Here's a nice old bookplate, circa early 1900s, from The Booklovers Library, whose home offices were in Philadelphia. This informative ex libris also indicates other offices and their addresses for New York, Brooklyn, Boston, Pittsburg (sic), and Washington. It's subtitle, Library of Current Literature, narrows down what kind of books would comprise the library.
If that sounds like a book club where subscribers received a new book each month, that's because it was. But subscribers did not purchase the books, they rented them.
The Booklovers Library was founded by Seymour Eaton in 1900. It was very successful within a short period of time, which inspired Eaton to start other enterprises, such as another rental library business (Tabard Inn Library) and the Booklovers Magazine. These attracted investors, who were paid dividends. Mark Twain was one of the more famous investors in Eaton's business. But the company overextended itself and there was some controversy about selling new shares of stock to pay dividends to the earlier investors. By 1905, the company was bankrupt, which creates a mystery for this bookplate.
The book it resides in is The Yoke, by Hubert Wales, a 1908 printing from the Stuyvesant Press in New York. How did this bookplate, from a company that went out of business in 1905, find its way into a book published three years later? If the bookplate were blank, I'd guess it was one left over and somebody got their hands on it and made use of it. I don't think that's likely, especially because of the number 715 penciled in. This looks like a numbered volume in the library. Possibly, another company took over and continued the operations of the Booklovers Library. That happened with Booklovers Magazine, which was acquired by Appleton's. But I can't find any information on what happened to the library business, or why my numbered bookplate from a defunct library mysteriously appeared several years later in a contemporary book.
The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center site has more information, with photos, about Eaton's enterprise. As his fortunes rapidly grew, he opened The Tabard Inn Library, offering the same type of service. Delivery, however was in the form of a revolving bookcase that could be placed in stores. The photo to the left is of such a device, complete with a receptacle for the five cents it cost to rent a book.
libraryhistorybuff.com has some more images connected with this library that are of interest. Also, related to an earlier post I wrote about bookmobiles, this site also offers a wonderful article with fantastic photos here of historical bookmobiles.
What became of Eaton? After the collapse of the Booklovers Library and related ventures, he got busy writing stories about bears named Teddy-B and Teddy-G, who had encountered President Roosevelt on his hunting trips. His syndicated stories became very popular and were collected in a number books. Eaton's stories helped inspire the creation of stuffed teddy bears.
You never know where the history of a bookplate or other ephemera will take you. This trail has no end, but this post does.