In the United States in the 19th Century there were no free libraries open to the public. There were private libraries for societies and institutions of higher learning, but none for the average American citizen.
This seemingly small slight bothered a young Andrew Carnegie, who emigrated with his family from Scotland in the mid-1800s to Pittsburg, Pa. Coming from a poor family, Andrew's school days were over at 13 years of age and he soon became the principle bread-winner. Possessing a quick mind and willingness to work hard, he rapidly worked his way up from a simple laborer to telegraph courier with an amazing memory of not only street names but who lived where — especially those who were wealthy.
When he wasn't working he loved to read poetry, prose, and local and international news stories. Having developed a love for literature and a way with the pen, Andrew wrote a letter to the local paper chastising a community that prevents people from expanding their world through books. He encouraged free access to libraries.
Of course it wasn't until he had amassed a great fortune that he built his first FREE library in his old hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1881. He built this library for his beloved mother who had instilled in him his work ethic and shrewd business sense...