported to be a fine scholar in German and in French as well as English. In 1892, Margaret joined the staff of the library. She was listed as an assistant in 1895 library reports.
The Quincy Public Library was initially known as the Quincy Free Public Library and Reading Room. On March 5, 1841, a group of gentlemen met in an office of the old courthouse to discuss organizing the Quincy Library Association. Major J. H. Holton presided as chairman of this first meeting and Lorenzo Bull acted as secretary to record their progress. A five-member committee was created to draft a constitution and by-laws, which were adopted on March 13, 1841. On March 20, officers were elected: E. J. Phillips, president; Dr. J. N. Ralston, vice president; Lorenzo Bull, secretary; C. M. Woods, treasurer; Andrew Johnson, W. H. Taylor, J. R. Randolph, N. Summers, Joseph Lyman, directors. The Association was also granted a charter of incorporation at this meeting under Illinois State Law.
The library had a slow start due to a lack of funds to support it. A system of subscriptions and donations was set up to encourage local residents to participate in the library, helping grow the collection to 735 books by December 6, 1841. In January, 1878, a public reading room was discussed by the Red Ribbon Club of Quincy, and in September, when the local club was transformed into a new association, they also established a free reading room for Quincy. In March, 1879, the Free Reading Room moved to the Rogers Building on the southeast corner of Sixth and Vermont. In May, the Quincy Library’s property was transferred to the Free Reading Room, allowing the circulating library to be open for subscribers each week day for the first time. Mrs. Lucy Keyes Rutherford was appointed librarian.
In the late 1880’s a fund drive raised $20,000. This allowed the library to be open to the entire population instead of 300 subscribers. On March 14, 1887, a committee was established to consider building a library. The committee proposed that the Quincy Library and Free Reading Room buy property and build a permanent building, on the condition that the city agree by ordinance to appropriate not less than $5,000 annually toward the maintenance of the combined Library and Reading Room. The city agreed and the committee proceeded with the plans. They received property with an estimated value $12,000, on the southwest corner of Fourth and Maine as a donation. Citizen contributions to the building fund brought the property and fund value to over $40,000. The property was then leased to the City of Quincy for a 99-year term.
The Quincy Public Library was built during 1888-89 at a cost of $45,000. The building had space for 20,000 volumes and allowed for expansion up to 60,000 volumes. After moving the collections and furniture from both the Quincy Library and the Free Reading Room Association, the library was ready to be opened to the public on June 24, 1889. The Library continued to grow after this, with citizens donating various collections over the years. In 1896, Margaret Ringier was appointed Deputy Librarian. She was especially helpful in classifying the large amount of German works due to her fluency in the language. In 1902, she was appointed head librarian after the retirement of Miss Elizabeth Wales. Under the direction of Miss Ringier, the Quincy Library flourished, becoming one of the finest in the state and containing 57,000 volumes in 1939. The efforts of Quincy’s devoted librarian did not go unnoticed, as she was the first Quincy woman to be included in the Women’s Who’s Who in America.
On August 6, 1939, Margaret Ringier died, following a six-month illness, in her home at 612 South Sixth Avenue. She left a 37-year legacy at the Quincy Free Library. While her final illness had confined Miss Ringier to home much of the time, she continued to complete her duties as librarian up to her death. One of her last official acts as librarian was the completion of the monthly report on the library’s activities. Her obituary in the Quincy Herald-Whig reported; “In fact, it can easily be said that Miss Ringier’s knowledge of books exceeded that of any other Quincyan and that her fund of general knowledge seemed inexhaustible.” Margaret took her job seriously, with the paper reporting that while her illness kept her at home, she had seen that library bills due August 1 had already been paid and all library affairs were in order at the time of her death. Miss Ringier is buried in Woodland Cemetery.
1930 United States Federal Census. Digital images. http://ancestry.com .
Deck, Judy Joyce. History of the Quincy Free Public Library and Reading Room, Quincy, Illinois, 1841-1930. University of Missouri – Columbia, 1974.
“Library Board’s Annual Meeting.” The Quincy Daily Journal, August 12, 1896, 7.
“Margaret Ringier Dead in her Home Sunday Morning.” The Quincy Herald-Whig, August 7, 1939, 10.
Nelson, Iris. “ ‘A Cozy Temple of Knowledge’ Located in the Center of Quincy.” Quincy Herald Whig, September 6, 2012.
“No Change in the Force.” The Quincy Daily Journal, July 11, 1895, 7.
“Tobacco Chewers Will Have to Do Reading at Home.” The Quincy Daily Herald, November 10, 1921, 14.
U.S. Find a Grave Index, 1600s-current. Digital images. http://ancestry.com .