Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Bon-Ton Rental Library in York

This 1957 G.P. Putnam's Sons hardcover edition of Charles Elliott's "Trial by Fire" is mostly interesting because of what's been wrapped around the dust jacket.1

At the bottom of the front cover is a yellow strip of paper that states: "The Bon-Ton Rental Library."

I had no idea there was a time when you could "rent" books from The Bon-Ton.

(I wonder if there were once other department stores that offered such a service.)

But I can't find much information online about The Bon-Ton Rental Library in York, Pennsylvania. I think this is a topic for which I'm going to need the memories of the readers of some other local blogs -- such as Only in York County, York Town Square and Preserving York -- to help fill in the blanks.

Some more details about this Bon-Ton offering can be found on the yellow sheet that wraps around to the back cover of the dust jacket:
  • The full name is "The Bon-Ton Rental Library & Book Department."
  • It boasted having fiction, mysteries, classics, non-fiction, history, science and art.
  • The location of the library was the street floor of the building at "Market at Beaver" in York.
For what it's worth, there is no evidence that a card pocket was ever attached inside the book. Was The Bon-Ton offering a traditional library from which books could be checked out and later returned? Or was it more of a rent-to-own purchasing system (which first caught on in the United States in the 1950s)?

More questions: What was the building at Market at Beaver like? How many books did The Bon-Ton offer? How long was this rental library in existence?

This inquiring mind wants to know!

Long footnote
1. As for the novel itself, I don't think you could pay me to read it. These two passages might explain why:
  • FROM THE DUST JACKET: "East meets West every day in Arabia, in a superheated atmosphere of impending crisis. Elizabeth Grant knew this when she went out to join her husband Leslie, adviser to the newly oil-rich Sheikh of Kurayan, but by no stretch of the imagination could she have conceived the situation in which she would find herself only a few weeks after her arrival. Torn between her loyalty to her husband, liberal-minded but vacillating, and the sheer strength of Wolfers1, the oil company's manager, she found all her standards, her whole life, at stake."
  • FIRST PARAGRAPH OF BOOK: "The road was made of oil and sand, the two elements of the place. The oil was older than the sand. In the shallows of some epicontinental sea it had lived, died and sunk as a slime to the sea floor a hundred million years before the wind and sun had crumbled the surface rock to make the sand. But now the oil was imposed on the sand. This Miocene secretion, this ancient black blood of the earth had been probed, released and let come shrieking to the surface of the desert, there to bring everything new."

Short secondary footnote
1. Wolfers? Really?


  1. You know anything about York County catches my attention. I made a few phone calls and wrote a quick post on my own blog to see if I can help you solve this mystery. Fingers crossed! My post can be found here:

    Have you tried contacting the Martin Memorial Library Reference/Research Department? I've heard they can be useful, but I'm not familiar with their services.

  2. Barbara (DeShong) AndersonNovember 30, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    I'd also suggest that you contact our own York Heritage Trust librarians. The resources available there are topnotch for all sorts of historical reference, not just geneology. They have business directories, and lots of inquisitive minds ready to help you find your answers!